Following the final second of New England’s 20-13 loss against the Titans on Wild-Card weekend, could be the end of the Brady-Belichick era.
“Thank God we don’t have to watch this next week”
“I’m not watching the Bruins”
“Yup. They sucked”
Just a few post-game words from my dad himself following the Tom Brady interception that ended the Patriots season and (fingers crossed, prayers up) free-agency period pending, the end of Tom Brady’s career in a Patriots uniform.
It was almost as if the daunting spirits that haunted my father and his Boston fandom during the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, took a seat aside me on our couch, and gave me a glimpse of what he grew up with during his teen’s, 20’s and early 30’s.
Yup, that ending was both dramatic but perfect to serve as a testament to what the New England Patriots were, post week two.
A Wild-Card (no pun intended).
The Patriots’ depth on the offensive line never existed. Brady. Edelman. The loss of Brown, Gronk, and of course we fell for it again, Josh Gordon. Well, we still don’t know what was up with that guy.
Nevertheless, the downfall of this Patriots season couldn’t be better written for a Hollywood script.
What follows? Well, that’s a story I’m far too frightened to uncover.
As Brady walked to shake the hands of Titans staff, at least I predict because I shut-off the television, slammed the door, and made various phone calls ranting as I held back my tears, the era comes questioned.
The ultimate cliff fall for the era, much like the infamous “Best Team Never” September collapse of the 2011 Boston Red Sox.
The story of the 2019-20 New England Patriots would go down as such…
Chapter One (Too good to be true)
September 7, 2019- The Oakland Raiders announce the release of wide receiver Antonio Brown via an 11:56 a.m. tweet. Not even 24 hours later the New England Patriots blow the NFL rumor-mill out of the water with an uncharacteristic, yet picture-perfect trigger, signing Brown to a one-year contract worth $15 million-plus a $9 million signing bonus.
An almost inconceivable offensive power threat of Tom Brady alongside Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon (with his career-long asterisk), Sony Michel, and Antonio Brown. The man who compiled 168 total targets the season prior, single-handily dismisses the primary concern with the Gronk retirement. Instead, the conversation completely takes a 360, shifting from “who will be Brady’s heavily relied upon target now with Rob Gronkowski gone?” to “how is Brady gonna distribute the ball with his now Pro-Bowl team styled offense?”.
Again, the trigger was as described earlier, “picture-perfect”. Antonio Brown oh so conveniently displays his best Kyrie Irving impression to get himself out of Oakland, back on the free-agent market, where he can then sign a last-minute one-year deal with the New England Patriots who struggled to establish a confident response to their offense’s loss of Gronk???
Well, if it was too good to be true… it’s because it was.
Right out the gate, Brown made it known just what Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and all of New England was getting. One of the league’s most elite, dangerous, and perplexing offensive targets in all of football. His 2019-20 season lasted for just one week of play, a 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins in week 2, in which Brown would total eight targets, four receptions, and one rushing touchdown.
Unfortunately, Brown’s off-field tensions would put an end to his 2019-20 tenure as a Patriot, and delay to his NFL career. Conduct ruled detrimental according to New England who infamously upholds all involved to a “Patriot Way” standard. Brown would follow this news-breaking pause to his career with a waterfall of tweets to fulfill his raid which lasted throughout the entire regular season and currently during the playoffs.
It began with an innocent heart-to-heart thank you extension to the second and greatest quarterback Brown ever took the field alongside. Via his Instagram account, Brown evidently dropped a Woj-bomb of his own, posting a picture of him with Brady captioned “Love ya champ that was fun ! #GoWinIt #DoitforMe”.
September 20, 2019- The New England Patriots, as expected because Brown applied elected to apply his journalist skills, broke the news of his release via social media. A trigger that, off-field conflict aside, would prove to haunt Belichick, Kraft, Brady, and the entire fate of New England’s season moving forward.
Chapter Two (We’ll be fine)
The demeanor among Foxborough and one that proved to be both complacent and delusional.
The Demaryius Thomas experiment was one that never made an appearance due to his release following the Brown signing in September.
Therefore we alas could get a true first-hand viewing of life without Rob Gronkowski. A viewing that played out much like the tragic Fast and Furious death of Han during Tokyo Drift.
During weeks one-to-seven, the first 41% of the season, the Patriots faced the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets, Redskins, Giants, and Jets again. That compilation of playoff-miss competition combined to lose 53 of their 80 games played during the regular season. That’s a 33.75 win percentage for New England’s week one-through-seven opponents minus the Buffalo Bills.
In those six weeks, the Patriots averaged 34.5 points per game, while limiting their misleading competition to 6.3 points per game. This stretch would be by far the most dominant showing all year long, and week seven against the Jets would in fact be the last time until week 15 against the Bengals, in which the Patriots would put 30+ on the final scoreboard.
Following week seven against New York, New England would proceed to an average of 21.8 points per game in weeks eight-through-seventeen. Accompanied by opponents scoring an average of 19.6 points within the same duration.
