By Gavin Davis, columnist
As I journeyed from class to class on a brisk Monday afternoon, the cloud-covered, gloom-projecting sky fully represented the hollow feeling of football fallout on Northeastern’s campus and in all of Boston, following the New England Patriots’ heart-wrenching loss at the hands of conference rival Denver Broncos.
The Sunday-night primetime matchup was quite the thrill ride. Despite New England controlling a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Broncos battled back. Denver, led by its young backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, made a series of great plays on the ground and through the air to overcome the deficit and force overtime. Ultimately, Osweiler and Co. were able to vanquish New England’s chance at victory thanks to a 48-yard touchdown run from running back C.J. Anderson in overtime.
Let me be clear. The game was far from fair and square from the standpoint of this born and bred Patriots supporter. A series of offensive pass interference calls killed Tom Brady and New England’s momentum in the second half.
There was also an issue with the clock resetting, giving the Pats less time than a full game clock would have allowed. I, myself, even resorted to retweeting some of the hottest of takes from ESPN’s Skip Bayless in sheer frustration, something that took me to an all-time low.
The Patriots continued to be plagued by injuries to crucial core components, this week losing tight end Rob Gronkowski to a knee injury late in the fourth quarter. Despite these circumstances that many Patriots supporters are calling unjust, New England and its fan base can breathe out a sigh of relief, as the ghost of the Patriots’ nearly undefeated season has faded from Foxboro.
Through the first 10 games of the Pats’ 2015 season, the primary focus of major sports publications was whether this team was capable of recreating a perfect season, a feat the team came a game away from completing eight years ago. Many players from that 18-1 team, including Patriots Hall-of-Fame linebacker Tedy Bruschi, felt the burden of remaining completely unbeaten.
“I know what it’s like to play when it feels like there’s a gorilla on your back,” said Bruschi in an interview on ESPN. “[All that] pressure, when you’re [undefeated].”
Bruschi is right on the money. Instead of focusing on being the best possible football team New England was capable of, it put itself in a mode of obsessive desperation to keep the streak alive. After each win on the quest for an unbeaten season, there is less of a feeling of victory and more of a feeling of relief that the Patriots were able to escape without a loss. No losses means few opportunities to look at the mistakes made. The entire focus shifts to maintaining the perfect season, not how the team as a whole can improve upon what contributed to a loss or two in the regular season. As a team with no losses, the Patriots would have fallen victim to the false sense of invincibility.
We as Patriots fans, with all the success this team has enjoyed throughout the 21st century, have grown a bit spoiled. Pats fans demand the best because they are accustomed to it, and any sign of mediocrity is met with sharp critique. A high bar should be set for Tom Brady and the Patriots, but not one that will unravel the defending Super Bowl Champions in the process.
– Gavin Davis can be reached at Sports@HuntNewsNU.com.