After only one game, the New England Patriots’ 2019 playoff run is over. While the team looked comparatively good early on against the Tennessee Titans, it eventually was unable to make enough plays to come away victoriously and thus fell with a final score of 20-13 — for the first time since 2010 ending a season before reaching the AFC Championship Game. Along the way, we saw some good and some bad but ultimately only on thing holds true.
The Patriots will finish as one of the 31 to not capture the Super Bowl this year.
We can therefore categorize all 53 players on the team’s active roster as losers for the purpose of this article — and that’s not it. We also need to point out the eight practice squad players as well as the 13 men who ended the year on injury-related reserve lists but would still have gotten Super Bowl rings however small or big their contributions to the 2019 Patriots were if the team had won a championship in the end.
And that is still not all the losers: there is also the coaching staff, ownership, the personnel and scouting departments, the equipment crew and those working in all the other behind-the-scenes jobs. All in all, were are speaking of 109 additional people (according to the Patriots media guide) who saw the 2019 season come to a disappointing end. Together with the players mentioned above, we therefore get 183 who wake up as losers today.
Of course, you probably also expect the usual recognition of the game’s performers. So here is the list similar to the ones that get published after every game:
Loser: The run defense
The Patriots entered the game trying to eliminate the big play passing potential of Tennessee’s offense, and the plan worked well: the team gained only 71 net passing yards as New England also registered an interception. However, investing in this area of the field left the run defense exposed and the Titans took advantage with Derrick Henry leading the way. The NFL’s number one rusher during the regular season finished with 182 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. The Patriots were able to limit his production in the second half, but he still made enough place to burn considerable time off the clock and help his team control the tempo of the contest.
Loser: SS Terrence Brooks
After missing the regular season final due to a groin injury, Terrence Brooks returned and quickly was inserted into a big role after starting strong safety hurt his ankle on the game’s opening drive. Brooks immediately gave up a touchdown on his first play and it would not remain the only negative moment for the first-year Patriot, who overall had a solid season as the team’s fourth safety. In the late fourth quarter, Brooks also allowed Titans tight end Anthony Firkser to catch an 11-yard pass on third-and-eight to keep their final drive going and use more time.
Winner: TE Benjamin Watson
The Patriots’ tight end position was a disappointment in 2019, but Benjamin Watson still ended the year — and possibly his season — with a solid performance. The veteran caught three passes for 38 yards and saw another 38-yard reception negated by an offensive penalty. Watson may not have stood out as a consistent receiving option, but the game as a whole would have been a step in the right direction after some disappointing regular season performances.
Loser: The wide receivers
Tom Brady finished the game with 20 pass completions but only seven of them went to a wide receiver group that once again failed to consistently win its one-on-ones and give the quarterback reliable targets. Julian Edelman was the best of the bunch by catching three passes for 30 yards, but he also had a costly drop on a potential lead-changing drive in the fourth quarter. Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett and N’Keal Harry, meanwhile, failed to do anything significant with their opportunities.
Loser: OG Shaq Mason
With the exception of the Patriots’ unsuccessful goal-line series in the second quarter, the blocking up front was solid for much of the night in both the passing and running game. However, there still were some errors and none was bigger than Shaq Mason’s ineligible-man-downfield penalty that wiped out the 38-yard reception by Benjamin Watson mentioned above in the third quarter. The veteran, who otherwise had a solid game, just completely lost track of where he was on the game an it turned a potential lead-changing drive — the pass would have set the Patriots up at the Titans 25-yard line down one point — into a punt.
Loser: P Jake Bailey
Jake Bailey has been a solid addition to the Patriots’ kicking game operation this season. The fifth-round draft pick did not just punt the ball very well and show tremendous hang-time and placement skills, he also took over kickoff duties after Stephen Gostkowski went on season-ending injured reserve in early October. Against the Titans, however, the rookie disappointed: Bailey averaged just 38 yards per punt and saw two of his kicks sail into the end zone. A disappointing ending to an otherwise strong season.
Winner: CB Stephon Gilmore
After struggling against the Miami Dolphins’ DeVante Parker last week, Stephon Gilmore bounced back nicely against the Titans’ talented A.J. Brown. The rookie caught just one four-yard pass all day — against off-man coverage — and was a non-factor thanks to the Patriots’ number one cornerback. Gilmore briefly had to leave the game in the fourth quarter after a collision, but he eventually returned. Unfortunately, his efforts were not enough to save New England’s season.