Crumbling Patriots empire bailed out by inept offense, clinches 11th straight AFC East Title

Published: 12/21/2019 9:57:03 PM
Modified: 12/21/2019 9:53:29 PM
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — All things end. Dinosaurs, the Roman Empire? Bye. All life, the entire known universe and the New England Patriots Dynasty are headed in the same direction. Going, going and eventually … gone.
Teetering on the brink of their inevitable demise, the Patriots won their 11th consecutive AFC East Championship on Saturday with a 24-17 “victory” over the Buffalo Bills. The win served as another sad reminder that in spite of their defiant, arrogant insistence on not going away, the Patriots are still doomed to fail. Eventually. We promise. It’s going to happen. Just you wait.
The game itself was proof positive of that as the once-stout Patriots defense gave up an exorbitant 17 points to Josh Allen and the Bills. In the end, New England was lucky to be bailed out by its inept offense. Tom Brady, who played this game from a ravine well below the cliff he has long since plunged from, led the Patriots to 11 unanswered points in the fourth quarter as they rallied from a 17-13 hole created by their porous defense.
“Love wearing this hat,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of his 2019 AFC East Championship cap, as if unaware that time moves forward toward extinction and he can’t possibly expect Brady to pull another rabbit from his helmet in the playoffs. Sure, Brady and company have done it in the past, but you can’t count on that this year. Why? Because: This. Year. Just. Feels. Different. Right? Like even more different than the other times it felt different.
While a division championship surely seems nice in the short term, this hoopla is merely expediting the inevitable collapse of the Belichick empire into its own gravity, as will someday happen to all stars and indeed the universe itself. Maybe some delusional fanboy thinks that Earth’s sun is going to burn forever. But no, like the Patriots, it too will submit to the unstable mass of so many hats and tee shirts. Reality check: That sun will someday become a black hole, much like an empty husk of Gillette Stadium shall someday exert a gravitational pull that sucks in all joy and from which no happiness can escape.
That the Patriots have not yet submitted to this fate and remain a vital and relevant variable in the Super Bowl equation may seem like a cause of celebration for some. Such people might point to Brady’s performance on this day as a sign that there is permanence to existence, or at least the hope that the offense is improving.
The quadragenarian quarterback completed 26 of 33 pass attempts (78.8 percent) for 273 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions against a defense that is just third in the NFL in total yards and fourth in DVOA. He finished with a passer rating of 111.0, his best mark since Week 2 against Miami when Antonio Brown made a guest appearance on the Patriots roster before returning to his full-time occupation of saying weird things to the Internet.
The Patriots did not have Brown on the field on Saturday. They also lost right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) in the first half and wide receiver Julian Edelman (suspected concussion) for a good portion of the second half. Edelman still turned in five catches for 71 yards, and Sophomore Slumpback Sony Michel had 96 yards on 21 carries in one of his best games of the season. In total, nine non-Antonio Browns caught passes for an offense that at times did not look especially dysfunctional. The Patriots even got 3 points out of a 17-play drive that tied for the third-longest drive in team history.
And so, here we are again, almost certainly for the last time, observing the Patriots with an AFC East title. Their 16th under Belichick. Or is it 17 now? It’s too many to count, and probably because they get six free wins every season by playing in such a weak division, as proven by the fact that they have run the table in that division exactly two times under Belichick (2007, 2012). They may also do it this year. But so what? They end is nigh. The only choices are to accept it or to revel in a remarkable perpetual winning machine that has stood the test of time far longer than anyone should have reasonably expected it to. But to do the latter is to deny the reality that this is all heading toward an unavoidable conclusion.
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.

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