For every action during the first month of the NFL season, there is an immediate, irrational overreaction.

It hasn’t always been this way. That’s the price of a world in which Twitter, Facebook, fantasy football and Skip Bayless are allowed to exist.

We used to recognize that five months are an eternity in this most complex of all team sports. Now we’ve decided that 16 regular-season games are a tiny sample and that every fumble, wide-right field goal attempt and shouting match between teammates demands hyperanalysis.

And so it is that some folks who would pronounce themselves passionate fans have already written off the 2013 season for their New England Patriots.

Their undefeated — both in the division and overall — New England Patriots. I add this because, oh, I dunno, it seems mildly significant.

Hey, I agree that Thursday night’s 13-10 victory over the New York Jets might have been the ugliest national broadcast of a football game since the advent of color television. I accept that the Patriots’ offense looked disconnected, disjointed, discombobulated, at times just dismal, and we aren’t acclimated to such annoyances. I also recognize that such unadulterated awfulness was only a slight drop from the Pats’ mediocrity in a 23-21 survival of the Buffalo Bills four days earlier.


Style points, schmyle points. Pro football is an environment in which the answer to the question “how?” could not be more irrelevant. The overriding detail is “how many,” and in the Patriots’ case, the answer is two.

Two wins. Both in the division, which means that New England has a leg up on every rung of the ladder in the NFL’s convoluted end-of-the-year tiebreaker system. And no losses, which last time I checked was the objective. Heck, not a single team in the AFC North could claim that distinction after even one week.

Some of you are too worried about the absence of the guy in the snow globe, the guy in prison, the guy with the brittle arm and the proclivity for hanging out with porn stars, and the guy with the injured groin. And yes, I suppose when I put it that way, it’s worth pointing out that the third and fourth guys on that list are two different people.

Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez aren’t walking through that door, people. If and when Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola return, there’s no telling how long it will take for them to reach the apex of their game.

You’re forgetting something, though, or two someones in particular. That would be the head coach and quarterback, each the owner of a Super Bowl ring in triplicate.

Are Bill Belichick and Tom Brady superhuman? Miracle workers? Certainly not, as we’ve learned from eight consecutive seasons of January and February shortfall. When it comes to putting their franchise in position by shepherding improvement between Point A and Point B, however, no duo — active or retired — is better.


On the surface, Brady looked like a tired, cranky, old man working with junior varsity receivers Thursday evening. Look a little deeper and you could see a craftsman throwing bullets and dropping rainbows on a dime.

The Patriots were undone by dropped passes, miscommunication and wrong routes. All those elements get better with practice, and yes, Allen Iverson, we’re talkin’ ’bout practice because this offense sorely needs it.

That insipid, overzealous, new NFL policy of wanting to have Thanksgiving every Thursday sabotaged the Patriots (and Jets, for that matter). The game has never been more complex and physically demanding than it is right now, so sure, let’s ask two time-honored division rivals to slug it out on three days’ rest.

Such a presumptuous assignment couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Patriots, what with every receiver other than godsend Julian Edelman wearing a “Hello, My Name Is” sticker below his collar.

The misdeeds of Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson are correctable. Both obviously have NFL-caliber talent, as evidenced by their scampering behind the Jets’ secondary on multiple occasions.

Dobson had a touchdown catch. Thompkins was millimeters away from a diving catch for another. Those highlight-film grabs will increase and the drops and wrong turns will decrease with repetition.


All the other pieces appear to be in place.

Disparage what the defense accomplished the first two weeks because of the rookie quarterback-led competition if you wish, but those guys are exhibiting the same pass-rushing and ball-hawking capabilities that were on display all of last season.

The AFC is weak and the AFC East is weaker. New England will clinch its 11th division title in 13 seasons by the first weekend of December.

That’s when a football team’s greatness starts to be determined, in case you forgot.

On the field, right before presents get dropped under the tree. Not on a social media site or a talk radio broadcast studio, before the leaves even change color and drop to the ground.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.

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