The New England Patriots, after thumping the Houston Texans 27-0, were themselves the victims of being shut out by the Rex Ryan led Buffalo Bills 16-0. As the score indicates, it was an ugly, uneven game in which the Bills dominated for almost its entirety. There were flashes of hope here and there but almost all were negated by a penalty or a miscue that saw the Patriots shut out at home for the first time ever within the confines of Gillette Stadium the first home shutout loss suffered by the Patriots since 1993 (!).
Well, first things first, the Patriots are now 2-0 after beating the Miami Dolphins at home 31-24. Now, for the second thing;
The victory ended up coming at a potentially steep price as the Patriots backup-become-starter Jimmy Garopollo ended up leaving the game in the second quarter after a stellar first half which had most of New England getting ready to call a doctor after four hours. In an emotional roller coaster that would’ve had the most stalwart of thrill seekers turning green, Garopollo was taken down by Dolphins LB Kiko Alonso and landed hard on his throwing shoulder. Clearly shaken up, Garopollo struggled to get off the field but ended up going down onto one knee as trainers examined him on the field and Patriots fans everywhere opted out of their next beer for something a bit stronger.
In a week filled with more one point games than any other in NFL history the New England Patriots, sans Brady, sans Gronk, sans Ninkovich, sans Solder, sans Dion Lewis, and sans Vollmer went into the desert on Sunday Night Football and defeated the Arizona Cardinals. In a game most had tacitly accepted as an ‘L’ for the 2016 Patriots, the squad from New England was able to buckle down and hold on to a 23-21 victory thanks to a missed FG by Chandler Catanzaro in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter.
The time is almost upon us. That long, dark period from the first Sunday of February until September 8th is almost over and the sport America loves most is due to make its triumphant return. Obviously, the NFL has not been far from the minds of sports fans across the country but probably hasn’t haunted any one fan base as much as the Foxboro faithful. With Tom Brady’s suspension appeal denied and the GOAT forced to sit out the first four weeks of the season the Patriots are basically giving the AFC a 4 game handicap. Whatever. I’m not expecting any sympathy from the rest of the league towards a team that has been on an unprecedented run of success in the modern era. It’s going to make it that much sweeter when the Patriots hoist their 5th(!!!!!) Lombardi trophy right in that autocratic, soulless, NFLPA crushing robot named Roger Goodell’s face. The real question is how will they get there?
14 years ago today, on a snowy, cold night in Foxboro, Massachusetts the New England Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders 16-13 in the AFC Divisional Round. The game would go down in infamy as “The Tuck Rule Game” where referee Walt Coleman reversed the ruling of a fumble on the field due to a little known technicality at the time. Charles Woodson’s sack on Tom Brady was not really a sack, the supposed fumble recovered by Greg Bierkert not a fumble, and a game that looked to be won by the Oakland Raiders was once again up for grabs. With the drive alive the Patriots were able to get within FG range allowing for the heroics of Adam Vinatieri to put the game into overtime and then win the game for the Patriots.
This was more than a simple playoff victory for New England, though it didn’t seem like it at the time. Sure, it may go down in Patriot lore like the Snow Plow game vs Shula’s Dolphins, but it became so much more than that. It heralded an age of unparalleled success for the Patriots franchise as it was the first postseason game started by then 2nd year QB Brady. It was the final game played at Foxboro Stadium, nee Sullivan Stadium, the only home the Patriots had called their own as an NFL franchise. A building that had housed a frustrated fan base and largely irrelevant franchise ended up, on the final scene of its swan song, playing host to one of the most significant plays in, one could argue, NFL history before its demise. In the process, it gave birth to what has become the most successful NFL franchise in the 21st century.
More than all that though, January 19, 2002 was the birth of a fan.
In a matchup between 1 and 2 seeds the Patriots will be traveling to Denver this weekend to take on the Broncos in what could very well be the finishing touches on one, if not two, legacies. Brady vs Manning (17th edition) is a bit diminished this time around though despite the stakes above and beyond simply the AFC Championship title.
This is a game about reputations. About legacies. Really all of the Brady v. Manning matchups in the past have culminated in this final contest. Will this be a continuation of the overall trend we have seen since Brady’s ascendancy in 2001? Of the unheralded 6th round pick reaping the rewards of what seemed like Manning’s 1st overall pick birthright? Or will this be a final grand stand of an aging great? A man who can thwart the advancement of age to win in a big game where he has so often failed? A crowning achievement to cap off a tremendous career? None know now but by 7 PM on the east coast all will.
As we all know the real football season starts in January and is set to begin. In a surprise to no one the New England Patriots find themselves in the postseason for the 7th season in a row and enter the 2015 playoffs as defending Super Bowl champions and owners of the AFC’s #2 seed. However, not all is picture perfect in Patriot-land. The Patriots have been riddle with key injuries, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, and played uncommonly bad in the final month of the season losing 4 of their last 6 games and squandering the opportunity to lock up the #1 seed which has gone to the Denver Broncos instead.
Despite all of this though, I’m still confident that the Patriots will make it to Levi’s Stadium with a chance to defend their title and earn one for the thumb. While losing the #1 seed definitely hurts (I do not want to see the Patriots in Denver again. Once was good enough for me this season) fate is going to have the road to San Francisco not go a mile high but, instead, travel down Route 1. Allow me to explain how and why you should still feel confident in Bill and TFB as we break down the AFC Playoff picture.
So last Thursday the NFL draft commenced and over the next three days the 32 teams involved in the greatest sport since gladiator combat hedged their bets and made millionaires out of a select few 20-somethings to help them win a Super Bowl. To every football fan, the Draft is a like a seltzer water after being stranded in the desert. Not ideal compared to the real thing but you are so goddamn thirsty that you would drink camel piss so it doesn’t matter.
For Patriots fans this draft held one particular pick that has seemingly crawled into all of our imaginations and is promptly running them wild. With the 62nd pick in the draft the Pats select QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Jimmy G from now on) out of Eastern Illinois. With such a high pick no one could help but wonder, “Is this the guy? The heir to the throne upon which Brady has reigned for so long?”. Well, the point of this blog isn’t to speculate on that but on a tangent that thought process spawned. Am I going to cry why Tom Brady retires?