As a fan and Patriots’ columnist, I was devastated when the Patriots’ season came to an abrupt end yesterday in the AFC Championship game. I wasn’t the only one. Patriots fans across America were distraught as in just 3 short hours, their team’s dramatic season came to a close.
But, despite the disappointing loss, there’s no reason to be disappointed in the Patriots’ season. They made it farther than anyone ever expected them to. In fact, if any other team in the league went through what the Patriots went through, they probably wouldn’t even have a winning season.
“A lot of people have counted us out at times this season, but I think we have a locker room full of believers.” -Tom Brady
In the offseason before the 2013 season, the Patriots lost some of their best receivers. Brandon Lloyd was cut, and Danny Woodhead departed for San Diego. Wes Welker left the team for Denver as there was controversy over whether the Patriots really wanted to sign back the slot receiver.
Later still in the offseason came the Aaron Hernandez situation. Hernandez, a tight end for the Patriots, had been charged with murdering a friend of his, Odin Lloyd. The media flared, and people wondered if the “Patriot Way” was dead.
Rob Gronkowski had received back surgery over the offseason too, and would not return to the Patriots until around mid-season.
In the beginning of the season, injuries plagued the team. Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Sebastian Vollmer and Tommy Kelly all went down with injuries and were placed on injured reserve. The defense was thinning quickly and the Patriots seemed like they couldn’t take any more injuries. Aqib Talib, perhaps the most crucial player on the defensive side of the ball, went down with a hip injury, but returned later in the season (still hobbled by injury).
The final blow was losing Rob Gronkowski against the Cleveland Browns. The Patriots’ biggest weapon on offense was done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Experts everywhere immediately counted out the Patriots, saying they would be lucky to win a game in the playoffs, much less get in.
Still, through all of this, the Patriots fought on. They showed resilience and heart through the entire season, leading 3 game winning drives, one of them being the dramatic last minute drive against the New Orleans Saints that ended in a leaping Kenbrell Thompkins touchdown.
As players left due to injuries or contracts, new players stepped up. The 2013 season saw players such as Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount, Shane Vereen, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Sealver Silgia, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, and Jamie Collins step up in the face of adversity and perform.
Perhaps the most incredible game this season was the dramatic comeback win over the Denver Broncos. As you may remember, Tom Brady and the Patriots pulled the team out of a 24-0 deficit after halftime, scoring 28 unanswered points and going on to win 34-31. It was the most improbable comeback of the year; it represented this Patriots team as a whole and the kind of mental toughness they had.
So, even as we look on to the offseason and wait 6 months until the Patriots finally take the field again, we should celebrate the season as a symbol of what the Patriot Way really means. This whole year has been incredible, amazing, and truly unreal. We’ll be back next season, stronger than ever.
Thank you New England Patriots for making this season one that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.