Is the New England Patriots’ Season Over?

Is the New England Patriots’ Season Over?

by December 31, 2019 0 comments

The New England Patriots needed to simply win a home game against the Miami Dolphins to earn a week off to rest while working on their stubborn offensive woes.

Instead, the Dolphins came out with arguably their best game of the season and won a game they had no business winning.

Going against a team with nothing to lose is a dangerous thing, and the Miami Dolphins found themselves in that exact situation. This was their Super Bowl and they played as such.

Trick plays.

Aggressiveness.

Brazen confidence.

Head coach Brian Flores had his team ready to do whatever it took to win this game. The Patriots, on the other hand, seemed like they were playing not to lose at times.

The frustrating example of this that everyone is bringing up is how Bill Belichick handled the last two minutes before halftime.

With a full complement of timeouts, Belichick could have stopped the clock with 1:47 left to go and give his quarterback the ball with two timeouts and just under two minutes left to drive down the field for some sort of points.

Instead, Belichick opted to hold onto his three timeouts and take the ball with about 57 seconds left. It’s being debated whether holding onto all your timeouts was the correct move but they’re almost the same thing when you think about it.

In doing what he did by saving all his timeouts, Belichick did give his team less time to score but allotted them with an extra chance to stop the clock and kept the playbook open a bit more. Needing about 30 yards to get into field goal range, giving his offense more chances to stop and regroup as opposed to rushing all the time seemed like a good idea, especially given the fact that this offense has been extremely inconsistent when it comes to being on the same page.

If Belichick calls a timeout before the Pats get the ball, sure, he’d give Brady almost a minute more to work with, but what if things don’t work and the Dolphins get the ball back?

Fans seem to be forgetting that the Patriots had an aggressive mindset before the half last week against the Bills which resulted in the Buffalo scoring a touchdown just seconds before the half ended. Sometimes, the safe decision is the right one.

Do you give your team a little more time with fewer chances to stop the clock but the possibility that your opponent gets the ball back or do you take less time with more timeouts but you essentially solidify that your opponent won’t get the ball back? It’s a six of one, half dozen of the other type of situation. But still, when it doesn’t work out, it’s extremely frustrating.

Where the majority of the criticism stems from is the play call to start that drive. On first-and-10, the Patriots ran a draw play with Sony Michel losing two yards. Belichick kept his timeouts in his pocket, drawing up another run play where James White then gained 7 yards.

Again, the Patriots held onto their timeouts and let the clock wind down into halftime, baffling fans as to why he even held onto his timeouts in the first place if he didn’t plan to use them.

Belichick had an explanation for his decision making after the game:

And his quarterback seemed to agree:

A draw play when the defense assumes you’re going to pass is normally a good idea. Gain a handful of yards when the defense doesn’t expect it, run a quick pass play and go from there. In this case, it didn’t work.

Had that first run gained some yardage, Belichick would’ve used his timeouts differently. It was a loss, so it threw a wrench into the plans. This wasn’t a case of Belichick giving up on his team as many fans are assuming, but just an example of your plan not quite working so you take the safe route.

And then, of course, there’s how this game ended.

The Fins took over late in the fourth quarter after Tom Brady led the offense down the field to take the lead. If you were the Patriots, after a grind of a game, you’d love those odds. You have your best unit on the field and all they need to do is prevent a touchdown and you win.

Ryan Fitzpatrick proceeded to take his offense and methodically drive 75 yards on 13 plays, resulting in a game-winning touchdown.

That’s not how it’s supposed to happen.

The Patriots have allowed the fewest touchdowns by any team all year and have allowed 41 fewer points than any team as well going into that drive. This stout defensive unit has allowed the fewest yards, first downs, and completions by any team all season. And at 4.7 yards per play, they’re tied for first in that category with two other teams.

Those stats make it all the more shocking that a career journeyman quarterback took an offense filled largely with no name, unproven players and made this elite defense look about as menacing as a litter of kittens.

After a lateral-filled final play by the Patriots, the clock struck zero and shock was sent through the NFL world. Silence fell over Gillette Stadium as fans looked on now believing that they just saw.

Losing late in the year is tough. Losing to a divisional opponent you had no business losing to and falling to the third seed in your conference forcing you to play Wild Card weekend for the first time in a decade is even worse.

Since the debut of the Wild Card in 1970, only ten teams have made it to a Super Bowl after playing in that round with six of them winning it all. The Patriots themselves have never won a Super Bowl when they’ve had to play in the Wild Card round. While that stat is a bit deceiving considering they’ve only been forced to play the first week in the playoffs thrice during the Brady-Belichick era, it’s still a steep mountain to climb.

So, this all begs the question: is the Patriots’ season, for all intents and purposes, over?

Judging by the reaction of many disgruntled fans on social media, you’d think the answer is unequivocally yes.

There are hundreds more of profanity-laden responses out there as well, but you get the point.

Being upset and let down about your team squandering such an opportunity at the end of the year is reasonable. Being frustrated with how the defense performed and some of the play calls is also reasonable. The Patriots have set such a high bar for themselves that the minute this team slips, they get raked over the coals, and that’s okay.

But where the line needs to be drawn is when fans are already seemingly so eager to write the team’s obituary. Over the last 20 seasons, how many times have fans and experts written this team off after a bad regular season or playoff loss? It’s happened multiple times this year alone.

Whether it was caused by Brady slowly starting to show his age, receivers dropping balls or not running correct routes, the offensive line seemingly forgetting how to block or any of the other myriad of issues you can think of, there have been many times where fans have thought this was the end, only to be proven wrong in the following weeks.

That is something that has been happening for the last few years: Patriot Nation saying the end is here before the team goes on a deep run in the playoffs leading to another Super Bowl berth. It’s a byproduct of so much success.

And while fans overreacting to every loss year in and year out is a constant in New England, there’s another constant that has been going on in Foxborough, as well: winning.

Consistent success is something that is expected across the board for every team in New England and none more than the Patriots. After such an unprecedented run of domination for the last two decades, it’s tough not to overreact about uncharacteristic performances. And make no mistake about it, what happened against the Dolphins was about as uncharacteristic as you can get when it comes to the defense.

How often is Stephon Gilmore going to get roasted like that? He has gone up against much better receivers and essentially shut them down all season long. Assuming that this is how Gilmore will play next week against the Titans is laughable. To see a fanbase turn their back on a player who, entering this game, was on track to be Defensive Player of the Year is sad to see.

And as for the defense as a whole giving up 300-plus yards passing, that can also be considered an outlier. The defense had a very bad game against an unworthy opponent. They deserve to be heavily criticized for that, but they certainly don’t deserve to be written off.

If that defensive unit even plays half as good as they have all year, the Patriots win that game and all is right in Patriots Nation. But that obviously did not happen.

This isn’t an “everything is roses” argument either. In a season that has been filled with inconsistencies and questionable decisions, you can’t call this team world-beaters anymore and that, too, is alright.

This is a “have faith in a team that has shown you year in and year out, game in and game out, that they have the ability to beat any team on any given night if they don’t beat themselves” argument.

Part of being a fan of the New England Patriots is being as critical as anyone when your team deserves it, but still going into the next game believing they will win. Pats fans seem to have gone overboard on the first part and completely forgot about the second part.

The final chapter of this Patriots Dynasty is certainly being written, but the book has yet to be shut. And while optimism is frowned upon these days, until they give you a reason to do so, there’s no reason to completely write off the New England Patriots.

 

 

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