Why The Patriots Will Choke In The Playoffs
They used to be a sure thing- you could always count on Billl Belichick to put his team exactly where they needed to be to win it all. But that was a long time ago. It has been a decade since the New England Patriots have won that coveted trophy and it looks like the dynasty is coming to a close.
Where have the Super Stars gone? Even with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Tom Brady couldn't lead them to the promised land. They come so close, but they just don't have it when they need it.
Or do they?
Let's look at why they fall short. 2014 marks the sixth straight year the Patriots have won the AFC East division- no contest. They have won 12 such titles since Brady took the reins from Drew Bledsoe, also winning the Super Bowl three times in four years.
Add to that five out of nine conference titles in the same time period and the Patriots can easily be called the most consistent and arguably successful teams in the NFL in the 21st century.
So far, I don't see any reason why they can't win in the playoffs. They have appeared in more than half of the conference championship games since Belichick became their coach, and seem to have a knack for contending no matter who has to come off the bench to fill a role.
In fact, it is rare that they "choke" in the playoffs. They may not win it all every year, and have very little "star power", but here they are again, leading the pack into the post-season.
Here's what they do have:
1. The best quarterback in the game.
He doesn't sport the best statistics (technically); but Brady has something you can't teach- desire. Drafted in the sixth round despite having to split time with a flashy upstart who fizzled before ever making it to the NFL, Brady followed his Orange Bowl victory over Alabama with three Super Bowl victories.
Brady works hard, is always learning, and never tires of striving to be the best. I can't stress enough that he is an athlete who knows what it takes to succeed.
2. A coaching staff that makes the best of what they've got.
That might not sound like much, but the league may finally be finding out who Rob Ninkovich is. Have you ever heard of Matthew Slater? As a wide receiver, he has one reception for 46 yards. But as a special teamer, he is captain and multiple pro-bowler.
The Patriots revived the careers of Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, and LeGarrette Blount, and turned Wes Welker into the most consistent receiver since Steve Largent. And in the absence of Wes, virtual unknown Julian Edelman stepped-in. And like Troy Brown before him, excelled on defense, in special team play, as well as, receiver.
Bill Belichick leads an all-star cast that finds talent in obscure places, brings the best out of average players, and breeds hard work and success.
3. A winning attitude.
Or should we say: just winning baby! They find ways to win. Take it from someone who has watched this team since the beginning, winning is the product of Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick. We have endured ignominy to find paradise. For now, add Tom Brady and the formula equals winning.
In 2006, the only thing separating a trip to visit the Lombardi Trophy for the Patriots was a bogus penalty in favor of Peyton Manning and the Colts. In 2007, it was a circus catch by David Tyree. In 2011, another circus catch by Mario Manningham dashed the Patriots' hopes.
The Patriots rarely choke in the playoffs; they have compiled a 25-18 record in their history. The fact that they represent in the playoffs year in and year out speaks volumes compared to any other franchise in the NFL today.
Finally, the Patriots have home-field advantage throughout the 2014 playoffs and that means a first-round bye and hosting privileges. Since the week four debacle in Kansas City, New England has only lost one game, a close contest at the Frozen Tundra.
Rob Gronkowski is healthy, as is Chandler Jones, and the always powerful Vince Wilfork. They also sport the league's scoring leader in Stephen Gostkowski. This is one of the most balanced teams they have had in a long time, including a defense led by Darrelle Revis and a punt returner who takes it to the house- Julian Edelman has four in his career.
This may not be a record-setting team, but it is one built to go all the way. Don't turn your back on the Patriots; #4 is within their grasp.