It’s been a wild week for the Patriots. When the stunning acquisition of former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown was first announced, it seemed like coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ front office had pulled off another genius move. But the day after last week’s decisive win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the saga took another shocking turn: He was accused of sexual assault and rape by a former trainer. Now facing a civil lawsuit from the league, and the accuser set to meet with the NFL today, there is once again a question mark as to exactly how long Brown will be a part of the team.
The Patriots have a history of signing players with troubled histories, only to have them become magically reformed under the guidance of the “Patriot Way,” where players focus on doing their job, stay humble in front of the press, and of course, winning. Take Randy Moss, another ex-Raider who was in hot water with the league and who carried a bad reputation and criminal record when he joined the team. Once signed with the Patriots, Moss only made headlines for making sensational plays and breaking the record for all-time receiving touchdowns in a season.
But compared to today’s controversies over domestic and sexual assault, Moss’ former offenses look practically benign. He fought a racist, admitted he smoked weed and pretended to moon the crowd once. Quite a far cry from the accusations that Brown now faces.
But for now, Brown is still a Patriot, and suited up for this week’s game against the Miami Dolphins, where he caught three passes during the opening drive, and later caught a 20-yard pass that became a touchdown.
But that was only a small part of the overall shellacking that the Patriots put on the Dolphins, a lopsided 43-0 victory, and revenge for last year’s “Miracle in Miami” in which the Dolphins won on the last play of the game. The real victory of the game was the Patriots defense, as opposing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and his offense failed to score a single point. Fitzpatrick was later replaced by backup Josh Rosen, only for Rosen to be injured after being tackled out of bounds.
On top of that, two consecutive Patriots’ touchdowns in the fourth quarter came from defensive interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, one by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the other by linebacker Jamie Collins. This isn’t a defensive line that carries any major big names, but rather a no-name players that are quickly establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in their own right, having not allowed a touchdown in two consecutive games (make it three if you include last year’s Super Bowl).
Next week, the Patriots return home to play another AFC East rival, the New York Jets. The Jets narrowly lost their first week against the suddenly upstart Buffalo Bills, and play Monday night against the Cleveland Browns. Fans will be watching to find out whether or not this matchup will be as one-sided as the first two.