Considering the first six games of the 2007 season, the members of the ’72 Dolphins team are probably postponing plans for their annual celebration of the last undefeated team’s demise. Quite simply, the Patriots look unstoppable. It does not matter if they are playing the lowly Jets or the formerly undefeated Cowboys in Dallas; every game is played with the same intensity and every game is won, with authority. The Patriots have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 230-92. The Pats are not just winning, they are making a statement. And based on what we have seen so far, it doesn’t look like anyone will contradict that statement anytime soon.
Before examining the actual play of the team, it was the front office who defined New England’s potential by assembling an outstanding free agent class. The Pats added to their perennially stellar defense with the acquisition of Adalius Thomas, the best linebacker available. Thomas has fit into the Patriots 3-4 scheme perfectly, as a hybrid lineman and linebacker. On the other side of the ball, Bob Kraft finally got the message that it is not a good thing when Reche Caldwell is your top receiver. It could have been Brady, Belichick, or any ten year-old who plays a lot of Madden and gets frustrated when he could only throw to a 74-rated receiver, but someone let the front office know that if Manning has Harrison and Wayne, Brady needs more than Caldwell and Gaffney. The front office responded by stealing Randy Moss from the Raiders (quite literally, the Raiders got John Bowie in return) and acquiring Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth, two of the fastest receivers in the league. So, now that Brady finally has some weapons and is on equal footing with Peyton Manning in terms of surrounding talent, we could revisit the Manning/ Brady debate.
I have always been a Brady proponent. Even after Manning finally won his first Super Bowl, I have been reluctant to give him the title of best quarterback in football. Finally, the 6’5” quarterback with a laser, rocket arm has taken a back seat, and we can only hope his advertisements follow. Tom Brady is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw three touchdowns in each of the first six games of the season. He currently leads the league with 1771 yards passing, and is on pace to break the single season touchdown record, held by Peyton Manning. His quarterback rating is a remarkable 128.9. Brady’s 76 wins in his first 100 games is tied for the best record in history. As gaudy as Peyton Manning’s numbers have been over the past few years, Brady has a chance to shatter almost all of Manning’s claims to fame. Manning has not had a bad season by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, despite the fact that nobody is really talking about them, the Colts are also undefeated. However, after this season, the statistics debate will no longer tilt the scales completely towards Manning’s side. The rings still belong to Tom Brady.
The final piece of the Patriot puzzle is their charming, media friendly, always well-dressed head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick is the ideal coach to manage such a talented team, as no matter how badly they dismantle their opponents, he will always be waiting to serve them a slice of humble pie on Monday morning. Belichick is never satisfied and so far, this attitude has reflected through the play of his team. Belichick pays attention to every detail, before and during the game. Anything an opposing coach or player says against the Patriots, Belichick uses for motivation. All the allegations and criticisms that he has endured for stealing signs have been used as motivation while demolishing his opponents. Belichick will never be happy with his team’s play, will never back down from an opponent and will never lose focus. When he is in charge of the most talented team in the league, the 2007 Patriots is what happens.
What’s even scarier is that the Patriots are not at full strength. Their starting running back Laurence Maroney has missed the last couple of games, and arguably their two best defensive players, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison, have missed significant time this year. However, there is a reason why only one team in NFL history has gone undefeated. Maintaining perfection over a 16 game season is almost impossible, considering injuries, trap games and the usual parity present in the NFL. I believe those ’72 Dolphins will be biting their nails late into the season. However, after the Patriots pay a visit to my Giants in the last game of the season, I believe those Dolphins will finally be able to drink their victory champagne and toast to the preservation of one of the greatest records in sports.