Obviously, the 35-7 win is enough in itself to raise the confidence levels in fans throughout the region, but if anyone is looking for one specific moment from the victory, look no further than Tom Brady's final scoring drive.
The drive got started after veteran cornerback Shawn Springs picked off a David Garrard pass at the goal line. Veteran defenders making big plays in big spots was a trademark of this team when it won three Super Bowls, and Springs' interception was exactly that.
So the Patriots took over at their own 10-yard line with a 28-point lead and 21:26 left in the game. A lesser team could have easily started looking ahead, knowing that Week 17 would bring rest and relaxation with the AFC East crown already clinched.
Yet this Patriots team, one which Brady said was still seeking an identity in December, responded in a big way. Instead of coasting to a victory, the offense decided to go for the kill.
There was Randy Moss, in tight coverage along the right sideline, leaping over Derek Cox for a 20-yard gain. There was Wes Welker, who had already taken a beating from the Jacksonville safeties all day, making another four catches for 26 yards. Then there was rookie Julian Edelman catching a pass from Brady over the middle before finding some room in the seam for some crucial yards after the catch.
Fittingly, the drive concluded with an effort play from Moss, who caught a pass near the goal line and reached out as he was being tackled. Moss got the nose of the ball just over the plane of the end zone, capping off a professional drive from the Patriots.
Of course, in the game of professional football, you'd like to think you could always see teams bring that level of professionalism, but the fact is that you just don't. Teams get lazy or distracted, and dominant wins end up looking much closer on the final scoreboard.
By the end of the drive, the Patriots held a 35-0 lead, Brady tied his second-highest mark for single-season touchdowns with 28, and Moss had his second three-touchdown performance of the season. Welker also topped the 10-catch mark for the seventh time this season, tying an NFL record.
The common cry throughout New England has been the need for a third receiver in the offense, which is undoubtedly a fair assessment. However, with the veteran leadership of Brady, Moss and Welker, there are plenty of able bodies willing to do the heavy lifting.
This Patriots team had a statement to make in this "hat and T-shirt game" — that's why Brady came back on the field for another clock-killing drive in the fourth quarter, and that's why the final score reflected the true dominance of the Patriots.
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