But in the Patriot Way, the team quietly rebuilt itself into something that no one expected. The precision “finesse game” that the Pats were known for was thrown out. Instead, hard-nosed running backs battered the ball up the field. Players who a year ago were virtually unknown were making names for themselves, filling in for the injured starters. National experts who had written off Brady’s Bunch were changing their tune.
The season’s high point came on Nov. 24 in an improbable come-from-behind win against the Broncos in Foxboro, with the Patriots overcoming the biggest deficit in their team history. It was won with grit, solid play and determination. This is the kind of game that is remembered for a lifetime.
As the playoff season began, the Patriots found themselves where few had really expected them to be — seeded second in their conference and contending for the Super Bowl.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Sunday’s game played out like a three-hour-long paper cut. The Patriots were never able to establish momentum and seemed helpless to turn things around. It wasn’t what we had come to expect from this scrappy, come-from-behind team. After the game, interviews with both Brady and Belichick displayed pained responses that are rarely seen from them. Perhaps it was this season’s unlikely rise from the ashes that caused them to feel a particularly acute hurt.
Their disappointment was shared by their fans, but most never expected them to get this far anyway.
It’s said that polls suggest the Pats are the most despised team in the rest of the nation’s eyes, but for us New Englanders, we wouldn’t want them to be anything different. They never give up on their fans.