Pats open the pre-season with great expectation
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Let’s talk about expectations for a moment.
We all have them. It’s simply a part of human nature to expect, based on previous experience. We look forward. And what does our previous experience tell us what to expect from the New England Patriots for 2012?
They’ll be high scoring. They’ll move the football with relative ease. Tom Brady will throw for thousands of yards and dozens of touchdowns. Bill Belichick won’t tell us much along the way. And when it comes to injuries, we won’t really know very much.
Plus, the defense will probably struggle along the way.
Oh yes, the defense. The great question mark in this season of expectation for the Patriots. Statistically, last season was poor, ranking at or near the bottom in passing yards allowed most of the way…and even though the secondary was maligned, the team still managed to win the AFC title and reach the Super Bowl.
They almost won it all, even with a terrible defense.
So we have expectations that this year, could be even better.
We’ll probably catch a few glimpses of what we can expect from this team during the pre-season that begins Thursday night at Gillette against the New Orleans Saints. But those flashes of promise will be fleeting, if only to stockpile them for when the games start counting in September.
Reinforcements for the defense have arrived. Younger, bigger, quicker, stronger replacements. Two rookies (Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower) look as if they could find themselves in the starting eleven, barring injury. Another young player (Ras-I Dowling) who spent most of last season on the sidelines with an injury could also find himself in the backfield…with raw ability that may be unproven, but also unquestioned. Those that return from the statistically miserable season of a year ago have the experience of that misery to fall back upon, so they have the chance to improve.
As long as they stay healthy, of course. Health, or lack thereof, is the great equalizer in this season of great expectations.
What else do we expect? We expect the Patriots will, at the very least, command the AFC East Division…a division they have dominated since 2001, winning nine titles. Only the New York Jets (2002) and Miami Dolphins (2008) managed to crack through this championship veneer. We expect those Jets, and perhaps to a lesser extent the Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, to provide moments of angst as divisional rivalries renew. And we expect, after all is said and done, to be the one team standing at the end…ready for whatever teams await in the playoffs.
Are these expectations unreasonable? Probably. If you ask the Patriots’ players and coaches, you might get a pained expression of resignation in return, only in that they also know of the expectations they hold for themselves. But they’ll never admit it.
Because just like you and I, they also have great expectations for this season.
They were SO close last season…so close to breaking through, so close to adding a 4th world championship ring to their team collection…so close to taking another step toward immortality. Even for a team that didn’t have a championship caliber defense, a title was at hand. However, championship teams are the teams remembered, the losers are not.
The 2011 Patriots had a great year, but it wasn’t great enough. We’re all counting on that disappointment to drive the effort for 2012. It doesn’t hurt to have improvements and reinforcements ready to contribute to that effort. They appear to be in place. And yes, the opposition will also be in place, complete with talented players and effort, desire and opportunity to ruin our great expectations. It’s why we play the games, after all.
But right now, New England appears to have an edge in personnel, an advantage with the schedule, and perhaps most important of all, a coaching staff that is both creative and motivated (see Josh McDaniels). All we need is for the first official football to be kicked off, and for the hitting, tackling, passing, running and scoring to begin.
We’re expecting effort, we’re expecting excitement, we’re expecting points to be scored and wins to follow. In Belichick’s 13 seasons as top Patriot, the expectations are as high as they’ve ever been.
Is it unreasonable to expect a championship? Or, should we expect a colossal letdown, and disappointment? It’s been 39 years since a Super Bowl loser has turned it around…and won a championship the next season.
It’s why we play the games. As history tells us, expect the unexpected.