Noteworthy games of underperformance included week nine against the Baltimore Lamar’s, week 12 versus the Cowboys, week 13 with the Chiefs, and of course the final two match-ups of the season with the Bills and Dolphins.
Various instances of blame could be issued to the defense such as coverage on receivers Davante Adams and Cole Beasley, or the highly questionable Bill Belichick triggers of leaving a ghost to return a third-quarter punt against Houston, or improper utilization of a challenge flag at home with Kansas City.
To be fair, Stephon Gilmore led the way for a defense that played Superman all season to Brady and Belichick. Yet, it was a constant week-to-week basis of head-scratchers and awaiting of hope.
And no Mohammed Sanu, also known as the Chad Ochocinco 2.0 stint, wasn’t the much-needed savior would come into play.
Chapter Three (We’re waiting…)
Now to request or even expect the Patriots to further replicate their Fantasy-leveled excellence during their 43-point shutout in week two against Miami is purely unrealistic and flat-out bone-headed.
However, to expect an offense to respond with some sense of urgency and a road-side kick of complacency debris is another.
The very issue of the 2019-20 Patriots laid comfortably as such. Whether it was Bill Belichick’s coaching genius not making an appearance for a crucial 4-week span that ultimately played huge in running this season to the ground, or the offensive line collapsing on a week-to-week basis, eliminating any potential rush threat from Rex Bukhead or Sony Michel. A run-game that mind you, proved to be pivotal is leading the way for New England during their last season journey to Super Bowl victory.
Chapter Four (We’re Not Even A Week Into January. What Now?)
This is territory is unusual for a team with expectations of the Patriots caliber, in this city.
It hasn’t even been a full week into 2020 and the Patriots are eliminated from Super Bowl contention. In the blink of an eye, the snap of a finger, the Patriots have failed to reach their fourth consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Damn. We didn’t even get to the part in the Patriots season where an out-of-the-blue small-name would skyrocket in jersey sales for putting the offense on his back in a single playoff week. Like Stevan Ridley. Like LaGarrette Bount. Like Sony Michel.
All jokes aside, it’s an uncomfortably early end to the Patriots season.
As if playing a Saturday night Wild-Card game wasn’t bad enough. Nope. The Patriots season had to end as picture-perfectly predictable, as it began.
The dynasty that awoke 2007 undefeated-season replication conversation, fell face-first on their own home turf, enduring a six-point loss to a team who played tag you’re it with Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota at QB.
Genuinely speaking, I could never convince myself three months ago that the New England Patriots cards at the black-jack table would fall as they did on Saturday night.
It wasn’t since that dreaded Super Bowl against Phili, that I endured the fan-within-me-pain of fighting back tears. Even on that night, I couldn’t help but direct all my ignorant anger towards Bill Belichick. Nevertheless, as ignorant as I may claim or deny being, the conspiracy theorist within me, that always makes his appearance when pieces don’t fall into place in favor of Boston teams, instantly headed for the ego-factor.
The constant reports that left questions unanswered between the Brady, Belichick, Kraft trio in dealing away former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo, would soon plant theories as to the nature of Belichick’s relationship with Brady and the Patriots organization.
We still never got a clear-cut answer to the Malcolm Butler sitting that left him pouring tears during the Super Bowl’s National Anthem, and tears pouring down faces across New England at the 0:01 second mark in the fourth quarter.
With Tom Brady taking his 42-year-old talents to free agency, one can only present the notion that the Patriots dynasty and it’s fate, sits on thin ice.
It was no secret that this season wasn’t the Patriots year. Whether it was Houston, Kansas City, Baltimore, Miami, or even scoring just 13 against Dallas, New England never stood a chance this season. One could say they dodged greater damage with a Patrick Mahomes or even worse, Lamar Jackson field-day with Belichick in the coming weeks.
Our only current frame of reference to puzzle together what next season looks like for the Patriots is a Brady post-game press conference interview in which TB12 stated it’s “unlikely” that this season was his last.
Yet, that speaks to nothing of Brady’s stance with intentions of coming to an agreement with the Patriots.
Another piece that could fall into play in the coming months would be a return of Antonio Brown, who as you guessed, let his Twitter fingers go full rage during Wild-Card week.
This came following Brown’s retweet of the Brady conference in which he added: “Call Me”.
Speak as you wish regarding the off-field conduction of Antonio Brown and his choice-making skills or even lack thereof for proper judgment calling. Regardless of whatever past decisions attempt to further haunt his career, the phones are ringing and Brown will make his way back to an NFL field come September of 2020.
The reality of the NFL and it’s current stage has opened up second or even third chances for players of off-field controversy with a higher degree. Whether or not you believe the Patriots reuniting Brady with Brown challenges the “Patriot Way” or the if that even matters based on this season’s end, is purely up to you and your judgment.
All we can do is refer to what it is we do know, that being, Brady and Brown leading an offensive charge is one meant for Super Bowl contention and one that quickly solves a large portion of New England’s offensive blues.
Just as quickly as their season’s campaign for a back-to-back ended.