It was a cold, but sunny day. But nothing unusual for New England.
It was a sold out, home playoff game for the Patriots. But nothing unusual for New England.
It was four minutes and 31 seconds into the first quarter, and Baltimore was up 14-0. But nothing unusual for New England.
…wait a minute! 14-0!?! At home!? And after a three and out, the New England team — the team of the 2000s — was being booed by the Foxboro crowd!?!?!?!
It was point and laugh time on Sunday as the Baltimore Ravens mirrored Alabama’s game plan by running and playing strong D to beat the New England Patriots 33-14. And if people were not basking in the glory of New England’s demise, they were busy reading eulogies for the Patriots’ dynasty.
One has to wonder how the Patriots would have played with the NFL’s leading receiver Wes Welker. But just like wondering how Texas would have played with Colt McCoy, doing this “what if” with Welker does a disservice to the Ravens.
The line was only 3.5 in favor of the Patriots. Now, I know that odds for NFL games are typically close; there are no crazy 30-point spreads like those in college football. But for a home game, the spread was not large. Maybe if Welker was in the spread would be larger. But some credit was given to the Ravens.
But look at the Patriots’ numbers without Welker (weeks two and three). They went 1-1 in games against the Jets (loss) and Falcons (win). Julian Edelman, Welker’s replacement, had eight catches for 98 yards against the Jets and three receptions for 20 yards against Atlanta. Randy Moss was held in check by Darrelle Revis (four for 24), but blew up against the Falcons (10 catches for 116 yards).
To be fair, in the rematch against the Jets, Welker went crazy with 15 catches for 192 yards. But point here is that New England still threw well without Welker. Edelman, while certainly not up to Welker’s talent yet, filled in great in the game with the Jets. In the game with Atlanta, Moss was the main target and had a field day.
So, back to yesterday’s game, Edelman again played well filling in for Welker. He had six catches for 44 yards and two TDs. If you want to question the low yardage, look at Welker’s numbers against the Ravens in Week 4 (six receptions for 48 yards and no TDs). Essentially, Edelman replicated Welker’s output.
Also, Welker does not play defense. He is not the one who allowed Ray Rice to turn into Chris Johnson and go for 83 yards on the first play from scrimmage! Even if Welker played, something tells me he would not be the one allowing 234 yards on the ground.
Perhaps the absence of Welker could be “blamed” on the offense’s ineptitude. The Patriots went for 196 total yards; 132 yards passing. Brady was sacked three times and had four turnovers. You could state that the lack of Welker meant Brady took longer to go through his progressions.
But, Brady was also sacked three times in the Week 4 game. Yes, he was more efficient, throwing for 104 more yards and only one turnover (a fumble). Point is, Baltimore’s defense is still stout and deserves credit for making things uncomfortable for Brady and the Patriots’ offense.
Thus, the reason the Patriots lost was because of the Ravens’ running game and their defense; not the absence of Welker.
But there is another reason the Ravens won — the Dynasty of the Patriots is dead! Now, because the Dynasty is dead does NOT mean that the Patriots are not a good football team. To me, “dynasty” means dominance. But there has been nothing “dominant” about the Pats over the past two years.
That’s right, the last two years because the Dynasty did not die on Sunday; it has been dead since Super Bowl 42. You could question that after Super Bowl 39 the dynasty started dying. They went two straight seasons with the four seed, but at least winning the division. But in the 2006-7 season, the Patriots did make it to the AFC Championship Game, losing narrowly to the eventual Super Bowl champs Indianapolis Colts.
But the 2007-8 season witnessed the undefeated regular season. So it seemed as though the Patriots were still dominate and still in their dynasty. It was all there for them in Super Bowl 42. But the Giants showed up and did not run and hide from the Dynasty.
In Super Bowl 42, Brady did what Brady had done before — lead New England down to take the lead 14-10 with just over two minutes to go. But Eli Manning and the New York offense did not fold, and they drove down and took the lead back, 17-14. Still, Brady had the ball in his hand late, but threw a pick to seal the loss.
That game proved that the Patriots were vulnerable; that they were beatable. And it poisoned the team and dynasty, sending it to its death.
The 2008-9 season is proof of the death of the Dynasty. Brady’s injury on the opening drive finalized the death. While Matt Cassel played well and nearly led the Patriots to the playoffs, they fell short.
This season, while the Patriots did win the AFC East and take the third seed, it was not the same Patriots. The genius Bill Belichick made questionable moves, including trading away Richard Seymour and going for it on fourth down (in the Pats’ own territory) against the Colts. The aura was clearly gone.
And then the Ravens went into Gillett Stadium and played like it was M&T Bank Stadium.
Yes, the dynasty is dead. But it did not die yesterday. It was dead long before 1:00pm.
Or, at the very least, it was slowly dying and the Ravens simply put in the final blow. But it is hard to say that the Dynasty was completely killed yesterday.
So do not blame yesterday’s loss on the absence of Wes Welker. And, by extension, do not point to yesterday’s loss as the death of the dynasty (and therefore the burden on the absence of Welker). The dynasty was already dead; it just did not know it.