Patriots

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tom Brady shows support for Julian Edelman in WRs return to field

Tom Brady shows support for Julian Edelman in WRs return to field

Tom Brady may not be at OTAs, but he tipped his cap to a teammate who was.

Brady liked a New England Patriots Instagram post, which showed receiver Julian Edelman in his return to practice after an ACL injury. The Patriots started their offseason team activities on Monday, and Edelman was grinding away after an offseason of rehab. Brady has elected to skip the start of the voluntary OTAs. 

Report: Gronk, Patriots working on another contract restructuring

Report: Gronk, Patriots working on another contract restructuring

While Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski continue to stay away from Patriots OTAs this week comes an NFL Network report that Gronk and the Patriots are working on a restructured contract that per NFL rules can't be announced until Thursday - May 24 - a year to the date of last year's restructuring.

The Patriots have an OTA session scheduled for Thursday, so we could see Gronk back in the fold with a redone deal then. 

The restructuring last year added incentives that boosted Gronk's salary to $10.2 million. This year's base salary is $8 million. The All-Pro tight end has contemplated retirement this offseason and wasn't happy last season.

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