Missed Lombardis: Less-than-ringing endings by the Pats
Record and Seed
14-2, No. 1
How it ended
A 28-21 loss at Gillette Stadium to the Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets just weeks after the Patriots pounded New York 45-3 in prime time.
Why it’s maddening
This team truly overachieved. Coming off the disastrous 2009 season, the 2010 team was actually a rebuild. The Patriots entered the season with a disgruntled Randy Moss, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead as their running backs and rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in prime roles. After crushing the Dolphins 41-14 on a Monday night, the Patriots traded Moss and brought back Deion Branch, remaking the offense and losing just once the rest of the way. Tom Brady had a transcendent season, throwing 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions en route to becoming the only unanimous AP NFL MVP in history.
But the Jets confounded the Patriots in the playoff game. Brady threw a pick on the Patriots first drive, Alge Crumpler dropped a would-be touchdown later in the first quarter, a busted coverage led to a Braylon Edwards touchdown and then Patrick Chung called for a fake punt that went up in smoke and the Jets cashed in again. In the third quarter, another coverage bust led to a 58-yard catch-and-run for Jerricho Cotchery and the Patriots – down 21-11 in the fourth – went on their infamous Drive to Nowhere, a 14-play drive that took more than seven minutes and yielded no points. The Patriots tried furiously to come back in the last five minutes but couldn’t get over the hump.
In the days leading up to the game, Wes Welker dropped the word “foot” repeatedly in an interview with local media, a jab at Ryan’s proclivity for, well, his wife’s feet. Bill Belichick wasn’t amused and Welker was benched for the opening drive. Meanwhile, the Jets flooded the intermediate zones defensively and kept Welker in check all game. New York went on to lose to a good – but not great – Steelers team in the AFC Championship. The Steelers lost to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the Super Bowl.
Why you can’t still be mad
Despite the fact there was a semi-clear path to a Lombardi in 2010, this team was almost completely revamped from 2009 and then reconfigured their offense again after the season began. The team was so young – rookie Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington were the corners; second-year Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather were the safeties. Hernandez, Woodhead, Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate and Green-Ellis were in prime spots for the offense. It just wasn’t a polished team at that juncture, despite the regular season record.
Justifiable Rage Level