There are early indications that the New England Patriots won’t be resting on their laurels after the team’s latest and possibly greatest Super Bowl win.
The team that liberals love to hate pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in professional sports history when they rallied from 25 points down in the third quarter to stun the Atlanta Falcons in overtime 34-28.
The amazing victory cemented the status of superstar Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as the greatest in pro football history with five championships to his credit. This one had to especially sweet to Brady after the ugly humiliation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s vendetta over the “Deflategate” scandal.
Brady fought like hell but finally accepted the punishment of a four-game suspension to start the season. If there was ever a time for opponents to bury the Patriots early that was it but the team managed to go 3-1 without their fearless leader and never looked back.
Once Brady returned, the Pats roared through the rest of the schedule to a final 14-2 record in a regular season that was even more impressive than the undefeated 2007 slate. Having clinched home field advantage in the playoffs, New England easily dispatched the overmatched Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers to get their shot at the title.
As they say, the rest is history.
Now in a boatload of serious bad news for the rest of the NFL, it could be that the 2017 Patriots will be even stronger, at least judging from their early offseason moves in free agency and the trade market.
Bill Belichick and his brain trust made a big splash in free agency by signing former Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore to add to an already formidable secondary. Gilmore was clearly the best defensive back available and he is an instant starter in New England.
The Patriots then made a trade with the New Orleans Saints to score yet another weapon for Brady in speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks, a move that is likely already giving AFC East defensive coordinators ulcers.
Another trade added pass rushing defensive end Kony Ealy. For those who may not recognize the name, Ealy was the guy who terrorized Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 50.
While the Carolina Panthers went on to lose that game in an extremely ugly fashion, Ealy was far and away their best player on the field. A disappointing year allowed the Patriots to get him for a song – basically an exchange of second and third round draft picks. Ealy will shore up an already stout defense that borders on impregnable against the run.
New England also landed former Colts tight end Dwayne Allen (who will replace the departing Martellus Bennett) as well as ex-Raven defensive lineman Laurence Guy and versatile running back Rex Burkhead by way of the Cincinnati Bengals.
After the additions, the Patriots re-signed dominating linebacker Dont’a Hightower who was courted by Pittsburgh and the New York Jets but wisely chose to stay where he had the best chance to grab another ring or two.
There is also the possibility that Belichick will be able to fleece the hapless Cleveland Browns out of a high-first rounder and several other draft picks in exchange for backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
With Brady playing some of the best football of his career and defying Father Time, his understudy is expendable. This is especially the case when you have a sucker like the Browns on the line and willing to mortgage their future on a guy who could end up being the next Matt Cassel or Brian Hoyer.
A bounty of Browns picks in next month’s draft would be the icing on the cake for a killer offseason by the Patriots.
With a veteran-packed, battle-hardened squad who know what it takes to win and with destiny in their dreams, it’s easy to see the Patriots steamrolling a weak sister AFC to hoist one more Vince Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis next year.
Super Bowl LII will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018.