For most Patriots fans, there is a desire to see the team lose out the final three games to ensure their best chance at remaining with a top-2, if not the first overall pick in the 2024 draft. Because they don't play the Broncos until Sunday Night Football, there was a focus on a few of the early games due to the draft implications based on who won and who lost.
Those games were the Commanders at the Jets and the Packers at the Panthers, with an emphasis on the Panthers game.
Both games came down to the final minutes, with the Panthers tying the game after trailing 23-10 at halftime. The gap grew in the third quarter to 30-16, but Bryce Young led the offense on back-to-back drives ending with touchdowns.
Carolina tied the game 30-30 with just over four minutes remaining, prompting Patriots fans to watch anxiously as a Panthers win increased New England's chance of possibly attaining the first overall selection. The Packers then marched down the field and kicked a successful field goal, putting a lot of pressure on the Panthers to match it or score a touchdown to win their third game of the season.
Although the odds were stacked against Young getting the football back with just 19 seconds left, he threw a 22 yard completion to DJ Chark and followed that up with another to Adam Thielen, giving the team a glimmer of hope with 13 seconds still on the clock.
But then the Patriots dreams completely ended just a few moments later.
For some reason, Adam Thielen didn't sense the (obvious) urgency in the moment, taking a day and a half to hand the football to the referee after he made the catch. It forced Young to attempt a spike to stop the clock, as they had no timeouts left, but he couldn't get it off before time expired.
They were on Green Bay's 31-yard line, which could have been a good spot for them to attempt a 49-yard field goal had they had more time. But Thielen's decision to take his time ruined their chance at adding another win to their season and simultaneously helping the Patriots draft hopes.
It's another reason to have salty feelings toward the receiver, as Belichick does from that infamous exchange of words between the two when the Patriots and Vikings played each other a few years ago.
Not all hope is lost for New England, though, as there are still slim but possible chances they can cement the second overall pick or potentially slide into the first spot. It's the only silver lining of this 2023 season, which has become the exciting part of ending a year without another playoff berth.