“There is winning, and there is misery” – Bill Parcells

An appropriate quote to use after the New England Patriots lost 26-16 to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game.

Here are five thoughts on the Patriots loss, in this week’s¬†Monday Hangover. –

1) Brady, Offense Come Up Short:¬†There’s plenty of blame to go around for this game, but once again the Patriots offense fails to score in the postseason.

In the last three playoff losses for New England they scored 17 points against the New York Giants in the 2012 Super Bowl, 13 points against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 AFC Championship and 16 points in Sunday’s loss to the Broncos. In those three games the offense averaged 15.3 points-per-game. Simply put, that’s not going to get it done in today’s NFL.

If the final score from Sunday had hypothetically been 26-23, you could sell me on the defense didn’t make enough stops to get the job done, which they didn’t, but more blame has to be placed on the offense because 16 points is not good enough for a Tom Brady led team.

After last year’s playoff exit, fans and analysts said New England had to add weapons that could win one-on-one match-ups on the outside, the same goes this off-season. Big changes need to be made for 2014.


Head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots defense had no answer for the Broncos high-powered offense.
(USA TODAY Images)

2) Defense Couldn’t Get It Done: Different year, same story. Fans saw it last season against the Ravens and unfortunately again versus the Broncos, Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib left the AFC Championship game with an injury and the defense fell apart.

The Broncos did not turn the ball over and New England’s defense had a few opportunities to get off the field, but failed to execute. All of the injuries suffered by the unit this season, including four starters in the front seven, and it seems like Talib was the tipping point. Could be a factor on his impending free agency.

Peyton Manning got rid of the ball too quickly for the pass rush to make a consistent impact and when there were opportunities, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich were stonewalled. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is a solid player, but was constantly beat after Talib left the game. His size hinders him at times and far too many times in this game you saw his out-reached arms inches away from the ball. Have to give credit to Manning for some quality throws throughout the contest.

3) Flashes of 2006 and 2010, not 2003: Throughout the year, many people compared this Patriots team to 2003 when New England went through similar injury woes and adversity. As the season comes to a close, shades of 2006 and 2010 to stick out more.

In 2006 the team made a late playoff push, but ultimately fell short to a Manning led Colts team in the AFC championship game. While that game was much higher scoring, as Indianapolis won 38-34, the lack of weapons for the Pats and inability to get off the field draws similarities to this contest.

In 2010 the Patriots lost to the New York Jets 28-21 in the divisional round and Sunday’s loss left a similar bad taste in fans mouths. New England played flat, without the same fire and passion that had gotten the team to this point. The other team was more physical and seemed to want it more in both contests, which draws the comparisons when I reflect back now.

Even though Pats fans might feel they were proud of the team for getting to this point, it was a disappointing effort and overall performance Sunday afternoon.

4) Three Up and Down Performances: 

Positives: 

Jamie Collins – The rookie linebacker continued to show what he could bring to the table next season. His athletic ability is incredible and he was all over the field. One of the few standout performances.

Dont’a Hightower – He struggled in the middle of the season, but he played much better down the stretch and Sunday. Hopefully he continues to develop and grow, as he will likely be the starting middle linebacker in 2014.

Julian Edelman – No. 11 was solid again, once again showing the consistency and production he had all season. With free agency on the horizon, New England will need to make him a priority when the time comes.

Negatives:

Danny Amendola – Amendola and myself had one thing in common Sunday, we both had zero catches in the game. All week I said on our Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast and in my “Two Way Street” other receivers had to step up in order for New England to win.

Amendola was invisible and had little impact most of the season. Injured or not, hard not to throw out the bust label after his first year with the team. He didn’t earn his salary, especially when it counted the most.

Logan Mankins – Mankins had a tough season and an even tougher game in Denver. When Broncos defensive tackle¬†Terrance Knighton dominated him and sacked Brady, it was eye-opening. The interior of the offensive line has been a weakness all season and Mankins’ play has been questionable.

The Entire Secondary РThe safety play was terrible in this contest. As an example, safeties Steve Gregory and Duron Harmon missed tackles allowing Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno to pick up a big gain on a key third down. Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan all had tough days as well.

Overall, there were way too many holes in the secondary and the Broncos did whatever they wanted. Poor timing for such a terrible performance by the players and coaching staff.

5) Looking Ahead: It’s been an exciting season for New England, despite falling short of their ultimate goal. A roller coaster of emotions week-to-week, fueled by controversy and late-game heroics. By no means does this loss spell the end for the Patriots, though.

The Patriots are the second youngest team in the NFL. Brady, Belichick will be back and this team will come back stronger next season. Fans saw a lot of heart and fight out of this team throughout the season, but no question there is room for improvement.

There’s plenty of time to get into that, so be sure to check back as I go deeper into free agency, the draft and moves that need to be made as the off-season progresses.

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