Um. Not to count my chickens or anything. But dear lord did the Pats look good last night. Coming off 2 ugly preseason losses, it was absolutely delightful to see them playing good football and embarrassing the hell out of the Panthers along the way. The offense was a tad wimpy at first, but had a turnaround about halfway through the 1st quarter when Belichick had them run it on a 4th down rather than going for the field goal, as if to say "ENOUGH MESSING AROUND YOU PANSIES." Immediately thereafter, the Pats pulled it together for a string of nice-looking 1st downs and ended up outscoring Carolina 24-7. Despite coming off what was undoubtedly a nerve-wracking couple of days, baby daddy Tom Brady threw some great passes and also let Maroney do that thing he does so well. Oh man, did I enjoy this game. And, despite Samuel continuing to hold out on contract nonsense and Moss' absence, last night really hammered home how many, many reasons there are to be excited about the Patriots this season.
- Our linebacker crew. Holy crap. Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rosevelt Colvin, and Adalius Thomas. Just writing those names all together gets me excited. These men are an unbreakable wall of defense. Just try and run one of your pretty little plays against us, Peyton.
- Laurence Maroney's running game. Watching Maroney last night, it was clear that he is still getting used to his increased role due to the departure of Corey Dillon, the seasoned Pats veteran who taught Maroney much of what he knows. Over and over in the first quarter, we saw Maroney getting taken down at the line of scrimmage as he struggled to plow through Carolina's defense. But he did have some great runs earning a total of 58 yards, and it was thrilling to see how obviously he relishes being Tom Brady's go-to man on running plays. After several weeks of no-contact practice, he was ready to take the hits and run his game. He is going to have a spectacular season, no question.
- All those options. Dante Stalworth caught some great passes last night, as did Reche Caldwell and Marcellus Rivers. Even Heath Evans mysteriously turned wide receiver on a play last night, running the ball a good 20 yards before he suddenly appeared to remember "hey, I'm a fullback" and decided to put his shoulder into a couple of players on his way down. Oh, and let's not forget Wes Welker, a recent acquisition from Miami, whose sure hands are a nice compliment to speedy WR Stalworth. When Brady finally decided to pick his head up and throw the ball, he had a plethora of options to connect with for some great plays. You'd expect there to be less of a passing game without Moss, and there was, but it was still clear that Moss will be only one more part of a controlled and efficient offense.
- Still waiting to see what Brandon Meriweather can do. The Pats' first-round pick did an effective job of shutting down Carolina's corners last night, but he's yet to be in a situation where we can see why he earned that first-round status. And I'm sure we will.
- Um, our quarterback is REALLY GOOD. Like, it's almost to obvious to be worth pointing out, but hot DAMN. Sometimes you forget that one of the things that has made New England the team of the decade is that we have such a clearheaded and accurate man running our offense. Brady's still got it, kids, and I am looking forward to see what he does with the Patriots this season, given the aforementioned awesomely good offense that he has to work with.
And there you have it: my completely unbiased critique of the 2007 Patriots. I'm already ordering my custom napkins for the Superbowl party.