A wave of nausea struck across New England on Sunday, and it wasn’t caused by the heaping helpings of nachos, chicken wings, party platters, beer and snacks that were being consumed by the thousands of pounds.
No, it was caused by the ignominious end to the New England Patriots season at the hands of the Denver Broncos. The Patriots went into the Mile High Stadium as dangerous underdogs, and left with a bitter defeat on their record. A win would have brought them to the Super Bowl; instead, they ended the season in gloom, with a long shadow cast by head coach Bill Belichick’s uncharacteristic display of accusations against Broncos player Wes Welker.
Despite this disappointing end, this was arguably one of the most interesting and plucky seasons that the Patriots have given their fans, and for that we are appreciative. The team and its managers continue to demonstrate the qualities of the “Patriot Way,” a successful model that has made them one of professional sports’ most dynamic teams.
From the very start of the year, the Patriots faced an uphill battle. The core of highly talented receivers that Tom Brady has always had was gone, and the star who remained, tight end Rob Gronkowski, was seriously injured. Worst of all was the loss of Wes Welker, Brady’s longtime go-to guy, who left the Pats in part due to disputes with Belichick. Then came the string of injuries to key starting players, more injuries than a team could be expected to overcome. Video clips of Brady losing his cool on the sideline had the pundits predicting that the team was coming apart.
But in the Patriot Way fashion, the team quietly rebuilt itself into something that no one expected. The precision “finesse game” that the Pats were known for was thrown out. Instead, hard-nosed running backs battered the ball up the field. Players who a year ago were virtually unknown were making names for themselves, filling in for the injured starters. National experts who had written off Brady’s Bunch were changing their tune.