Pats Nation: Full Season Recap
I'm depressed; I can't help but flash back to February of last year, the day after the Super Bowl, and think about how sad I was. Not because the Patriots weren't in the game, not because Peyton and his big ass forehead got another SB win, and not because we didn't get to see another black QB win a Super Bowl. I was sad because football was over. So before I even dive into Sunday's game, we should all take a moment to appreciate the fact that we have 1 more game this season to enjoy NFL football, because it won't be back until August. Sure, the NBA will get us to June before the dreaded summer sports months, but there's nothing like Sundays with food, beer, and football. It makes you sit and think about all of the things that have to fall in to place throughout the calendar year for a team to still be playing in the month of February.
I can remember early in the offseason when some of the transactions that got us where we are today were taking place. I remember I was sitting on my couch when I found out that we traded for Martellus Bennett, and I was also on my couch when I found out we signed Chris Long. Now that I think about it, I was on my couch for the vast majority of the NFL season anyways so I clearly need to get out more often. The point is, the NFL is a year round sport, and the moves that you make between the start of free agency all the way until that final preseason game will shape what your team is made out of for that season. I really didn't know at the time what Belichick was thinking when he traded Chandler Jones to the Cardinals. Of course I knew it had to do with money at the time, but we also had no one else on our roster that could generate any type of pass rush. But here we are, less than a week away from the Super Bowl, and Bill has us in prime position to take home our fifth Lombardi trophy.
It's been a long road, and it was dope to be able to chronicle it all with OPUS for the first time. Of course the season started with Brady's 4 game suspension, which at this point seems like forever ago. My guys Jimmy G and Jacoby-Wan Kenobi (as I've started to call him) led us to a 3-1 record without TB12 when all the experts thought that we would be a few games behind the AFC East. Then in Cleveland, Tom's "Fuck Roger Goodell" world tour began, and he put together arguably the best season of his career. Aside from the game against Seattle, Brady was mostly stellar and would be bringing home another MVP trophy had he played a full 16 game slate. But it wasn't just Brady; the Pats also had a string of luck on the injury front for the first time in years. I can't tell you how many times we've gone deep into the playoffs only to fall short because of injuries suffered at key positions. I can't sit here and overlook the fact we won't have Gronk on Sunday, but if I were to pick a #2 Tight End to step in his shoes there wouldn't be anyone I would put in front of Martellus Bennett. Speaking of Bennett, I can't think of any other situation on our team where more people said that it wouldn't work out and then it did. Marty, as his teammates call him, has bounced around the league a bit because of his eccentric personality and behavioral issues in the locker room. No one thought he would work out in our "up-tight", "do what you're told" locker room, but that nigga has been singing our praises ever since he stepped foot in Gillette Stadium. Bet you didn't expect to see a Belichick-coached player raising his fist during the national anthem, did you?
Whether you love or hate the Pats, this was a season where you just had to respect them. Didn't matter if Brady missed 4 games, didn't matter if Gronk went to IR, and it certainly didn't matter if we had Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins on defense or not. Bill did a great job constructing this roster dating all the way back to draft night. Each position has the necessary depth and the personnel to deal with any situation. He also did an exceptional job blending young talent with over-the-hill veterans desperate for their first ring. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell, the first talented WR Belichick has drafted in his life will be heading to his first Super Bowl just like 9-year veteran Chris Long is headed to his first as well. But here, it's not enough to just make it; you have to win.
This season will be remembered for a number of different reasons. There's no catch phrase like "We're on the Cincinnati" like there was in 2014, and we're not stuck in the middle of a media circus from some petty controversy. But what I'll remember is Belichick's ruthless trades, Jimmy showing he's a franchise QB, Marty bringing personality to the locker room, 8-0 on the road, and Tom's ability to give a big middle finger to father time. I don't know if we'll win on Sunday, but I do know one thing: we've never had a better opportunity to win the Super Bowl than now. If you told me back in September that we would be playing Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons on the big stage, I would have already bought my ticket for the parade. There are still a ton of questions that need to be sorted out this offseason, like what to do with Jimmy, which free agents we sign, which of our own free agents get big pay days, and much more. But for now, I'm going to appreciate that I've been witnessing greatness for the past 16 years. At the age of 39, Brady knows that this might be the last opportunity to pass Montana and get that fifth ring, and I'm gonna bet that he won't let that opportunity pass by. 2016 was a great season; hopefully it ends that way as well.