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Five positives to take away from Sunday night's loss to the San Fancisco 49ers.
So you know how arrogant, smug, obnoxious, and self-righteous we all were this time last week after taking apart a very good Houston Texans team? Remember how good that felt?
Karma's a bitch, ain't it?
In a week that was supposed to represent an entire slate of great games all across the NFL, what actually happened were a bunch of lopsided games that were all pretty much over by halftime. And up until about halfway into the 3rd quarter, I was all set to lump the New England Patriots in there with all those teams who were supposed to bring it but didn't. The 49ers came into Gillette Stadium and imposed their will on the Patriots for the bulk of that game; while Tommy B finally found his rhythm late, it simply wasn't enough and the 49ers were able to pull out the victory. With Denver all but guaranteed to win out and Houston just one win away from clinching homefield advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs, it looks like New England is going to be entering the postseason as the 3 seed.
But, in the grand scheme of things, this loss isn't all that bad. If we all take a step back and look at the grand scheme of things, all is still well in Bradyland.
Still in the playoffs. While the Patriots are no longer in control of their own destiny in regards to securing a 1st round bye, they are still guaranteed to host a playoff game in January. This wasn't one of those games that put a huge damper on our postseason chances or left the team in a huge hole heading into the final two weeks of the season, which is more than we can say about most of the NFL. While it would certainly be nice to lock up at least a 2 seed -and who knows, maybe Peyton Manning will get into playoff mode a little early this year and drop a game next week against the Browns - at the end of the day the Patriots are still in the postseason and remain one of the biggest powerhouses in the AFC
The Patriots aren't invincible. And that's a good thing. This game was a harsh reminder that the Pats are not the best team in the National Football League, and no coach will be hammering that fact home harder than Bill Belichick. I'm sure New England was riding high after dominating the Houston Texans last week, and this was a game to bring the team back down to Earth. The Patriots got flat out outplayed for 75% of the game on Sunday and have a lot of work to do if they want to go deep in the playoffs. Luckily, there is still some time to figure out what went wrong here and (hopefully) make the adjustments necessary so as not to get embarrassed like this again. Turning the ball over 4 times is almost always going to be a recipe for disaster (just ask Mark Sanchez), and I'd like to think that New England decided to cash in all of the fumbles and interceptions that they were saving for the rest of the year on Sunday night.
Non-conference loss. I've said that quite a bit this season, haven't I? With the exception of the Rams, the Patriots have gotten pretty much handled by the NFC West. And while it doesn't really matter all that much at this point, once again this loss won't really factor into any complicated tiebreaker scenarios. So on the off chance that there is a two or three way tie for a bye, this game won't be in the conversation in regards to who comes out on top.
Highly unique defense. While this particular point won't do the team much good should they meet the 49ers in the Super Bowl, it's definitely heartening to know that New England won't be facing a defense like San Francisco's throughout the AFC Playoffs. Denver can certainly bring it, but I think that the Niners are just on a different level than any other team in the league. Granted, they played out of their minds on Sunday night, but regardless, this is the kind of defense the Patriots won't be facing for some time, if at all, for the 2012 season. We knew that the 49ers were going to score, which they did; but New England simply couldn't get anything going offensively until midway through the third quarter, and we all know that the offense is the unit that is going to carry this team. On the plus side (and I can already hear the Niners fans pointing to Justin Smith's injury and a switch in defensive philosophy late), Tom Brady eventually figured out how to attack the defense and was able to respond with 28 unanswered points to tie the game late. Should these two teams meet again, it will be a very, very different game.
Our big problem is that our football team lost. I touched on this yesterday, but it's absolutely worth mentioning again. How can we really get that upset about Sunday's loss in light of what happened last week? Who are we to be sulking over the AFC East Champion Patriots dropping to 10-4 on the season? How many teams in the NFL would love to be in our position right now? Let's all be extremely thankful that a football game that didn't even cost the Patriots a playoff berth (sorry, Jets fans) comprises a major part of the reason that we're all in a bad mood this week and make a concerted effort to keep things in perspective.