On one of the best days in Boston sports history, two fan bases were given a taste of magic that, for a moment, seemed to be lost forever.
Tom Brady, 36, of the New England Patriots and David Ortiz, 37, of the Boston Red Sox, delivered when it mattered most.
Being a fan of these teams over the last decade has brought both joy and despair. On Sunday night, both of these Boston legends delivered a very loud, clear message to the sports world. The glory days are not over just yet.
An injury-riddled Patriots team didn’t maintain a level of play that warranted a win against the undefeated New Orleans Saints. As darkness fell upon Foxboro and the stadium emptied, hoping to enjoy a different outcome at Fenway Park, Brady flipped the switch that many doubted he still had.
There have been whispers of his demise. There have been questions regarding his ability to raise his level of play and bring young receivers into an offensive system where so many players burn out.
After leading his 39th game-winning drive, those critics have been silenced for the time being. A 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins capped off a 70-yard, 1 minute and 13 second drive. As Thompkins touched his toes down in the end zone, Brady didn’t explode with emotion. He has been there many times, and shared a moment with head coach Bill Belichick as he left the field. It was business as usual for them.
Behind Stevan Ridley’s third career two-touchdown game and another strong performance by the defense, the Patriots found a way to put the ball in Brady’s hands for the game’s final possession. After two failed drives inside the game’s final four minutes the ball found its way back into Brady’s hands for a third drive.
The days of scoring over 30 points per game are long gone. The days of clutch play and stout defense has returned from the grave and it appears here to stay.
Holding Drew Brees to a completion percentage under 50 percent is impressive, especially considering it has only happened three times since he joined the Saints in 2006. After losing Aqib Talib (hip) and Jerod Mayo (shoulder) it appeared the defense would crumble under the pressure of Sean Payton’s aggressive offensive schemes. Their replacements stepped up and continued to carry the torch, with big plays from the likes of Chandler Jones, Kyle Arrington, and Alfonzo Dennard.
These injuries are something to think about as the season wears on. With the top player from each level of the defense either out for the remainder of the season (Vince Wilfork, Mayo) or injured (Talib) the Patriots will be put to the test in upcoming weeks. Whether or not they will be up for the challenge is yet to be determined, but Sunday was a positive sign.
With a 5-1 record and a commanding division lead a playoff berth is expected. The Patriots will travel to the Meadowlands this Sunday where they will take on Geno Smith and the New York Jets in a division matchup. In week two the Patriots escaped with a 13-10 victory. It was not a pretty game, but it never is with the Jets.
There are many egos that go head to head when the Patriots and Jets get together both on the field and on the sidelines. It will be interesting to see how this game shakes out with the Patriots riding a lot of momentum. There is even a chance of Rob Gronkowski returning. Considering how many times has that been written this season, it is yet to be seen how much that can be counted on.
As the Patriots trudge on they will continue to build an identity. With Mayo, a defensive centerpiece, out for the year, rookie linebacker Jamie Collins will be asked to step up along with fourth-year linebacker Dane Fletcher to fill the void. Coupled with the loss of Wilfork, Belichick will be forced to dig deep and cover up these holes. As the weather gets colder, the Patriots defense must stay hot.
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