STILL HOUSTON — What a field day for the hate.
Monday. Tuesday. Every day. And this is the way it’s going to be until the Patriots get a chance to prove everybody wrong at Gillette Stadium against the Chiefs Sunday.
It’s open season on Tom Brady and the Patriots across Football America. The Patriots are frauds. They are the worst 10-2 team in NFL history. They are a house of cards, upheld only by a soft schedule, the stupidity of others, and the genius of Bill Belichick.
Suddenly those Patriot wins against the Eagles and Cowboys don’t look so impressive anymore. In a cluster of 10-2 teams including the 49ers, Seahawks, Saints, and Ravens, the Patriots are the ones that don’t belong. They are the ones trending in the wrong direction as the playoffs near.
America is loving it. And you know why.
It started late Sunday night after the carnage in Houston. Rex Ryan went on ESPN and said this was the worst Patriots team he’s seen. A four-person panel on FS1 Tuesday morning dedicated a 10-minute segment to “Patriot Problems,” featuring an endless loop of Brady yelling at his teammates and doing the diva thing after botched routes by his receivers. The sports cover of Tuesday’s USA Today featured a photo of Brady sitting on his butt in the middle of NRG Stadium, accompanied by a headline reading, “Brady had better heed warning signs.’’ An ESPN pundit compared the quarterback with the Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky.
It’s on, folks. Brady is calcifying in front of our eyes, the Patriots are free-fallin’, and the tailgating universe is loving it. Bill Polian, Max Kellerman, Marshall Faulk, and Shannon Sharpe have been waiting 20 years for a week like this.
You can be sure that the Chiefs — despite their clock-management issues and cheesy defense, and the fact that they couldn’t beat New England while playing at home last January — will be repackaged this week as the greatest Chiefs team of all time, better than anything Hank Stram put together. Patrick Mahomes will be touted as the next young quarterback (joining Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson) to expose and outplay Old Man Brady. The Chiefs will be the hot pick.
And the hot take will be the inevitable crumbling of the Patriot dynasty.
We all know that there is a Never Patriots movement in the deep state of NFL America. These are the millions of angry fans who have seen their way of life uprooted by decades of Patriot dominance. Folks who had it so good for so long in places like Pittsburgh, Miami, Indianapolis, and Denver have seen their teams repeatedly humbled and humiliated by Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots. Stadiums as far away as San Diego, Miami, and Houston have been aggressively occupied by Patriot fans, turning road games into home games for the Brady crowd.
Let’s face it, having one team play in nine of the last 18 Super Bowls, and four of the last five, is too much for the rest of the country. The Patriots are hated the way the old New York Yankees were hated. Just too good for too long. And caught cheating while they were doing it.
As a result, any time there appears to be a crack in the New England machine, pundits and fans are quick to announce that this is the end (Trent Dilfer in 2014: “They’re not good anymore!”).
That’s what we’ll be getting for the rest of this week, and I don’t even want to think about what it will be like if the Chiefs win in Foxborough Sunday. The Patriots never lose home games in December. The last time they lost a game at the Lighthouse in December was in 2015 against the Eagles.
It’s weird now to look back a few months to a time when we were talking about the Patriots maybe running the table and going 19-0. They had the greatest defense of all time, they had Antonio Brown for a week and a half, and we were all pretty sure Gronk was coming back. The Patriots traded a second-round pick for an established receiver. Belichick was loading up for one last Super Bowl win with Brady.
(Aside: Can everybody stop with the AB nonsense? He is not coming back to the Patriots. He took yet another social media shot at Bob Kraft and Orchids of Asia Monday. It’s over, people.)
Now there is doubt about the Patriots everywhere, even on the airwaves of the SportsHub and WEEI. And the Never Patriots crowd has seized the day, reveling in the “demise” of a team that still has the greatest coach and quarterback of all time and still shares the best record in football.
As ever, New England’s game plan is to stay the course, wait for the Bills to beat the Ravens Sunday at 1, then topple the Chiefs and ascend to the No. 1 seed again.
Perfect. It will restore order to the universe.
After the Patriots victory Sunday night in Foxborough, Belichick gets to go to the podium, pretend nothing significant just happened, and say the words that will comfort every citizen of Patriot Nation.
“We’re on to Cincinnati.’’
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org