Jan 19 2014

Too Little, Too Late for Patriots … Again

The New England Patriots have been one of the best teams in the NFL over the past several seasons. When they hired Bill Belichick as head coach and drafted QB Tom Brady in 2000, few thought much of either move. After all, Belichick had been a head coach before with the Cleveland Browns, going 36-44 in his five seasons there. Brady was a sixth-round draft choice going to a team starting a former top overall selection, QB Drew Bledsoe.

Since 2000, no other team has more regular season wins (163), playoff wins (18), or Super Bowl wins (three). By the end of Belichick and Brady’s fifth year together, the Patriots went from a franchise with no Super Bowl wins to a bona fide dynasty.  I have always been impressed with the Patriots and their ability to win games year after year. In a league that sees new teams emerge every season, the Patriots have been good for at least ten wins every year since 2003.

Bradying has become all too familiar in games the dynasty Patriots used to win (@NFL_Memes/Twitter).

Bradying has become all too familiar in games the dynasty Patriots used to win (@NFL_Memes/Twitter).

But those early 2000s Patriots that defined the dynasty? Those teams finished seasons. They saved their best for last. Since 2005, the Patriots have saved their worst for last. Every team loses, but the Patriots lose in ways that make you think about how they could defy all of their prior accomplishments.

The Patriots went into Denver for the 2013-2014 AFC Championship Game. New England lost four games this past season, all of them coming down to the last play of a one-possession game (at Cincinnati, at New York Jets, at Carolina, at Miami). They beat the Broncos in overtime in November. They had defeated the Broncos four straight times. None of that mattered, as they lost 26-16. The game wasn’t that close – Denver was up 20-3 at the start of the 4th quarter. It was New England’s largest margin of defeat since their last AFC Championship appearance.

Whether it has been a season-low point total (2005-2006 at Denver, both Super Bowls versus New York Giants, 2012-2013 vs. Baltimore), giving up a season-high point total (2006-2007 at Indianapolis), or uncharacteristically losing the turnover battle (2009-2010 versus Baltimore, 2010-2011 versus New York Jets), the Patriots have struggled to close their postseason runs strong.

Time is running out on Brady and Belichick to win it all one more time together. Another deflating finish may be too much for one or both of them to bear.

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