A Patriot-less Super Bowl
Much to the dismay of New Englanders, it might be time for Brady to hang up his cleats
By Aiden Wacksman
The New England Patriots are one of the greatest NFL dynasties to ever exist. In the last two decades, the Patriots have been to nine Super Bowls, winning six of them. Ever since 2000, New England has been led by one of the most consistent quarterbacks to ever play: Tom Brady. The Patriots’ dominance, however, is coming to an end, and its end begins with the star quarterback.
Let’s flash back to Super Bowl LLI. The Patriots traveled to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota to face the Philadelphia Eagles. The last time these two teams met in the championships was in 2004, where Brady led the Patriots to a 24-21 victory. In Super Bowl LII, the Patriots were considered the likely victors. To the shock of many, the Eagles won that night in high scoring fashion, 41-33. Early in the game, the Patriots had a chance to take the lead, marching down the field to the Eagles 35-yard line. New England devised a trick play in which wide receiver Danny Amendola attempted to pass the football to Brady. The play had unfolded perfectly, and the ball was thrown accurately, but the unthinkable happened: Brady dropped the pass. This one play determined the outcome of the game, as on the very next play, New England failed to get a first down.
Brady passed for 500 yards and three touchdowns, but this is where the stats lie. The Patriots’ quarterback cost New England the game with two “turnovers”: His inability to catch the pass from Amendola, and a fumble late in the game that gave the Eagles an eight-point lead. Did Brady have a great game when it came to passing the football? Absolutely. This, however, wasn’t enough to lead the Patriots to a victory. Head Coach Bill Belichik’s usually stout defense didn’t do New England’s offense many favors, but with such a stellar performance, Brady shouldn’t have lost the game. Super Bowl LII served as proof that the Patriots’ dynasty was coming to an end.
In Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots ended the regular season with an 11-5 record, but miraculously found a way to a championship win against the Los Angeles Rams.
The 2019-20 season for the Patriots was disappointing more than anything else. New England opened the season with an 8-0 record. This excellent start, however, was overshadowed by a 4-4 finish. The Patriots lost to the likes of Kansas City, Houston, and Baltimore. The worst loss suffered, however, was to the Miami Dolphins (5-11) in week 17. New England failed to produce much on offense, as Brady passed for a mere 221 yards, and the Patriots defense couldn’t stop quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who passed for 320 yards and a touchdown. For the first time in ten years, the Patriots failed to clinch a spot in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Instead, New England faced the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round.
Entering the game, the Patriots were considered favorites to defeat the Titans. Little did New England know, Tennessee had a secret weapon: running back Derrick Henry. He carried the ball 34 times for 182 yards and a touchdown in a 20-13 Titans victory. For the first time in three years, the Patriots didn’t make the Super Bowl, and for the first time in 10 years, New England lost in the wild card round of the playoffs.
Brady can be inconsistent at times, but this game showed his age (he’s 42). He passed for 209 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. The interception he threw was returned for a touchdown, which sealed the game for Tennessee. His ability to compete is admirable, but his talent is now hindered by his age. No one can judge a quarterback due to one bad game, but he was inconsistent during the majority of the 2019 season.
Yet another issue with New England’s normally balanced offense was Brady’s tendency to turn the ball over in crucial moments. His game-deciding interception against the Titans was just one example of this. He made the exact same mistake against the Miami Dolphins, and threw an interception against the Ravens that shifted the momentum of the game. One of Brady’s greatest weaknesses that NFL teams have failed to exploit is his inability to throw once he is hit by a defensive player.
The Patriots ability to dominate on offense is coming to an end. New stars like quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back Saquon Barkley, and wide receiver A.J. Brown are on the rise. New England’s bright light of victory is slowly burning out.