The Patriots had no business winning that game and deserve every glorious moment to bask in the afterglow for pulling that off. That said, when the Patriots were unable to score in the first half, yet the defense was playing extraordinarily, I don't think there was a single Patriots fan who thought the team was in trouble. When their first possession of the second half didn't go anywhere, and the Browns retaliated with a score to push the lead, New England collectively shrugged.
But then all hell broke loose.
There goes the season.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 8, 2013
Season is just so painful. So much potential, such terrible luck.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 8, 2013
Gronk went down. Probably a torn ACL. Maybe more. Maybe less. We'll find out tomorrow, but it was the straw that broke the already dead, gutted, and lived-in-by-Bear-Grylls camel's back. Every single person held their breath knowing that once they released the air from their lungs, Gronk's season was in jeopardy and there's nothing anyone could do to help.
Vince Wilfork. Jerod Mayo. Tommy Kelly. Sebastian Vollmer. Now Rob Gronkowski? After missing Shane Vereen, Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Steve Gregory, Marcus Cannon, Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Aaron Dobson for extended time this season?
Terrible luck. And yet, this team is three plays away from being 13-0. They're also six plays away from being 4-9. The Patriots are playing on the razor's edge of fate and continue to fall on the right side of fortune
Pats are going to win this game. Edelman has spoken.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 8, 2013
Which led to the hope. Once Julian Edelman spiked the ball in the end zone after converting Vereen's herculean touchdown drive (three plays, 74 yards, all Vereen), we saw the fight that the Patriots needed. Even if Tom Brady was holding his head in his hands on the sideline, the fight wouldn't leave some of the dogs in this fight. Edelman channeled his inner-Gronk and issued a challenge. Even if Gronk is taken away, the next man will step up and deliver.
Austin Collie is making plays. I repeat. Austin Collie is making plays. Pats on a warpath.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 8, 2013
The very next Patriots drive, Austin Collie made a four yard reception for a crucial third down conversion. I couldn't be the only one with flashbacks of the Saints game. Collie may be entirely overvalued based on his few receptions, but my goodness he answered Edelman's call and he did everything that could have been asked of him to help win the game.
One first down. But it was the team coming together to do it. After Edelman's spike, seven Patriots made crucial plays on offense. Shane Vereen. Stevan Ridley. Matthew Mulligan. Julian Edelman. Josh Boyce. Danny Amendola. Austin Collie.
This is the Cardinals game from last season. Except the Pats are going to win.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 8, 2013
The Patriots couldn't be stopped. Even when they were down, it was clear they weren't going to be stopped. Whether by Brandon Spikes forcing a fumble, or by some unbelievable special teams play, this team was going to win. This team has no quit, and has an indomitable spirit we haven't seen in many, many seasons. Sure, we'd like this team to not put itself in such positions where miracles have to happen, but this is a team that will be granted a stroke of luck and turn that fortune into results.
I love this Pats team. Season has been absurdly unfair, but I absolutely love this team.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 8, 2013
And they won. They fought the odds, the loss, the despair, and they won.
And for those wondering about the flag of pass interference, watch McFadden hitch the shoulder pad of Boyce between the 10 and 5 yard line. Minor, yes. But you can clearly see it affect Boyce as he's pulled back, even for just a second, out of his stride. The ref saw it and called it. There's also the end zone shot that shows Boyce's bicep getting restricted in the end zone, but the ref couldn't have seen that to call it.
Rule Book 8.5.2.a:
Acts that are pass interference include, but are not limited to:
(a) Contact by a player who is not playing the ball that restricts the opponent’s opportunity to make the catch.
Were the Patriots lucky to get that call? It was a coin flip judgment call on a textbook ruling. It's just nice to see that coin flip go the Patriots way in a game-ending situation after the past few calls.