First of all, let’s get this Tom Brady post-game statement controversy, such as it is, out of the way.
I don’t understand people who take things literally. Either they do it to start trouble or they’re too stupid to understand the meaning of the word “hyperbole.”
No. Nobody came out and said, in so many words, that the Patriots were horrible and that they couldn’t beat anybody (paraphrasing here). But for all those people who are now complaining that they never said such a thing, or something remarkably like it, just shut up. Yes you did. I know, because I did.
It seemed obvious as far back as last year that this Patriots team wasn’t operating at peak level, at least by its standards. The Patriots had a tough time beating the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship game, and then couldn’t beat them in September (how’d they do this fall?). The defense was sliced up like Swiss cheese in the Super Bowl. Then, the Patriots lost to the Detroit Lions and the Tennessee Titans.
They allowed a wretched Miami Dolphins team to hang around so that they could lose hideously, and then, a week later, lost a game where the Pittsburgh Steelers ran up and down the field on them — final score (17-10) notwithstanding.
Anyone who watched this and concluded that the Patriots were primed for another championship run has been negatively impacted by Bill Belichick hoodie mind tricks. Speaking the truth on this issue isn’t the same as saying they stink, yet those of us who opined that the bloom might be falling off rose a little bit were certainly justified for saying it. It was not an outrageous lie.
Here’s the thing, though. If Brady and the Patriots want to use it to motivate them, so what? They beat the L.A. Chargers Sunday with that chip on their shoulder, and that’s fine with me.
Going into that game, the Chargers looked like the team that had the best chance to advance. They had a better record, they were more balanced, they had more urgency, and — frankly — it was high time they stopped stumbling all over themselves against the Patriots.
All things being equal, this was a golden opportunity for the Chargers, and many people — myself among them — felt they’d win that game.
They didn’t. Not only that, they somehow forgot to show up too.
This doesn’t mean we think the Patriots stink. It means that we thought the Chargers were in a better position to win the game. Brady said what he said. It was flip, and hyperbole, but listening to it, I understood what he said and didn’t think twice about it. It was the same thing he said years ago when he urged the fans to get lubed up and cheer for them. He obviously didn’t mean it literally. He was cracking a joke. What he didn’t understand, and perhaps needs to have it reinforced to him, is that a large segment of the public is humor-challenged and don’t see the whimsey in some of the things people say.
Now. Let’s get down to this Sunday. First thing I can pretty much guarantee is that Kansas City’s going to show up. No one need worry about that, and no one should assume otherwise. They Chiefs will be there, and they’ll be ready to play.
So will the Patriots. If there’s a team in the NFL with more knowledge of what it takes to win these games, I’d like to see it. This is their eighth straight AFC championship game. They may not win, but it won’t be because the moment got too big for them.
At the risk of incurring Brady’s wrath once again, I don’t see the Patriots winning this game. They have too many things — legitimate things — going against them. The game’s in Kansas City, one of the worst places for visiting teams, and the Patriots have been a mediocre 3-5 on the road this season.
The elements always seem to bother teams more when they’re on the road. Even cold-weather teams had trouble going to Buffalo in January and winning. It’s easier to plod your way through horrible weather, I guess, if there are 60,000 fans cheering for you as opposed to against you.
The Chiefs are scary, which is something that — for all their attributes — the Chargers were not. Patrick Mahomes doesn’t appear to be the type of guy who blinks. He’ll hold his own.
It won’t be a terrible loss. It won’t be humiliating. But it’ll be a comfortable win for the Chiefs, something in the order of 35-21.
And — just for the record — this doesn’t mean the Patriots stink either. It just means that this year, and for the purposes of this game, the Chiefs are a better team.