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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Reasons Behind The New England Patriots' Super Bowl Drought

Below is a breakdown of each of the past eight Patriots playoff losses.

2005 Divisional Round: Lost to the Broncos, 27-13

Tom Brady was handed his first playoff loss during his time as a Patriot. The Broncos took advantage of the Patriots' 5 turnovers (2 interceptions, 3 fumbles) in that game, which included a backbreaking interception that Champ Bailey returned for 100 yards.

2006 AFC Championship Game: Lost to the Colts, 38-34

The Patriots held a 21-6 lead at halftime, but their defense completely collapsed in the second half, surrendering 32 points and failing to make a stop on the Colts' game-winning drive. Ironically, it was the same score by which the Patriots had beaten the Colts in 2003 (the last time the two teams played in Indianapolis). This loss was particularly shocking because the Patriots were one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2006, allowing on average only 14.9 points per game (2nd best) and the 6th fewest yards per game.

Super Bowl 42: Lost to the Giants, 17-14

The Patriots had an undefeated record in the 2007 regular season, and were 18-0 heading into the Super Bowl, trying to become the first team ever to finish 19-0.  They had the best offense in the NFL that year, averaging 36.8 points per game. However, the Patriots offense (particularly the offensive line) picked a horrible time to have their worst game of the season. Brady was constantly under pressure, getting sacked 5 times. Still, the Patriots had the lead with less than three minutes to go in the game, after Brady threw a touchdown pass to Randy Moss. However, the Patriots defense failed to make a final stop, as Eli Manning threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.

2009 Wild-Card Round: Lost to the Ravens, 33-14

The Patriots' defense gave up 83 yard touchdown run by Ray Rice on the Raven's first offensive play. Things didn't get any better after that, as the Patriots trailed 24-0 after the first quarter and ultimately weren't able to recover. Tom Brady completed barely 50 percent of his passes, threw three interceptions in the game, and had a sub-50 passer rating. It was easily the worst playoff performance of his career.

2010 Divisional Round: Lost to the Jets, 28-21

Like 2007, the 2010 Patriots were the top-scoring offense in the NFL that season and earned a first-round bye. However, in the divisional round of the playoffs, Tom Brady struggled to read the Jets' coverage for most of the game, while second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez (who is now one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL) threw for three touchdowns against the Patriots. This marked the second straight year in which the Patriots went one-and-done in the playoffs.

Super Bowl 46: Lost to the Giants, 21-17

Just like Super Bowl 42, the high-scoring Patriots offense picked a horrible time to have their worst game of the season (although, once again, it was against a red-hot Giants defense). Still, just like in Super Bowl 42, the Patriots had the lead with a couple of minutes to go in the game. However, Wes Welker failed to make a great catch (off a back-shoulder throw by Brady) that would have made things very dicey for the Giants. It was pretty much deja vu after that, as Eli Manning once again led the Giants to a game-winning score.

It was overall a pretty sloppy day for the Patriots, as evident from Brady's safety on the Patriots' first offensive play, terrible pass protection in the 4th quarter, the Patriots defense's inability to force a single turnover, a "12 men on the field" penalty on the defense that negated a fumble recovery (the drive ended in a Giants touchdown soon afterwards), Rob Ninkovich's off-sides penalty on the Giants' final drive, and Brady's badly under-thrown pass intended for Rob Gronkowski that was intercepted.

2012 AFC Championship Game: Lost to the Ravens, 28-13 

The Patriots led at halftime 13-7, although it could easily have been more, had it not been for some terrible clock management (Belichick and the coaching staff were mostly to blame for that). The top-ranked Patriots offense was subsequently shut out in the second half, and Joe Flacco proceeded to tear apart the Patriots secondary--who had lost Aqib Talib to an injury in the first half--by throwing for three second-half passing touchdowns.

2013 AFC Championship Game: Lost to the Broncos, 26-16

Much like the previous AFC Championship Game, the Patriots were dominated in practically every phase of the game by the opposing team. The pass rush was completely invisible in that game (the Patriots defense didn't register a sack or a hit on Peyton Manning in the entire game), the defense as a whole was unable to stop Manning and the Broncos offense, and the offensive line got absolutely manhandled (their run-blocking was terrible, and pass protection broke down at the worst possible times). These three things were arguably--at least in my opinion--the main reasons why the Patriots ended up losing.

While Tom Brady didn't play badly in the game, he wasn't sharp in critical moments, as he had two big misses in that game (one to Edelman in the first quarter, which almost certainly would've been a touchdown, and one to Collie near the end of the first half, which cost the Patriots a shot at a field goal). While this game was more about the Patriots' injuries and lack of talent finally catching up to them, Brady didn't help himself enough in this one and obviously wasn't good enough. It also didn't help that Aqib Talib got injured for the second straight AFC Championship Game, and his absence was certainly felt by the Patriots secondary, a unit that got torn apart by the Broncos' passing offense.

Looking back at the outcomes of each of these games, one common theme sticks out: both the offense and defense deserve a lot of blame. The offense has seriously under-performed (as 7 of the last 8 postseason games clearly show), and the defense has had frequent trouble stopping the opposition. Another observation from these games reveals that when the Patriots' defense had to make a stop in order to close out the game (as shown in the 2006 AFC Championship Game and in the Patriots' last two Super Bowls), the defense couldn't deliver. Moreover, these last eight postseason losses reveal frequently poor clutch play from the Patriots.


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