I love being a Patriots fan.
It's a gigantic piece of who I am, and my identity.
The team represent where I'm from, they've been a bonding point for friendships and family relationships.
I realize how "lucky" I am to be the age I am during this period. From 4th grade until now they've been on one of the greatest runs in sports history. Essentially my entire conscience life. I like many Patriot fans have been "spoiled".
This reign of success is only rivaled by the Yankees back when black people weren't allowed to play and Red Auerbach Celtics' of the 1950's and 60's when the NBA had a like 8 teams and sports were not nearly as big as they are now in the legion of daily life, pop culture, and economics.
What the New England Patriots have done in the NFL from 2001 to current day will never be rivaled by another NFL team, it can't be. 15 Division Titles, a dozen trips to the AFC Championship Game, 8 Conference Championships and 5 Super Bowl wins. That's impressive over a 50 year span, the Pats did that during one player's career.
There are people who will say what Joe Montana or Michael Jordan did was better because they never lost in the championship. Those people are idiots. 5-3 in Super Bowls is way more more impressive than 4-0. It's more wins and more appearances. Think of that in the simplest of terms: years. Four years of Montana's career he made the Super Bowl. Double that for Brady.
Plus it's a team game. Quarterback is usually the biggest factor in a win or a loss, but it's not the only factor. The Patriots's defense was a lot more responsible for the Patriots win in Super Bowl 36 than Brady but that's credited as a win to him. On Sunday Brady had one of the best statistical performances in NFL history where his team didn't punt once, and lost because his defense allowed 41 points. An argument can be made which career (Montana vs. Brady) you'd rather have (unlike Eli vs Tom is-asking-would-you-rather-have-tom-bradys-or-eli-mannings-super-bowl-career-the-dumbest-question-of-all-time.html) but making it to a championship and losing IMO is a million times more impressive than not making it all. I bet Dan Fouts or Warren Moon would've loved to lose a Super Bowl.
The Patriots loss in Super Bowl LII on Sunday gave the Brady-Belichick combination a round 10 playoff losses during this run. All of which are unique in their own way, much like championships. If the combo never wins another championship again they will still go down as the great player-coach combo of all time, however, even with their nearly two decade run of unprecedented success, it could've been more.
I'm sure fans of other franchises will get pissed at this notion, but there is a serious argument to be made that this combo has underachieved during this run. They did go a decade between championships. 5 rings could easily be 7 or 8.
In this list I'll look back at the 10 playoff losses of the Brady-Belichick era and rank them from least to most painful/devastating IMO. Many factors go into a "devastating" loss. When I think of playoff devastation what come to mind are things like expectation, opportunity, opponent, and road beyond that game (if necessary). Yes this team has won 5 Super Bowls and I am incredibly happy to have gotten to experience them, but they have also had their lions' share of playoff misery. While a couple of these losses didn't stink too bad, overall when the Patriots lose, it's in rather dramatic fashion.
Super Bowl LII was still fucking devastating, especially given the circumstances even though they've won 5 times before. Yes you're grateful for those, but it doesn't make losing any less shitty. Now that the combo has a "perfect" round number of playoff losses I figured this was a great opportunity to countdown the defeats.
Here they are, the 10 most painful/devastating whatever you wanna call it playoff losses of the Brady-Belichick era.
10. 2005 AFC Divisional Playoffs:
Denver Broncos 27, New England Patriots 13
In 2005 the Patriots were coming off of back-to-back Super Bowl wins, but clearly were not the same team that they were in the two previous seasons. Much of the same core was still there but Ty Law was a Jet. Tedy Bruschi had suffered a stroke and missed a large part of the season. Rodney Harrison missed pretty much the entire season to injury as well.
The team battled consistency most of the year, as they alternated win, loss, win, loss etc. for the first 9 games of the year. They found a way to finish at 10-6 and win the AFC East for 3rd straight year. In a rather forgettable season my two biggest memories are the Flutie drop-kick and Deion Branch coming up 2 yards short of being a 1,000 yard receiver.
As a 4 seed the Pats faced off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild-Card round. The Jags went 12-4 in '05 but were on the road as non division winner. Patriots handled them 28-3 improving Brady's playoff record to 10-0.
The next week the Brady-Belichick Patriots went to Denver where they were defeated by the score of 27-13. The game turned when trailing 10-6 in the 3rd quarter Brady threw a near pick-6 to Champ Bailey but was rundown by Ben Watson at the 1 yard line in one of the greatest hustle plays in NFL history. Denver would punch it in from short and it was pretty much game over from there.
