EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 9, 2013

Yes, a good way to start the season for Patriots

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — I have four words for yesterday’s thrilling, yet underwhelming 23-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills by the New England Patriots:

It’s a great start.

Really. I’m not joking.

Sure, there was a lot of be dour about. The Buffalo Bills are a 7-9 team at best. For the 61st game in a row (or something like that), the Patriots defense put no pressure on the opposing quarterback. And Brady & Co. on offense appear to have a case of the fumbles that doesn’t appear to be going away soon.

That being said, yesterday’s football game, with all of the drama, is what really happens in football games, especially in January. Things don’t go your way (when it comes to the Patriots, we’re talking offense) and you have to find a way to win.

The best thing that could have happened to the Patriots happened in Week 1. Peyton Manning threw for seven touchdowns — two or three of which were meaningless — and has already picked up the MVP trophy (speaking of meaningless!).

This is what happened a decade ago. Manning always won big and owned the stat sheet every weekend. Brady and the Patriots won a lot of games, more than half that were of the ugly mode.

Brady’s role is going to be different this year. He will need to be the vocal leader, and that means on defense and special teams, too.

What I particularly liked about yesterday’s win was that Brady didn’t do it alone. Not only did Danny Amendola fill the Wes Welker stat line (10 catches, 104 yards), but he filled Welker’s “big play” quota, too. And lest we forget about the first half groin injury, which a lot of us expected to be a month-long debacle, which he overcame like Welker overcame a jaw-breaking blow to his head.

And Julian Edelman (seven catches, 79 yards, 2 TDs) continues to amaze, even when it appeared the underrated slot receiver would be playing elsewhere in 2013.

But my meaningless Patriots MVP Award yesterday goes to Shane Vereen, who if he can stay away from fumble-itis might be a top 10 running back in the league, and his taking over after Stevan Ridley’s senseless first-half fumble.

The Patriots, because of Vereen, stayed committed to running the ball even while trailing in the fourth quarter. He finished with 101 yards on just 14 carries, and caught four passes for 29 yards, but it was his 15-yard run to the Bills’ 14 that set up the winning field goal (did I mention Stephen Gostkowski’s perfect game-winning field goal from 35 yards out?).

Vereen ran the ball fives in the fourth quarter, gaining 43 yards.

Too many times over the last half-dozen years the Patriots have blown lesser teams like the Bills out, usually 40-something to 20-something. And we are always impressed with the precision, especially on offense.

But if you look back at the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons, there were more 9-3, 12-0 and 12-9 and 20-17 wins than we realized. All you need to remember is as good as Welker was (and still is), the Patriots never won a Super Bowl with him, which is the goal around here.

The Patriots didn’t look great. In fact, for much of the game they didn’t look very good, but they found a way to win, particularly when it mattered most in the fourth quarter.

It’s not a bad way to start.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.