Time to temporarily pause the Patriots criticism and root for a playoff miracle

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Curran: Sure, Patriots are flawed, but why not root for a miracle? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Don’t "Matt Patricia" me now. Don’t give me, "What about the persistent situational stupidity …?" Don’t worry about the "Yeah but ... they only beat backup quarterbacks…"

It is time to suspend disbelief. Pause the autopsy. Leave the black box right where it is. One-game season, kids. After nine months of backseat driving, fault-finding and nitpicking, strap in. Holster your grievances. Walk over to the sunny side of the street.

Bill Belichick said it best Monday morning.

Patriots Talk: Patriots find a way vs Dolphins to keep hope alive | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"We can look back on things at some other point in time. Right now, the only thing that matters is Buffalo," Belichick said. "So it doesn't matter what did or didn't happen some other week or series of weeks or anything else. We'll see what happens against Buffalo. That's all that really matters.

“We're in a one-game season and need to play well against one of the most explosive offenses and certainly one of the top players in the league. They've got several good players, but [Josh] Allen by himself is a tough matchup for any player, any defense. So we're just really focused on that."

That answer was in response to whether or not the Patriots have been an "elite" defense this year. Elite, good or merely proficient at beating the pus out of backups, what adjective fits best doesn’t matter.

The Patriots have a chance on Sunday to play a playoff game that isn’t a playoff game against the (for my money) most potent team in the AFC. They have a chance to add Josh Allen's name to the lackluster list of quarterbacks they've toppled this year.

There is NO LUSTER AT ALL from the quarterbacks on the Patriots' kill list: Mitch Trubisky, Sam Ehlinger, Zach Wilson (two times), Jacoby Brissett, Colt McCoy and the Teddy Bridgewater/Skylar Thompson combo meal from Sunday. Full disclosure, I like Ted, Colt and Jacoby a lot. But none of those seven will ever again be the chosen starter for an NFL team coming out of training camp.

The only pelt of consequence? Jared Goff. So I’d say easy on the elite. Unless there’s a full disrobing of Josh Allen and the Bills on Sunday. Then we can have a conversation.

What’s that you murmured? "Fat flocking chance?" Agreed. But there is at least the opportunity to extend the season and catch lightning in a bottle. And if that happens against a very good team, on the road in a game of consequence for Buffalo? It raises an eyebrow.

If it doesn’t? Then we are where we’ve been, understanding that the 2022 Patriots wasted the whole damn year with a fairly talented and very well-compensated roster that -- with better coaching and production on the offensive side of the ball -- coulda been somebody, coulda been contenders.

Is it possible to make the playoffs and not be a good team? Yes. In the same way a 5-foot-8 guy can be in a room of 16 people and realize nine of them are shorter than him.

Tom E. Curran

Two interesting things happened Sunday to underscore how badly Belichick effed up by putting neophyte offensive coaches in charge of Mac Jones and Co.

In his first-ever start, Jarrett Stidham went OFF running Josh McDaniels’ offense against the stifling 49ers defense. Stidham, of course, couldn’t beat out Jones and couldn’t beat out Cam Newton the past two years. But he threw three touchdowns on Sunday, something Jones hasn’t done in 2022.

Watch: Jarrett Stidham lights it up vs. 49ers in first NFL start

Meanwhile, with Brian Daboll running things for the Giants, quarterback Daniel Jones capped a comeback season. What did he come back from? Two seasons of ugly under head coach Joe Judge. It’s worth noting that when the Giants visited Foxboro last summer for joint practices, Mac Jones wasn’t just a little better than Daniel Jones. He was miles ahead of Danny Dimes. As a rookie.

Nobody who’s been paying attention would mistake the Patriots for a "good" team. Anyone who has watched the first 16 games and says they are, possesses an opinion that doesn’t matter.

(No offense to my friend Michael Holley, with whom I debated this phenomenon when the Patriots were 6-4.)

I mean, they’ve lost four out of six games since Thanksgiving and both wins came against teams that lost their starting quarterbacks in the course of the game. We all know what we’re looking at.

Is it possible to make the playoffs and not be a good team? Yes. In the same way a 5-foot-8 guy can be in a room of 16 people and realize nine of them are shorter than him. That doesn’t make him tall. It just means he’s keeping small company.

Sunday’s win over the Dolphins -- while more competent than usual -- actually reiterated how challenged the Patriots are. They opened the game with a 10-play, 81-yard touchdown drive. They then ran 29 plays on their next seven drives, gaining 121 yards and scoring three points. Just a couple of hours of futility.

Perry: Patriots show glimmer of 'complementary' identity vs. Dolphins

They awakened again and ran off an 11-play, 89-yard drive to score their second offensive touchdown of the day. Then they reverted to their "scared of their shadow" offensive approach on what should have been the game-salting drive, giving the ball back to Miami and rope-a-doping for the rest of the game.

BUT! The Patriots have now executed three flukiness-free drives in the past two games that lasted more than 10 plays and covered 77 yards or more. That’s monumental for them.

From where they are now, the Patriots can see smoke rising in the distance from the town of "Low-level Competency." Acknowledging that should not be mistaken for the masses being delusional. And, worrying about how they’ll get there is not for this week.

This week, it’s all about spitballin’ and workshoppin’ the ways in which the Patriots can slip past Buffalo and into the playoffs so that they can get T-boned by Kansas City.