What we’ve learned through the Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, NFL games…

The Patriots are my AFC team. The New Orleans Saints are my NFC team. Tom Brady is awesome. Drew Brees is awesome. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I admire those guys because not only are they great NFL quarterbacks, but their stories are also inspirational.

So, when I criticize, say, the Saints, it’s not because I’m against them. I want them to do well. I want them to win.

But these ‘slow’ starts are what have been costing them every year since their Super Bowl victory after the 2009 season.

The Saints said all the right things heading into their contest on Sunday, about how important Week 2’s game against the L.A. Rams was.

And they went out and got blown out.

I get it. Brees had to leave the game after his thumb was injured by the Rams’ Aaron Donald. But that’s why they have the NFL’s highest-paid backup quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater has been a starter in the NFL before. He should have been ready.

Yes, the Rams are a tough team. But look – there have been all kinds of backups that came up big over the course of NFL history. And we’ve been reminded so far this season that it’s the NFL’s 100th season and we’ve seen stories and highlights of those spectacular plays over the first 99 years of the league.

Well, I can say that even against potent teams, backups have come through so many times in NFL history. Frank Reich against a tough Houston team in the playoffs. Jeff Hostetler against the 49ers in the 1990 NFC title game and the Bills in the Super Bowl. Brady when he was a backup in his second NFL season. Doug Flutie in Buffalo.

So, I don’t think Brees being injured and knocked out should be an excuse when the Saints have a capable backup in Bridgewater.

The point is, these early-season losses – and I count a 1-1 start as a ‘slow’ start for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations – have cost the Saints before. Look at 2011, when the Saints had arguably a better team than the 2009 Super Bowl-winning squad.  They finished 13-3, but costly losses in the first half of their schedule (including defeats to lowly Tampa Bay and St. Louis) cost them. They lost tie-breakers with the 49ers and ended up being the No. 3 seed while Green Bay (15-1) and San Francisco (13-3) were Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. That cost them in the divisional round when they went on the road to San Fran and lost to Alex Smith.

So, as much as I hate to say it, I wonder if this inability to stop the Rams in Week 2 will come back to haunt New Orleans?

And the Chicago Bears lucked out. I thought they’d lost to Denver, but their kicker, Eddy Pineiro drilled a 53-yard FG as time expired to give them a 16-14 win. He made two 50-plus yard field goals in the game.

Pineiro did his job, but could you imagine if the Bears, considered an NFC contender, had lost to fall to 0-2? Matt Nagy, their head coach, did a great job last year, but his arrogance, especially with his kickers the way he handled them during training camp, can come back and bite him in the ass.

Both he and Adam Gase in New York seem to have this arrogance about them, but hey, they haven’t won anything as NFL head coaches, so I would say they can’t be acting like Bill Belichick, who is the greatest coach in league history. Belichick can be acting that way; he’s a proven coach who’s won multiple titles. Guys like Nagy, who’s had just one great regular season, and Gase shouldn’t be.

Speaking of new coaches, it’s only Week 2, and Green Bay signal caller Aaron Rodgers is already feuding with new head coach Matt LaFleur. The animated exchange between the two happened near the end of the first half, and although the Packers hung on against Minnesota to improve to 2-0 and both men downplayed the argument, it should be interesting to see how that relationship works out.

And speaking of Belichick, can the Patriots go 19-0 this season? Their defense has allowed just three points total in two games! And for anyone who says the Patriots have different game plans every week depending on the opponent and won’t have Antonio Brown as the featured player, which will upset AB… go back and check Brown’s stats.

There were weeks that he wasn’t targeted as much and he didn’t have 100 receiving yards in every single game with the Steelers – and he lasted nine seasons.

So… focusing strictly on the on-field stuff and not the off-the-field drama, ie. the civil suit brought on by his ex-trainer last week (which, obviously, I won’t comment on as I do not have the facts of that situation), can Brown last one season in New England? If he wants to win a Super Bowl, then I would say yes.

And, the greatest comeback against those naysayers would be for him to last the entire season, help the Patriots go 19-0, and laugh at all those people who’ve doubted him.

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