New England Patriots

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 16: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots runs off the field at the conclusion of a 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots runs off the field at the conclusion of a 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Look, it’s hard to feel good about the Patriots after their loss to the Steelers. They’re in a relatively unfamiliar spot, having to play on Wild Card weekend. Oh, the humanity. They’re 9-5. What a disaster.

Predictably, it’s led to the latest offensive from the long-standing Anti-Patriots militia. These jackals have been polishing their steel-toed boots for at least a decade now, waiting for their chances to dance & stomp on the graves of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick dynasty for good.

It seems as though they’re using this latest loss as a new opportunity.

It’s been a while since the grave-dance was this hoppin’. Maybe the 2014 loss to the Chiefs (“They’re not good anymore!”) was the last time the anti-Pats air was this intoxicating. And yes, there are holes to poke in this team that you’re not used to poking. The penalties. The poor run defense. The fact that they likely have to play a road game in the playoffs. The horror!

But this is the end? With apologies to my colleague Matt McCarthy, I’m not going there yet. I will not accept the end, my good sir!

Not that McCarthy falls in the same category as the grave-dancers. He’s speaking from the heart, from the eyes of a fan who’s not used to seeing a Belichick-coached team make so many uncharacteristic mistakes. Or Tom Brady to do the same. Or Rob Gronkowski not playing with the same force as he has his whole career. It’s not an unreasonable feeling to have at this point in an uneven season filled with un-Patriot-like moments. McCarthy isn’t celebrating but mourning.

It’s just treacherous waters to wade into when you’re straight-up declaring the end. At this point it’s a swampy mess filled with rotting corpses. It stinks in there. Now, some of the nation’s most prominent voices seem all too eager to just trudge right in.

Max “Cliff” Kellerman – obviously. He’s spent so much time walking back his “bum in short order” take from before the 2016 season that he’s ended up right back at the start of it. Now his take is basically that Brady isn’t an MVP candidate this season. You mean a 41-year-old who’s had ups and downs with an off year for talent around him isn’t the very best in the league this year? You don’t say!

Rob Parker. How brave of this man to stand behind Father Time. What, he’s going to bet on the one thing that defeats all humans? What courage.

Dan Shaughnessy. Give him this, the man knows how to strike a chord. He was talking about tomato cans mere weeks ago, now he’s wondering if we’ve reached the expiration date on the dynasty.

Rex Ryan? Good lord, make it stop.

Are these people really going to have their “I told you so!” moment when the end really, truly comes? They can’t have it at this point. It’s become such a trite take that it’s lost all its meaning and it’ll have no meaning when the dynasty truly is over. It’s The Boy Who Cried Cliff.

You know what … I’m not declaring the end until we see, say, 8-8. Or 6-10, or 3-13. And even then, how can you possibly say with certainty that Bill Belichick won’t find his Steve Young, or that Robert Kraft won’t find his George Seifert? How can you definitively say the rebuild will last years, or decades, like it has in other cities?

Let’s even keep it to this season. You may remember the transition from 2009 to 2010, when Belichick overturned a toxic, undisciplined squad to quickly reemerge as an NFL superpower. The Patriots had a very disappointing end to the 2010 season as well, but they reestablished themselves as the team to get through to make the Super Bowl. Who’s to say there won’t be that kind of positive turnover in 2019?

If social media were around in 1990, there would’ve been plenty of Parkers and Kellermans celebrating the decline of the Niners’ incredible run. Joe Montana was only seventh in passer rating in 1990, and in 1991 they went a mere 10-6 and missed the playoffs, despite Steve Young leading the NFL in passer rating. It’s over Mike, I’m tellin ya!

Dec 16, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger meet at mid-field after playing at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 17-10. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Dec 16, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger meet at mid-field after playing at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 17-10. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

These guys must be just ruling out the Patriots finding a legit successor to Brady. No they likely won’t draft another GOAT, but why do they have no chance of finding another high-end passer they can commit to and contend with? We just assuming they’re going to pull a Dolphins and spend 20 years trying to replace Dan Marino with even a competent quarterback, only to come up woefully short?

That may happen, but then and only then would the dynasty be over. These effing people never learn. They’re ignoring how wide open the NFL has become in recent weeks. They seem to be ignoring the flaws of all the other teams. The Patriots certainly are far from perfect this season, but somehow it’s still an acceptable thought to take them out of the Super Bowl mix.

It certainly doesn’t feel like a Super Bowl run is in the works, but how stunned would you really be if the Patriots were the team that got hot and suddenly out-classed the competition for four straight games en route to another Lombardi Trophy? That’s about as far from a given as it’s ever been in this run.

But it’s not impossible. In this league, nothing is.

Not only are the Patriots not out of the Super Bowl mix, the dynasty ain’t over yet. Spew your scorching takes, fine. It’s more entertaining and exciting than “Let’s wait and see.” When it comes to that discussion, I’m willing to wait and see.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.