Fortune often favors the bold and beautiful. So no one should have been totally surprised when Antonio Brown, game-changing wide receiver and recent Kanye West meltdown cosplay enthusiast, fell into their laps after intentionally getting dismissed by the Oakland Raiders.
“I think everybody’s excited to add great players. It helps everybody when you have great players that are sharing the burden of a tough football season. I think, like anything else, whether it was Josh last year or Phillip when he got here a few years ago late, and then this year Antonio, how much can you learn and process and get in here? And we’re all going to work hard and try to get up to speed as fast as possible,” Brady said after career victory No. 238 (regular and postseason combined). “We’re all excited to have him. All I could say is we’re just going to work as hard as we possibly can to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”
The former Pittsburgh Steelers star was not eligible to play in Sunday night’s marquee matchup. The Patriots didn’t need him. Tom Brady looked lethal with his current wide receiving corp, putting up 341 yards and three touchdowns with ruthless efficiency. Five different players caught three or more passes. Julian Edelman was a slot mismatch. Phillip Dorsett hauled in two touchdown grabs. Josh Gordon looked All-World on a nice catch and run for a score. James White did what he always does: be that security blanket underneath.
And then there was the defense, last seen giving up three points in the Super Bowl. All it did is give up three points and crush the spirit of the Steelers. Belichick seems content to keep painting these masterpieces on that side of the ball, then really make it pop with some accent colors on offense.
What a sick thing to say about a Brady-led offense which now, with Brown, has as much talent as any other unit in the league. The Patriots dynasty has been put on life support so many times, yet always comes back with a stronger heartbeat.
The thumping from Foxboro could be heard from coast to coast. New England is still the team to beat and — potentially — working off the blueprint of the 2007 unit. That’s the one that added a malcontent diva wide receiver (Randy Moss) and went 18-0 before David Tyree happened.
It is not too early to ask the question. Will the 2019 version go 16-0 and, eventually, 19-0? Serious, learned people are asking it in addition to guys named Murph and Sully. The AFC East is weak. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills had a rather unproductive rock fight. The Miami Dolphins looked like an FCS team collecting a paycheck against Alabama. Those are six free wins there.
Conceivably, the season opener was one of the tougher games on the Pats’ schedule and, well, it didn’t turn out to be so tough.
On paper that’s a steep climb. But it must be said, if I’m a Pats fan and understand Brown is walking through that door, I’m not particularly scared about any of these matchups.
Small sample sizes begets bad future takes. And yet, there’s that familiar haunting feeling that New England is scarier than ever and walking onto a completely uneven playing field from here on out.
Antonio Brown, Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, David Tyree, James White, Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Phillip Dorsett, Pittsburgh Steelers, Randy Moss, Robert Kraft, Tom Brady, Undefeated, NFL
Gotta love football here,” Julian Edelman told USA TODAY Sports after the New England Patriots opened the new season with a 33-3 dismantling of Browns old team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP was ebullient about adding arguably the NFLs best receiver — despite all the baggage the combustible Brown rolls with.
We like football players that love football, Edelman said. We all have that same kind of love for the game. It can work out really well. We look forward to that. Hes a playmaker. And the more playmakers you have, the more dynamic it will be.
Brown could be on the verge of becoming the next NFL malcontent to enter Bill Belichicks kingdom and suddenly see the light of a team-first operation — just as Mike Tomlin and Jon Gruden try to run, by the way — and fall in line.
Brady, though, finally opened the floodgates when it came to talking about the controversial addition of Brown, who forced his way off the Steelers last winter and forced his way off the Raiders this summer.
Thats what it has come to with Brown, whose immense talent has increasingly been overshadowed by the drama. But you know how it is in the NFL. Talent gets you another chance … if you dont kneel during the national anthem like a Colin Kaepernick.
And boy, did the Patriots just add some talent. Just hours after his release from the Raiders on Saturday he agreed to a one-year contract potentially worth $15 million with a $9 million signing bonus. That avoids some level of shame after he lost out on $29 million in guaranteed money from the Raiders (which will likely be contested), and he has to think hell be positioned for another big payday next year … if this works out.
