The New England Perfects
It might be an urban legend that every season when the last undefeated NFL team loses, members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins gather to pop a champagne cork on a vintage from that year.
The reason being is that the 1972 Dolphins are the only team to go through a grueling NFL season without a loss. They defeated the Washington Redskins, 14-7, to cap off a 17-0 season.
The coach of that team, Don Shula, denies such celebration exists.
Whatever the case, it’s highly likely that each surviving member of that team gives a fist pump or curves a little smile when the final undefeated team loses.
The record is now 34 seasons old and with the salary cap, revenue sharing, free agency and a 16-game schedule, more perfection does seem remote.
That will all change this year because the New England Patriots are the most perfect team I’ve seen since the 1991 Washington Redskins. That’s right, New England will finish the season undefeated.
The Patriots are 6-0 and average 38.3 points while yielding just 15.3 points. They are winning games by an average of 23 points. That’s domination in a league that rarely has teams separated by more than a touchdown.
The NFL’s other undefeated team, the Indianapolis Colts, has an impressive winning margin of 15.2 points. But that’s still a full touchdown behind the Patriots.
New England leads the league in total offense, passing, first downs, time of possession and turnover ratio—all key factors to winning in the modern game.
It all starts with Tom Brady, simply the greatest quarterback I’ve ever seen. And that list includes Montana, Elway, Favre, Marino, Fouts, Aikman, Manning and others. At age 30, Brady is showing what he can do with a competent corps of receivers. He is the first player in history to pass for at least three touchdowns in the first six games of the season.
Brady had five last week against the Dallas Cowboys. On the road and against a highly regarded defense, the Patriots quarterback picked apart a youthful and speedy secondary. He had a sixth touchdown called back and overthrew his new favorite target, Randy Moss, a couple of times that could have led to scores.
Brady is connecting on 72.5 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. At this pace, he will shatter Manning’s record of 49 passing TDs set in 2004.
It’s scary how the Patriots got Moss for a fourth round draft choice. What was the rest of the league thinking? What were my Redskins thinking? When properly motivated, Moss is the best in the business. His size, speed and hands create matchup problems and he’s proven he still can run and get it. Moss has always been a touchdown maker, and with eight this year, he’s on pace to best his personal record of 17.
Other receivers like Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and tight end Ben Watson allow the Patriots to spread the field and make defenses chase rather than attack. The offensive line is solid and gives Brady just enough time.
Also, New England is doing this without their best running back, Lawrence Maroney, who has battled a groin and other injuries all season.
I don’t have time to talk about the defense, but just know there are stars on each level—Ty Warren, Adalius Thomas and Asante Samuel.
Looking at the Patriots schedule, the two games that threaten their date with history are at Indianapolis (Nov. 4) and home against Pittsburgh (Dec. 9). However, I’ve been very impressed with the New York Giants, and with that game being the season finale (Dec. 29), logic and past history dictates that it’s possible the Patriots might rest their starters for the playoffs.
But who knows with Bill Belichick. The controversial coach has not shown any mercy and actually has run up the score in each game this season.
• Week 1 at New York Jets (38-14): 1-yard TD by Heath Evans, 1:58 left.
• Week 2 vs. San Diego (38-14): 3-yard TD by Sammy Morris, 3:28 left.
• Week 3 vs. Buffalo (38-7): 45-yard TD catch by Randy Moss, 10:22 left.
• Week 4 at Cincinnati (34-17): 14-yard TD catch by Randy Moss, 3:18 left.
• Week 5 vs. Cleveland (34-17): 15-yard fumble return TD by Randall Gay, 0:42 left. (Note: This TD came one play after the Patriots failed to convert on a fourth-and-goal from the Browns 4)
• Week 6 at Dallas (48-27): 1-yard TD run by Kyle Eckel, 0:19 left.
This tells me that New England is not messing around. The Patriots just don’t want to beat teams, they want to destroy and humiliate them. I’m sure part of this has to do with SPYGATE.
So when the Patriots meet the winless Dolphins this weekend, it’s certain that many members of the 1972 undefeated team will be rooting hard for Ronnie Brown and the boys. But don’t bet on an upset.
And it’s going to be a little ironic, maybe even poetic, when this year’s Miami squad joins the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only winless team in NFL history. The Dolphins will not be the favorite in any of their remaining games.
OUT AT HOME: Lawn mowing season is over! Woohoo!
VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Inspiration for the folks at Richmond Magazine.