ogoI’ll be damned if I think anybody ought to be cowed by the New York Jets.

They are a center less, soulless organization, bereft of any substance, accomplishing nothing, representing nothing. They exist only to twist in whichever breeze happens to be blowing at the moment; a silly tabloid team in a silly tabloid town, every bit as vapid and temporary as the freaks and miscreants they share screaming headlines and column inches with. For almost fifty years, they have rarely stood for anything, and often fallen for everything.

So I’m not going to lose any sleep over their win here last night, or their one game lead with six to play.

Make no mistake – I went to bed last night just sick over the Patriots’ overtime loss to these coreless pretenders, sick over a defense that helped turn a 24-6 deficit into a 24-24 ballgame only to fade when presented with every opportunity to complete the comeback. Sick over Ben Watson’s fumble and Dan Koppen’s snap, sick over Mike Vrabel’s hold, sick over the coverage that could not protect the middle of the field on 3rd and 15.

But I’m feeling better now. Here’s why.

I think the Patriots proved once again last night that nothing – nothing – will make them fold their tents and go home. Their comeback, however incomplete, proved to me that they will be there at the end again this year, even after everything that has happened.

About that – call it an excuse if you want, but it’s a fact. They lost the reigning league MVP and best quarterback in the world fifteen plays into the season. Since then, their defensive leader has joined him on the sidelines, followed soon after by their most complete linebacker.  Last night, they took the field without any of them, and for good measure, without a defensive lineman that routinely occupies two blockers on every play.

The Jets, on the other hand, went into the game without David Harris and Brad Kassell.

The point is that it would be a mistake to take this sort of thing for granted. I know we’re supposed to deadpan all this, and talk only about “the players that are here.” We’re supposed to say that it’s simply up to the next guy to come in and make the same plays that Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas and Ty Warren make. We’re supposed to maintain expectations regardless.

You know something? That’s insane. That’s for players and coaches that have to have that mindset just to keep their heads above water. But I’m sitting over here on the couch, and I’m thinking they could have evaporated when Brady disappeared down the stairs behind their bench, and they didn’t. They could have spiraled downward when Harrison was lost, and they didn’t. They could have thrown their hands up when Thomas broke him arm, and they didn’t. They could have disappeared last night, down 18 points as halftime approached, and they didn’t.

Are we so jaded by this remarkable decade that we can’t see that? Are we so entitled in our ‘expectations’ that we see what’s happening with the Patriots this season as a failure?

I tell you, I just don’t see it. They could have faded away the moment that the shit hit the fan in the Chiefs game, just like the litany of hungover Super Bowl losers before them. Instead, they stayed upright, where they remain, even after last night’s hurtful loss. Nothing gets decided on November 13th, just like nothing was decided on September 7th, and it’s to their credit, not debit, that this is so.  

Yeah, they lost the battle last night, but the war will rage on for another month and a half at least. If you doubt after last night that the Patriots will remain in the thick of it, just remember my earlier question of substance. Which organization has proven beyond all shadow of a doubt to have it, and which one has yet to prove anything in almost forty years?

As long as that’s true, you can’t count even this most hobbled of Patriots teams out of anything, least of all the AFC East.

Scott Benson is the Editor and Co-Founder of Patriots Daily. He can be reached at scott@patriotsdaily.com.