The New England Patriots almost let one get away last night against the Atlanta Falcons, but the effectiveness of offensive backups Kenbrell Thompkins and LeGarrette Blount helped to prove that the Pats aren’t fading into mediocrity any time soon. With injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, the Patriots could have easily taken a step back in the suddenly competitive AFC East against a strong team like the Falcons. With help from some unheralded youngsters and one of history’s best quarterbacks, they didn’t. Though last night’s game wasn’t necessarily pretty, it offered many telling moments that explain why the Pats are still one of the big dogs in the AFC.
The Pats employed the “running back-by-committee” strategy to great effect last night, averaging over five yards per carry and earning 116 total yards on the ground with the combination of Brandon Boldon, Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount. Especially impressive was Oregon grad Blount, who gained 64 yards in only nine rushes. Although it can seem like the New England run game is irrelevant thanks to Tom Brady, he would probably be the first to proclaim how untrue that is. Every quarterback appreciates a solid running game, if only for the sake of keeping the defense honest. This kind of production from Patriot running backs is crucial if they wish to make a deep run in the 2013 playoffs.
Undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins received plenty of flak from Tom Brady and Pats fans alike through the first three weeks of the regular season. After showing up big in several clutch moments in the latest Falcons game, he’s sure to garner more affection and less wrath from the rowdy New England fan base from here on out, even while supplying the team with more rookie mistakes. Expect some drops, some silly errors and some highlight-reel worthy moments from this young receiver. Also, expect Brady to bring out the very best in him, as he is wont to do.
Haters all over the country are clamoring for the Patriots to fail. Tom Brady will make sure they continue to be disappointed. His ability to beat a (presumed) playoff contender in Atlanta while passing to another group of no-names proves that the Pats are still on the top-tier of NFL talent. The offense is limited, the defense is porous and thanks to this future first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, none of it matters. All No. 2 needs is a little help, and the combination of Thompkins and Blount alone can now officially be considered more than “a little help.” Sorry, haters.
So, will the Pats vie for another perfect season in 2013? No. Just take a look at their schedule and try to disagree. Will they win the Super Bowl? Probably not, but that isn’t the point. Fans began this season with so much nail biting that it was actually a feat for them to take their hands from their mouths long enough to vocalize their worries. These concerns were a grab bag of the logical and illogical, the insane and the completely believable. After four weeks of undefeated football, it seems many of these worries were unfounded. Though the Golden Age may be over, this era of successful Patriots football should extend far beyond the 2013 season.