When does an overreaction become just a reaction? Or even an underreaction?
We won’t really know if that panic button pressed by many Patriots fans Monday was truly warranted until December or January, but certainly at no point in the past decade has there been as many people embedded in the “This Is the End” camp.
I’m starting to lean that way, myself – truth be told. I mean, at some point, the Foxboro magic will run out. It’s inevitable. It’s coming, and why wouldn’t it come in 2014? As much as everyone around here wants to hold off on saying, “Tom Brady and Bill Belichick aren’t as good as they used to be,” that might just be the case right about now.
See, Father Time is one gruff, grizzled bastard. He doesn’t warn you of his arrival, he’s always an uninvited guest and he kicks the door down with the kind of force that Cameron Wake levied on Brady two days ago. Sadly, Daddy Time might have just pulled off onto Route 1, passing a sign that reads “Foxboro/Wrentham.”
Before getting too carried away, it is important to remember that there have been games like Sunday’s before in the Brady/Belichick era, particularly early in the season and particularly against AFC East rivals. There was the Rex Ryan “voicemail” game in September of 2009, when Ryan told Jets fans to drown out Brady. They did, and the Jets won 16-9 in the Meadowlands. Ryan and the Jets also got the best of Brady and the Pats in the second week of the season in 2010, winning 28-14 in New Jersey. In 2011, in the third game of that season, it was the Bills who upset the Pats, picking off Brady four times and winning, 34-31.
All of those games caused classic “Overreaction Mondays” around here, but all of those games also occurred when age stated that Brady and Belichick were both still in their primes.
Sorry, but 37 for an NFL quarterback is “past prime,” there’s no way around that. Age 62 for an NFL head coach is also “past prime.” That’s just a fact.
Quarterbacks in their early 30s and head coaches in their mid-50s are thought to be ideal in the NFL as history shows time and time again that winning comes easier to those in that age bracket.
We were told in the days prior to the disaster on South Beach that Brady could play until he’s 50, or at least until he “sucks.” And facts state that Belichick still has three years to go before he would enter a season with people snickering “no coach that old has ever won a Super Bowl.” (Tom Coughlin won it all at 65).
So this could all be another big overreaction. Until it isn’t. It’s quite possible the Pats could still go 12-4 or 13-3 this season. And they should definitely be at least .500 by the end of September with the Vikings, Raiders and Chiefs on tap. But Sunday’s issues could certainly pop up again in January, and they may be part of a grand scale Patriots problem.
We’re simply looking for clues at this point as to the fate of Brady, Belichick and the Patriots in 2014 and beyond. The first hint of this particular season was an alarming one, for sure.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS