In an unexpected turn of events on Sunday night, the Patriots had one of their best defensive performances of the year against the Broncos and walked away with a win in Week 16. It may have changed their draft positioning, disappointing many fans, but it was a much more fun game than anyone anticipated.
Given the path that each team had been on leading up to this matchup, the Broncos were not just the favorites in the matchup, but most analysts declared they would win in a dominant fashion. They had defied the odds against them, starting the season 1-5, which they followed up with a five-game winning streak. But their luck fizzled out over the last month, as they added one more win of the four games played.
It seems the momentum was behind Denver simply because of how poorly the Patriots have looked this season despite their defense consistently proving to be one of the better units in the league. Unfortunately for the opponents this week, they got the unforgettable reminder of what their defense is capable of, even when down three of their best players.
It started with an impressive fourth down stop at the two-yard line, continued with a fumble recovery and a fumble returned for a touchdown on a kick return, and ended with a forced Hail Mary attempt that had no chance of succeeding. It was one of the best displays of a Bill Belichick-coached defense this season.
To make the night even better, Bailey Zappe's final drive, resulting in the game-winning 56-yard field goal, truly encompassed what Belichick has been known for during his career: defense and special teams. It was a combination of unforeseen performances but was thrilling for (most) Patriots fans.
The same cannot be said for fans of the opposing team, and they made that very clear when it was official that the Broncos would be heading home with a big fat L.
The team's fans took to social media to express their disgust, disappointment, and near hatred for Russell Wilson, specifically, who was outplayed by Bailey Zappe, which didn't sit well with them whatsoever.
Other than looking like the version of himself from last season that upset fans, Wilson's poor performance inevitably contributed to their loss, jeopardizing their playoff hopes, as the loss now puts them in 11th place in the AFC, leaving just a glimmer of hope to become one of the wild cards by season's end.
That could become the role the Patriots decide to take on for the last two games, playing spoiler to teams in playoff contention or focused on draft selection. It would be a far more entertaining way to end the year than watching the team essentially just lay down on the field and let opponents run all over them like they did early on.
At least messing with the opponent's hopes and dreams would make the season a little sweeter. Plus, we'd see more hilarious reactions from fans in the process.