Shock and dismay. Pain and frustration. Not the names of the street free agents the New England Patriots plan to sign to compete with their current starting linebackers -- although I wouldn't put it past Bill Belichick.
They're about the only words fit for print that can describe the reactions of Belichick, Patriot Nation and any fantasy owner who banked on the sustained defensive genius of the last NFL dynasty. We all knew the Pats were old. We knew they'd miss some dearly departed teammates. We had no clue they'd look so, well ... average.
That was my impression as I watched Denver's offensive line, fullbacks and tight ends dismantle the Patriots' front seven Sunday night. It was a masterful performance, and it didn't take me long to realize I'd underestimated the 2006 Broncos. (I'll have more on that Friday.)