Maybe the Emperor was right. Maybe we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the Dark Side.
That’s my takeaway from the Patriots 30-23 manhandling of the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night. The Patriots shredded the league’s best defense and held on despite gifting the Ravens two touchdowns. It was a reminder to us that these villains are still very, very dangerous.
Let’s go with a Star Wars theme here, and not just because Rogue One opens this week with a prequel aimed at diving back into the world of the Empire and its overwhelming power. It’s also the perfect fit for a Patriots team that, fair or not, has become the bad guys of the NFL: From an emperor (Bill Belichick) who wears a hoodie and can’t be stopped, to a brilliant and menacing apprentice (Tom Brady) who is the greatest Jedi/QB of all time, to an empire (those damn Patriots) who, even if you hate, you cannot underestimate.
The Ravens boasted the best defense in the NFL entering Monday night. Throw in Rob Gronkowski’s injury, and Brady’s 406 passing yards and three touchdowns should have been as unlikely as little green Jedi Masters and bad guys who can blow up whole planets.
The Patriots also coughed up two quick turnovers — in a span of 14 seconds — on two botched returns, which led to two hand-fed touchdowns for the Ravens. And Brady threw a pick in the end zone, only his second interception of the year, that also cost New England seven.
And still, as inevitable as the Empire beating an overmatched foe, the Patriots managed to get to 11-2 and push the Ravens to 7-6.
But that’s the thing about Brady, and this Pats team: They aren’t just great. They’re feeding off the darker side of things — anger, resentment, the fear that all those haters won’t be bested and that the Pats own empire won’t strike back after Deflategate.
Don’t believe Brady when he says that whole four-game suspension thing is behind him. It’s not. It never will be. Regardless of whether Brady was personally invested in and involved with deflating those footballs, he remains the greatest quarterback of all time.
You don’t get there without massive talent.
And a giant chip on your shoulder that both expects the world to bend to your will and, when it doesn’t, places the blame on everyone else for daring to oppose you. Throw in Belichick and his whispers that the means always justify the ends, and you have games like Monday, seasons like this one, and a storyline ripe for Star Wars.
Need more comparisons? Why not. That faceless assembly line of players who step into New England uniforms and emerge as part of a well-oiled machine sure recall stormtroopers. And when did we first, at long last, glimpse a possible weakness in the Patriots that could exploit them enough to be brought down low, their reign ended?
When the Ravens — think the Death Star here, and the Rogue One plot line of finding its weakness — passed on the secret of Deflategate to the Colts, and the whole league rebelled.
Which brings us back to Monday’s game, when Brady’s empire struck back.
They were on a mission to make Baltimore pay, everyone knew it, and they got it done. The Patriots are the cream of the AFC, no doubt, and a force — pardon the pun — to be reckoned with.
But here’s the thing, Patriots fans. The Empire won a lot of battles, and ruled a long time, but in Star Wars the story eventually ends this way: A young upstart, unheralded at the beginning, his skills growing, and a seasoned great past his prime at his side, eventually defies the odds, saves the day, and in service of everyone who tried to rebel brings the bad guys down.
Sounds a lot like Dak Prescott as Luke, Tony Romo as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a Dallas Cowboys team as the Rebel Alliance ready to put an end to the reign of greatness and terror that have defined Brady, Belichick and the Patriots.
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