Blame yourself for the Patriots' playoff failures

2020 Patriots Season:
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Dec 6th

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Ice_Ice_Brady Supporter Supporter
I'm sure the title of this thread will get some people's blood boiling, so don't worry, it's only kind of true. Thanks to Patspsycho for a great breakdown of the game. I hope you like this perspective; I feel that whether you agree with it or not, it's at least a fresh take on the Pats recent playoff failures, rather than the stale national articles that are pretty stupid and focus on trash talk and legacies.

To understand the team's greatest flaw, you just have to look inward. To sense what the players and coaches are thinking during the game, just pay attention to your own emotions.

It's 2004. The Patriots start the game with a terrible interception, but the psyched out visiting team misses an easy field goal. Brady drives down the field, and despite a bad drop for a sure six points, a clutch Adam Vinatieri nails one through to give us a 3-0 lead. The crowd goes nuts. Classic opportunistic Patriots. They should have scored but didn't. We did. We capitalized. The tone has been set.

It's 2010. Same scenario. As fans, we are filled with dread. We can sense that we just blew the game. Heck, we should be up 14-0. Oh no. This isn't good. But what if... what if... we actually have to play four quarters of football? What if this game is decided by a field goal? What if the defense needs to make a key stop, or the offense needs to win the game in the waning seconds? What if we can't force them to play from a 10 point deficit? Admit it. You had no confidence.

Neither did the team. Or the coaches. CBS commentators all picked the Patriots to win by a large margin, but they all warned that in a close game, they'd pick the Jets. They probably would have been right, had the Patriots not been so afraid to engage in a grind-it-out nail biter, perhaps it would have been close. That said, does that really sound like a championship team in blue and silver?

The dread of actually having to play four quarters effects everything and the Patriots philosophy has been morphed into the Colts.

Front runners.

Yes, the dreaded words. Build a huge lead. Pray it doesn't come down to the end. Pray we can confuse them so badly on offense that we won't have to grind it out. Pray our defense doesn't need to make a key stop. Pray Brady throws 4 TD passes and we can order a pizza at halftime.

When is the last time the Patriots felt good about punting the football? I can't remember. I do remember the days when taking a safety against Denver, counting on the defense to stuff the Broncos on a three-and-out, and driving down the field in the waning seconds was a brilliant move. Think Belichick makes the same call now? I didn't think so. Now I see 4th and 2 at Indianapolis. I see a lot of going for it on 4th and long. Plenty of dread that, even if we kick a field goal, it's only three points, and we need more. Three points used to be good. Now it's an epic buzz kill.

Do you think the Steelers, Jets, Packers, or Bears are groaning when they need to punt the ball and pin a team back? Or upset when their kicker drills one through the uprights? Didn't think so. Well, that is why they are there and we are done.

Fans, coaches, and players are united. We don't want a low-scoring, high blood pressure game. We have no faith in our team to pull it out. Admit it: while you wanted the Pats to humiliate the Jets, you prayed for them to win by a comfortable margin for other reasons as well.

Pat Chung felt it, just like us. Championship teams happily leave the field down 7-3 at their own stadium, receiving the ball in the second half. Teams that believe in themselves understand that there's another half of football, and the fourth quarter is going to be a nightmare for the other team. The Steelers knew it. They erased a 21-7 deficit to beat a 12-4 team. They believed in themselves. Chung's emotions mirrored our own. We need our 30. We need to score, and score big. We must make them play from behind. Can't blame him. We would have taken the same big chance. We panicked from our couches as well. The thought of trailing by 4 points frightened us.

The playoffs are like diamonds. The higher the pressure, the more clear and defined the team becomes. Now you see how much faith there truly is in certain philosophies and strategies.

The Jets dared the Patriots to run, putting seven defensive backs on the field many times; sometimes they used nine. Just like we don't believe in our players in close games, and we don't believe in our defense anymore, we also don't truly believe in our running game. Sure, BenJarvis Green-Ellis had 1000 yards. Danny Woodhead sparkled all year. We had a brand new Sammy Morris on the sidelines waiting to take his first licks of the season.

When push came to shove, the Patriots did what the Jets knew they would. They put the ball in the hands of Tom Brady and the passing game. Played right into the Jets schemes. With the pressure on, we believed the chances of success were greater with Brady throwing against a defense that wants him to throw, rather than running the ball against a defense that conceded at least five yards every play. Went into shotgun spreads with an empty backfield.

Deep down the Patriots never really bought into the running game either. Neither did we. Let's admit it. When all the chips are on the table, under the enormous pressure of an elimination game, we want Brady throwing the ball. We don't want our defense to need to win the game. We don't want the score to be close. We panic. So do the Patriots. The Jets knew this. We wonder what went wrong, but we really know it. The players feel the same angst that we do; perhaps not as strongly with all of their adrenaline rushing, but they feel it to.

Call the game a fluke. Say it was a choke. Say they were outcoached. But you know it was deeper than that, more fundamental. No one stepped up. The Jets had eleven guys on the field that all believed they could win the game, each believing he would make the difference, believing they needed to pick each other up. Believed in each other.

