Missed Lombardis: Less-than-ringing endings by Pats - 2015
It really is the height of arrogance, ya know. Kicking rocks when some other team wins the Super Bowl because you know -- down in your cells, you KNOW -- that the Patriots shoulda won it. But there’s a lot of that this week.
So we'll spend the next few days unleashing our laments and listing the years when the Patriots absolutely, positively, hands-down should have won the Super Bowl. Today we look at: 2015.
(Click on the type below to view that season's gallery.)
Record and Seed
12-4, No. 2 seed
How it ended
A 20-18 loss at Denver in the AFC Championship Game on a day when Tom Brady absorbed 25 hits yet kept getting up and dragging the offense downfield by the scruff of its neck to try and score.
Why it’s maddening
Three reasons. First, to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC, all the Patriots needed to do on the last Sunday of the regular season was beat a mailing-it-in Miami team in Florida. Second, this was a team that was the best in the NFL by a wide margin over the first six weeks of the season. Third, injuries submarined everything. The loss of home field was the worst blow. Against Miami, the Patriots went weird, trying to infuse their backs and offensive line with confidence by running the ball 17 times on their first 18 plays. At halftime, Tom Brady was 4 for 5 for 20 yards. Rob Gronkowski hadn’t been targeted. The Dolphins, now suddenly engaged, clamped down on the Patriots offense in the second half, and scored 10 unanswered in the fourth quarter to win 20-10. That loss – and the three others in the Patriots final six games – put the Patriots on the road after they dispatched Kansas City in the Divisional Round.
Despite the poor close to the season, the Patriots seemed to be in great position heading to Denver. Julian Edelman was back from injury, the offensive line played well against the Chiefs, the defense was full strength and shutting people down. With a noodle-armed Peyton Manning running the show, how would Denver score on the Patriots? As it turned out, they’d do it by beating one of their best defenders – Jamie Collins – twice in coverage during the first half. After that, the noise in Denver aided the get-off of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, the Patriots interior offensive line got swarmed and Edelman and Danny Amendola weren’t able to shake Aqib Talib and Chris Harris before Brady was getting smoked. Running game? Non-existent.
This was a stadium in which the Patriots were ahead 21-7 in the fourth quarter back in Week 11 and probably would have won if not for a muffed punt by rookie Chris Harper. Now, they were barely competitive. If Brady weren’t the quarterback, the Patriots would have lost by 25, not two. Would the Patriots have choked out the Panthers the way Denver did? Probably not. That Denver defense wasn’t an historic one because it wasn’t consistent all year but it played – in spurts – as well as any in the past 10 seasons. And the way the offensive line played in the AFCCG, could it really be trusted against the Panthers? Still, it would have been a tight one and – had the Patriots maintained home field, they would have likely been there for SB50.
Why you can’t still be mad
You can still be mad. How can you not be? We’re less than a month removed and the images of Peyton Manning hugging Papa John are still fresh. And, while injuries usually give way to a “Eh, what can you do?” resignation, the inability to close out against the Dolphins and Jets and the sloppy loss to the Eagles at home still haunt.
Justifiable Sustained Rage Level