By Michael Parente
The 2013 season is starting to look an old sitcom re-run for the New England Patriots, and that's not necessarily a good thing.
They may not be your grandfather’s Patriots from the era in which they were the laughing stock of the NFL playing in an antiquated stadium with faulty plumbing and awkward metal bleachers, but they might be your kid’s Patriots, assuming your kid is about to hit puberty.
The 2013 season is beginning to look a lot like every other season we’ve watched since 2009, which means the Patriots are a one-dimensional, pass-happy team with a porous defense good enough to slip past the NFL’s bottom-feeders, but not nearly strong enough to absorb getting punched in the mouth when the you-know-what hits the fan.
Rest assured, it’s about to hit the fan, if not now, then definitely a month from now when the postseason begins. We already know the Patriots are good enough to get through the regular season and win the AFC East, which is the equivalent of earning your GED, otherwise known as the “Good Enough Diploma,” or, in this case, “Good Enough to win this crappy Division.”
We saw another example of it Sunday when the Patriots erased a 10-point halftime deficit against the lowly Houston Texans and overcame two more lead changes in the second half to escape with a 34-31 win, courtesy of two 53-yard field goals in the fourth quarter by Stephen Gostkowski. The game was never in doubt. Admit it – not once did you get that, “Oh crap!” feeling at any point during the second half, even as the Texans continued to score at will.
The win was great because every win counts when you’re chasing home-field advantage in the playoffs, but it a.) didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about this team or b.) provide some sort of assurance that everything will be okay against the Broncos, Chiefs and Bengals of the world once the playoffs begin. After watching another ghastly performance by the run defense for the second consecutive week, it’s going to be hard sleeping through those nightmares from 2009 when Baltimore’s Ray Rice burst through the middle on the first snap of New England’s playoff opener and raced 83 yards for a touchdown in an eventual 33-14 win for the Ravens.
The Patriots have won 10 or more games for 10 consecutive seasons, and they’ll make it 11 in a row with another win this year, but we know all too well that regular-season success in recent years has done little to prepare this team for the harsh realities of postseason football. It’s not as if it’s been a complete failure – the Patriots went to the Super Bowl two years ago and advanced to the conference championship game last year – but it’s easy to spot deficiencies that don’t translate to playoff success and this year’s team has a few of those noticeable blemishes.
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