Our Opinion: Sorry to all the Patriots haters out there ...


The day will come when the New England Patriots stop tormenting the rest of the teams in the National Football League and their fans, but that day may not come soon. Each year, pundits and prognosticators profess to find cracks in the Patriots' armor and each year the Patriots go to the playoffs. The end result is often a duckboat parade through Boston streets packed with delirious Patriots fans, as was the case yesterday.

Since the surly genius Bill Belichick was hired as head coach 19 seasons ago, the Patriots have gone to nine Super Bowls, roughly one every other year, and won six of them. Tom Brady, the seemingly ageless quarterback, has won the Super Bowl MVP award four times.

Sunday's 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, however, was less about Mr. Brady than it was about a defense that held a Rams offense that had rolled up yards and points all season long to a single field goal. There are no household names on this defense, just a collection of draft picks, free agents, and trade acquisitions that Mr. Belichick and his defensive coordinators, through some alchemy that eludes the rest of the league's teams, transformed into a unit that chose the Super Bowl to play its best game of the season.

The NFL, which seeks parity among its teams, stacks the deck to prevent dynasties. The best teams face tough non-conference schedules the next season (the Patriots do benefit from their presence in the otherwise terrible AFC East) and the worst teams get the highest draft choices. Patriots players sign big free agent contracts and depart and assistant coaches leave for head coaching jobs elsewhere. Yet the machine rolls on, adopting the "next man up" philosophy that is at the heart of the so-called Patriot Way. No divas need apply, and players who don't put team first are weeded out. Owner Robert Kraft, the third link with the head coach and the quarterback over the last two decades, gives his staff the resources with which to work their magic and steps aside.

Frustrated foes can end their misery in only one way — by beating the Patriots. They now have another off-season to try to figure out how.



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