By Alice Cook, She's Game Sports
The Cinderella story for the Patriots did not end at midnight. It ended early in the third quarter. When Peyton Manning hit Demaryius Thomas with a three yard pass to make the score 20-3, the party was over. The golden carriage parked outside next to the Patriots buses had turned into a Pumpkin. Such an appropriate color for Denver. A sideline shot that lingered on Bill Belichick was not the picture of a man thinking to himself, "we can do this." The image was of a coach thinking, "this one could be over."
New England has been spoiled all year with miracle comebacks. It almost became routine. This time it felt different. There was plenty of time left, but it was clear who had the better horses. Peyton Manning was not going to fold this time, the Bronco's defense was not going to collapse, and Tom Brady was not going to pull another rabbit out of his helmet.
Plain and simple, the Patriots were undermanned, and overwhelmed. When Wes Welker took out Aqib Talib, the most important player in the the Patriots defensive backfield, the tide turned quickly. If this were basketball, Welker set a perfect pick.
"As it turned out, it was the key play of the game," said Belichick. "He's a key player for us."
Rarely do we see Belichick as sad and sorry as he was after Sunday's game. We have heard many times that he blames the coaching, but this time he really meant it. Belichick's voice cracked several times during his post game news conference as he gave credit to Peyton Manning and the Bronco's. Belichick also talked about how proud he was of his team. And he should be.
For an entire season the Patriots got it done with crazy glue and chicken wire. "Next man in" became their war cry- and it worked, until they got to Denver. Manning had an army of receivers, while Tom Brady did the best with what he had. Which was not much.
When the CBS cameras showed Robert Kraft and son Jonathon sitting with Jon Bon Jovi in the the luxury box, all I could think of was the rock star's most well known song. "Livin' on a Prayer." The only exception being the Patriots were not "half way there." They were never really in it.
Considering the number of wounded soldiers the Patriot lost throughout the season, along with the former teammate sitting in a jail cell, the Patriots gave us plenty to cheer about last season.
Tom Brady, has not lost his fast ball- he just didn't have it on Sunday. To me, (as a mother talking) he looked like he still had a touch of the flu. He was pale and his eyes were red. He looked sick. No excuses, I know.
Watching the Seattle/Niners game after the Patriots loss, I could not help but think, both these teams are so much better than the AFC. They just looked stronger, more accurate, more everything. What kind of chance would the Patriots have had over Pete Carroll's Seahawks? We will never know.
Unlike last year's playoff loss to the Ravens, this one does not hurt as much. The Patriots should of, could of, would of won that game- but blew it.
This time, they had no chance. Like Belichick himself said, "out-played, out-scored, out coached."
The Patriots were seriously out-manned. That kind of thing catches up to a team, and it finally did in Denver.
Cinderella went home in an orange pumpkin. The Patriots went home for good- no fairy tale ending this time. Prince Charming, Tom Brady is not giving up. He has plenty of time left to write a perfect ending.
He just can't do it alone.
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