After Tom Brady had the gall to hand a football to Shane Vereen (a guaranteed Hall of Famer who has built a Walter Payton-esque career of overpowering linebackers and scoring dozens of touchdowns per season), the conversation in the football world quickly turned to Bill Belichick, the evil hoodie-wearer who runs up the score on opponents and laughs about it, like a maniacal 6-year-old squashing ants in his backyard.
The fundamental error of anyone who believes Belichick and the Patriots run up the score to embarrass opponents is that by going for it on fourth down, they're actually giving the opponent a chance to keep points off the board. I'm not exactly sure how kicking a chip-shot field goal and adding a guaranteed three points is somehow considered the more friendly, peaceful alternative to running a play off tackle to a rookie running back who entered the game with zero career touches of an NFL football. Adding points is not running up the score, but calling a running play on fourth down is downright invidious. Belichick should be handcuffed, tarred and feathered on the town square and locked in a basement for the rest of his days. How dare he hand the ball to Shane Vereen!
Are we done here? OK, good. Let's get into the leftover thoughts from the Patriots' 34-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
–I, like many, went into the game knowing literally nothing about Tyler Palko. He could have walked into my house and punched me in the face, and I still wouldn't have known who he was. And he pretty much played football like I imagine most random men would: poorly.
–It's great that the defense allowed just one field goal and made three interceptions, it really is, and I don't want to rain on any parades, but that was the 26th-ranked offense, without its starting quarterback and with a guy who's never played in the NFL before. The defense is still what you thought it was, it's just playing against lousy offenses.
–To that point, you know things are bad when "Is that James Ihedigbo down on the field?" is followed with "Oh, crap!" instead of "Who cares?"
–For that matter, it's bad that it's so easy to spell "Ihedigbo" now without Googling to make sure it's correct. Anyone who spends any time writing/emailing/tweeting about the Patriots knows that to be true.
–I have to give the Chiefs and Palko credit for recognizing that they had a Pop Warner quarterback playing for them, so they pretty much went to the Pop Warner, run-to-the-line-and-snap-it-before-they're-ready offense. Add in the motion-the-quarterback-out-wide-and-snap-it-to-the-tailback play, and you had a whole lot of smoke and even a few mirrors. It worked … for a while.
–While it was working, the praise of Palko from the Monday night crew of Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden was almost unbearable. The guy threw like a combination of Johnny Damon and Tim Tebow, let's all calm down a little bit.
–It shouldn't have taken until the fifth offensive series for the Patriots to go to a shotgun, five-wide formation. If Brady is your quarterback, you frankly can't run plays out of that formation enough.
–That Leonard Pope character has to be the biggest human on earth. He's listed at 6-foot-8, but I think he's just being modest.
–Pope got called for holding when he tackled Julian Edelman (playing defense) on a big third-down run, but in Gruden's eyes, it was just "domination." Technically, tackling a defensive back counts as domination, but it's still against the rules in football. Sorry, Jon.
–Speaking of Edelman, who actually played pretty soundly on defense and returned a punt for a touchdown on what might be considered the play of the game, you can read some moron saying he might be cut from the roster a few weeks ago right here. What a genius!
–The worst part of Edelman's punt return was Gruden on the replay, who said, "I thought that was Wes Welker!" Come on! That's worse than complaining about running up the score. It's at worst racist and at best unimaginative and lazy to compare Edelman to Welker simply because they're both white and have similar jobs. I could rant about this for hours, like I did one time, but I'll stop. Just don't say Edelman is like Welker. Please. He's not.
–If you don't think that quick pass to Welker in the fourth quarter was thrown solely to keep the consecutive games with a catch streak alive, then you mustn't have watched Week 17 in '07.
–Your weekly Chad Ochocinco update: Zero catches, zero targets, zero appearances on the television broadcast. Is he even on the football team? More importantly, does it matter?
–When the Patriots use Nate Solder as a tight end and motion him across the line to block an end or linebacker or whoever has the misfortune of getting in his way, it's just not fair. It's like using Shaquille O'Neal as a part-time fullback for when you're feeling frisky.
