One of the most grueling playoff droughts across the NFL finally came to a close this past weekend. The New England Patriots are officially playoff bound. The nightmare is over. It had been one whole year since New England was playing playoff football. How us Patriots fans survived such a long absence from competitive football, I’m just not sure. Credit to all of Pats Nation for staying true during those trying times.
All jokes aside, it is nice to be back in the playoffs. It may have only been a year away, but it did feel like a long time. The 2020 season just felt like an eternity. This year, New England has righted the ship and got back to doing what they do best: winning football games.
Hello again. pic.twitter.com/7Kyo9DX7IN— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 2, 2022
It almost feels like balance has been restored in football. You may hate seeing them there, but playoff football just feels right when New England is in it. That most likely is the Patriot fan in me talking. New England has been a staple of the postseason since the turn of the century. Last season was just the second time since 2000 that the Patriots did not participate in the playoffs. The only other time was in 2008, when Tom Brady missed the year with a torn ACL. The team still managed to win 11 games that year despite missing the playoffs.
For all the talk of the sky falling in Foxborough and the end of Belichick’s dynasty, they have rebounded fairly well and quickly. Yes, I still consider this part of the dynasty. It continues the insane run that Bill Belichick has been on. This is now his 19th career playoff berth as a head coach, tying legendary coach Don Shula for the all-time record.
After clinching a playoff spot, the Patriots Bill Belichick is now tied with Don Shula for most playoff berths (19) as an an NFL head coach. pic.twitter.com/auyM0HB6Y4— The Hall presented by Raytheon Technologies (@TheHall) January 3, 2022
It is truly amazing how this team recovered so quickly. Look around the league, how many teams have gone through rebuilds that take years upon years. Some teams, like the Lions and Jets for example, have been doing this rebuilding thing continually really for the past five plus years. Jacksonville rebuilt, got good for about two to three years, and are now rebuilding again. The Giants are about to enter their third rebuild since 2015.
My point being when a team loses guys like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman, you usually don’t bounce back so quickly. It takes time to reshape the roster and restock the talent pool. For New England, it took them just one offseason. That speaks truly to how incredible Belichick is at this whole football thing.
They drafted well, spent their money well (for the most part) and now find themselves in a spot to contend once again in the AFC. Like I said, it’s truly incredible the resiliency of this franchise. They just won’t die. When you lose a Hall of Fame quarterback like Tom Brady, it’s supposed to sting for a while. Peyton Manning has been gone since 2015 and the Broncos haven’t really fully recovered since.
The Giants haven’t been good post-Eli Manning. The Saints are still good, but have struggled at QB this year and will most likely miss the playoffs this year in their first season without Drew Brees. Hell, Dan Marino retired in 2000, and yeah the Dolphins have sprinkled some playoff appearances here and there, but they’ve never really recovered. They are still searching for a franchise QB.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. This shouldn’t have happened as quick as it has. It’s a testament to the organization and Belichick for how they have been able to rebuild so quickly into a contender. All this with a rookie signal caller under center. Hate them if you want, but you have to respect the Patriots. They continue to be the best run organization in this century.
What do the Patriots have in store for the playoffs? I honestly don’t know. If you had asked me three weeks ago, I’d say they could make a run to the Super Bowl. Today? I still think they have what it takes, but I’m not entirely confident. If they can at least get past the first round, which right now looks like a date with the Bills again in Buffalo, I’ll be happy.
For me, I’m just happy to be in this position again. To be playing meaningful football again this deep into the year. Last year the Patriots games stopped meaning anything by Week 13 or 14. Regardless of the result, it’s good to be back. It feels like home, being in the playoffs. Everything that was wrong is now right again. Here’s to a hopeful deep playoff run! LFG!
"How do we feel about being back in the playoffs?"— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 3, 2022
Awww yeah. pic.twitter.com/fQwzhLIb47
Photo by Barry Chin/Boston Globe