End Of The Road?

If you are my age then you don’t have any memory of the New England Patriots ever being irrelevant. Not only were the Patriots relevant, they were the greatest dynasty in the history of the NFL. We don’t know whether or not the run for Brady and Belichick came to an end on Saturday night, but it certainly seemed like it, didn’t it? The typical home playoff game scenario we have seen in New England for two decades. It was dreary, cold, raining but at the end of the game, the opposing team was victorious on Wild Card Weekend. The Pats first home playoff loss since the 2012 AFC Championship. I said on this blog that I would never count the Patriots out, I thought they would rekindle some type of magic and blow this Titans team out of the water. I was wrong. What we saw all year from the Patriots manifested itself tonight, it came full circle. Brady looked rushed, the receivers dropped balls that they should have caught, the defense was incredible but the offense couldn’t muster up anything more than another mid-teen’s scoring performance.

What did the Titans do? Exactly what we knew they would do. They give the ball to Derrick Henry, an absolute BEAST. He is phenomenal, he runs hard, he makes people miss, he’s a human truck stick and he nearly rushed for 200 yards on Saturday. Belichick’s defense said, Ryan Tannehill, beat us. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t have, he did make a clutch throw on 3rd and long late in the fourth to make the Pats burn their second timeout. Other than that, he was pedestrian. The reality is, if the Patriots offense was somewhat competent, this game would have been an easy Patriots victory. Neither offense scored in the second half, Brady threw a pick six to make the score 20-13. This was the first playoff game since the Giants vs Redskins in 1990 that didn’t have an offensive touchdown from either team in the second half.

The Patriots offense wasn’t good all year but the fans had hope it would show up. That Brady had another magical run left in him, it didn’t exist. Edelman dropped a WIDE OPEN 2nd and 4 late in the 4th that changed the entire outcome. New England was driving, Brady put the ball right in his hands and it was a stone cold drop. In addition, the Patriots had opportunities to score, a 1st and goal from the one-yard-line that ended in a FG. The Patriots 3rd down and red zone inefficiency that was around all year, was maximized tonight.

You have to give Vrabel credit. He took his team into Foxboro, not intimidated and brought a physical brand of football to the champions doorstep. They hit Brady, ran the ball, the coaching staff successfully managed the clock in crucial late game situations and in a sense out- Belichick’ed Belichick on the false start/punt saga. They will be playing another primetime game next Saturday against Baltimore. I’m assuming that they won’t be intimidated there either. The Titans can play defense, they can control the clock and Derrick Henry might be the most effective back in the league. Let Tannehill manage the game, don’t ask him to do too much and make throws when he has to. It is a recipe that we can now say is proven. I don’t see them beating Baltimore but I expect them to compete and represent themselves well.

Following the game, Tom Brady stepped to the podium and declared that it was highly unlikely that he would retire. He is going to be a free agent for the first time in his career, obviously he is playing it close to the vest but from the tone in his voice and the emotion he expressed, I think his time in New England could potentially be over. I am 98% sure that he is not retiring but it seems more likely than not that he won’t be under center for New England next year. Brady’s contract is up as I mentioned, McDaniels is likely leaving, the defense is great and perhaps a new era QB could be intriguing for an evolving coaching staff and organization. As a Giants fan, I would love for Belichick to come to East Rutherford but that is a pipe dream. I think Belichick stays in New England and Brady heads out to a new opportunity. They are both in the top level of competitors in NFL history, maybe they want to prove that they can win without being attached to each other, it’s definitely a scenario that needs to be considered.

Whether this is the end, or the Patriots embark on another revenge tour next year with Brady and Belichick as the headliners, this run, this DYNASTY is something to admire. Whether you hate or love the New England Patriots, for nearly twenty years they were must-watch television. Every team and player wanted to beat them and at the same time wanted to be them. That is rarified air in sports that is designated for only a few teams and organizations in a decorated pantheon of athletics. So, what will happen next? Is this officially the end of the road for the Belichick/Brady Patriots or will it be just a minor speed bump on the quest for their 7th Lombardi trophy? We shall see. All I know, it is going to be exciting to see how it plays out.

Comments are closed.