The New England Patriots may have played poorly in the AFC Championship Game yesterday and lost, but that shouldn’t take anything away from what has been a tremendous season for the team. In the end, they just ran into a vastly superior opponent who played a flawless game. What the Patriots have given us fans this year more than makes up for how the season ended.
This was one of the most memorable years that the Patriots have had recently, and that is really saying something. Sure, we’re used to winning, but this team did it in such a gutsy way that it deserves more credit than other years. Let’s take a look at just what made this season so great.
I don’t think you can talk about the 2013 Patriots without first touching on the Aaron Hernandez situation. I won’t put you through a re-hashing of all the details, but the whole sad incident put a cloud over the team from the beginning. But, Bill Belichick made the first brilliant move in what was his best season as a coach when he opened up to the media and talked about Hernandez right away, giving us all a chance to move on.
Once the narrative of the season re-focused on the playing field, the topic on everyone’s tongue was the lack of receivers for Tom Brady to throw to. Wes Welker was gone, Danny Amendola was in, Rob Gronkowski was hurt and there were three rookies who were going to be counted on to make a difference.
On the defensive side, the Patriots were supposed to finally be a capable, if not dominant defense. That was starting to look like the case early on, until injuries began to take their toll. With mainstays like Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo out for the season, the defense was a shell of its potential self by the end of the regular season.
Despite all the question marks on the team, the Patriots still had the two people they counted on most. Belichick and Brady, the cornerstones of the franchise and former dynasty, did not let the team fold up shop and accept mediocrity. Instead, they willed the rest of the squad to consistently find ways to win when the deck was stacked against them.
Belichick once again proved why he is one of the best coaches to ever walk an NFL sideline. This season may very well go down as his finest achievement despite the lack of a Super Bowl title.
Brady, on the other hand, had what might be his worst season as a pro. The one-time dominant franchise quarterback looked downright average at times. Still a very good player and sometimes elite, Brady showed his age for the first time as a Patriot. His future as a game-changing quarterback is clearly in jeopardy, but he wouldn’t let his physical limitations keep him from putting the team on his back and getting them win after win.
The game that epitomized their season the most was their decisive playoff win against the Indianapolis Colts. A team that had always been based on the pass, the Patriots went with a power running game and made LeGarrette Blount a household name because they knew that would give them their best chance to win.
In the end, it will be that kind of perseverance and ability to find new and innovative ways to win that will define the 2013 Patriots. A team that constantly had bad luck, injuries and blown calls go against them, they never quit, they always dug down deep and refused to let themselves, and their fans down.
That’s what I’ll remember most about this team. I hope it was as memorable for them as it was for us.