Patriots: Shot of game-clinching Jakobi Meyers failure will break your heart

The New England Patriots, led by Mac Jones in his fourth-ever start, were oh so close to defeating Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in TB12’s homecoming on Sunday night.

Did the rain have something to do with stopping Brady’s high-flying offense? Sure. But fun fact about rain: it also occurred when the Patriots had the ball.

Wasn’t Brady missing some key players? Sure. Rob Gronkowski and the starting defensive backfield were out, but Trent Brown didn’t suit up in New England. Neither did James White. Injuries happen! They stink! They were distributed on both sides.

Bottom line? After battling adversity and expectations and sending a rookie QB to the field, the Patriots were as close as possible to securing the victory.

A fingertip away, in fact.

If Jones’ third-down throw to Jakobi Meyers hadn’t been batted down prior to Nick Folk’s ill-advised 56-yard field goal, the Patriots would clearly have converted and then some, giving the team a new set of downs on about the 25-yard line with under a minute remaining.

They would have won.

Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers almost broke Sunday night’s game wide open.

Unbelievable. And also, so completely believable.

After all, how many decades has it been now of Tom Brady escaping the clutches of a loss by the slimmest of margins? How often has Brady’s defense refueled him when a victory looked all but impossible?

How many defenders’ fingertips has Brady gotten the credit for over the years?

Of course — of course — Meyers never got a chance to make that catch and scamper deeper into Bucs territory. Instead of going for the fourth down, Bill Belichick handed the responsibility to his streaking kicker with the bum plant leg, Nick Folk.

With Matthew Stafford on the other sideline, this might’ve gone in. Brady? No chance.

There’s no reason for Patriots fans to be discouraged with the way the cookie crumbled Sunday night. The long-term vision still looks great. Jones is a gamer. Cris Collinsworth already has a certified crush on him. The 1-3 Pats will not be 1-3 for long, and will likely never be 1-3 again for at least a decade.

But they were an inch away from 2-2, dethroning their ex-king in the process. And it’s alright for that to sting.