|Are the Patriots Still Legitimate Super Bowl Contenders Without TE Rob Gronkowski?||Notes and Observations Week 14: Patriots Mount Another Improbable Comeback; Beat Browns 27-26||Connelly’s Top Ten – Patriots Stink but Exciting; Poor Gronk||Patriots Lose Gronk But Complete Miraculous Comeback to Beat Browns, 27-26|
If the aftermath of Sunday’s demoralizing defeat (no pun intended, I’m not Wes Welker) at the hands of Rex Ryan’s Jets, everyone in New England did what we always do, and immediately started looking for someone to blame. Brady was too flat, we said. Belichick got outcoached. To accept a loss to our (former) little brothers in the division, we needed to figure out exactly why we lost. Maybe it was the lack of a deep threat. Maybe it was a confusing Jets defense that made Brady hold the ball like Drew Bledsoe in his prime. Maybe it was Crumpler’s drop. Maybe it was the Patriots unleashing the excruciating 2005 Philadelphia Eagles eight-minute offense and failing to score.
Either way, the reasons for the loss aren’t nearly as significant as the repercussions. Braylon Edwards did flips on our home turf. The Jets (The Jets!) have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl and at the very least have stolen the Patriots’ bragging rights. Aaron Rodgers has a legitimate shot to steal the title of best QB alive. Rex Ryan could be the next Belichick. As if all this wasn’t enough, we may be headed for a potentially brutal Bears/Jets matchup. Seriously, think about it. Polamalu doesn’t look right. The Steelers have so many injuries on the offensive line that they might have to pick a random fan out of the stands during the game to play left tackle. The Bears’ defense and home field advantage may be good enough to shut down Rodgers. If Jets/Bears is the matchup, I’m not watching. Alright, that’s a lie, but still, it would suck. Admit it.
Whatever happens, Patriots fans lose. Or so everyone would have you believe. You see, there’s a good chance the 2010 Patriots severely overachieved. I know, I know, it sounds like I’m making excuses for losing to the Jets (seriously, like the little kid says in Big Daddy, “The God—n“ Jets!!!”), but think about it. They platooned two undrafted running-backs. They had a painfully young defense with no pass rush to speak of. Matt Light was doing his best impersonation of swiss cheese. They had no one who could even burn Jason Varitek on a fly route. To see this team go 14-2 was truly astounding.
Moving forward, the Patriots will have a ridiculous amount of picks in the first three rounds; six to be exact, and that’s not even counting their 4th rounder. It’s like Belichick is running one of those Madden Franchises where you turn off the salary cap and trade all your gigantic contracts for draft picks. All of the deficiencies I just listed could be not only addressed BUT turned into strengths if the Patriots draft as well as they did in 2010. Should the Patriots choose to look at a receiver, they could potentially land Alabama’s Julio Jones, an incredible physical specimen who’s built like a 6’4 Dwight Howard. Former Heisman winner Mark Ingram would likely be around if Belichick wants a new running back. They could look to Wisconsin’s All-American Tackle Gabe Carimi to protect Brady, or even the Badgers’ defensive end J.J. Watt.
To put it simply, the Patriots loss Sunday was, for lack of a more vulgar word, humbling, but I’m going to remain optimistic. After all, I’ve been battle-hardened over the years. I saw the Boone homer. I saw the Helmet Catch (as much as I hate to admit it). This loss was devastating, I know. Yes, the Jets pretended to be airplanes on our own field. However, I still trust Belichick, you know, as long as he didn’t actually call that fake punt.