Playoff Loss Comes From Struggles On Offense

Tom Brady (AP Photo)

The Patriots have a long time to look back and reflect on what could have been. Right now, it's obvious, they didn't' [lay well enough to win. 28-21 loss leaves team searching for answers knowing they didn't bring their best.

This certainly wasn't the way the New England Patriots expected their playoffs to end, not after finishing 14-2 in the regular season and earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Around New England, Sunday's game against the Jets was viewed as a coronation of sorts, as if the Jets presented no real legitimate threat -- especially after the Patriots crushed them, 45-3, in December.

The fans and media might have overlooked the Jets, but you can be assured the players didn't. Nonetheless, the Jets dominated the game physically from start to finish in a 28-21 win at Gillette Stadium.

For the second year in a row, the Patriots lost their playoff opener at home after finishing the regular season undefeated on their own turf -- a bitter end to what was supposed a long journey to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV.

"We had a lot of confidence going into the game and it didn't work out, so (it's) a disappointing day," coach Bill Belichick said. "We had our chances, but in the end, (we) couldn't make as many plays as they did, so that's the result.

"That's playoff football. There were certainly a lot of good things that happened for us this season, but that definitely gets overshadowed by the final results. We'll have to work hard to get back to this point in the future. We'll go forward."

The Patriots have some question marks regarding their immediate future, but the most pressing question at this point revolves around what went wrong Sunday. Why did quarterback Tom Brady look so uncomfortable in the pocket? Why did the offensive line, which had protected well all season long, suddenly allow five sacks in the biggest game of the year? Where was the pass rush?

At the center of it all is Brady, who lost his third consecutive postseason game Sunday and looked rattled for most of the afternoon. Brady couldn't get into a rhythm thanks to the Jets' pass rush and he and his favorite receiver, Deion Branch, who was brought back to excel in games such as this one, only connected five times.

Asked to explain the loss, Brady said, "Just a lack of execution."

"In order to score points, you have to consistently be able to put together plays and we could never really do that or find a rhythm," he added. "They made a lot of plays. They didn't make many mistakes. We made too many mistakes. There were too many plays that weren't the way we drew them up.

"It's like you're on the treadmill running at 10 miles an hour and then someone just hits the stop button. I think we certainly expected to play better today. I think we're a pretty good football team, but not when we play like today. Like I said, a lot of the credit goes to the Jets and the way their players performed. It's disappointing the way we performed. I certainly wish I did a better job."

The Patriots will have plenty of time to lick their wounds from Sunday's loss and dissect their game plan for the offseason, but no matter what they do from now until July when training camp starts, it's clear they have a long way to go before they rebuild the aura of invincibility that once followed them everywhere they went.

"There are a lot of things in the future that are questions that we just can't answer and probably won't be able to answer for quite a while - a lot of things that are out of our control as an individual football team that are related to a bigger picture," Belichick said. "We'll deal with those in due course."

NOTES:

-- WR Wes Welker led the Patriots with seven receptions against the Jets, raising his career playoff total to 34 receptions in just four career playoff games. Welker is averaging 8.5 receptions per game in the playoffs.

-- The Patriots are now 11-3 at home in the playoffs in their history following Sunday's loss to the Jets. Thirteen of the franchise's 14 home playoff games have taken place since Robert Kraft purchased the team 17 years ago.

-- The Patriots have compiled a 21-15 record in their 36 playoff games and their .583 playoff winning percentage is the fourth-best in NFL history among teams that have played at least 10 playoff games. New England has qualified for six Super Bowls (XX, XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX and XLII) and one AFL Championship Game in 1963.

-- WR Wes Welker was benched for the opening series of Sunday's game, allegedly because he made a series of comments during the week poking fun at Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

-- QB Tom Brady's 2-yard touchdown pass to TE Alge Crumpler in the third quarter gives him 17 straight postseason games with at least one touchdown. That streak is second in the NFL to the league record of 20 by Brett Favre.

-- Rookie TE Rob Gronkowski hauled in a 37-yard reception in the third quarter, giving the Patriots a first-and-10 at the Jets' 43-yard line. The catch was the longest of Gronkowski's career, topping his 28-yard reception against Miami in the regular-season finale.

-- TE Alge Crumpler caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the third quarter. Crumpler has scored a touchdown in three straight games after scoring a touchdown in the final two regular-season games.

-- WR Deion Branch had five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Jets. Branch's touchdown was his fourth career playoff touchdown for the Patriots (three receiving, one rushing), tying him with Corey Dillon (four rushing touchdowns) for third on the Patriots' all-time playoff scoring list.

This report courtesy of The Sports Xchange.

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