NASHVILLE — They win the games they are supposed to win. They have great ownership, a sturdy local family that has earned the trust and love of the fans. The owner’s soccer team never takes him away from the team that really matters.
They have clear, continuous leadership. One voice. There is no ambiguity about the chain of command. They also have leadership on the field; their best player is a modern-day Bill Russell. High-salaried players work hard for the money and if they are cut loose, they don’t get paid.
Lately, they’ve been remarkably short on drama and controversy. When they are touted as “Best Team Ever” they come damn close to fulfilling the outsized expectation.
Oh, and their home sellout streak is legit.
The New England Patriots are the anti-Red Sox. And they are finally back playing games that matter.
New England sports fans can rejoice. The Patriots opened their 2012 season Sunday with a fairly boring 34-13 victory at LP Field against the Tennessee Titans. Remember the Titans? Tennessee was 9-7 last year, but on Sunday looked like just another tomato can lined up in front of Bill Belichick’s steamroller army.
The Titans might have done something nobody else has done. They might have given Tom Brady a broken nose. Brady was gushing blood from his schnoz after he was face-planted by Kamerion Wimbley in the second quarter. Brady didn’t miss any plays, but QB 12 had a bandage on his nose at his postgame news conference. He was part Cam Neely, part Joe DeNucci. Maybe he’ll wind up looking like Ringo Starr.
Is his nose broken?
“I don’t know,’’ said Brady. “I have no idea what a broken nose feels like. In a previous life, maybe . . . But I need some scars. I never mind a little blood.”
Brady was 23 for 31 on the day with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He left points on the board when he failed to connect with a wide-open Brandon Lloyd in the first quarter, but all in all, it was another ho-hum win for a guy who’s been winning games for New England since 2001.
In some ways, the modern Patriots are prisoners of their own success. They are only seven months removed from their last Super Bowl appearance. They have won their division eight of the last nine seasons and are a cinch to finish atop the AFC East again this season. They have a cheesecake schedule that promises one boring march to the tournament in January. We expect to see these Patriots in the Super Bowl, which is unfair but not our fault.
The Patriots are the envy of just about every NFL organization, and best of all . . . they are not the Red Sox (speaking of the Sox, the way things are going, we are soon going to be talking about September 2011 as “the good old days.’’ Think 7-20 was bad? Try 1-7 in September 2012).
Pause for a moment and try to imagine Jerod Mayo running upstairs at Gillette to tell Bob Kraft that Belichick made a joke about Danny Woodhead’s height. Imagine Bob and Jonathan taking a call from Lloyd’s cellphone and agreeing to meet with a dozen Patriots who are unhappy with Belichick. Imagine Belichick threatening to punch out Glenn Ordway (hard to do with the Big O slobbering all over BB).
The Patriots are not without problems, but Sunday’s romp should make everybody feel better going into Sunday’s home opener against the mighty Arizona Cardinals. New England running back Stevan Ridley had a career game (125 yards, one touchdown), the offensive line did a fairly good job of protecting Brady (except for the face-plant play), and the kids were all right on defense. We saw most of what we wanted to see.
“Quite a good win by our players,’’ said Belichick, who must have been positively giddy when not a single print reporter from any news outlet was allowed at his postgame presser (Titans PR officials said this was their fault, but the Patriots had little trouble proceeding with Belichick in the almost-empty room). “All three units contributed. We had a lot of guys step up, and if we can play that way we will be all right.”
“We came in feeling good,’’ said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. “It’s a good team win. We responded very, very well. We put 11 guys together. You have goals. You don’t want to let the guys beside you down. We came together in the first game of the season and we came together in all three phases of the game.’’
“It was a fun game, a great way to start the year,’’ added Brady.
Wilfork and Brady are the only Patriots left from the last Super Bowl victory in February 2005. They know how things work in Foxborough and they know how things work in New England.
It’s nice to have them back on the field. It’s nice to watch a team fans can be proud of.