So, you won’t be winning the AFC East after it certainly seemed like things were trending that way ahead of Week 16 against the Bills in Foxborough.
Alright. No matter. The Patriots have plenty of legs to stand on entering the postseason anyway, highlighted first and foremost by the way they’ve played in this exact situation previously during the 2021 season.
To some, it may seem like New England peaked with their road win in Buffalo, a crowning jewel on one of Bill Belichick’s greatest season-long coaching jobs in his exceptional personal history. With Mac Jones throwing the ball just three times, Belichick gained the upper hand in the division race with a stunning victory that seemed equal parts gimmicky and inspired.
It’s not as if the Patriots have found themselves “out of it” in many of the games that have doomed them since the chatter peaked during that primetime game, though. Since then, have lost to Indianapolis, Buffalo and Miami since the bye, walloping Jacksonville in an unrelated result that looks a bit more impressive after what the swarming Jags did to Indianapolis on Sunday, knocking them out of the postseason.
The commonality in those losses? All three featured furious Patriots rallies, and any one of them could’ve looked very different with just a single additional, well-timed turnover.
Patriots should feel confident thanks to their rallies vs Dolphins, Bills, Colts
Against the Dolphins, 27-10 with 11 minutes left became 27-24, and if Tua Tagovailoa had been taken down on his final scramble, the Patriots likely would’ve either tied or won the gamee in regulation.
Against Buffalo at home, 20-7 in the third became 26-21; if Josh Allen isn’t immaculate down the stretch of the fourth quarter, New England very well could’ve had a chance there, too.
Without Jonathan Taylor’s furious game-clinching run, the story of the Colts game is also a Patriots comeback; 20-0 was 20-17, and one more stop at the two-minute mark would’ve given New England a shot to march down the field. Alas…
Logic dictates a team as intense on defense as the Patriots would’ve been able to complete at least one of this trio of comebacks, but the law of averages indicates that if New England shows up next weekend with the same mindset and hunts for takeaways — Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Dugger could be back, too — they could just as easily secure that one final break.
Which brings us to our final point:
Patriots should feel confident because of their 2021 road success
Is this supposed to be an issue? Doesn’t Bill Belichick like a challenge? Doesn’t he want a shot at his first title since 2001 as a pronounced underdog every step of the way?
Half-sarcastically: Are we even sure the Patriots wanted to secure home-field advantage, given how well they’ve played on the road in 2021?
New England will finish their 2021 slate 6-2 on the road, but prior to losses at Indy and Miami, they were a pitch-perfect 6-0, taking down Buffalo, Houston, Carolina, Atlanta, the New York Jets, and the Los Angeles Chargers. Most of those games were not close; in fact, they were some of Bill Belichick’s most emphatic and machine-like victories of the year.
Road games are no peach, no matter the opponent. This Pats team conquered the elements in Buffalo, choked out Justin Herbert’s exceptional offense, and turned the Falcons into paste in a primetime revenge showdown.
And you’re telling me a road playoff game disqualifies them? Please.