Maybe the Pats missed out on an all-time run of Super Bowl greatness. But what Brady, Belichick, and (to a much lesser extent) co. have done during the past 13 seasons has been astounding. Eleven consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more — including one in which Brady played half a quarter, and all of them occurring over a period of parity (you may have heard that mentioned once or twice) in which other than the Manning-era Colts, who had a run of nine consecutive 10-win seasons, no one else came close.
The randomness of tipped balls and missed calls gets somewhat smoothed out over the course of a 16-game season. You can’t explain away this level of greatness. We’ve been privileged to witness it. Unfortunately, it can’t last much longer. Both coach and quarterback are much closer to the ends of their respective careers than the beginnings. The clock is ticking louder for TB12, and it’s hard to imagine a situation where Brady leaves and Belichick is able to keep the team at a championship-competing level. It’s scary to think about, given that it seems like just yesterday Brady was lifting that incredible, unlikely first trophy over his head, but our team could soon be headed to the bloated middle of NFL mediocrity — or worse — for years to come.
My point in all of this is not to dwell on missed opportunities or Brady’s mortality (if he is indeed mortal — I’m not entirely convinced). My point is that we need to acknowledge this history, but set it aside. The team set to take the field in the mountains on Saturday night is not like the Pats teams of recent years. It lacks talent on both sides of the ball, has been godsmacked by injury, and, in a world that made any sense, simply wouldn’t have gone 12-4 and wouldn’t be in the AFC Championship game. Despite all that, the Pats have a chance to do something amazing this weekend.
But whether they do or don’t do it, we should try to enjoy the ride, to put blinders on and enjoy a scrappy, undermanned team trying to knock off a superior opponent — a storyline not so different from the one Tom Brady and Bill Belichick first brought us in that incredible winter of 2002.