Patriots: 2015 Failure was a long time coming
It was torturous. The New England Patriots fell to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon, but what was worse than the loss itself was the fact that the season failure was a long time in the making. To put it simply, the Pats didn’t deserve to reach Super Bowl 50.
Firstly, this game should have been played in New England. But the Patriots failed to secure the No. 1 overall seed with home field advantage throughout the playoffs by losing back-to-back games to close out the regular season, against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.
By not taking care of business in the final two weeks of the regular season—and finishing 2-4 more broadly speaking—the Patriots shot themselves in the foot in the seeding department. We all know how much Tom Brady and the Patriots struggle in Denver, especially in the postseason; now, Brady has lost all three playoff games he’s attempted in the Mile High City.
In addition, the Patriots’ embarrassing lack of a ground game on Sunday allowed the Denver pass rush to tee-off on tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Cameron Fleming. Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and others didn’t have to even worry about a Patriots’ rushing attack, because there simply wasn’t one. Of all people, Brady led the team with 13 rushing yards.
This was a trend that has been developing ever since LeGarrette Blount went down for the season. No Super Bowl-winning team in NFL history rushed the ball worse than the Patriots did this year; to win the big one, you must be able to take pressure off your quarterback by running the ball. As evidenced by Brady’s 56 passing attempts, the Patriots had imbalance in their play calling.
Furthermore, the failure of the 2015 Patriots can be attributed in part to the issue that plagued the 2013 Pats, who also lost in Denver in the AFC Championship Game: injuries. Not having Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman all on the field together for extended weeks at a time interfered with the offense’s rhythm, even though the unit showed well in the Divisional Round.
Considering these factors, it’s clear that the 2015 Patriots were not championship caliber. Had the injury bug not hit the team so hard, then repeating would have been more plausible. But injuries don’t excuse everything.
The collapse of the Patriots on Sunday was the cumulative effect of poor finishing (not winning in Week 16 and Week 17 to earn the No. 1 seed) and the absence of any semblance of a potent ground game, the latter of which doomed an underperforming offensive line against the NFL’s best pass rush in the AFC Championship Game.
Alright, time to start from scratch again.