When thinking about the New England Patriots’ best seasons, most think about the Super Bowl wins in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2014. Others may think of the 2007 campaign when the team finished 16-0.
But while those are definitely great seasons due to the end result (excluding 2007), just because other seasons did not end in a Super Bowl, does not mean it wasn’t a fun season to watch.
A recent poll shows that of the last four seasons (not including the 2015 season), 2014 was the most enjoyable to watch.
But what about the 2013 season?
The Patriots have been dominant since 2001 and have averaged 12 wins a season since 2010. Coming off a disappointing ending to the 2012 season, the Patriots lost key players on offense leading up to the new season.
Loses on Offense
RB Danny Woodhead -> San Diego Chargers
WR Wes Welker -> Denver Broncos
WR Brandon Lloyd -> Released
TE Aaron Hernandez -> Arrested, Released
At the beginning of the 2013 season, the Patriots had an entirely different receiving core. With 70.5% of the offensive production gone and TE Rob Gronkowski missing the first six games, Patriots’ QB Tom Brady had very little familiarity that carried over into the new season.
WR Julian Edelman (21 receptions, 235 yards, 3 TDs)
RB Shane Vereen (8 receptions, 149 yards, 1 TD)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (5 receptions, 109 yards)
RB Stevan Ridley (6 receptions, 51 yards)
RB Brandon Bolden (2 receptions, 11 yards)
Rookie WRs Aaron Dobson (unfortunately was later given the name Aaron Drop-son by fans) and Kenbrell Thompkins struggled at times throughout the season to catch the ball or make a real impact on the outside.
Gronkowski came back during the regular season against the New York Jets, and the offense eventually got back to normal later in the season, but thanks to a clean (questionable), low hit on Gronkowski, his season was again over due to a ACL and MCL tear.
After the Gronkowski injury, most knew the Patriots would not be able to keep up with the best offense in league history in the playoffs, especially after giving up the #1 seed late in the season. After running all over the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional Round, the Patriots would lose against the Denver Broncos in AFC Championship game.
Losing in the Conference game again. No exciting offense. Gronkowski suffering another injury.
There were plenty of negatives about this season. But what makes it memorable?
If the 2013 season proved anything, it proved that you could plug in a high school football player at wide receiver and somehow, Brady would make his magic work. Tom Terrific continued to prove it time after time all season. Strangely, the team that was almost always favoured in every game, were deemed the underdog for majority of the season.
In 7 games were the Patriots were behind in the final minutes, Brady helped lead the Patriots to 5 victories.
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New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills (Week 1) – Down 21-20 with 4:26 left in the game, Brady engineered a clock killing, death by 1000 cuts drive and put the Patriots in field goal position. Result: W 23-20
New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots (Week 6) – With 1:13 left on the clock, Brady and the Patriots drove 70 yards down field and scored on a game winning touchdown catch by Kenbrell Thompkins. Result: W 30-27
New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers (Week 10) – After the Panthers scored to take a 24-20 lead, Brady and co. looked to escape Charolette with a win having just 59 seconds to respond. They got to the Carolina 25-yard line, but thanks to a questionable pass interference non-call by Luke Kuechly, Brady was picked off in the end-zone. Result: L 24-20
Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots (Week 12) – The Patriots were getting blown out at home with the Broncos getting out to a 24-0 lead in the first half, but the Patriots fired back scoring 31 unanswered points. The game went into overtime, but thanks to Tony Carter running into a punt and Nate Ebner securing the ball in Broncos’ territory, Stephen Gostkowski was in range. Result: W 34-31
New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans (Week 13) – Starting out slow in this game, the Texans capitalized on their opportunity to get out by as many as 10 points, but the Patriots again fought back in the second half and narrowly escaped with a win. Result: W 34-31
Cleveland Browns vs. New England Patriots (Week 14) – This wasn’t a pretty game, as New England was shutout the first two quarters by the Browns .Yes, the Browns. It seemed like the Patriots were in store for another upset loss (Lost 34-14 in 2010), but after scoring a touchdown with 1:04 remaining, Kyle Arrington recovered the onside kick and the “Comeback Kid” did it again. Result: W 27-26
New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins (Week 15) – With the first seed on the line, the Dolphins left too much time on the clock for Tom Terrific. Unfortunately, the offense could not get it done, as the game was decided on a great defensive play by Michael Thomas. Result: L 24-20
Of those five games, many would agree Brady-Manning XIV was the most exciting game of the season. But an argument can be made that the best game of the season had to be the Week 6 matchup against the 5-0 New Orleans Saints.
This had to be one of Tom Brady’s greatest regular season comebacks.
After throwing an interception with a chance to take the lead in the 4th with 2:16 remaining, almost everyone believed the game was over. Even the Saints believed it was over, as they huddled around the intercepted ball and claimed victory.
But thanks to a great effort by the defense to stop the Saints and force a three-and-out, the Patriots were given another opportunity, and made no mistake.
The point of every season, of any sport, is to win a championship.
Anything less is never satisfying (Unless you’re Rex Ryan and claim your Super Bowl is the final game against the New England Patriots when you aren’t in playoff contention). That definitely seems to be the case with the Patriots who for 13 out of 15 seasons under Bill Belichick have made the playoffs, and have been to 5 straight AFC title games since 2011.
When looking back at some of the most recent seasons, any that don’t result in a Super Bowl win (2014) are looked at as irrelevant, but after further review, maybe the 2013 season was something special after all.