The mentality that no single player is more important than the unit has gotten Bill Belichick and the Patriots far this season. Arguably, their biggest play maker, Randy Moss, was traded to the Minnesota Vikings (and since released only four weeks after the deal) and the Pats haven't lost a step. Their critics keep finding flaws in their game, but the wins just keep on coming.
According to NFL.com, the Patriots rank 28th in the league in total defense, 31st against the pass, and are 22nd in the league in sacks. Yet somehow, it formulates to a winning philosophy.
When they traded Moss, they knowingly were giving up their biggest downfield threat; a guy who stretches the defense. Just the idea of having Moss run deep sideline routes intimidates opposing secondary's, and opens up holes over the middle for Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate, and Julian Edelmen. Since the deal, Tom Brady has gone 62-for-103, with 691 yards, and three touchdowns against a tough crowd of San Diego, Minnesota, and Baltimore. His quarterback rating for the year is 96.6.
Ever since the shouting match on the plane between star quarterback and star receiver, the Patriots have gone 3-0. Brady has his team atop the AFC, while Moss will be searching for a job in the upcoming days; not that he will have problems finding one, but Brady, thus far, has gotten the better end of the deal. Critics suggested New England would have a difficult time finding an alternative deep threat, but Brandon Tate instantly stepped right into that role, reinforcing the good deal for the Patriots.
This season, it is so difficult to tell who the best team in the AFC is. It seems that every week, some other team makes a case for themselves, while the leaders apply the brakes. Fort he first time since 1982, no NFL team has started the season off 4-0; so as far as figuring out the frontrunners for a spot in Dallas, your guess is as good as mine. For a while, most thought it was Pittsburgh, but a 20-10 loss to New Orleans didn't help their case. Baltimore was in their rear view mirror, but a near blown lead against the winless Buffalo Bills gave indications that the Ravens aren't that strong. The most consistent and persistent team in the AFC has got to be New England. They've won five in a row since their only loss at the hands of the Jets, and have a knack for pulling out wins when it counts. Of their six wins, four of them come by ten points or less, and two of them came in the final minutes. Doesn't hurt to have a three time Super Bowl champion running your two minute drill, does it?
The Patriots have been one of the NFL's proficient and qualified teams in this decade. They take care of business, and do not put up with any non sense. There roster may no longer have an abundance of aptitude as they used to, they may even struggle in a few facets of the game, but as long as they have number 12 on the field, they stand a great chance to be successful.