The League

Sean McCann
Beat Writer

Sean McCann

Former Philadelphia Eagles beat writer for Gannett

Giants killed it

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The Brady/Belichick Patriots' run lasted seven years. It included three Lombardi Trophies, four AFC Championships, five appearances in the AFC title game, six postseason berths and the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history. It ended two years ago in the Super Bowl, when New England fell short of 19-0, and -- for the first time on a stage of any magnitude -- the other team got all the breaks when it mattered most.

Considering the difficulty most teams have in merely reaching a Super Bowl, it's ironic that playing in one but not winning it can have had such a shattering effect on a team's grip on dominance. But the evidence is incontrovertible. Bill Walsh never lost a Super Bowl. Neither did his quarterback, Joe Montana. Nor did Chuck Noll or Terry Bradshaw or even Troy Aikman. Vince Lombardi lost his first NFL championship game -- to the Eagles in 1960 -- and never lost a playoff game again.

Perhaps Belichick, Brady and the Pats overreached in going for 19-0, but the spell undoubtedly was broken that February night in Arizona.

Since then, fortune has resided elsewhere. Brady and Belichick -- untouchable at pivotal moments once upon a time -- have turned from gods to goats, a fact never better evidenced than this past Sunday as they teamed to choke away a big lead against a mediocre Dolphins team. The Patriots of a few years ago would have forced Peyton Manning and the Colts into the embarrassing late-game error, not the other way around. They might have lost to the Saints, but to be outclassed to such a degree used to be unthinkable.

The next question: what now?

Both Belichick and Brady are young enough to offer a third act, but commonsense says their eggshell of invincibility is cracked and cannot be saved. No quarterback or head coach has ever reached such a level of excellence as the Patriots did, lost it, and then found it again. Only that feat will restore Bill and Tom to the "best ever" status they once touched.

By Sean McCann  |  December 7, 2009; 12:30 PM ET  | Category:  New England Patriots Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Middling Pats | Next: Age of dynasty dead

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