In spite of heartbreak, a dynasty still reigns

Much like triumph, heartbreak is part of a dynasty.

Even when a team is on top, you’re going to experience the lowest of the lows. It goes with the territory.

On Sunday night, a lot of heartbreak was resonating from Madawaska, Maine, to Stamford, Connecticut, after the New England Patriots’ bid for a fifth Super Bowl ended with a 20-18 defeat to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game.

Even though the Patriots were favored, Patriot Nation was apprehensive, as Tom Brady’s record against Denver is the worst against any team. After Sunday, he is now 2-7 in the Mile High City. Those two wins came with Danny Kannel and Tim Tebow quarterbacking the Broncos. Those quarterbacks aren’t world-beaters.

Patriots Nation certainly had a right to be depressed on Sunday night. Winning the franchise’s fifth championship in Super Bowl 50 would have been the ultimate coronation. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell having to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Brady 10 months after wrongly suspending him would’ve brought pure joy to New England.

In spite of Sunday’s loss, we’ve got to remember that the Patriots have been one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports, and possibly the greatest in the history of professional football.

Like a lot of kids my age, I grew up on the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty of the 1990’s. Lord knows my grandmother bought me a lot of Bulls gear throughout my childhood. But after the team’s sixth championship in 1998, broadcaster Bob Costas noted we may never see a dynasty like that again, given the changing culture of sports.

But the two constants on that Bulls’ dynasty were coach Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan. Brady and Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick are this generation’s Jackson and Jordan. The Patriots have resonated and brought joy to New Englanders the way the Pittsburgh Steelers did in the 1970’s and the San Francisco 49ers did in the 1980’s.

The fact that we’re in an era of free agency where players are constantly hopping between franchises in search of the next huge contract – yes, I’m talking about you, Darrelle Revis – makes the Patriots’ dynasty all the more impressive and inspirational. Since Brady became the starter in 2001, the Patriots have only missed the playoffs twice. Both occasions, they lost the division on tiebreakers, and in one case, Brady missed 15 games with a knee injury.

In the midst of this dynasty, the Patriots have overcome controversy and heartbreak. There was the 2006 AFC Championship in Indianapolis, where a 21-3 lead was lost and my grandfather passed away less than 24 hours after Marlon Jackson picked off Brady to finish that game. There was Spygate and Deflategate. The Patriots overcame both of those instances to win one Super Bowl and came a lucky catch away from finishing off a perfect season. A backup quarterback nearly got the team into the playoffs in 2008 after Brady’s injury. They’ve won Super Bowls with wide receivers playing in the secondary.

One day, the earth will stand still throughout New England and Brady and Belichick will walk away. For a lot of Patriots fans, it’ll be much like when the Bulls’ dynasty was broken up, and Michael Jordan retired for the second time. We’ll be seeing a New England icon in Red Sox hero David Ortiz take the field for the final time this summer. It goes to show that memories, even great ones, don’t last forever.

Patriots fans should enjoy the remainder of the Brady-Belichick era. It has truly been one to remember, and who would’ve thunk it would’ve started with a hard hit on Drew Bledsoe by Mo Lewis of the New York Jets 15 years ago. In spite of Sunday’s loss to Denver, the Patriots are set up to continue contending for years to come. While Brady and Belichick are the keys that make the engine run, the team has skill players such as Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola in the system. Cornerback Malcom Butler didn’t let his Super Bowl-saving interception go to his head, and had a Pro Bowl season. The team’s linebacking core is arguably the best in the NFL. If the Patriots could nab a skill position player in the draft – this Notre Dame fan would love to see Will Fuller in red, white and blue – and give Brady more weapons, they’ll be the clear favorites next season.

In the meantime, Patriots Nation will all get through the heartbreak together. And we’ll remember that this dynasty is alive and well.

We’re on to pitchers and catchers.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.