–I'm working to confirm that Sebastian Vollmer's football pants are still on the 10-yard line, from when Tamba Hali faked them right off Vollmer's body on the second-quarter sack of Brady. Woof.
–If Andre Carter isn't your favorite player by now, then I really don't know what else has to happen.
–On Rob Gronkowski's first touchdown, he was moving so fast that for a second, I thought it was Aaron Hernandez. I know to never underestimate Gronkowski, but I didn't know he could move like that.
–The best part of that 52-yard catch-and-run was that Donald Washington had Brady all but wrapped up for a sack, but No. 12 stepped up just enough to get the pass off. Brady might have lost some of that field awareness when he got hit and fumbled early in the game, but he's pretty good at football and remembered that fairly quickly.
–Gruden called that touchdown one of the easiest of Gronkowski's career. I'm pretty sure that title is reserved for when the 6-foot-6 behemoth is left uncovered in the end zone and catches a two-yard floater, but whatever you say, Mr. Gruden.
–"Can you imagine LeBron James covering Gronkowski?" No, Jon Gruden! I can't. Even. Imagine!
–On Kyle Arrington's first interception of the evening, what you saw was the three hardest hits to ever happen on one play. Rob Ninkovich absolutely destroyed Palko from the blind side, Sterling Moore crushed Steve Breaston (who looked "defenseless" to me, but whatever, I give up on that quest of understanding), and Kyle Love essentially made Ryan Lilja die a little bit, as the 310-pound defensive lineman destroyed the 290-pound offensive lineman in a collision you shouldn't show to your children.
But in case, you know, you want to, you can:
–I haven't mentioned it because it's been covered pretty heavily to this point, but Gronkwoski is fortunate to be alive after having all 265 of his pounds lands directly on his neck. This isn't good, right?
–That didn't stop him from wobbling all over himself, finding his feet, knocking over the back pylon and slamming down his second vicious spike of the evening. I dubbed that one the "I Don't Need No Stinking Brain Stem Spike." I'm not sure how his head is still attached, but then again, I won't pretend like I can explain much about Gronkowski.
–If you've ever wondered why the Patriots defer every time they win a coin toss, you saw why on Monday night, when they did almost exactly what they hope to do with that strategy by scoring on the way into halftime and on the way out of halftime. A 7-3 game quickly turned into a 17-3 game with Kansas City only touching the ball for a return of a squib kick and a meaningless running play.
–The only flaw in the plan was that the Patriots didn't score a touchdown before the half, as Brady's pass to Danny Woodhead was flat-out terrible. I'm still convinced Brady's throwing elbow is worse than anyone knows. Maybe we'll find out some time in March.
–Earlier this season, I nominated Jason Campbell's interception in the end zone against New England for Worst Play I've Ever Seen in My Life, but Palko's pick in the end zone is going to give it a run for its money. There were three blue jerseys and just one white jersey.
–Barring an unforeseen disaster, the Patriots will finish 12-4, which should be enough to earn a bye and a home game and might be enough for the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. Sure, this team has flaws, but so does every team in the league. The days of the Patriots beating good teams by 30 might be over (sorry, K.C.), but that only means that those intense, nail-biting, heart-palpitation-inducing games are back and in store for January. Everyone knows that's the best kind of football there is.
–The Patriots' defense still ranks 32nd overall, but the gap is closing. Their 404.2 yards allowed per game is just a touch more than Tampa Bay's 398.9. When the Patriots move in to 31st, I wonder if they'll celebrate with hats and T-shirts.
–It's not all bad, though, because if you believe (rightfully) that points are the only stats that matter, then you'll be happy to know that the Patriots moved into 10th in the league in that category at 20.3 allowed per game. That's the top-third, and if you can stay in the top-third, you might be OK.
–Plus, Kyle Arrington leads the league with seven interceptions. Vince Wilfork, sadly, is still tied for 41st with just two. I wish he'd pick it up a bit.
–And if you want a reason for optimism, know that Green Bay has the 30th-ranked defense and the fourth-ranked offense, and they're just 10-0 this year. The yardage statistics aren't meaningless, but it is possible to overcome defensive shortcomings when you have the best offense in football. Things are about to get very fun for the next two months.