Is this the Year the New England Patriots get over the Championship hump?
So here we are another New Year and another first round bye for the Patriots. This time around they have home field advantage throughout and have their best shot to reach and win the Super Bowl since 2011. All year we have heard about how great this team is. We've heard how this year's team is different from recent years past. This season the Pats have a complete team. All three phases of the game are strong for this team. The talent on this team is the best it's been since 2007. So is this the season the Patriots FINALLY get over the decade long hump and capture the elusive fourth ring?
For ten years, I have sat back and defended Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as the best QB/Coach combo in NFL history, and still honestly think that this argument is true. But it is very hard to sit back and defend these two repeatedly when we are on a decade long title drought. I understand that this makes me sound super spoiled as a fan, but I'm sorry, if I'm going to claim these two are the GOATs then another title is needed. I know it's amazing to think about, but if Brady and Belichick retired today, I would have to classify their overall body of work as a success but also a real disappointment. Just plain and simple. Again, I know it sounds spoiled but it's the truth. When you want to be called the greatest ever, a ten year title drought just is not acceptable. Back in 2004 after the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four seasons, people wondered just how many we could win. Well who would have imagined it then that we would be sitting here in 2015 still with just three rings. That’s why if the Patriots don’t get another title I will call them a disappointment. Were they still a success? Hell yes. Of course. But the overall expectations wouldn’t be met in the end if we can’t capture number four.
Now of course we must take into consideration that if a mere three plays do not happen in two separate Super Bowls, the Patriots could easily have 5 rings and there would be no debate whatsoever. If only Asante made the pick. If only Harrison somehow knocked it away from Tyree. If only Welker caught the ball. Sadly, all those things didn't happen and the Patriots have not gotten the job done.
This season the Patriots need to get the job done. As we know, the window for Brady is rapidly closing whether we want to accept it or not. This defense has playmakers and has shown that they can ball, same with the offense. But of course, down the stretch, the Achilles heel of this team came to light again: the offensive line. Go back and look at every single postseason loss from 2007 and on and you will see a trend. The Patriots lost the game in the trenches on both sides of the ball in all those games. The offensive line was a big reason for the horrid 2-2 start to the season as well. If they do not hold up and protect Brady and create running lanes, we can kiss our shot at a title goodbye. The Patriots have drawn a nightmare matchup, in my opinion, in the Ravens this weekend. With all of the issues on the O-Line, the last thing we needed to see was Suggs and Dumervil. If Brady is protected, winning shouldn't be tough, but protecting Brady vs. that defensive line is a daunting task.
Don't get me wrong now; this season is VERY different from previous ones. For the first time pretty much ever, the Pats have a healthy Rob Gronkowski for the playoffs. Last season the team was dismantled with injuries. Gronk wasn't available for the Super Bowl in 2011 or the 2012 AFC Title. Having #87 at full speed this January automatically gives the Patriots a huge advantage. The other big difference this season is this defense. The Patriots now have a defense that I trust to get off the field. The playmakers on the defensive side (Revis, Browner, Collins, Hightower and Jones) all are things the Pats really haven't had in seasons. This defense is a Super Bowl caliber legit defense. Darrelle Revis has been everything I expected and then some in changing this team. With all of this Hall of Fame type talent on one team, it’s almost inexcusable to not win a ring.
Ten years. It has been ten years since the almighty New England Patriots last won a title. They are the favorites to make it out of the AFC this season. It is time to finally get over the hump and recapture the Lombardi. This is the most talented and healthy team we've seen in seasons. The window on obtaining a fourth ring is closing and this may be the best chance left to get it. It’s time to end the debate on whom the greatest QB/Coach combo is. Let’s get that 4th Championship!