Who has the best record in the NFL? (As of 11pm on October 31st with the Steelers/Saints outcome still in question)
The New England Patriots.
I won't dwell on that fact for too long, since there's a solid 9 weeks remaining in the NFL season and a lot of football left to be played. The Patriots might be on top of the mountain right now, but that only means that they have one direction to go. If New England is going to keep their positioning, there's a lot of holes to plug and weaknesses to correct. Still, after being largely an afterthought for the first half of this season and listening to the nauseating praise being heaped upon the *cough* 2nd place New York Jets, it is a bit satisfying to look at the standings tonight.
How did the Patriots get themselves to this place? By bending, but not breaking. By making the big plays. By not making costly mistakes. By having a smarter coach. By playing as a true "team". On an afternoon in which the Patriots wore their throwbacks to honor the 1985 AFC Championship team, the squad that they resembled the most was, perhaps, their 2001 counterparts. After three years of making big plays and having little to show for it, the Patriots have returned to doing all the little things that lead to huge results.
Today's game, like the other four wins that preceded it, was not a display of pretty football. At times, one had to wonder if the Patriots defense would ever get off the field. When the day started, Adrian Peterson was running rampant over New England's supposedly "stout" run defense. Still, the Patriots were able to survive that first half barrage by surrendering a single touchdown. When it mattered most, they were able to stop Peterson, stuffing the Pro Bowl back on 4th and Goal from the 1 yard line at the very end of the 2nd quarter.
The Patriots offense continued to "struggle" early, looking fairly pedestrian as Minnesota held BJGE and Danny Woodhead in check and Brady struggled to connect to Branch, Welker, Tate, and Hernandez. But as has been the case in most of the Patriots' recent wins, the team came alive in the second half. The defense started making big plays, getting multiple hits on Favre, and picking him off once thanks to a major heads-up play by Devin McCourty. On offense, Brady was able to hit Tate for a long-ball TD, and the commitment to the run started paying of as The Law Firm gashed the Minnesota D and put up two TD's of his own.
In the end, the Patriots made the plays they needed to win the game. They stuck to their game plan, didn't allow themselves to get frustrated, and waited for the opportunity to strike with a game-changer. It's a script that they've been following for five straight weeks now, and if they stick to it for the next nine weeks, there's no reason they can't still be on top of the league come Week 17.
Oh yeah, and...
One! One Randy Moss catch for a measley 8 yards! Mwa ha ha ha!