11-5 and no playoff berth - I don't have to remind the Patriots faithful of this painful fact. Even more painful is they didn't make it into the playoffs while NFC and AFC West teams with horrid records DID make it in. I'm split on this. On the one hand, a playoff system that heavily favors winning the division can eliminate better teams like the Patriots. No offense to fans of The Bolts and Cards, but it's just insane that 8-8 and 9-7 records seal the deal. On the other hand, all teams play under the same set of rules and they know what those rules are: to put it succinctly, have a good record, BUT a) have the best record within your division and b) win conference matchups. All 5 of our losses were conference matchups - very expensive when you examine tie breaking rules.
The most important rule of all is this: Record Trumps Everything. Have the best record...PERIOD. 12-4 would've taken the division. Even if 4 of the losses came from division rivals, we STILL would've had the best record. That being said, which loss was the one we could've turned around? The one that could've taken us to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth?
Week 3: Dolphins, 38-13 - We were caught with our pants down. The Wildcat, in the hands of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, was devastating. We had no answer and our LBs and DBs were flatfooted on this one. This was not a winnable game as Miami had too much momentum too early.
Week 6: Chargers, 30-10 - Simply put, the Chargers owned the air with 100+ more yards than NE and 100+ more net yards. They led with 17-3 at the half and we never recovered. With more trips to the redzone and within FG ranges, it was lights out.
Week 9: Colts, 18-15 - IMO, this is some of the best football you'll see. These games are not high scoring, but they're chess matches between 2 of the greatest coaching minds in the game. The margin of error is so small, there's no room for errors. To that point, there were 3 very rare errors: a) a squandered TO claiming there were too many Indy players on the field after the snap; that challenge was lost and so was a timeout, b) on a 4th and 1, BB burns the last timeout to decide whether to go for it or kick a FG. Gostkowski nails it, but we were on the Indy 7 yard line and Hoodie should've run for the yard and a chance at a TD and c) a very expensive 15 yard unnecessary roughness call by David Thomas. Adam V. ultimately nailed a 52 yarder, the first in many years, to put Indy 3 points ahead.
Week 11: Jets, 34-31 - This had to be the most frustrating loss, IMO. By halftime, the score was 24-13. The flew out of the gate and kept the gas pedal to the floor. We managed to outscore them 18-7 in the second half, finishing with a flourish; Randy Moss' circus catch, the result of a perfectly placed pass from on-the-run Matt Cassel, was a highlight reel reception. Unfortunately, we lost the coin toss in OT and NY got the ball. Brett brought them within FG range and...game over. I absolutely despise Pro Football's OT rules for this very reason - there's little to no chance of duking it out on the gridiron. The team that gets the ball first usually wins.
Week 13: Steelers, 33-10 - The number one defense in the league simply pounded NE, no 2 ways about it. Our third down efficiency was the worst I've ever seen it, converting only 1 out of 13 attempts. Redzone efficiency? 1 in 4. This was gonna be a low scoring game on our side, so the only option was a strong defense and that didn't happen. Couple that with the fact that Big Ben decided to play well and there's not much you can do.