By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
For the first time in 12 years, and for just the second time since 2001, the Patriots have been eliminated from playoff contention. Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins solidified what may be the end to the most dominant dynasty in NFL history.
The stretch had to end eventually, but of course no team wanted to be the bearer of that notorious claim. Yet it will fall on the 2020 Patriots, who never seemed to fully find their potential despite a number of close and frustrating losses throughout the season.
“I’m disappointed, but we didn’t deserve to win today,” head coach Bill Belichick told the media on Sunday, taking a short term approach to the defeat. Asked if his message to the team changes at all now that a championship is officially off the table, Belichick said “not, not that much.”
Quarterback Cam Newton has shouldered much of the blame for the Patriots’ disappointing season. Yet as he has all year, he tried to keep things positive after this loss. ““It’s a tough loss. It’s just unfortunate,” he said, “But no need to dwell on what’s the obvious. There’s a lot of good things that happened in the game. We just didn’t do enough and that’s what it comes down to.”
Although there are a number of questions surrounding Newton’s future with the Patriots, the way he spoke after the game made it sound like he doesn’t believe he’s done in New England.
“This whole season has kind of been the tale of just coming up just a tad bit short,” he told reporters. “We still got guys that’s new to this system. We still got guys that’s young. We still got guys that just don’t get it and we still got guys that’s battling their tails off each and every week. We just got to keep building on the optimism of what we can become and just move from there.”
For Patriots’ safety and captain Devin McCourty, this will be his first time missing the playoffs in 11 NFL seasons. He knows that after a season like he’s never experienced, he’s in for an offseason like he’s never experienced. “I know in this league, no team stays the same and teams that don’t make the playoffs definitely don’t stay the same,” he said. “Moving forward – the 2020 Patriots – it won’t be the same in 2021.”
McCourty added that the loss is especially disappointing, given how the Patriots struggled after seeming to find their footing in the middle of the season.
“Knowing where we were at the last two weeks and then to come up short and not play the way we’re capable of playing, I think obviously it stinks to lose, but I think the way that we’ve played has been the most disappointing, not really giving ourselves a chance to win these last two games when we’ve had a chance for postseason play.”
Fellow captain Matthew Slater will also be missing the playoffs for the first time in his decade-plus NFL career. He ecchoed McCourty’s disappointment.
“It’s very frustrating. I know that the men in that locker room and the coaching staff and our staff, we started this season with one goal in mind and that’s obviously to play in the postseason and we didn’t accomplish it,” Slater said. “It’s tough. We’re used to doing things a certain way here, and it’s tough when you come up short.”
Meanwhile, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers took a different approach. As a member of the team’s younger core, he noted the letdown of 2020 is a feeling the team should keep with them as they enter the franchise’s next era.
“I mean, it hurt, you know, but it’s a feeling that we can take and use it moving forward,” he explained. “You don’t really judge a man by when you’re up; you judge them when you’re down. We are going to have to see what we’re really made of and bounce back and see what we can do.”
Cornerback J.C. Jackson, another member of that young core, took a more immediate approach. “Nobody likes losing, so I guess, you know that feeling, we all – we’ve just got to move on to the next game,” he said, echoing the sentiment of some of his teammates, who mentioned the Patriots have a chance to play spoiler to division rival Buffalo next week.
The Patriots will finish up with a Monday night game against the Bills next week, followed by the season finale against the Jets. And for the first time in over a decade, then it’s the offseason. No more Patriots football after Week 17.
Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.