This sucks. It sucks a lot. The New England Patriots, injuries and all made it all the way to the AFC Championship game and lost to the Denver Broncos in heartbreaking fashion (to be fair, every Conference Title game loss is heartbreaking), 26-16. But this isn’t the end folks. The Patriots aren’t done contending just yet.
One major reason why I still have faith in this team, and why I think they’ll be back in this same position next year, is the youth movement that has taken over the team. Outside of Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, everyone else is either just entering their prime, or still years away from it. Key players on the defense like Dont’a Hightower (23), Chandler Jones (23), Alfonzo Dennard (24), Jamie Collins (24), Devin McCourty (26), and key players on offense like Aaron Dobson (22), Shane Vereen (24), Stevan Ridley (24), Rob Gronkowski (24), Nate Solder (25), Julian Edelman (27). This team is very young, and poised to only improve. We saw Collins emerge as a future star, someone capable of playing all over the field, in coverage, stuffing the run and rushing the passer. Dont’a Hightower once he got used to his new position was very good, including a major improvement against the run. Aaron Dobson is the youngest of these players, and we saw how good he could be when he cut some of his dropping problems. My point is, these guys are only going to get better, and even though Brady might be entering the twilight of his career, his supporting class is getting better and better.
My second reason as to why I think the Patriots will be fine, is because Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still on the team. This has been the best duo since Montana and Walsh, and will continue to be a force in this league for at least a few more years. Many thought that this was it for them, Brady had his worst supporting cast in years, and injuries had taken away some of the most talented players on the roster, making Belichick resort to backups and rookies. But, like they tend to do, the Patriots overcame this. Brady, even though his numbers were quite lackluster, was at his best, changing and adapting constantly throughout the season. Losing Gronk, Dobson, Vereen, Amendola, Hernandez all for extended periods of time, having an offensive line that couldn’t block a high school player, and yet this team still went 12-4. As for Belichick, this was his best coaching job to date in my opinion. He plugged in rookies all over the place, and managed to get pretty good return out of them. When you manage to get production out of at least four undrafted rookies, you’ve done a very good job. These two are going to be back, and more focused than ever.
My final reason, is that this has to be the year that Robert Kraft opens up the check book and stops penny-pinching. This team has been hurt by avoiding making the big move to improve their team, and this should be the final straw. If I were Brady, I’d be furious that my best weapons were a rookie, an injured tight end and two small slot receivers. Kraft has to now realize that the door is closing whether he likes it or not, and it’s now or never. Now is the time to pony up big money for someone who’s going to improve your team now. Now is the time to move some draft picks for a proven star. Loading up on young players is great, but Brady only has a couple of years left. I expect this to be a big offseason for the Patriots, and I expect at least a few big splashes. This team has to improve now, not in three years.
So what do you guys think about our New England Patriots season? What will the offseason look like? Let me know in the comments, and remember, keep the faith folks.