When the 2013/14 season finally comes to an end, it’s going to be interesting to see how everyone remembers it.


Tom Brady and the Patriots so far continue to defy the odds.
(USA TODAY Images)

Over the last decade plus, it’s hard to recall a season like it.  Never in all these years has the team been riddled with so many injuries and lost key core players to season-ending ones the way they have this season.  It’s unbelievable.

When Rob Gronkowski went down on Sunday it seemed to be yet another blow to a team that didn’t seem as though they could sustain another one, but with a visit to Miami now on tap for Sunday it’s pretty obvious that the train will continue moving forward with or without him, and such is life in the NFL.

After he went down the more impressive fact was how they responded.  Granted the first play from scrimmage after they came back from the injury timeout resulted in a turnover, which considering these guys are all human wasn’t exactly a surprise.  But the way they fought back from there made that performance one that will likely be remembered for a long time because it showed that even in the face of adversity there’s nothing they can’t over come.

After all, the script was written and had they lost, no one would have blamed them for it.  People would have excused it after watching one of their best offensive players get carted off before the wheels finally came off.  There would have been no shame in that.

Yet it didn’t matter.  They still fought back and overcame another deficit in a game that was seemingly lost.  The injuries are slowly no longer becoming the story.  Instead, it’s the tenacity that is shown each week and the miraculous ways they continue to find a way to win football games.  The question will be in the coming weeks how far all of that will take them, which is the biggest question on everyone’s mind at this point.

Can they win the AFC and get to the Super Bowl?  Thinking big picture, it’s tough to fathom.  Thinking on a one-game basis, you never know.  They’ve already shown they can beat Denver, and they did it giving Peyton Manning a 24-point headstart.  Can they beat the Colts?  Miami?  Baltimore?  Kansas City?  It’s tough to say.  But each week what starts out as a big question mark ends up showing us more about this team than anyone here could have ever predicted.

One week.  One game.  That’s what it will come down to down the stretch, and how it all unfolds will be how this year’s team is ultimately remembered.  And so far they’ve managed to fill a season with more unforgettable moments than fans could have ever imagined.  

Could they win the Super Bowl? Thinking big picture, once again, it’s tough to say. But when they hit the field each week we’ve already seen plenty of the unexpected. The hits have come and yet the march continues. On paper, logic would make you think it’s a tall order. But then again that’s already been the story this season, hasn’t it?

PATRIOTS/RAVENS FLEXED OUT:

Good news for those of us who aren’t fans of night games, as the decision has been made to move the Patriots and Ravens game in Baltimore on December 22nd out of the prime-time 8:30pm start back to 4:25pm on CBS.  Instead NBC will now be carrying the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, who are both in the hunt for an NFC playoff spot.

Considering the number of late night games we’ve had this season, including a couple that were back-to-back, there likely won’t be too many complaints from fans who have to get up early for work on Monday.  It also gets the team back into Foxboro much earlier, which certainly helps as depending on how this week goes, New England may still be in the hunt for the top seed in the AFC.

BELICHICK HAS PRAISE FOR STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI:

It’s not to mention Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and the contributions he’s made in helping the team improve to 10-3 on the season, especially over the past two weeks.

Gostkowski hit a couple of 53-yard kicks in the fourth quarter during the team’s victory over Houston, and hit another one from 50-yards as well as the onside kick that helped New England beat Cleveland.  On Wednesday Belichick talked about the veteran, and used the word “clutch” to describe him.

“He’s had a couple of pretty clutch weeks,” Belichick told the media on Wednesday. “I think it would be hard to be much more clutch than that. So much of whatever a kicker does is just based on opportunity. You have to be ready, but you don’t know when you come to the stadium whether you’re going to be kicking field goals, kicking extra points, not kicking at all, onside kicking, and so forth,”

The biggest thing that impressed him was the fact that Gostkowski managed to pull off what he called an “infrequent” play that had he not made it, they wouldn’t have won.

“I think part of it for Steve is just not only did he get it done, but it was a very infrequent play and it was at the most critical time and without it, we wouldn’t have won,” said Belichick. “All those things are impressive.”

OFF THE FIELD, JEROD MAYO MAKING A DIFFERENCE:

A nice little note this morning in today’s Boston Herald on the fact the injured linebacker is still helping people out off the field, with Mayo reportedly delivering over a thousand personalized notes to patients staying at the American Cancer Society’s AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center of Boston.  Mayo also reportedly took part in the children’s party, which is certainly heartwarming news.  Needless to say hopefully his rehabilitation is going well and we’ll see him back to his old self in 2014.

ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON GLOBE:

Patriots used to playing without Rob Gronkowski – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer files his notebook this morning and writes that after losing Gronkowski, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has already been down this road so they should be able to deal with it.

After dealing with adversity, Dolphins are thriving – Ben Volin – Volin looks at the state of the Dolphins, who he writes are 3-1 over the last four games while averaging 372 total yards and 23.25 points per game.

Patriots Take 2: The post-Gronkowski game plan – Erik Frenz – Frenz has a look at how the offense may evolve now that Gronkowksi is gone, including some game film breakdowns to go along with it.

Patriots’ defensive problems starting to pile up – Ben Volin – Volin writes that you don’t need to watch the coaches’ film to know something’s up with the Patriots defense, with the crux of the matter still being injuries.  As a result, he writes, they’re playing more zone instead of man-to-man.

Patriots players wrapped up in holiday spirit - Mark Shanahan and Meredith Goldstein – In this article the team held a party at Gillette Stadium for more than 250 kids from the Salvation army and community centers throughout New England, with several players on hand for the event.

BOSTON HERALD:

Patriots Notebook: Miami trip no vacation – Karen Guregian – Guregian files her notebook this morning and writes that at 7-6 the Dolphins are on the playoff bubble and will be battling for an AFC Wild Card Spot, so the Patriots should expect a playoff like atmosphere in Miami Sunday.

Head honcho - Herald Staff – In this entry they look at potential coach of the year candidate, and Belichick is obviously on this list.

Bill Belichick’s magic act worthy of honor - Karen Guregian – Guregian writes that with the Aaron Hernandez situation before the season started as well as all the additional adversity this team has faced, she believes Belichick deserves coach of the year.

ESPN BOSTON:

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 14 – Mike Reiss – Reiss has his weekly look at what’s going on with former Patriots, with Leon Washington averaging 41.8 yards per return on kickoffs for the Tennessee Titans.

WEEI:

Low blow: With defenders looking to avoid head shots, injuries like Rob Gronkowski’s occurring more often – Christopher Price – Price has thoughts from Belichick about Browns safety T.J. Ward’s decision to go low instead of high on Gronkowski’s knee on Sunday, a decision that ultimately ended his season.

MASS LIVE:

Grading the Patriots vs. Browns: New England survives without Rob Gronkowksi – Nick Underhill – Underhill has his grades for this week and has some fair grades for the defense, which did enough to help them win the game.

ESPN:

Challenges For Defensive Players – John Clayton – Clayton writes that Gronkowski’s injury revives the issue, but not to expect any changes.

Rob Gronkowski’s injury doesn’t doom wily New England Patriots - Bucky Brooks - Brooks has his thoughts on the fact that despite the loss of the veteran tight end, they’ll still be in the mix.

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL:

You have to wonder just how long Gronk will last – Jim Donaldson – Donaldson ponders how long Gronkowski’s style of play will allow him to last in the NFL.