The 2005 Patriots never really had a chance at winning a championship, and got beaten rather convincingly in this playoff game. What does suck is had they won they would've played the Steelers at home in the AFC Title game. Having beaten the eventual Super Bowl champs in Pittsburgh earlier that year, maybe they do it again and are back in their third straight Super Bowl?
From a combination of time passed since this game, legitimate expectations of the team and many more considerably devastating defeats coming in future years the 2005 Divisional Round in Denver lands at #10.
9. 2009 AFC Wild Card Playoffs:
Baltimore Ravens 33, New England Patriots 14
In Brady's first year back after tearing his ACL in the 08 season opener the Patriots actually had a worse record than they did the year without Brady but still won the AFC East at 10-6.
09 was a rocky year for the Patriots, they beat up on lesser teams, highlighted by their 59-0 dismantling of the Titans in the snow where Brady had one of the best stasticial performances of his career. But they lost the famous 4th and 2 game to the Colts in November and got pummeled by the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints on MNF in week 12.
After losing Wes Welker in the season finale the team's Super Bowl aspirations took a major hit.
While I didn't expect them to win the Super Bowl, I did think they'd beat the Ravens in the playoffs. A team they beat earlier in the regular season. The Patriots had never lost a home playoff game under Brady and Belichick, and the team hadn't lost a home playoff game since 1978.
From the first play of the game it was clear that would not happen as the Ravens laid the hammer down on New England from the jump. The Ravens running game and defense absolutely dominated the Patriots. It was 24-0 after the first quarter, and even with Tom Brady that was too much for the Pats to overcome, Joe Flacco pretty much was just there to hand off the Ray Rice, as he had 1970's stat line of 4-10 passing for 34 yards and pick. Bob Griese-esk.
People may forget that Julian Edelman took over for the injured Welker and scored the Patriots two touchdowns in this game. Edelman saw more time on offense as a rookie than he would in any other season until 2013 when he took over for Welker for good after he left for Denver.
The 09 Pats were not a legitimate Super Bowl team, getting blown out was not fun, but knowing your fate early made the inevitable much more easy to take. Obviously losing to the scumbag Ravens sucks, but getting blown out makes it a lot easier to swallow. Baltimore was the better team on this day from start to finish, they dominated in pretty much every single stat you can dominate in except for passing yards.
8. 2013 AFC Championship Game:
Denver Broncos 26 New England Patriots 16
2013 was a weird year for the Patriots. It was a time of transition as many of the stars from the 2010-12 core left the team for a variety of reasons. Wes Welker joined the Broncos, Danny Woodhead went to San Diego, and Aaron Hernandez went to prison for murder. Tom Brady had his worst season in years.
It was the 2nd of 4 straight 12-4 campaigns for the Pats, but they could've easily been a 9-7 team in 2013. The year was highlighted by three amazing comebacks at home against the Saints, Broncos and Browns.
In the AFC Championship Game the Patriots entered as underdogs as they went into Mile High to take on the record setting Denver Broncos and league MVP Peyton Manning, who broke Tom Brady's regular season passing touchdown record of 50 by tossing 55 duck ball floater TDs in his last great full season.
After losing Gronk to a torn ACL against the Browns the Patriots Super Bowl chances went out the window. The game wasn't even as close, they lost by 10 but it felt like 20+. Denver absolutely dominated this game, Wes Welker knocked out Aqib Talib and Peyton Manning shredded the New England secondary for 400 yards. The Patriots were battling injuries on offense, I can remember fucking Matt Slater playing WR in the AFC title game, what a joke.
Trailing 23-3 the Patriots made it semi interesting in the 4th quarter. Down 26-10 late the Patriots still battled, and had a chance to make it one score game after Brady scrambled for a 5 yard touchdown to make the score 26-16. But after failing on the 2 point conversion the game was pretty much over as they trailed by 10 with a little over 3 minutes left.
It sucked to lose to Peyton again, especially after beating the Broncos in such a dramatic fashion earlier in the season, but the Broncos were an all time team in 2013. Yes they got absolutely dominated by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, but that can't completely take away from how good that Denver offense was. The Patriots deserved to lose this game by how they performed, the only reason they game is higher than the two before it is because it was an AFC Championship game.
7. 2012 AFC Championship Game:
Baltimore Ravens 28, New England Patriots 13.
