By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Four Horsemen of the Hot Take Apocalypse were at it again this week.
ESPN's Max Kellerman said that he would rather have every other AFC playoff quarterback than Tom Brady. Kellerman's colleague in hot takery, Stephen A. Smith, ranked Brady as the fifth-best quarterback remaining in the postseason field, putting him behind the Cowboys' Dak Prescott and LA's Philip Rivers. FS1's Rob Parker ranked the Patriots as the worst among the eight remaining playoff teams heading into this weekend slate. Nick Wright tweeted that he couldn't wait for Chargers-Chiefs Round III for the AFC Championship Game, calling it a meeting of the AFC's top two teams.
Then came a 41-28 (this final score was the greatest lie of all) beatdown of the Chargers at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
It's just the latest example in what's been a seemingly decade-long exercise in showing you how truly vapid and pointless the majority of what's spewed to a national audience is, of course. But this felt different. This felt (and looked) like the closest thing to a "[expletive] you" playoff game that the Patriots have played in legitimate years. As if they could feel the disrespect, and then decided to truly show it, much to the chagrin of their opponent in frigid Foxboro.
And instead of shying away from giving the noise any sort of acknowledgement following their annihilation of the Chargers, Brady and Co. essentially confirmed their attitude entering this one, decided to let you know that they indeed heard it, and seemingly offered a threat all at once.
"I know everyone thinks we suck and you know can’t win any games," Brady told Tracy Wolfson of CBS in his on-field postgame interview following their demolition of the Chargers. "So we’ll see. It’ll be fun."
By now, there's not an insult or negative analysis the 41-year-old Brady, on his way to his eighth straight AFC Championship Game appearance and in search of his sixth Super Bowl title, hasn't already heard. All of 'em certainly seemed like lazy fallacies on Sunday, too, as the cliff-approaching QB finished the blowout victory 34-of-44 for 343 yards and a score.
"I just like winning," Brady, who is now off to the final four for the 13 time in his 17 seasons as a starter, said at the podium when asked if it's extra satisfying to continually prove the talking heads and pundits wrong. "I just like winning."
The rest of the Patriot locker room, while also enjoying victory, did not shy away as easily.
Gronkowski acknowledged that the negativity around the team can be used for motivation, but also pointed out that it's never been a distraction to the team, especially considering how frequently it's been thrown about over the last few years.
"We’ve been hearing things like [the Patriots are done] forever now for a few years," Gronk offered. "So, we just laugh at it, whatever they say, and we just keep moving forward."
Devin McCourty, meanwhile, touched on how 'the Patriots are done' takes go beyond just Brady, saying that it's the whole team that's been counted out long before they (yet again) punched their ticket to the league's final four.
"We see it," McCourty said regarding the criticism thrown their way. "We see our quarterback’s too old, we’re not good enough on defense, the skill players aren’t good. We see it, but it doesn’t affect how we prepare.
"We love practicing and we love playing with each other, preparing. We’re going to take advantage of that and come out ready to go no matter what. So, like I said earlier, we have a team of great character, a lot of guys in there with really good character that are going to keep fighting and have already been counted out multiple times, so that never affects us."
The Patriots will certainly continue to ride their underdog status all the way to Arrowhead Stadium for next Sunday's AFC Championship Game against Patrick Mahomes and the No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs.