“This is not how I envisioned it. This is a team with a lot of talent, good coaching and it kind of hurts to go home this early.." Cornerback Leigh Bodden divulged in the final post game press conference for the New England Patriots of the 2009-2010 season.
The New England Patriots were handed a defeat at home by the Baltimore Ravens with a final score of 33-14.
It was supposed to be the comeback team of the season, Brady was back and for the most part, healthy. Newly acquired Fred Taylor was breathing some experienced life into the low ranked Patriots running game and wide receivers Wes Welker and Randy Moss were becoming perfectly in sync with their quarterback. The playoffs are expected by the Patriots fans. A fan from Worcester, Massachusetts explained prior to the Ravens' solid win, "This is where our team feels the most comfortable, this is where we belong."
Unfortunately, like many fans on Sunday, he left the game cold and disappointed.
Blaming the careless and sloppy Patriots offense would be one way to make some sense of this season finale. In fact, several Patriots players believed that they were purely lacking in all aspects of the game.
First year Patriot Leigh Bodden confessed, "..We just didn’t execute as well as the Ravens did. They played a great game today..."
Frustrated safety James Sanders expressed, "..It seemed like the harder we fought, the bigger hole we dug ourselves..."
Even two-time Pro Bowler and fan favorite Vince Wilfork revealed that, "...We didn’t come to play. Point blank. Never had a chance from the first play to the last play. They came in and they wanted it more than us..."
Regardless of want or desire, the game came down to football fundamentals.
Tom Brady completed 23 of 42 passes for a total of 154 yards. Brady suffered three sacks for a total loss of 22 yards and on top of that, three interceptions. Hardly the statistics of a Super Bowl MVP or even the 2009 AP Comeback Player of the Year. Brady was throwing into heavy coverage. The Ravens' strong safety, free safety and cornerback all read the offense better than Brady's own receivers. The three interceptions proved it. Shockingly, even kicker Stephen Gostkowski was imperfect by missing a 44 yard field goal.
Offensive bright spots were few and far between. Two touchdown passes to rookie standout wide receiver Julian Edelman was one of them. Others, for the Patriots were harder to find.
The season was a rough ride for many who experienced it, but it seemed like coming to Gillette Stadium was a safe-haven for Patriots fans that wanted to see a win, for the ones who wanted a glimpse of what it was like to root for a dynasty. It's where the Patriots were 8-0 in this year's regular season and where they haven't lost a game since 2006.
This haven was forcefully brought back to reality with the loss to Baltimore. Walking through the clubhouse at Gillette after the third quarter, fans could be heard letting out cries of disappointment, some taking off their aged and battered Patriots caps to scratch their heads in frustration. Others simply left the stadium, stating with struggling positivity, "At least there won't be too much traffic on the way home."
Countless questions require answers in regards to the abrupt ending of the Patriots 2009 season. Many of those questions, however, will only be answered by the extension of contracts and the relinquishing of players in the off season. So it's onward to the 2010 draft and free agency for the Patriots organization. With an uncapped season coming up, fans want to stake their claim on players that are necessities to the franchise. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, running backs Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris, linebacker Jerod Mayo and kicker Stephen Gostkowski are just a few on the list.
Those who return next season have quite the job ahead of them. Players who will be a New England Patriot for the first time will feel like they're part of the cause of instilling faith back into the fans and momentum back into the team.
The era isn't over, it might be struggling now but it's too quick to say that the New England Patriots are no longer a threat by any means. Rookies played a major role this season and by the looks of Sebastian Vollmer, Darius Butler, Jake Ingram and Julian Edelman, they have plenty more to give back to the team that decided to give them a shot in the National Football League.
Julian Edelman, who finished his rookie season with 43 catches for 403 yards and three touchdowns, already knows, "We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Kisha Tapangan covers the NFL and the New England Patriots for PatriotsInsider.com. To read more of her material, visit her blog at www.nrwithkisha.com . To contact Kisha, you can email her here: firstname.lastname@example.org