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'Glory Days' fade away for Brady, Patriots

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  January 19, 2014 11:57 PM

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Brady GIF.jpgTom Brady has had nine tough seasons, if your measure is Super Bowl rings. This season was a success in so many ways, but a failure in how it ended.

10 years.

Or more precisely, 3,647 days. That's how long it will be in between Super Bowl wins for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots if they somehow manage to win Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1, 2015. A Super Bowl victory at University of Phoenix Stadium, or whatever it's called by then, would carry a nice historic measure of karma, since that was the site of the 18-1 Patriots' catastrophic 17-14 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

But that is very, very, very long way off for this team.

This year's "Smoke-A-Bowl" Super Bowl will be played in New Jersey and features Denver and Seattle. Bob Kraft watched Sunday's game in Denver with Garden State native and rocker John Bon Jovi. But it's the words of Jersey's favorite son, Bruce Springsteen, that ring most true for the Patriots today. Even if the song was about a baseball player:

"Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days ...
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days"
- "Glory Days"

The Brady-Belichick Era will always have early history on its side, not to mention spectacular success in the regular season and those long-ago Super Bowl triumphs. The Patriots have now been the playoffs eight times in the past nine seasons and have ended each run with a loss. How do you see the glass - half empty or just fully miserable - probably depends on your level of frustration following Sunday's 26-16 loss to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.

Brady is back to being at .500 in the playoffs - 8-8 - since his victory in the first round of the 2005 playoffs and 9-8 since Super Bowl XXXIX.

Here's the breakdown of the eight losses:

  1. 27-13 to Denver in the 2005 Divisional Round
  2. 38-34 to Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC Championship Game
  3. 17-14 to the NY Giants in Super Bowl XLII
  4. 33-14 to Baltimore in the 2009 Wild-Card Round
  5. 28-21 to the NY Jets in the 2010 Divisional Round
  6. 21-17 to the NY Giants in Super Bowl XLVI
  7. 28-13 to Baltimore in the 2012 AFC Championship Game
  8. 26-16 to Denver in the 2013 AFC Championship Game

Brady will be 37 going on that fourth ring come August. Now, he can look at Peyton Manning and see a glimmer of hope. Manning is someone who, at age 37 and 10 months, put together perhaps the best and biggest game of his career in the form of a flawless performance against New England Sunday.

Manning flat-out shredded New England's hapless secondary and flaccid defensive front Sunday, leading the Broncos to six straight scoring drives at one point. Those marches were lowlighted by Denver's two longest drives in terms of time of the season. At one point, Brady and the Patriots went 50 minutes of elapsed time with just one possession [a quick 25-second, three snap drive at the end of the first half.]

Manning was aided by having sure-handed receivers who are actually taller than your typical Hobbit. His defense served up a 335-pound helping of Pot Roast - defensive lineman Terrance Knighton - who stuck a fork in Brady and the Patriots with a crucial fourth-down sack. By the way, Pot Roast lost 35 pounds in the preseason, which meant he probably skipped fourth meal for a couple of weeks.

There you have our sincere and on-the-record praise for Manning's play Sunday. Yes, he's still a large-foreheaded, pizza-hawking, doofus, but he's owned Brady and the Patriots in two straight AFC title game showdowns. While Brady forever dominates the big-picture numbers between the two, Peyton can now sleep without images of Brady and Belichick starring with Eli in his nightmares.

The Broncos were the better team Sunday and they won. That's how it's supposed to work. Thankfully, the incompetency of the NFL officials had little impact.

Now, we can get back to the important business at hand.

The Patriots have gone from NFL Dynasty to the modern-day version of the Jim Kelly Buffalo Bills or Fran Tarkenton / Joe Kapp Vikings. Always getting to a Big Game before finding various ways to under perform.

In the long view of things, the Patriots are secure in the annals of history, with three Super Bowl Cups [sorry, but Tom Menino will always be our mayor] and the QB-Coach tandem of Brady and Belichick delivering the most wins of any such duo ever.

In the short-run, the Patriots have averaged 15.8 points in their past six playoff losses. Sunday's loss was pretty much an "average" outing during this run of frustration and missed opportunity in terms of their non-existent "biggest game" offensive performance.

The LeGarrette Blount-led running game was evaporated in the legalized-pot-tainted, mile-high air of Denver. The Sports Illustrated curse is back.

New England's first and foremost deficiency on offense is having a go-to wide receiver who is tall enough to ride Space Mountain at Disney World. The two-tight-end offense of the future was demolished by the arrest of Aaron Hernandez and the multiple injuries of Rob Gronkowski. Turns out Plan B was either run the ball or throw it three feet over the head of Julian Edelman.

