logoby Scott Benson

The lull brought on by the Patriots’ bye week has put the local Fourth Estate in a reflective mood this morning, as it considers the incredible events of the past nine weeks.

Everybody’s lookin’ back. Well, maybe not everybody. A plucky few charge ahead, eyes on a perfect season for New England.

Let’s open the papers and see what’s up. By the way, is this not the most perfectly placed bye week in history?

Michael Felger leads Herald coverage this morning with his mid term grades, like he’s Craig Mustard or somebody. Professor Felger puts a gold star on everybody’s paper but Laurence Maroney’s, with running back as the only position to fall short of a 3.0. I’m not sure how the combined production of Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Maroney doesn’t factor in here. I would agree that Maroney has not emerged as a lead player, but this running back by committee is #8 in the league in rushing. That’s a ‘C’?

Why am I arguing about a fake football report card in this morning’s paper? I’m one step away from nit picking the comics. Damn you, you sneaky Felger. You’ve pulled me in!

A couple of other points. Felger’s opening says that the ongoing furor over Spygate, such as Don Shula’s well-publicized comments this week, is all Bill Belichick’s fault, for giving an opening to critics to fire away at the accomplishments of the team.

It’s Bill Belichick’s fault that the Patriots brazenly broke the rules. It’s his fault that they lost a first-round draft choice. It’s his fault that he cost himself a half-million bucks and his employer a quarter-million. These things were his responsibility and he was held accountable for them.

But how about we make Shula and the other Sygate snipers equally accountable, at least for the words that they say? Shula’s paranoia about his legacy, and the way that it manifests itself, isn’t Bill Belichick’ fault, no matter how much you happen to think he invited it. Shula’s problems belong to Shula, and the same goes for the rest of them.

Mike closes out the report card by noting that, as a coach, Belichick has “always been able to create windmills to tilt at, even when none existed.” I guess the people who have been telling me that Felger has been dismissing Belichick as a motivator on his radio show just heard it wrong. Every one of them.

Rightfully offended by Shula’s ad hominum, John Tomase fires back by crank calling Bob Kuechenberg again. You know, I think the ’72 Dolphins are softening.

More Spygate from the AP’s Dave Goldberg, who has Robert Kraft saying that adversity has brought the Patriots together.

In the Globe, Jim McCabe reaches way back for his litany of near-misses in NFL perfection. The ‘Akron Pros’ is one great team nickname, by the way. Mike Reiss is also along with his weekly league notes, where he finds that Massachusetts native (and defensive coordinator) Steve Spagnuolo has helped the Giants to a 6-2 mark.  

Like the Little River Band, Shalise Manza Young of the ProJo is reminiscin’. Robert Lee has more on Kevin Faulk, who says he got a helpful “coaching point” from Belichick after his winning touchdown last week. Was it something like “hold on to the ****ing ball”?

Elswehere in the six-state region, the Patriot Ledger’s Ron Hobson says that Joe Montana and Tom Brady are 1 and 1.A. when it comes to NFL quarterbacks. Douglas Flynn of the MWDN sees the Pats running the table from here. In the Courant, David Heuschkel looks at the appeal of Randy Moss, and here comes Bob Pruett again with the Randy love. Moss has made Pruett a media darling. His phone must ring non-stop.

Have a good Sunday.  I’ll stop by later today with some bye-week reflections of my own.