Where do we go from here? This was one expensive lesson, a huge missed opportunity. But this team is very young and talented with lots of amazing football players and superior coaching. The question is, when will this actually be a team again? A team is 53 players; not 1 player when the season is on the line. Not just a passing offense that needs to annihilate the opposition so that the game plan will work. Until that team has developed, we will not be champions. The Patriots will likely bulk up on defense this offseason, perhaps even draft another star running back, but it won't matter until the coaches can look at these guys and tell them "we need you to win the game for us." Until then, it's just a collection of talent. It's 52 guys to not lose the game, and 1 guy to win it.

When the team starts wanting the game to come down the final seconds, knowing someone will step up, that's when they will return to their championship pedigree. And we will know as fans when the time is right, because we will be confident, not dreadful, at the thought of playing a competitive, hard-fought game.

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On the Roster
These are some of the reasons the jets can become such a dangerous team in the playoffs. People say they were lucky winning those close in season games, but it built toughness and made them play hard throughout.

Th patriots got too strong too soon. So many blowouts, the young kids didn't get enough experience in games where it came down to the wire. Remember back in the championship years, how many games came down to a FG win, or Brady comebacks.

MassPats38 Supporter Supporter
I think you're reaching. Look at the scores down the stretch against the teams you consider to be a formidable defense. Where are the shutouts? Where are the single digit scores?

The fact is the Pats defense actually did show up in the final half of the season, I expect looking better than every team you named as a big time defense.

Has it changed from 2004? The contact rules have changed. Games on the average are higher scoring. The last 6 years have shown progressively higher scoring offenses, and higher scoring teams winning championships.

This year, look at the playoffs. The Falcons had a good D, and the Pack dropped 45 points on them. The might Cravens D surrendered 31 and lost. Saints were 4th this season in total D (YPG) and gave up 41 to the Seahawks. In all these games, I ask the question - where is the D? Where is the swagger you are searching for in a championship team. The Jets did well against the Colts and Pats offenses, but the Pats offense simply missed opportunities. How many dropped passes on critical plays did you see? If the offense executed as it had previously, we aren't having this discussion right now. It didn't, and the team lost. Not as satisfying an answer as systemic failure, but it is equally valid.

The Pats defense in 2003 and 2004 was lightning in a bottle, with likely the best defensive line in the game and a corps of smart veteran linebackers with an eye for the ball. The front 7 was awesome. The secondary was made of similar smart veteran DBs, a combination of all pros and solid veteran talent. I suspect Belichick did not wake up one morning and say "Let's dismantle the D and throw everything on O." In 2005, Bruschi had his stroke. Law left for free agency that year. In the subsequent years, time, age, injuries and simple economics took down the rest of the old guard. The defense known for smart, battle-hardened veterans with negative playoff experience (everyone on the Super Bowl teams knew plenty of playoff losses) was replaced by free agents and rookies. The Pats went after Adalius Thomas in 2007 to try to rebuild the linebacker corps. Most loved the decision as a big time free agent score, but it didn't pan out. They used the highest draft pick in years to get Mayo. They are known for grabbing 1st and 2nd round defensive players to the bewilderment of many here.

At the start of the year, the Pats D needed a big lead. As the year wore on, the D got better. Is it the D in those years? Of course not. You have a bunch of relative rookies. But to say they lack confidence is no more than saying they lack experience. Chung, a defensive player, did not make that call because he lacked confidence. He made the call because he saw something on the Jets that represents the sort of "situational football" the championships were known for. If that play is executed properly, everybody loves it and we are singing his praises. He made a rookie mistake by taking his eyes off the ball for a split second (yes, I know he is a second year player but that is still a relative rookie compared to the experience of the veteran defense the Pats once had). The D wasn't terrible that game, and I don't believe the D doesn't believe in itself. That would be fans projecting their belief on the D.

Are the Pats the Colts? They probably were in 2007. Now? It is the young defense people were screaming for with a huge upside as it gets experience. Chung, McCourty, the rookie linebackers and even the rookie D-line - I am excited to see how good they get. With a draft coming up, what happens with all the picks in the first three rounds?

I join the camp that thinks maybe young members of this team started to believe they were better than they are, and didn't take the Jets seriously. The winning streak that in past years brought swagger may have brought overconfidence. Or maybe the "win or go home" that the team of yesterday loved hit them and caused the players to attempt to play outside their abilities. Whatever it was, the Pats as a team were not at ease against the Jets, and it showed.
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Tunescribe Supporter Supporter
2019 Weekly Picks Winner
Nice try. Speaking for myself and others at the game Sunday, nobody was taking anything for granted. Everyone stood the entire time. We yelled until we couldn't yell anymore. We had a young, developing, over-achieving team vs. a hungry veteran group of hired mercenaries. We'll be back.


Third String But Playing on Special Teams
I'm the same sometimes nervous, sometimes confident, always obsessed Pats fan as I was in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s.

Sorry, but to suggest that the fans have anything whatsoever to do with what happened this past Sunday is lunacy.

Yes, fans can help. On the edges. But if Tom doesn't throw that silly pick and/or Alge catches a ball he should have caught, the whole day is different and the crowd acts differently during the game.

It's the players and coaches who make THE difference.
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