Poof! Patriots’ Spell Over NFL Has Disappeared
It’s over. Kaput. Done for.
The Bill Belichick/Tom Brady hold over the National Football League has been broken. Ten-four, over and out.
The magic has disappeared.
The gig is up.
Exhibit A -- Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh, or more specifically the last minutes of the game, when Tom Terrific misfired on three consecutive passes to the end zone and the offensive line couldn’t keep from moving before the snap or holding after it.
The ‘Real Pats’ would have scored, kicked the point and won in overtime. Everybody knows that.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the podium.
After the Steelers kicked a field goal to take a 17-10 lead with 2:30 left in the game, New England drove to the 11-yard line with some sharp passes and some shoddy Steeler defense.
The Pats had a second-and-5 with 37 seconds to go. More than enough time even without a timeout in their proverbial pocket.
At that point, the only question fans were asking themselves was whether the team would go for two points (like the Chargers Thursday night) or kick the extra point and take a chance in overtime (which they would have done).
But after a penalty, Brady went into his Blake Bortles act with three awful passes that failed to connect. Game over. No miracle.
And speaking of miracles, maybe there was a hangover from the impossible ending of the Dolphins game the week before, when Miami’s hook-and-ladder play actually worked and the image of Gronk lumbering over to try to make a game-saving tackle is seared into the memory bank.
In that case maybe the current malaise is temporary. Maybe it’s on to Buffalo, on to the playoffs, on to Atlanta (for the ‘Big Game’). Maybe.
Maybe the baby-faced assassin’s days are finally numbered at the age of 41. Since the Super Bowl loss to Philly, which was definitely not his fault, there have been reports of animosity between the quarterback and coach, Brady skipped some preseason workouts and seemed more concerned with his TB12 brand than with the playbook, and he’s been less than MVP caliber most of the season.
The litany of issues is long:
The team has lost five games in a season for first time since 2009.
They’ve never made a Super Bowl without benefit of a first-round bye in the tournament -- and they may not get that.
They scored three points in three trips to the red zone on Sunday.
Brady was intercepted trying to throw the ball out of bounds in the final minutes. Brady!
Fourteen yellow flags were thrown against the guys in the white jerseys. So many it was hard to tell them apart from the Terrible Towels.
The defense proved inept -- again -- at stopping the run.
Gronkowski had two catches.
Yes, it seems the gig is most assuredly up.
The only thing that gives me pause is the overwhelming manner in which the media has abandoned ship.
For example, here are the headlines for stories on Monday’s boston.com web site:
“Patriots aren’t who we thought they were”
“Is this the end for Patriots dynasty?”
“The Patriots are simply not a great team”
“It doesn’t appear to be the Patriots’ year”
OK, we get it. Nothing like piling on. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when so many sportswriters believe something is fact, it often turns out to be fiction. But still...