Once again the Patriots’ early demise is being greatly exaggerated. Even with the loss of WR Wes Welker, who led the league with 123 receptions, the Patriots have always been prepared for what comes next.
Eight years ago the Patriots overcame the most costly injury imaginable, to franchise QB Drew Bledsoe, then moved on to win their first Super Bowl after Tom Brady emerged from the shadows. Others have done the same. S Lawyer Milloy gave way to Rodney Harrison. CB Ty Law stepped aside for Asante Samuel. RB Antowain Smith opened the door for Corey Dillon,just as LB Tedy Bruschi prepared Jerod Mayo.
The Patriots have been, and still are, a team built on the talents of many — never on just one player. Following the 2006 regular season, after losing in the AFC title game to the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots needed to add a big-play wide receiver to serve as a weapon for Brady. Instead of getting one kind of playmaker to serve in one specific role, they added two different weapons to function differently within the offense. The addition of Randy Moss and Welker allowed the Patriots to expand their offense. Now, with Welker out, up next is rookie WR Julian Edelman, who possesses similar skills as Welker. Edelman is a former college QB, so he is an unfinished product who lacks the polish of a veteran player. However, he is far from being a wide-eyed rookie who is green as grass. His 10 catches for 103 yards while replacing Welker in Houston revealed the potential for big things in the postseason.
Before New England’s regular-season finale in Houston, Brady told me that he had battled through various injuries, which had robbed him of valuable practice time. However, he said that it’s now been several weeks where he’s made every practice and is feeling as healthy as he’s been all season. This could spell bad news for the Ravens.
Brady knows the Patriots’ success in this year’s playoffs rests squarely on his shoulders. I would never bet against Tom Brady. He is a fierce competitor. There is no doubt the Patriots are a team in transition, but as long as they have Brady, they have all they need to be considered a real threat in the playoffs.