Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 2/7/12

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
In a serious attempt to put these cringing emotions aside, here are the post-game grades for the New England Patriots.

1. Bill Belichick, Head Coach - Bill Belichick is still one of the best coaches to ever coach in the NFL, let's get that straight right now. However, that doesn't mean he's the best coach every Sunday. On this particular holy day, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was more prepared and better advised. His gameplan was better. His motivation was better. His attitude was better. Belichick, in contrast, didn't have his usual precise, expert-like game plan that we're used to seeing. Overall, the team came out sloppy and lousy. They looked like they had been hibernating for weeks. Belichick did not do his best job getting this young team ready for the big game, period. Defensively, Belichick did a respectable job: They slowed down Victor Cruz, but Hakeem Nicks was still a factor. Brandon Jacobs was essentially a non-factor, but Bradshaw pulled off some key scampers. Eli Manning still completed 75 percent of his passes - yet the Patriots defense only allowed 13 offensive points before the final drive. In sum, it was respectable. Offensively, the Patriots struck a decent balance between run and pass. But with the run game struggling, they needed to throw more. However, Brady and company made errors on their own time. In other words, there was nothing the coaches could do but watch their players perform. Therefore, no one can honestly blame Belichick. At the same time, some blame does have to go to him because of their lack of motivation and sluggish first half. It wasn't Belichick's worst game, but it certainly wasn't his best. Grade: B-

2. Tom Brady, Quarterback - Tom Brady came out firing in the first half, looking smooth and confident. He hit most of his targets, completing 15 of 18 attempts for 147 yards, 1 touchdown, and a 119.2 quarterback rating...but talk about a tale of two halves. Brady was on-target again in the first drive following Madonna's halftime show, resulting in a touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez. In my opinion, I thought he loooked poised and primed for a huge 2nd half. However, that was not the case. Brady missed numerous passes after this first drive, including some imperative mishaps in the 4th quarter. Brady threw a questionable pass that was intercepted by linebacker Chase Blackburn. He threw a decent pass to wide receiver Wes Welker, but he dropped it (which we will get to, unfortunately, later). His other errant passes included key throws to wide receiver Deion Branch and tight end Aaron Hernandez. All of the sudden, Brady looked like a chump. It wasn't the Brady we were used to seeing. Granted, his receivers and tight ends dropped some catchable balls; but he wasn't putting them in perfect spots either. Unlike Eli Manning's perfect pass to Mario Manningham, Brady couldn't replicate the success. In a game where fingers can be pointed at almost anyone, Brady will take a large brunt of the burden - considering how he played so well early on, only to choke later. Grade: C+

3. Danny Woodhead/BenJarvus Green-Ellis , Running Backs - The "Law Firm" (10 carries, 44 yards) and Woodhead (7 carries, 18 yards) did not have good games on the ground. They couldn't find much running room. The offensive line wasn't getting enough of a push. Ultimately, they failed to establish the run game. In turn, this inhibited the passing game. Woodhead was productive catching the ball, however. He finished with 4 catches for 42 yards and 1 touchdown (at the end of the 1st half). Other than that, the running backs were average at best. Grade: C

4. Wes Welker, Wide Receiver - Where to begin? I'll start with this: Before the excruciating dropped pass (heard around the world), Welker was doing his usual thing. He recorded 7 receptions for 60 yards. He was finding holes in the defense. It was typical Wes Welker, for the most part. However, his cardiac arrest-inducing drop late in the 4th quarter prevented the Patriots from ending the game and winning their 4th Super Bowl in 12 years. Thus, I'll end with this: Brady's pass wasn't perfect by any means, but Welker still makes that catch 99 times out of 100 times. He even said, "I make that catch 1,000 times in practice." It was a freak thing, a rare miss, an uncharacteristic display. With that being said, Welker dropped the ball (literally), and because of that, the Giants and Eli Manning were given another chance to march down the field and score. And what did they do? Oh, just that. Grade: D

5. Rob Gronkowski, Tight End - Gronk was not 100 percent. Clearly. Obviously. He had a limp, he wasn't a force, and he wasn't a factor. Many times Gronk was used as a decoy for fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez. Gronk would take safeties Antrel Rolle or Kenny Phillips away from the play, leaving Hernandez as the top target for Brady. Because he was still badly hurt, Gronk displayed some serious courage and toughness. At the same time, missing a healthy Gronk was a massive blow to the Patriots' gameplan. As a result, the entire offense suffered miserably. If Gronk was healthy, this game is different. Grade: N/A

