All the plays and calls Patriots fans are regretting
The New England Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos 20-18 in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday in what was a heartbreaking defeat. The team battled back improbably and scored a touchdown in the final 20 seconds to give themselves a shot at sending the contest to overtime, only to have the comeback fall short on a failed two-point conversion.
Between some defensive lapses, questionable calls by Bill Belichick, and a simple missed kick, the Patriots did some things that will have their fans frustrated for weeks.
Here is a look at many of the plays and calls by the Patriots that have their fans feeling regretful.
Peyton Manning’s clutch scramble
At one point in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were their respective team’s leading rushers. Manning picked up his big gain in the third quarter on a 3rd-and-10 play from the Denver 20. Seeing Manning scramble to pick up that first down was downright embarrassing for the Patriots, as Manning is not known for his rushing abilities. Although the play did not lead to any points, it was a big difference-maker in terms of field position. Had the Patriots stopped Manning, Denver would have punted from around the 20. Instead, they took it all the way to the Patriots 46 before being stopped and punting. The good field position eventually led to a Denver field goal a few possessions later. That Manning scramble helped trigger it.
4th-and-1 decision and play call
Down 20-12 with 10:02 left in the game, the Patriots drove to the Denver 16. They had a 4th-and-1 with 6:01 left and were facing a decision: try to convert or kick the field goal. Had they kicked, they still would have needed a touchdown, not a field goal, in order to take the lead. So Bill Belichick decided to go for it in hopes of having a shot of tying the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Not only was the decision to go for it questionable (their touchdown later in the game would have won it), but the play call was also a head-scratcher.
Tom Brady is one of the most effective quarterbacks on the sneak, yet the Pats called for a fake handoff. The Broncos were swarming and stuffed them. Based on how well Denver’s defense was playing, the Pats should have taken the points and hoped for a touchdown later.
Referees miss Aqib Talib’s holding
On their very next possession, the Patriots once again drove down the field into the red zone. They had a 4th-and-6 at the Denver 14 with 2:25 left, trailing 20-12. Tom Brady was under pressure and threw to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. Gronk was in triple coverage and would have had a tough task making the catch, but what didn’t help was that Aqib Talib was holding him. You can watch that play here. A pass interference call would have given the Pats the ball on the 1-yard line with a fresh set of downs. They still would have needed to score and convert the 2-pointer, but they would have been in much better shape.
Tom Brady missing Rob Gronkowski on the 2-point conversion
Brady was under fire from Denver’s defense the entire game, so it was no surprise they pressured him on the 2-point conversion that essentially decided the contest with 12 seconds left. But Brady may have missed his best chance at a conversion by throwing to Julian Edelman instead of the sure-handed Gronk.
A close look shows Gronk broke free for a moment:
Gronk was wide open on the 2-pt try. Brady looked him off: pic.twitter.com/VCXheI6v24
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) January 24, 2016
Is there any doubt that Gronk would have caught it? Hardly. The guy is money.
Stephen Gostkowski’s missed extra point
Gostkowski is one of the best kickers in the NFL. He had only missed one extra point in his entire career prior to Sunday, and that was during his rookie season in 2006. Yet he blew it after the Pats’ first touchdown of the game, and that was critical. The Patriots wouldn’t have had to go for two at the end of the game had Gostkowski not missed the extra point. He has already taken all the blame for the mistake. It’s a real shame that Gostkowski missed such a big field goal because he’s been one of the Pats’ best players.