It’s never fun to lose the last game of the season. I think that’s amplified now even more, just due to the dictatorship that is the National Football League’s leadership. Literally nothing, except maybe the birth of my first-born child, would’ve made me smile more than watching Roger Goodell hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots. But alas, you can’t win them all.
First things first, it’s a team game. You win as a team; you lose as a team. I think it hurts that the Patriots lost due to their performance, not due to an injury or something like that. The Broncos played better. The Broncos showed more guts down the stretch. And that’s that.
My thoughts from the game:
- On the surface, it looks like this game coming down to Stephen Gostkowski missing an extra point for the first time in a decade. That didn’t help. But, they’re not even there without SG3. While that would’ve helped, it also would’ve helped to kick the field goal either of the first two times the Pats lost the ball on downs. Both were bad play calls (more on that later), but if you choose to kick once, you win. I was all for going for it with 6:30 left because I’m in the bandwagon that you have to be aggressive in championship games. The second time, though? Nope, you’ve got to kick that. It was a poor coaching decision the first time, it was a stupid decision the second time. I get that Bill Belichick looks like a genius if it works, but it didn’t. Gostkowski didn’t help, but it’s not all his fault.
- Speaking of play-calling, Josh McDaniels has lost his magic. I’m both too upset and too pissed to go hyperlink an example of me saying that before, but you guys all know that if you’ve read any of my Patriots articles. Both of the fourth down plays that didn’t convert were awful plays. He couldn’t make adjustments at halftime to effectively move the ball and develop a rhythm. I think he called a poor game, but you can’t be upset about things you’re not surprised about. I’m not surprised because it’s been a thing for months now.
- Tom Brady was under duress for most of the game. The offensive line, despite going against a truly elite pass-rush, rarely helped him out. Brady didn’t play that well, though. Facts are facts. I get his stats were there. But he missed a lot of throws in that first half. He threw two picks, both of which were avoidable. The first, to Von Miller, was right into his hands. It was a bad decision and a bad throw. The second, to Darian Stewart, was a throw where he should’ve definitively thrown the ball out of bounds. To top it off, that one was off his back foot into double coverage. He wasn’t the main cause of the loss; he did his part to keep New England in this game. In Denver, though, he did not fully show up again. It just seems to be the demon he just can’t exorcise.
- I thought, as a whole, the defense played well. Sure, there were missteps, but it’s impossible to play a perfect game from a defensive standpoint. Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower led the way, per usual. They were all over the field- you couldn’t even tell that they were hurt going into the game. Akiem Hicks played excellent up front. Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan both started slow, but eventually turned it on. The two touchdowns by Owen Daniels were more of a result of bad coverage than anything, but they were two of the only mistakes I can think of that were glaring. Unfortunately, they both just came at poor times. This D is built for the future, especially considering it’s pretty cost-effective.
- I admit that I take back my “the Broncos have no balls comment”. I won’t, however, back off of my critique of Peyton Manning. Even his throws that were on point were fluttering, and begging to be intercepted. He is nothing more than a game-manager. That being said, on Sunday, he did his job, which was simply to not turn the ball over. I’m not sure how he’ll do in the Super Bowl against Carolina’s ball-hawking defense, but that’s their problem, not mine.
- Denver’s defense is an all-time great defense. I will not take the time to look up all-time rankings or stats simply because I’m too sad, angry and butthurt to and none of you can do anything about that (sorry, just bitter), but they are. Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and DeMarcus Ware are as legit as it gets in terms of rushing the passer. Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall don’t get enough respect as exceptional linebackers, in my opinion. Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and TJ Ward form a scary secondary. I’ll have to think for a while about who I think will win the Super Bowl. Denver’s offense is pedestrian at its very best, but their defense can potentially win them a championship.
That hurt bad. The Patriots probably aren’t done in terms of their championship window due to the Brady/Belichick factor. The defense, as I said, is only getting better, and as it sits now, Matt Patricia will be back to call it. The Patriots offseason is something I’ll definitely write about at a later point. But I’ll say it now, they need to go get some depth on their offensive line. Marcus Cannon is deplorable. Bryan Stork is an idiot for taking a stupid penalty that killed momentum, on top of playing a bad game. Sebastian Vollmer is a great right tackle, but on the left side, he’s shaky. They need to do a better job of protecting Brady.
That, coupled with poor coaching and a gimme that was shot wide right, were ultimately the cause of the Patriots’ demise. With that, I say that I’ll see the Pats in August, and I’m on the bandwagon of the Panthers.