Despite losing by two touchdowns what really bothers me about this game is the missed opportunities. This game was closer than the score would indicate.
The Patriots were the 2 seed in 2012 and had things gone to plan would've gone on the road for the AFC Championship Game. At the time it looked like the Ravens did them a favor by knocking out the 13-3 Denver Broncos, giving the Patriots an extra home playoff game. In what was referred to as "Ray Lewis' Retirement Party" by Patriots fans, it ended up being a home playoff loss, the 3rd in 4 years for New England. Not fun.
The Patriots had the league's best offense in 2012. 1st in both yards and points. In the AFC Championship they were held to just 13 points as they stalled in no-mans land in Ravens' territory. They were shut out in the 2nd half as Terrell Suggs so eloquently stated, as he usually does, in the post game. The Pats moved the ball, but couldn't finish drives. They either punted, turned the ball over, or had turnover on downs 5 times deep in Baltimore territory. This included punts from the Ravens' 35 and 34 yard lines. I was that game and it was sooooo fucking frustrating. Gotta give Gostkowski (who was still good back then) a chance.
We also saw Aqib Talib get injured in the AFC championship game, that is when the game turned as the Flacco lit up the Patriots banged up secondary in the 3rd and 4th quarters scoring 21 straight points.
The Patriots led 13-7 at halftime and lost. it was the first time the Brady-Belichick Patriots had ever lost a home game in which they were leading at halftime. What made this lose hurt so much as I previously said were the missed opportunities. They just couldn't finish drives. Losing at home to a hated rival in a game they were supposed to win blew, Patriots were 7.5 point favorites going in. Tickets to this game were part of my Christmas present, it almost made me wish I was Jewish.
6. 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs:
New York Jets 28, New England Patriots 21
The 2010 Patriots get forgotten because of this game, but they had an all-time offense in 2010 and were a ton of fun to watch. It was the first year of Gronk, Hernandez, and a unknown running back from a division two school named Danny Woodhead.
Brady won his 2nd league MVP award with a ridiculous 36-4 TD to INT ratio. If you reduce the fraction it's 9:1, which is pretty good. What puts this game higher than AFC Championship Games to me is how shocking it truly was.
The Patriots went 14-2 in the regular season and had won 8 straight games going into the playoffs. A month and a half earlier they dismantled this same 2010 "Let's go eat a God-damn snack" Jets team 45-3 on Monday Night Football. It's the loser Jets we're talking about, there's no way they're going to come into Foxboro and win a playoff game.
That's exactly what happened. In Rex Ryan's finest moment as an NFL head coach the Jets shocked the Patriots at home. Brady threw his first interception since week 5 on the opening drive. Mark Sanchez had one of the best games of his career as he threw for 3 touchdowns and the Jets just dominated the Patriots. Simple as that. Old fashion ass kicking by a more physical team.
I can remember getting a brief glimmer of hope after the Pats scored a touchdown and two pointer to get within 3, making the score 14-11, but then the Jets went down and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive which kind of sucked the air out of the game.
The game wasn't even as close as the score indicates. Brady hit Deion Branch with like 30 seconds left to make it a one score game, but at that point they needed a miracle just to force OT which obviously didn't happen.
This loss stung for a while since it was against the fucking Jets, at home, in a game that nobody expected them to lose, especially after beating this same team by 42 points just a few weeks before. TBH I think about the 2010 Patriots a lot. They were one of my favorite Patriots' teams of this era, and introduced us the way too short era of the two headed monster Gronk and Hernandez TE match-up. Oh and they traded Randy Moss away too which fucking sucked. To add insult to injury the Patriots beat all 4 teams that played in Conference Championship Weekend (Steelers, Jets, Packers, and Bears) in the regular season in 2010. This was a team that should've at the very least played in a Super Bowl. Watching the Jets do that stupid fucking celebration on Gillette killed a piece of me that I'll never get back.
5. 2015 AFC Championship Game:
Denver Broncos 20, New England Patriots 18
In 2015 this game should have been played in New England. After starting 10-0 the Patriots finished the season 12-4. They blew a game in Denver against Brock Osweiler that sent this team into a spiral. Lost the next week at home to a mediocre Eagles team, won two straight, then lost two straight to the Jets and Dolphins which ultimately cost them the #1 seed and a chance to host the AFC Championship Game.
Going into this game I thought the Broncos had no chance. I bet a lot of money I didn't have on the Patriots to cover which made this loss hurt even more.
