Well, another Patriots season is in the books, and this time we didn’t have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday to be disappointed. This sports writer is now free from watching the Patriots squander an early lead again, only to come up short on some display of luck. Luck, however, had nothing to do with Sunday night’s AFC Championship rematch with the Ravens.
The National Football League now has what it wanted all along since the championship pairings were announced. A John vs. Jim Harbaugh showdown, it will be the first time that two brothers coached on opposite sidelines during the Super Bowl. This year, there was no lucky catch by Mario Manningham or David Tyree, it was simply Baltimore being the better team.
There were many things that went wrong for the Patriots, ranging from Tom Brady throwing interceptions to poor clock management. Tight end Aaron Hernandez hauled in a pass for the first down with 26 seconds left, but he was unable to get out of bounds. The Pats had a timeout to burn, but instead they chose to run a QB bootleg to the left side for a few yards. Brady slid with around 12 seconds left to go. Why didn’t Belichick call a timeout? He gets three more the next half, it isn’t rocket science.
I’ll tell you why, because he thought spiking the ball with only three seconds remaining was a brilliant idea. A field goal is better than a shot at the end zone, right? No. If the Patriots called a timeout as Brady slid in, that would have given New England at least eight seconds to take a shot at a touchdown. This Bellichick blunder is one of many.
Baltimore exploited Bill Belichick and his short-pass attack effectively. Bernard Pollard? A name New England fans often cringe at when uttered, played lights-out with a great hit on Stevan Ridley in the fourth quarter that jarred the ball loose.
Ridley has been bitten with the fumble-bug as of late, but you cannot blame this one on him not holding onto the football. Pollard’s hit was clearly helmet-to-helmet, but when you look at the replay, Ridley does bow his head into the contact, which could be the reason why a personal foul was not called.
But aren’t running backs taught to change levels and get lower to the ground? Arguably, that is what Ridley was doing. Nonetheless, it was one of five Patriots turnovers.
Tom Brady played one of the worst games of his career with two interceptions. And we got a display of his usual Bradyisms, complaining to the officials when something doesn’t go his way. Belichick even refused an interview with CBS following the game. Expect a fine coming his way, but he did speak to local media outlets. Shannon Sharpe showcased anger towards Belichick for refusing an interview with CBS’s Steve Tasker. “Bill Belichick makes it real easy for you to root against the Patriots,” Sharpe said.
“You can’t be a poor sport all the time. You’re not gonna win all the time. And he does this every time he loses. It is unacceptable.” Sharpe used to play for the Ravens in the early 2000s, but there was no bias in his statement. He was just stating the facts. That’s just how Belichick is. He’s a competitor, and he doesn’t like to speak with the media. If you watched the end of the game, Belichick embraced Jim Harbaugh at midfield and wished him the best. To me, that’s classy, and what groundbreaking information would a 30-second Belichick murmuring provide?
Could this be the end of the era in which we saw the Patriots led by their GQ quarterback to three Super Bowl titles in four years? Did getting caught and fined for stealing opponent’s signals on a grainy cellphone video plant a curse on the Patriots? In my humble yet disappointed opinion, the answer is no. Teams around the league have just gotten used to the Patriot offense, and, face it, the defense is young.
Sunday night’s game was a painful moment for many Pats fans, as the defense was forced to fight for their life without safety Aqib Talib, who went down with a hamstring injury. Anyone recall the talks early in the season about how the Pats secondary had a bunch of holes?
The loss of defensive tackle Kyle Love certainly didn’t improve the Patriots chances at stopping Ray Rice and the Ravens running attack. All the chips were stacked against the favored New England Patriots.
Belichick was rumored to say before that when he turned 61-years-old he may hang up the clipboard. He put that rumor to rest on Monday, letting everyone know that they will have to deal with him until the team tells him otherwise.
Well, Bill, Patriots nation looks forward to what the next year may bring. As the popular saying goes in New England, “There’s always next year,” but usually it is in reference to the Red Sox.