The New England Patriots have a way of taking fans on a roller-coaster ride.
Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans, one which Tom Brady carved out some Brady magic to pull out a dramatic 36-33 win, was certainly that.
Being in a fitness training in Albany, New York, all weekend, all I saw of the game was highlights at a Massachusetts Turnpike rest stop. The Patriots are now 3-0 in games I’ve had to miss for fitness trainings over the last few years.
Even though it was too close for comfort for some, the Patriots are now 2-1 heading into next weekend’s home game against the struggling Carolina Panthers.
Here are my four takeaways – one for each quarter – from Sunday, before we move on to Carolina.
1. Boo birds, boo birds. When you buy a ticket, that gives a fan every right to cheer and boo. And NFL tickets are by no means cheap, much less to see a game in Foxboro.
But, when I learned that there were some boo birds raining down on the Patriots on two occasions yesterday, during the national anthem and during the fourth quarter, it made me shake my head.
First of all, the players who decided to kneel together during the anthem were expressing their first-amendment rights. The issues they are standing up for, ones former Patriot Martellus Bennett has been very vocal about, go beyond cheering and booing.
The boos the team received during the fourth quarter when the offense was stalling for a couple of drives again reminds me of how spoiled Patriots fans have been during this century.
Those who booed the offense likely don’t remember the days when just making the playoffs was cause for celebration. Or Drew Bledose throwing passes off his back foot that gave fans migraines. Or Rod Rust and the 1990 debacle. Or a 5-11 season in Bledsoe’s rookie year essentially saving the team from moving to St. Louis. Anybody remember how loud old Foxboro Stadium was when Bledsoe found Michael Timpson to end the 1993 season and knock Miami out of the playoffs?
Remember, you could be Browns or Jets fans.
2. Welcome to New England, Brandin Cooks. The speedy Cooks finally announced his Patriots arrival with five catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner that induced a loud “Let’s Go!” and a fist pump in a gym filled with New York Giants fans.
Cooks and Brady will keep generating chemistry as the season goes along, and by the time November and December roll around, this offense will be even more dangerous. And a note to Danny Amendola: Stay on the field!
3. Deshaun Watson is the real deal. We all know that Bill Belichick eats rookie quarterbacks for breakfast. But Texans signal-caller Deshaun Watson is not your typical rookie quarterback.
It’s only Week 3, but Houston appears to have found its franchise QB. Being a Notre Dame fan, I saw a lot of Watson in college, and while he’s great with his legs, he also has great vision and can throw the ball down the field. He reminds me a bit of Colin Kaepernick from a versatility standpoint.
Watson’s ceiling is much higher than Dak Prescott and Jameis Winston. If he stays healthy, he’ll be a real star in the NFL.
4. The defense will be fine. As I’ve reiterated, it’ll take time for the Patriots’ defense to come together. Stephon Gilmore got his first interception as a Patriot against Houston, so that was nice to see. There will be times when the offense will need to bail the defense out, and vice-versa. That happens over the course of a long season. You want your defense peaking in December, not September.
The Pats will have two more cracks at mobile quarterbacks in Cam Newton and Winston the next two weeks.