When Stephen Gostkowski missed his first extra point since 2006 you knew it was going to be a long day.
The 2015 Broncos defense was one of the best of all time, they showed it in the playoffs, especially in this game. They carried the ghost of Peyton Manning to the Super Bowl. The Orange Crush 2.0 beat up Brady all game, his banged up offensive line did him no favors. Brady was sacked him 4 times, and threw 2 picks. Von Miller had monster day, sacking Brady 2.5 times and had an interception that gave the Broncos the ball inside the red zone and led to their 2nd touchdown.
Despite a monster showing by the Denver defense, Peyton Manning in the second half did absolutely nothing and kept the Patriots in the game. The Patriots forced seven Bronco 3 and outs. They just couldn't capitalize on offense until it was too late.
Down 20-12 in the 4th quarter, TWICE the Patriots opted to go for it instead of kicking relatively short field goals. I think the Gostkowski missed XP played a major factor in that decision. I kept telling the people I was with you gotta kick here because you don't want you season to come down to a two point conversion and that they'd get the ball back since Manning was doing nothing in the 4th quarter. Guess what? They failed both times....then the season came down to a two point conversion, which they failed.
In this game Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski had one of the best forgotten drives in NFL history. Trailing by 8 they twice converted on 4th down to keep the season alive. On 4th and 10 from midfield Brady hit Gronk on a 40 yard pass to get to the Broncos' 10 yard line. Then on 4th and goal he found Gronk for a TD to make the score 20-18. Brady threw a pick on the 2 point play and the season was over. I watched that game at watch party at some bar in North Kingstown and that final series was an absolute roller coaster with 50ish Patriot fans. Pats went from dead, to alive, to dead, to alive, to dead AF in like a minute 40 seconds of real time.
Had the Patriots kicked a field goal on either of the failed fourth down attempts I believe they win this game. Instead Manning "beat" Brady for the final time, and the Broncos ended up winning the Super Bowl giving Manning a 3-2 edge in playoff games after Brady won the first 2.
4. Super Bowl XLVI:
New York Giants 21,New England Patriots 17
2011 was a historic year for the Patriots offense, led by Rob Gronkowski setting all sorts of records with 18 touchdowns and over 90 receptions from the tight end spot. Unfortunately he was not at full strength in this game, had he been I believe the Patriots win this game.
The Patriots got off to a horrible start with a questionable safety on a intentional grounding call. By the end of the first quarter it was 9-0 Giants.
But as Tom Brady does, he brought the Patriots back. They lead 10-9 at half time after Danny Woodhead scored a touchdown late in the 2nd quarter.
The Patriots came out of halftime guns-a-blazzing as Aaron Hernandez (get it?) scored to make the score 17-9. I can remember this exact moment being where I truly started to believe they were going to end their, at this point 8 year Super Bowl drought. I was getting emotional. It was way too early but I was just so excited, I had been waiting for so long (8 years!). Brady at one point had like 16 straight completions until he got hit by Justin Tuck and was a little off for the rest of the game. He threw a bad pick on a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski, who at full strength probably makes the play.
The Giants chipped away with a pair of field goals to make the score 17-15.
This game will always be remembered by two plays. The catch Mario Manningham made, and the one that Wes Welker didn't. If you someone says "Welker drop" you know exactly what play they're referring to.
With 4:06 remaining in the game, up 17-15 the Pats were on the Giants 44 yard line. It's 2nd and 11. Wes Welker drops a Tom Brady pass that would've at the very least milked another minute or two off the clock and led to a field goal attempt. Instead he dropped it, and the Patriots ended up punting. The pass wasn't perfect, but Welker had two hands on the ball. He has to come up with that catch.
Literally letting one slip away to a fucking 9-7 really hurt. That's what sucked the most about the Patriots Giants Super Bowl losses is that they lost to fucking miracle teams that barely made the playoffs. The Patriots easily could've won this game, and despite all the "this game isn't about revenge" bullshit they were saying all week leading up to it, it would've been awesome to beat the Giants in the Super Bowl after what happened in 2007. They let this one get away.
3. Super Bowl LII:
Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33
Missed 26 yard field on a 4th and 1 that they maybe should've gone for. Missed extra point. Brady dropped pass. Questionable failed 4th down call in field goal range. Literally the worst defensive performance in Super Bowl history, and they left their star all-pro CB on the bench for the entire game. They lost to a fucking backup quarterback. This is one of most devastating losses in franchise history.
