Stephen Gostkowski missed the game winning field goal, but the Patriots never deserved to win the game anyway
The mood at our table at Buffalo Wing University in Fairfax, Virginia could only be described as “tense”. After numerous missed opportunities including dropped balls, failures by eligible receivers to get open down the field and missed blocks all along the offensive line, the New England Patriots were clearly a team that didn’t deserve to win the football game. No matter how well the defense was playing – and they were playing well – the offense was miserable, failing to put together any long sustained drive throughout the entirety of the game. Too my left, my buddy Ryan looked about as interested in the game as I am in seeing a New York team win the championship. Across from him, his brother Sean looked as if he was ready to chug the entirety of the full pitcher of beer that we had left. The game wasn’t a pretty sight and it was quickly becoming one of “those games”, games that over the Belichick era the Patriots simply didn’t deserve to win the game.
The thing about “those games” is that Belichick’s Patriots have had an uncanny ability of pulling these games straight out of their ass and winning these games. Even despite all their problems and inefficiencies throughout these games, the Patriots always seem to make one big play more than the other team and win the game. The Patriots had their opportunity to make that one big play more. All they needed was a defensive stop to give Tom Brady and the offense time enough to drive down the field and win the game. Then Ryan Williams ran for thirteen yards and the game was over.
Ryan Williams then fumbled inexplicably, Vince Wilfork recovered the ball and the game was back on. Down by two points and with the ball in field-goal range and the most accurate kicker in Patriots’ history warming up on the sideline, it seemed almost certain the New England Patriots were about to pull another one of “those games” out of their collective asses and leave the Gillette Stadium crowd going home having lost three years of their life to heart problems, but ultimately happy.
Football has a very peculiar way of working, however. I’m a superstitious person, I believe in the sports gods and I believe that teams that deserve to win a game usually do. In the past with these types of Patriots’ games, I always believed that the Patriots deserved to win these games because they had Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and that was the ultimate trump card. When the Patriots took the ball at the Arizona 30 and had a chance to win, it didn’t feel that way. If this was a road game and I was in attendance, this would have been a win I would have sprinted out of the stadium after out of fear of having things thrown in my general direction. The Patriots at no point looked like the better team in this game. They lost in two of the three phases of the game, offense and special teams with only their defense preventing it from being a complete blow-out. When Danny Woodhead’s 30 yard touchdown scamper was erased by a holding penalty against Rob Gronkowski, it was simply the football gods telling Patriots’ fans “You are not winning this football game. You don’t deserve it”.
Simply, the Patriots didn’t. Three times on the day they had to settle for a field goal of 45 yards or more because the offense stalled as soon as they crossed the fifty. When the Patriots needed a first down, either they failed to get push up front or Brady was forced to take a coverage sack. Stevan Ridley was effective at picking up yards on first and second down, but the second the down marker flipped to three, he forgot how to lower his shoulder and pick up the tough yardage. The Patriots gave up a blocked punt, leaving the Cardinals in position for the touchdown that ultimately became a back-breaker for the Patriots. The Patriots played terribly and despite the fact that Stephen Gostkowski had made four field-goals on the day and was dead center for his fifth, the mystical sports gods knew the Cardinals had done more to deserve to win the game. Gostkowski’s miss was laughably predictable, a reminder that if a team plays well enough it should never come down to the kicker scoring almost all of a teams points to win.
Hopefully, the Patriots take this as a turning point very early in the season. This could be the point when the youngest team of the Belichick era realizes that each week they have to play to the best of their abilities or they will go home losers.
This past Sunday, however, the Patriots simply lost a game they never deserved to win.