The Patriots didn’t do any deflating Thursday night.
Instead, they inflated five Super Bowl trophy replicas that looked like they belonged in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and rolled them onto the field before their season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
They put on the scoreboard: “Atlanta 28 NE 3 2:12 3rdQtr”
That was a reminder of their Super Bowl comeback, and the announcer talked about the greatest comeback of all time.
They unveiled their fifth Super Bowl banner.
The fans booed Roger Goodell and wore their Goodell clown T-shirts. And the fans spent much of the offseason talking about a perfect 19-0 season this year.
All this from a team that supposedly never looks back. That is tutored by its coach, Bill Belichick, to only look forward.
As this was going on Thursday night, I was thinking of an anecdote from January of 1975 after the Pittsburgh Steelers won their first Super Bowl.
Team founder Art Rooney was walking down the hallway and heard the receptionist answer the phone, “World champion Steelers.’’
Rooney quietly passed the word that the phone should be answered “Pittsburgh Steelers.’’
Rooney felt they didn’t have to tell people they won.
The Patriots were only too happen to remind people they won and remind Atlanta fans the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead.
And as they kept winning Super Bowls, the Steelers didn’t even put the pictures of the trophies on the cover of their media guide, much less inflate replicas and roll them on the field.
It certainly looked like the Patriots were guilty of hubris.
Even Belichick seemed to revel in their success in the offseason as he posed with his girlfriend for a glossy magazine photo shoot and let cameras record his visit to his high school.
Whether all their hubris had anything to do with their 42-27 loss to the Chiefs is open to debate.
But even Tom Brady brought up the subject after the game.
“We have to do better in a lot of areas, starting with our attitude and competitiveness,’’ he said.
“I just think we need to have more urgency,’’ he added.
The Patriots usually play with an attitude and urgency. They didn’t against the Chiefs.
And it may be a good wakeup call for the team. Remember, the last time they were drilled by the Chiefs in 2014, they won two of the next three Super Bowls.
The Patriots also have to remember who they are.
In today’s era, everything is “the greatest” and “the best.”
And while winning five Super Bowls since 2001 is an impressive feat, none of those five Patriot teams ranks among the best of all time.
They were never the 1986 Bears, much less the Steelers of the 1970s who won four Super Bowls in six years with nine Hall of Famers. They weren’t the Vince Lombardi Packers of the 1960s, who won five in nine years, or the 49ers of the 1980s who won four with a Hall of Fame-studded lineup and added a fifth in 1994. Or even the Cleveland Browns of 1946-55, who went to the title game 10 years in a row and won seven in the AAFC and the NFL.
And they didn’t learn the right lesson from the Super Bowl. It was the greatest comeback — with the help of bad coaching by the Falcons — because none of those great teams ever fell behind 28-3 in the first place. They were too good for that.
The Patriots should have spent the offseason trying to figure out what went wrong for three quarters in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots are a team with a quarterback who is a perfect fit for their short passing game that works so well because all the rules have been changed to favor the offense. They’ve never had a bunch of Hall of Famers. They’ve thrived on good, focused, well-disciplined players who fit their system.
And they’re not a dynasty in the sense that they won most of the titles with the same players. Brady is the only Patriot left from their first Super Bowl win.
In the long run, they’ll probably come back stronger, and they’ll be in the playoffs because they are in a marshmallow division with the Jets, Bills and Dolphins.
Still, the loss puts more focus on their next game against New Orleans. The only quarterback who’s ever had as good a day as Alex Smith did against Belichick was Drew Brees in 2009, when Brees threw for 387 yards and five touchdowns without an interception in a 38-17 Saints rout.
If Brees drills them this time after the Patriots had 10 days to prepare, maybe their problems are more than hubris.