Now, in a football sense [note, internet, we stressed "football sense"] the loss of Hernandez put this team in a hole from which it never really recovered. We are well aware of the real-life implications of his alleged actions and the loss that his alleged victims and their families suffered. In a football sense, there is much animosity and acrimony that should be directed toward him. But he was arrested in June, and Gronkowski had multiple surgeries and a history of injury, so what did the Patriots do to counter their loss on the field?

Deliver the likes of former fifth-round pick Michael Hoomanawanui and six-teams-in-six-years veteran Matthew Mulligan.

Terrific bargains. And all too typical of this soon-to-be 10-year championship drought.

Did they ever seek a legit, deep-threat, veteran receiver? Nope. Belichick and Kraft did it on the cheap, opting for unheralded free agents and rookies. You knew things were bleak on Sunday when, on the Patriots' first possession, Brady was forced to check-down to Austin Collie on 3rd and 5. Bad dog. Needless to say the play was easily covered. The kids that Brady had such high hopes for early in the season never really got through NFL puberty and became non-entities down the stretch and in the playoffs due to injury and other excuses.

Ditto with Wes Welker's departure. Kraft saved a few nickles [at least in NFL terms] by letting Welker bolt. Well, guess what? Welker got to "stick it in Bill's face" Sunday by taking out Patriots' cornerback Aqib Talib with a sweet, Belichickian pick in the first half. In his post-game press conference, Belichick called the hit "a key play in the game" three times in the first 90 seconds.

The two most-important players in New England's victory over the Colts - Blount and Talib produced nothing in Denver. Blount finished with six yards on five carries. New England's legendary rushing game produced 192 feet Sunday.

Welker was targeted five times and caught four passes for 38 yards. More importantly, he drew coverage away from the Thomases [Julius and Demaryius], who crushed the Patriots by combining for 15 catches for 219 yards and a touchdown. Free-agent to be Eric Decker converted several crucial third downs, as well.

What did Danny Amendola do on Sunday? Please let me know if you find out? He was targeted once and couldn't catch a cold. And when Kraft and Belichick let Edelman walk because he'll want reasonable market value for his services, they'll most likely cite Amendola's long-term deal and his guaranteed $10 million as the reason.

Decker is 6-3, so he's probably above the height restrictions for veteran wide receivers in Foxborough. Certainly, the Patriots could use a Decker, a Hakeem Nicks [he knows how to win Super Bowls], an Anquan Boldin or even a James Jones - all of whom are at least 6-1. An even bolder move would be to make a play for free-agent tight end Jimmy Graham, the 6-foot-7 pilot/tight end who has made Drew Brees look so good these past three seasons.

The last time the Patriots lost to Peyton Manning in the AFC title game, they picked up Randy Moss and Welker in the following offseason. That type of over-reaction would be warranted this year, as well. Sunday, we learned that any team can stop the run in the NFL if they want to stop the run, especially when they have someone named Pot Roast clogging up the middle. We learned again that Brady is not longer good enough to win a championship with a group of castoffs, retreads and second-choices.

Indeed, the Patriots did not win the Super Bowl with either Welker or Moss. But in that 17-14 loss to the Giants, Randy Moss ' last reception was a TD catch that put New England up with 2:42 to play. So in a sense, that plan worked. It wasn't Moss' fault David Tyree had a ball magnet on his head.

There was plenty to love about this Patriots' season. They finished 13-5. The team reached the postseason with 17 rookies, over-achieved for four months and completed several stellar comeback victories. There was a mini "Miracle in Foxborough" in the making, but it died because the Patriots couldn't score more than two touchdowns in Denver. It was 20 weeks of old-school fun to watch and chronicle this team, if we're allowed to say that word ["fun"] on the internet in 2014. The Patriots were competitive in every game this season until Sunday.

Although the weather was perfect Sunday, too good for New England, it would not have mattered if this game took place in New England or on Mars given the way both teams played.

The Patriots, we are told over and over again, measure success in terms of parades, rings and championships, not entertaining seasons or trips to the AFC title game. They're not happy just being there. "For me there’s only one goal [now] and that’s to win a championship," Brady told WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" on Monday.

In that sense, he and the Patriots have failed for a nearly decade. Again, the biggest knock on Brady is that he hasn't won four Super Bowls. Keep that in mind, always. But, at the same time, Brady's biological clock is beginning to roar like the crowd at Seattle's Century Link Field.

"We need to score more points," Belichick said several times after Sunday's loss.

In the postseason, that certainly would be a great place to start.

Got a news tip, want to let me know directly what you think, or have a complaint or compliment about my "aggressively relevant" content, hit me up on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com. Thanks always for reading and pass the clicker.

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