For most of the 2012 NFL season, the New England Patriots had very little luck on their side. Some of their most important players were injured throughout the season including Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Chandler Jones. Nevertheless, the Patriots fought through their unfortunate circumstances to finish the season 12-4 and secure the number two seed in the AFC. But late in the season, their fortunes seemed to be changing as they entered the playoffs.
The good fortune for the Patriots started the day of the final game of the season. Sitting as the third seed the Patriots needed not only a win, but a Houston Texans loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts beat the favored Texans that day and the Patriots handled the Miami Dolphins giving them a much needed first round bye.
Another good fortune that day involved an important defensive player. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who led the team in sacks and forced fumbles this year, had injured his hip forcing him to leave the game. While this seems like bad luck, all other injuries to key players this season kept them out for an extended period of time, but the Patriots claim that Ninkovich’s hip is fine and he will be ready for Sunday’s clash.
The final piece of good fortune was the team’s health. The Patriots only week of complete health was week one, but for the first time since then the team is now completely healthy. They are the only team in the postseason that has the same roster as the beginning of the season with all others missing players due to injury or release.
On Saturday night the Patriots good fortune continued. With a 35-28 lead with a little over a minute remaining the Denver Broncos looked to be on their way to victory which would have them hosting the AFC championship game. Under a minute left in regulation and a seven point deficit, Joe Flacco threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jacoby Jones tying the game for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens would go on to win in double overtime on a field goal by rookie kicker Justin Tucker. As the second seed in the AFC, the Patriots now have home field advantage meaning with a win Sunday over the Texans they will host the AFC championship game for the second year in a row.
Saturday’s result is opposite of what has happened to the Patriots for most of the 2012 season. The 2011 season saw the rise of tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski and both are integral parts of the Patriots vaunted passing attack. But this season, the Patriots only had the two stars healthy for four weeks. Only once were the two healthy for two consecutive weeks. Gronkowski returned from his broken forearm for the final game of the season giving the Patriots all their top receivers for the postseason.
The 2012 Patriots had the league’s best offense and their defense improved steadily throughout the season. With a team as strong as the Patriots and with the playoff experience of their team leaders, they are probably the one team that didn’t need any extra help. It seems they are getting it anyway as they have been very fortunate over the past few weeks and the result of Saturday evening is just one more in the Patriots favor.