Super Bowl LII is going to hurt for a v long time. We still don't know the whole Malcolm Butler story, but it doesn't matter. He has to play. Even if the reason he was benched was justified, after how bad they were playing defensively, you HAVE TO give him a chance in the 2nd half. Bill Belichick did his entire organization a disservice and I don't think I'm over exaggerating when I say it could lead to the dismantlement of this dynasty. The negative repercussions for how he treated Malcolm Butler are going to adversely impact players potentially signing here.
As horrible as the defense played, the Patriots did have a narrow lead in the 4th quarter, then had a chance down 5 to win it. You can blame Brady for fumbling if you want, but the game shouldn't have ever came down to that. There were questionable calls, apparently the "Philly Special" play had an illegal formation, but none of that should've mattered. If the defense gives you even a D+ effort the Patriots win this game.
Obviously the Eagles played very well, and Doug Pederson coached his ass off, but to me this game will forever be one that the Patriots blew. It's like 55% Patriots lost it, 45% Eagles won it. The Eagles as a team are more talented than the Patriots but Tom Brady did pretty much all you could ask for him against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
If this loss ends up being the final Super Bowl appearance for the Brady-Belichick Patriots it has a chance to leap frog #2.
2. 2006 AFC Championship Game:
Indianapolis Colts 38, New England Patriots 34
Before there was 28-3, ten years later there was 21-3. The Patriots had a 21-3 point lead against the Indianapolis Colts in Indy. This was just a wacky game, THREE linemen scored touchdowns. You'll probably never see that again in a playoff game.
This loss is to me the 2nd most devastating loss of the era for multiple reasons.
1. Blew a 18 point lead with the 2nd best defense in the NFL, and Tom Brady leading the offense.
2. Directly led to Peyton Manning winning his only Super Bowl while with the Colts, this is when Peyton Manning still was considered a playoff loser, he got rid of that title against the Pats.
3. Lost out on a chance to play the Rex Grossman Bears in the Super Bowl...aka win the Super Bowl.
With a little over 3 minutes left the Patriots had the ball near midfield with a chance to ice the game. They went three and out, gave up the game winning touchdown with 1 minute left to play.
Even after blowing the lead late in the 4th quarter, the Patriots still had a chance to win. With 24 seconds left on the Colts 45 yard line Brady threw and interception that iced the game for the Colts.
The Super Bowl losses obviously kill, but given how great the Patriots looked in the first half it seemed like they were destine to win their 4th Super Bowl in 6 seasons. Instead they needed wait another 8 seasons. I was a freshmen in high school when this loss happened and cared even more about the Pats then than I do now so personally this loss will always be one of the worst. I feel like it gets a little forgotten because of all the Super Bowls and time that has passed but this was a game the Patriots really let get away, they should've played in Super Bowl XLI.
1. Super Bowl XLII:
New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
The easy answer for #1 should come as no surprise to anybody. Going into Super Bowl XLII the Patriots were 18-0, one win away from the perfect season.
In 2007 the Patriots offense broke nearly every record imaginable, but they also had 4th best total defense in the NFL. This team was loaded everywhere, and they were 2 minutes away from being the greatest team of all time.
The Giants defensive line dominated this game, but the Patriots had their fair share of mistakes that cost them. Pretty sure they were off sides on a fumble that would've given them the ball in Giants territory. I know for a fact on their opening drive out of halftime the Patriots went for it on 4th and FUCKING 13 from the Giants 31 yard line. Maybe the cockiest, and also dumbest 4th down call of all time. Kick the fucking field goal. It's 4th and 13. Made no sense to me then, and a decade later I still don't get it.
Tom Brady did not have a great performance, but he did find Randy Moss in the end zone with 2:42 to give the Patriots the lead. It was a low scoring defensive affair, obviously you want the greatest offense in league history at the time to do more, but that Giants front four absolutely dominated.
We all know what happened next. Asante Samuel missed a game sealing interception, next play Eli Manning and David Tyree link up for the most improbably play in NFL history, then they have Ellis Hobbs who is like 4 feet tall on an island against Plaxico and as they say, the rest is history.
Despite an off day, the Patriots still nearly did what it takes to pull off the perfect season. Thanks to a little bit of luck they didn't. You could say it all evens out based on Super Bowls 49 and 51 but to all Patriots fans Super Bowl 42 will without a doubt always be the most devastating loss in franchise history.