EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 21, 2009

These Pats still tough to embrace

It was halftime and I made a plan.

I decided the New England Patriots weren't going to lose, which they didn't, and that they deserved, well, a "Pat" on the back.

Pun intended.

The Pats beat the Bills for the 13th straight time, 17-10, yesterday in Buffalo. There hasn't been a lot of back-slapping of the Patriots from here at 100 Turnpike St. in North Andover since that fourth-and-2 play in Indy.

The Patriots deserved, in this space, from this writer, a few words of optimism. At least that's what my recent hate mail has been saying.

Randy Moss answered his challenge. Basically, he hustled and made a few plays rather than sulking.

Laurence Maroney appeared to be getting "it" again with less dancing and more hitting of holes and defenders.

The young defense bent on its first drive and didn't break, something we've pretty much accepted the last decade.

Wes Welker was looking like Wes Welker.

Bill Belichick was looking like Bill Belichick.

Tom Brady was looking like Tom Brady, even with his measly first-half stats.

Basically, the Patriots were going to all but clinch the division and were looking pretty good doing it, particularly on the road.

It was a nice way to start looking forward to the New Year and "The Tournament," as a former coach used to call it.

But then Brady started missing Welker and Moss, the running game fizzled, more stupid timeouts were called because somebody was on the wrong side, there were consecutive three-and-outs, defenders were botching tackles, Jerod Mayo did nothing out of the ordinary and Belichick looked either mad or confused.

Basically, the 2009 Patriots are still the 2009 Patriots.

What is it, beyond youth, talent and all of those other excuses? They are missing the killer instinct that made them a champions.

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