The Celtics finally lost a game and are still sitting pretty at 8-1. They lost to a young and motivated Orlando squad who were playing at home. Despite the loss, the Celtics showed a lot of grit by coming back from about 20 down to tie the game, and pretty much owned the second half - but you can bet their 18/26 free throw shooting will be the big focus in practice this week.
Would it have been fun to see them make a run for tying or breaking the best start ever by a team? Sure...but as Dan Shanoff points out, if they can win eight out of every nine games, that's one hell of a season.
What else can be said about the Patriots? 10-0 record, 56-10 trainwreck win over the Bills (oh, and uh, speaking of the Bills, we now have the soccer equivalent of the 1990's Buffalo Bills...congratulations for another listless second half of Finals soccer, boys!). The only thing we worry about as Patriots fans these days is, "did anyone get injured?" and "did Brady throw for enough TDs to ensure he'll break Manning's record by Week 15 or so?". To put that second question in perspective, the team's number one running back, Laurence Maroney, ran for his first touchdown of the season last night, ten games in. He had seven at this point last year.
There have only been a couple of games where the Patriots can be accused of running up the score. Their 52-7 win against Washington was one of them - throwing deep late in the game, throwing on fourth down late in the game...okay, I get it, it might be annoying to watch for the other team. But now there's finally a backlash against the Pats-haters: even coaches and players are finally saying, "it's our job as a defense to stop them". The Patriots are obviously a team on a mission, and watching it has been great for the league, despite what the detractors say.
Despite the image Belichick had of not rubbing it in or not playing for individual achievements until this year, it was clear, for example, even in 2004 that he wanted Corey Dillon to get every cent of his incentive money by giving it to him as much as possible on goal-line plays. He does this for guys he likes and wants to reward when it makes sense to do so. They did everything that year to ensure Dillon got his max purse, short of intentionally running out of bounds at the one-yard line to set up a TD run. But they did it as part of an offensive plan to put balance in their attack. This season has been more of the same: After losing to the Colts in the AFC Championship game last year, just barely, Belichick convinced his organization to get whatever weapons were available to annihilate every other team on offense, and now Belichick wants it all - like Nicky Santoro in Casino: he wants the quarterback TD record, he wants the receiving record, he wants the total offense record, he wants the undefeated record, he wants 19-0, he wants that fourth ring. How can you blame him, having Brady, Moss, and Welker to toy around with? The man is giddy; while it's not showing up in press conferences, you can tell him and his staff are having a lot of fun out there, and his players are rewarded after grueling practices by getting these big wins. It's simply amazing seeing a coach and his players in complete harmony: no drama; everyone has the same goal, everyone knows his place, everyone is prepared, and any individual player will come in and do whatever necessary to help win the game. There will be a statue built of that man some day at Gillette Stadium. As much as I'm fine with 15-1 if they decide to sit Brady and most of their offensive stars against the Giants in Week 17, part of me wants Belichick to go for the 16-0 record just so us fans can say we had the best team of all time. Of course, that will make a heart attack all the more likely in January if any of the playoff games are close. But do we really think anyone besides Green Bay, a team the Patriots haven't seen yet and seem intent on making a run for the Super Bowl, will keep any game close the rest of the way?