Why This Year’s Patriots Are Even More Impressive Than 2007’s
Those who say it’s wrong to compare this year’s Patriots team with their undefeated predecessors from 2007 are right: what the Patriots are doing this season is more impressive.
Eight years ago, the Patriots assembled an all-star team. Bill Belichick went on a rare spending spree, and brought in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte’ Stallworth, and Adalius Thomas prior to the ’07 campaign. Entering this season, however, the players who the Patriots let go were more notable than who they brought in. The club didn’t re-sign any of its top three cornerbacks, allowing Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington all to leave for greener free agent pastures.
But despite those losses, the 2015 Pats appear poised to run the table—largely because the man who’s at the center of their success is replicating his MVP-caliber season from eight years ago in improbable fashion.
Tom Brady in 2007: 30 years old
Tom Brady in 2015: 38 years old
It seems as if the only difference between the Brady of today and the one from ’07 is his age, which is remarkable. Almost every quarterback in NFL history slows down once they reach their late 30s, but not Brady. In fact, his passing numbers through four games are slightly up this year compared to what they were when he was in the prime of his career.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 12, 2015
Somehow, Brady is playing better at 38 than he was at 30—he’s on pace to become the first 5,000-yard passer in league history this season. It’s inexplicable, and a glorified snake-oil salesman may be the person to thank.
2007: Kevin Faulk (second-round draft pick, 4,833 yards from scrimmage entering the season)
2015: Dion Lewis (fifth-round draft pick, 192 yards from scrimmage prior to this year)
Lewis hadn’t played an NFL snap in two seasons entering 2015, whereas Faulk was entrenched in the Patriots’ backfield for nearly a decade when 2007 rolled around. So far this year, Lewis has 418 yards from scrimmage, which ranks him 13th in the AFC—nine spots ahead of Rob Gronkowski. Not bad for someone who was sitting on the couch last fall.
2007: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte’ Stallworth (15,337 receiving yards heading into ’07)
2015: Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin (5,717 receiving yards before ’15)
The Patriots’ No. 1 receiver this season is a converted quarterback from Kent State who was drafted in the seventh-round. Brady’s top target in ’07, meanwhile, will go down as one of the best receivers to ever play the game.
2007: Kyle Brady, Ben Watson
2015: Rob Gronkowski
OK, fine! The narrative doesn’t always hold true …
2007: Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Russ Hockstein/Stephen Neal, Nick Kaczur
2015: Nate Solder, Shaq Mason, Josh Kline, David Andrews, Tre Jackson, Marcus Cannon, Sebastian Vollmer
The least experienced Patriots’ offensive linemen in 2007 were Mankins and Kaczur, who were first- and third-round selections from 2005, respectively. This season, the Patriots are going with an offensive line rotation that includes three rookies playing on the interior—Mason, Jackson, and Andrews.
Despite its inexperience, this has been one of the best O-lines in football through the first five weeks of the season. Brady has only been hit 23 times, which is the sixth-fewest in the league.
2007: Starters average six years of experience (10 combined Pro Bowl appearances, 22 if you count Junior Seau, who was a backup)
2015: Starters average four years of experience (three combined Pro Bowl appearances)
This year’s defense may wind up being better than 2007’s, but the resumes don’t compare. The group in ’07 had stalwarts such as Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samuel, and Hall of Famer Junior Seau in a backup role. The veterans of this year’s defense, meanwhile, are Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo, and Devin McCourty (and it seems as if Mayo is getting phased out).
2007: Stephen Gostkowski
2015: Stephen Gostkowski
All right, the narrative doesn’t hold here, either. Gostkowski is the highest-paid kicker in football, and for good reason, as he’s currently the Patriots all-time scoring leader.
Maybe that means Belichick will feel comfortable sending Gostkowski out there for a crucial field goal in this year’s Super Bowl, which he opted not to do in 2007 with the undefeated season on the line. At the rate this is going, the Patriots seem destined to find themselves in that same situation come February.