We shouldn’t have doubted them.
Three games in a row? Really?
This is Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
The dynamic duo who don’t lose back-to-back-to-back games.
Skeptics who believed Belichick had lost his touch, or Brady had begun his inevitable decline were proven wrong Sunday night, myself included.
Led by an undermanned, scrap heap defense, the Patriots rolled to a 37-19 victory against the Jets in the Meadowlands.
The victory placed the Pats in sole possession of first place in the AFC East, setting themselves up for an easy run to the playoffs with a cakewalk of opponents on their slate.
Sunday’s victory proved you can never count out Belichick and Brady who are now the winningest head coach/quarterback combination in NFL history.
Let’s take a look at this week’s risers and fallers.
1. Rob Gronkowski: It may be premature, but I envision Gronkowski being the Tony Gonzalez of this decade. The man simply cannot be defended. Gronk makes the list for the sixth time this season after posting his second straight game with eight catches and 100+ yards. He found paydirt three times, although one was called back on a penalty and was a constant matchup nightmare for the Jets smaller defensive backs.
2. Andre Carter: Before the season started, I singled out Andre Carter as the free agent who would have the biggest impact in 2011. So far, Carter has made good on my prediction. The former Pro Bowler put on one of the most impressive defensive performances I’ve seen, setting the franchise record with 4.5 sacks and a ridiculous eight quarterback hits. Carter abused D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who’s made back-to-back Pro Bowls, with his speed on the edge. He already has nine sacks in as many games and would be my pick as the team’s defensive MVP.
3. Tom Brady: It didn’t start off pretty, but Tom Terrific showed up when it mattered. The Patriots squandered some early opportunities in the red zone and failed to move the ball when given bad field position before turning it on in the second half. Brady settled down and took advantage of excellent protection to pick apart the overhyped Jets pass defense. Using the no-huddle offense, Brady completed 11 straight passes and spread the ball around well. He re-established himself as a top MVP candidate.
4. Rob Ninkovich: When I see #50 on the field, I get reminded of Mike Vrabel. Like the former Patriot great, Ninkovich doesn’t win with great athletic ability, but maximizes his ability because of good instincts, toughness and effort. The former Saints backup turned starter has been a solid presence in a shaky linebacker group. While he hasn’t racked up big sack totals, Ninkovich’s two interceptions were drive killers for the Jets. His pick-six was a thing of beauty as he made a great read on a check-down by Sanchez and took it to the house to put the icing on the cake.
1. Running game: No matter who was in the backfield, the Patriots barely made a dent in the ground attack. The Jets bottled up Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the Pats basically avoided running the ball until Danny Woodhead took over during the no-huddle offense. As good as the Patriots are at throwing the ball, it will be important to establish the run come playoff time.
2. Antwaun Molden: Got beat for an easy touchdown by Plaxico Burress and hasn’t proven himself to be a reliable cover guy. He has the physical tools, but doesn’t seem to be in position to make plays. Hopefully Devin McCourty’s injury won’t keep him out of the lineup too long.