Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/4/14
Nobody lurks in the shadows of the NFL quite like the New England Patriots. Following Wednesday’s entrée of a World Series victory for the Boston Red Sox, what better for dessert than a Patriots blowout victory over the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers? Week after week the Patriots seem to grow a little more. Week after week the Patriots seem to get ignored a little more. But the scary reality for the rest of the league is that week-by-week the Patriots gain steam, biding their time. They know that winter is coming. When the cold comes rolling through Foxboro Tom Brady and company bring it to a level that, year in and year out, few teams can match. This past Sunday it was obvious that the Patriots were looking ahead to a much deserved bye week and were looking to earn it. They came out and executed in all phases. For the first time the offense reminded us of the good old times. Brady connecting with Rob Gronkowski on a 19-yard touchdown brought about a feeling of nostalgia. Watching Stevan Ridley running with such purpose brought Patriots nation back to the days of “Clock Killing” Corey Dillon, eating opposing defenses for dinner in the bitter Foxboro cold. Production from players such as Ridley and Gronkowski is expected from fans and coaches alike. The wild card heading into this season was the young players who were burdened with producing well beyond their years. At first only the wide receivers were in this crowd, but as injuries have plagued the team on both sides of the ball the dynamic has changed. The culture an NFL player is placed in at the developing stages of their career can determine what path they will be placed on, as proven by the Jonathan Martin situation with the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are all business and seek out young players that will thrive in the atmosphere. There are hits, and there are misses.  The first and second year players on the Patriots have survived through some rough patches during the first half of the season but a dominating win over the Steelers is what many hope to be a turning point. Those who find pleasure in rooting against the Patriots mock “The Patriot Way”, but for the fans who have watched it grow under Bill Belichick’s tenure, it is a cult with Brady as its leader. Although it is hard to swallow, he grows older by the day and his window is closing. The only thing that can extend that window is the talent around him, and this young group of players seems to get the idea. In the NFL, your career can end just as fast as it starts.  With an average career length of 3.3 years the reality is that very few players are indispensable. Having Brady under center is an amazing advantage for any team. For a young player who hopes to win a Super Bowl it is important to know that they might not get a chance like they one they have this season. Whether it be rookie pass-catchers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins or fill in defensive lineman Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, this could be there only chance. As Dobson sprinted past Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor for an 81 yard score he wasn’t just scoring his second touchdown of the game. He was letting it be known to anybody who was watching that he was here to put in the work necessary to develop chemistry with Brady. If Dobson is lucky enough to have a lengthy NFL career the chances are he will not play with a quarterback like Brady ever again. Every snap matters to the 2013 Patriots and that is refreshing. Teams in the past have had holes that were covered up by an explosive offense and gaudy numbers put up by Brady. Things are different this year. The Patriot Way is back on track.
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