In 2008, David Tyree’s ‘helmet catch’ ended the New England Patriot’s perfect season and became one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history. In 2015, it looked as though Jermaine Kearse was about to better Tyree.
The Seahawks’ receiver made a frankly ridiculous bobbled catch at the sideline with less than a minute to spare, to get his team within five yards of the endzone, and a go-ahead, likely game-winning touchdown. But unlike 2008, the Patriots stepped up and picked off Russell Wilson to end the game, and earn the franchise’s fourth Lombardi Trophy, cementing the Hall of Fame legacy of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Yet now, with some key players set to hit free agency and the age of their 2015 offense already being questioned, where next for New England?
Well, simply put, they look to have no plans that need changing. Tom Brady is a supremely talented athlete, and looks set to play on for a few seasons to come, whilst Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, the backbone of this season’s offense, will definitely return. The offensive lineman set to depart is veteran G Dan Connolly, who was made to look like an amateur on numerous occasions when going up against Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin in the Super Bowl.
Having said that, it is on the defense where the biggest losses may occur. Darrelle Revis is set to earn a lot of money in 2015, and it is tough to see the Patriots paying him, and S Devin McCourty will be a big hole to fill assuming he signs elsewhere.
Of course, Patriot fans will be confident that, as usual, Belichick and co will draft well and fill needs, but with the punishment from ‘Deflate-gate’ still hanging over their heads, it is likely the team will lose one or more draft picks, which will certainly hit them hard, despite owning the Buccaneers’ early fourth round selection.
Looking past the off-season, it isn’t just in roster building that the Patriots will have some worries. With new regimes in Buffalo and New York, it may be time that the AFC East finally provides some serious competition to the utterly dominant Foxborough franchise. Although the Jets may not be set for a run at a division title in 2015, they are bound to be more competitive than their 2014 effort, as should Miami, who will be excited about the positive play of Ryan Tannehill down the stretch.
Yet, the biggest inter-division storyline next season may well come from the much-written about coaching matchup of Belichick and former Jets HC, and current Bills HC, Rex Ryan. The gregarious defensive mastermind is set to inherit a talented roster in upstate New York, and the Bills are perhaps only a QB away from mounting a serious challenge to New England.
With all of that in mind, you come back to remembering that the Patriots are still run by the greatest coach in recent NFL history, if not of all time. They still have Tom Brady under center. They still have the greatest TE in NFL history, and all of that is supported by a talented front seven, in which Jamie Collins is quickly becoming a league-recognised star.
The Patriots’ schedule has them slated against the AFC South, easily the weakest division in the league in 2014, and the NFC East which, whilst competitive at the end of this past season, won’t fill New England with dread.
A Super Bowl defence is a tall order in 2015, and it is tough to back the Patriots at this point, but it is always tough to write them off, and this coming season will prove to be no different.