6. Aaron Hernandez,  Tight End - Aaron Hernandez was one of the better players on the field Sunday night. He ended the game with 8 receptions, 67 yards, and 1 touchdown (opening drive of the 3rd quarter). He was targeted a team-high 14 times, but dropped a crucial pass in the game's final drive. In terms of his new role, Hernandez did all he could to try and fill the void left by the injured Rob Gronkowski. Grade: B+

1. Vince Wilfork, Defensive Tackle - Big Vince Wilfork has been a beast in the 2012 NFL Playoffs. He was an animal versus the Denver Broncos, and a one-man show versus the Baltimore Ravens. He singlehandedly dominated the AFC Championship. This game, however, was a different story. Big Wilfork struggled to maintain that high level of play that we've seen the past few weeks. More time than not, Wilfork struggled to hold his ground against a decent offensive line, especially All-Pro RG Chris Snee, who proved why he's one of the best in the game at his position. He didn't play bad by any means, but he wasn't the force we're used to seeing. He also missed a few tackles. Grade: C+

2. Mark Anderson, Defensive End - There's nothing but goodness coming from this man. He was the best player on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. He did everything he could to win this game for his team. He consistently applied pressure from both ends, recording 1.5 sacks and 5 total tackles. There was honestly nothing more he could do, considering he is the only true source of pressure on the Patriots roster. They didn't have Pro Bowl defensive end Andre Carter as well. Props to Anderson for playing his heart out.  Grade: A

3. Jerod Mayo, Outside Linebacker - Similar to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo is a leader and an All-Pro. Most of the time, Mayo is a dominant force in the middle of the field. He can blitz, cover, and pursue. He's an all-purpose linebacker. Throughout these playoffs, however, Mayo has struggled at times. Mayo is usually a consistent player, so it's been perplexing trying to figure out why Mayo has been inconsistent these playoffs. What's more, though, is that this trend continued into Super Bowl XLVI. Mayo may have did a good job overall - he recorded a 11 tackles (a team-high along with Brandon Spikes) - but the numbers can lie. I witnessed Mayo getting crushed on a few blocks, creating ample holes and running room for Bradshaw and Jacobs. He missed a couple of open-field tackles. All in all, it was his partner, Brandon Spikes, who covered for him at the proper times. In a game where the Patriots needed his best, they didn't quite get it.
Grade: B

4. Brandon Spikes, Middle Linebacker - Brandon Spikes was the second-best player on the Patriots roster in Super Bowl XLVI. He was the only player to come out and play from the get-go. Everyone else seemed to be sleeping or daydreaming. Spikes was active, motivated, and all over the field. He led the team with 11 tackles, and also forced a fumble. His incredible post-season play was on display again on Sunday, and he continued to impress me, as well as many other fans around the world. In sum, Spikes is making a name for himself, quickly, as a tackling machine and a big hitter. Not only can he tackle, however, but he also has the apparent ability to blitz the quarterback and roam the short middle. His fantastic post-season has earned him praise from myself and media alike.
Grade: A-

5. Kyle Arrington, Cornerback - Another positive sign from above: The NFL leader in interceptions this regular season with 7, Kyle Arrington shut down dangerous wide receiver Victor Cruz for most of the game. Cruz finished with a lackluster 4 receptions, 25 yards, and 1 touchdown (which essentially wasn't his fault). Arrington performed more than adequately in the slot, and he was, hands-down, the best player in the Patriots secondary. He was also a presence in run support, offering some big licks and secure tackles, particularly on running back Ahmad Bradshaw in the early first quarter. Grade: B+

6. Patrick Chung, Safety - Let's face it: Patrick Chung will never be an elite cover safety. His primary asset is in the run game, evidenced by his fast closing speed and big hits. However, Chung didn't get beat deep last night (like we've seen many times before). Instead, Chung played solidly, soundly, and with discipline. His best play of the game was a monster stick on wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Nicks was just about to catch the ball along the sideline when Chung sprinted from across the field and rocked the ball out of Nicks' hands. Nicks was visibly shaken up, but who wouldn't be after a hit like that? In total, Chung finished with 6 tackles and 1 pass break-up. Grade: B

Miscellaneous:

Halftime Show - B+
Commercials - B
Atmosphere - B
Trauma, Anger, and Sadness - A+

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