Tom Sorensen

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady falls for a dumb but harmless fanboy fantasy

It’s not a good look for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to complain about officiating given, well, you know.
It’s not a good look for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to complain about officiating given, well, you know. AP

I like New England’s Tom Brady. If Joe Montana is not the best quarterback of all time, Brady is. Based on the time I’ve spent around him, he’s a nice guy.

I never asked, but one senses that he has a rather good life.

Yet to hear him blast referees for their anti-New England bias after Sunday felt petulant. The refs don’t like me and they’re not my friends and I’m never going to play football again.

Why would officials resent the Patriots? Well, they are a dynasty in a league that works hard not to have one. They watched film they shouldn’t have, using secret cameras and wearing, one senses, long trenchcoats. They were like teenagers sneaking into the downtown theatre showing adult fare.

And there was Deflategate, when footballs somehow lost air until they perfectly accommodated Brady’s right hand. But all that is old and not terribly interesting, and the league got its revenge.

So other than a few mostly outdated violations, why would a particular crew dedicate itself to working against New England? Every fan believes, or at least pretends to believe, that officials are out to get their team. It’s a dumb but harmless fantasy.

But Brady is too smart for such things. Does Carolina have a reputation that makes refs cower? Does an official see a Carolina offensive lineman or defensive back hold an opponent and say, “Nah, that wasn’t holding. The Panthers would never do that.”

A larger factor in Sunday’s outcome: The Patriots don’t merely play bad defense, they play dumb defense. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was a fine offseason acquisition. But if you called his cell phone Sunday you would hear: “Hi, this is Stephon and I can’t come to the phone right now because I’m grabbing the facemask of a Carolina receiver.”

Gilmore, 27, is from Rock Hill and played at South Carolina. So far this season, he’s part of a defense that is penalty prone and perpetually surprised.

Bill Belichick is the best coach in football at any level. Despite Brady, Belichick’s forte is defense. You assume he’ll find a way to make it less bad.

New England, however, has a tough game Thursday at Tampa Bay, and the Bucs’ offense is at least as good as the Panthers’.

I’ve written this before, but I don’t like conspiracies. They’re excuses for the weak, and they’re almost all pretend. The officials didn’t cheat the Patriots Sunday. Their defense did.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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