There it is. A playoff-clinching win in style. After two straight troubling losses, the New England Patriots rebounded against the Jacksonville Jaguars to the tune of a 50-10 victory that clinched them a spot in the postseason.
Just two years after Tom Brady left the franchise to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bill Belichick and Co. have steered the ship back to relevance, leading this team to 10 wins with rookie quarterback Mac Jones under center. All it took was a turnover year with a stopgap quarterback, countless free agency departures, and COVID opt outs.
And Patriots fans had the audacity to act like the 42-year-old Brady leaving was the end of the world? Come on now.
Speaking of Brady, his Bucs are back in the postseason, but things aren’t looking nearly as promising for them. The injury bug has rocked the roster. Chris Godwin is done for the year. Leonard Fournette is dealing with a hamstring issue. Jason Pierre-Paul has a torn rotator cuff. Shaq Barrett is battling a sprained ACL and MCL. And they nearly lost to the Jets on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the healthy Patriots are cruising, looking to either become the AFC East winner or top AFC Wild Card team with a win over the Dolphins next week.
The Patriots are in the playoffs for the first time since Tom Brady left.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We’re not rubbing anything in Brady’s or the Bucs’ faces. We’re just here to say it feels good the Patriots have moved on from a franchise-altering offseason, which would’ve set most teams back five or so years, and are already back in the double-digit win column with almost a brand new roster.
Additionally, such turnover in the personnel department would typically result in some turmoil, friction, or anything of the sort. But the Patriots have done a complete 180, and now it’s the Bucs dealing with locker room/chemistry issues because of Antonio Brown’s behavior. The veteran wideout was released on Sunday after the game because of his actions against the Jets.
This is a Bucs team that retained all 22 starters from last year’s Super Bowl roster. Yes, they’re 12-4 and vying for the top seed in the NFC, but they’ll need a lot of help in order to make that happen, and they’ve looked particularly mortal over the last month or so. The Bills nearly completed an unthinkable comeback against them. The Saints held them to zero points. The Jets were winning all game until late in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots hit a few bumps in the road, but they quickly got back on track and have had a number of players step up in wake of injuries and COVID absences. And if not for some early-season hiccups, could be in the same situation as Tampa Bay.
Nonetheless, it’s a favorable spot to be in, and the fact that the team’s first playoff berth since the aftermath of the 2019 season happened on the same day Brady nearly lost to the Jets and saw one of his top targets in the receiving game get cut should have Patriots fans thankful they didn’t sink too far into the depths when the future Hall of Famer skipped town a couple years ago.