The oddsmakers are buying it. After Browns cross-country move, the Patriots suddenly leap-frogged the Kansas City Chiefs to become favorites to win Super Bowl LIV. Another Super Bowl.
Did the Patriots — who raised a sixth Super Bowl championship banner Sunday night — just catch another break in snagging such a premier talent? Probably.
Add the Brown case to questions in recent weeks from Patriots rivals. Josh Gordon, back so soon? Patrick Chung, still eligible to play? Robert Kraft, skirting a suspension?
Now this. If you can believe high-profile agent Drew Rosenhaus — love him or loathe him, he has a knack for finding talented clients work amid crisis — Brown is ready to accept the so-called Patriot Way.
Well see. By late Saturday, Brown had already posted on social media a cartoon image of himself in a Patriots uniform, counting cash with the message: “Business is Boomin.”
Browns social media activity certainly hasnt been confused with the close-to-the vest Patriot Way. He used a secretly-recorded conversation with Gruden to fuel the narrative for a two-minute video that was as slick as a Nike ad. He also posted the fine letter he received from Raiders GM Mike Mayock, which apparently fueled a fiery exchange that had to be broken up. During his Pittsburgh tenure — which ended last December with conflicting opinions about whether Brown refused to play in the season finale with a playoff berth on the line, days after being sent home after a dispute — Brown once live-streamed a Tomlin post-game speech.
The culture he is joining with the Patriots is such that Belichick has been known to chew out iconic quarterback Tom Brady as he would some third-string linebacker. No kid gloves.
When someone asked Belichick during his postgame news conference if he could shed light on the decision to sign Brown, the coach, in his consistent fashion, replied: No, Ill talk about the game and the players that are on our team.
Weve got plenty of time to talk about Antonio Brown, McCourty said. I just feel like tonight is a big credit to the guys that have been putting in the work since April.
No, Brown wasnt at the game that illustrated just how much work Pittsburghs offense needs to do without him. Yet even with his absence — or anticipation of his arrival — it was apparent that his new teammates are ready to embrace him.
Strikingly, Brady told USA TODAY Sports that hed welcome Brown to stay at his home — a mansion with a guest house that sits on five acres in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Thats a great gesture, backing up the star quarterbacks willingness to put in extra work to get Brown up to speed with the Patriots system.
Brady knows. Talent wins. Its no wonder that Brady told team owner Robert Kraft that he was a million percent in on adding Brown.
Weve got a lot of players that are talented and weve just got to figure out how to make it all work, said Brady, who shredded Pittsburgh for 341 yards and three TDs. Its a long year. Its the beginning of a long marathon and the NFL is very competitive and its going to be a great challenge. But I think were all looking forward to it.
The Patriots entered training camp with major questions about the viability of their wide receiver corps and the manner in which they would fill the void left with the retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Now they suddenly look to have the NFLs deepest collection of receivers. Brown joins Edelman, Gordon, Phillip Dorsett — who had a game-high 95 receiving yards and two TDs, including a 58-yard strike on a deep seam route — and Demaryius Thomas.
Chemistry is undoubtedly the X-factor with Brown. One of Browns social media posts over the weekend contained a seemingly cryptic analogy about a child being motivated to burn down a village if he is not embraced by that village. Hmmm. Sounds like it could have been a message for Mayock and the Raiders.
The new village awaits. Listen to some of Browns new teammates, and work ethic will be the key for winning over the locker room.
Hes a good football player, obviously, Patriots running back James White told USA TODAY Sports. Hes had a lot of success in this league, so well accept him in here. I know he works extremely hard. Excited to have him here, ready to work.
White flashed a knowing grin when asked about Browns dramatic episodes with the Raiders that have generated so much attention in recent weeks.
A lot of stuff, obviously, White said. I cant judge him for what happened previously. Well accept anybody who comes in this locker room. Fresh start when you come in here. Well see.
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