How do Patriots make the impossible seem routine?

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How do Patriots make the impossible seem routine?

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- If someone made a list of the most uncomfortable places on the planet, you could bet on a few making the cut.

On a street at noontime during an August day in Death Valley.

Under your high school girlfriend's bed when her parents come home unexpectedly and proceed to get familiar with one another.

Ahead of the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter.


The pain the Patriots have inflicted during their 18-year run of excellence -- especially in the last seven seasons -- is impossible to measure.

There are impossible comebacks successfully carried out that have -- literally -- destroyed careers and legacies. Super Bowls 51, 49 and 36 fit. So does the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff win over the Ravens -- Baltimore hasn't been the same since.

There's a fleet of miracle regular-season wins (2013 over the Broncos, Browns and Saints; 2017 over Houston and Pittsburgh) and another bucketful of near-misses they had no business even being able to make interesting (2015 AFC Championship Game; the 2012 Niners loss; the final play of SB46).

They are "cockroaches," NFL analyst Brian Baldinger said with reverence. They can't be killed.

The Patriots have made "impossible" comebacks so routine that trying to employ analytics and win probabilities seems a losing proposition.

Yes, the Falcons were overwhelmingly likely to win when they led Super Bowl 51 by a 28-3 count with 23 minutes left. But the 99.6 percent likelihood didn't factor in the Patriots.


The Pats' consistent ability to execute late makes them an outlier. And it infects how other teams deal with being ahead of New England late.

Atlanta thought the best approach was keeping the pedal down. It failed. Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan got pilloried. Two weeks ago, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone tried to play keepaway and rope-a-dope the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. They got tracked down, beaten and criticized.

Mike Tomlin and the Steelers played 59 minutes of outstanding football and then their collective brains melted in the final minute of their regular-season matchup this year. Tomlin puffed his chest after the game and said, in effect, "We do what we do . . . "

The Seahawks started mismanaging SB49 well before they decided to throw on the goal line. They burned a timeout after an incompletion following the two-minute warning. Not having that timeout impacted the end-game decision making and Bill Belichick watched from across the field as confusion swirled on the Seahawks sideline.


How do the Patriots manage the intricacies of coming back from big deficits? What's their mindset? What are their marching orders? And why do opposing teams become complicit in their own demise?

We drilled deep with a variety of Patriots players and coaches and NFL analysts to get a better grasp. And we talked to Brian Burke, ESPN's foremost analytics expert who acknowledged the Patriots "defy gravity."

Have a listen to this edition of Quick Slants the Podcast and keep it in mind as another massive game approaches.

Listen to the Quick Slants Podcast

Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

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Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

James Harrison was a larger than life figure during his time in Pittsburgh. 

It was as if God molded him to be a member of the Steelers: massive, physical, and an absolute bruiser.

But at the end of the day he is a football player. And athletes in this sport don't particuarly like time on the bench.

Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers organization were reminded of this fact in a very harsh manner.

At the end of the December, Harrison made a late season move to sign with the Patriots. It left his former teammates in Pittsburgh frustrated, and his former fans confused.

But at the end of the day he just wanted to be on the football field again. And that's exactly where Belichick put him.

Harrison had the opportunity to appear in many more situations, and had several sacks at the end of the season.

Now there is a new report from Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal that he could re-sign with the Patriots in 2018.

A source close to Price and Harrison said "there's a reasonable chance" that he could be on the roster next year.

He will be playing this upcoming season at age 40, and has previously stated he'd like to play one or two more seasons.


King: It was football, not family that kept McDaniels with Patriots

King: It was football, not family that kept McDaniels with Patriots

There have been all kinds of theories of what ultimately kept Josh McDaniels from taking the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job.

NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran offered his here and here. Ex-Pats linebacker Willie McGinest said he was told it wasn't because McDaniels was promised to eventually succeed Bill Belichick. 

Now comes Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who told NBCSports Network's "PFT Live" that you can cross off the theory that McDaniels' reversal was about not wanting to move his family to Indianapolis. 

“This had nothing to do with his family,” King said. “It was about the Patriots giving him a better option than Indianapolis.”

More here from's Pro Football Talk.