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Face it, Patriots would have suffered the same fate against the Seahawks

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  February 3, 2014 09:52 AM

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Let’s make it clear: The Patriots would have suffered the same, exact fate against the Seattle Seahawks that befell Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Probably worse.

That’s not to call New England’s loss in the AFC Championship game a blessing in disguise, but the bottom line is that it helped avoid what would certainly have been a third straight Super Bowl loss for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. You want to talk about Manning’s “legacy” ad nauseum? Imagine if it were Brady today with a 3-3 Super Bowl record and not Manning at 1-2.

Nobody saw 43-8 coming, but all the boobs picking the Broncos last week (present company included) were either pining for Manning’s redemption or simply not paying attention to the time-honored clichés about what wins championships. Defense. Pitching. Underground HGH distribution.

But despite the fact that on two plays Demaryius Thomas looked like he needed a compass that pointed him downfield, the Denver wide receiver set a Super Bowl record for receptions, as Manning set one for completions. Wes Welker’s eight catches went for 84 yards. Is there any way Brady would have gotten that sort of production out of Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson Sunday night? Against that defense? Sorry.

Of course, it’s not like the Brady would have suffered the same fate as Manning, allowing a safety on his first offensive play of the ga….uh, never mind.

The best that could be said about the Patriots’ potential prospects against the stifling Seahawks is that Brady probably doesn’t throw that ball into the arms of linebacker Malcolm Smith, who brought Manning’s interception back for the Seahawks second touchdown of the game, making it a 22-0 rout and securing the game’s Most Valuable Player award. Maybe a healthy Aqib Talib would have played a bigger factor on leading Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin. Maybe Percy Harvin doesn’t find such an open route on the second-half kickoff. Maybe the Patriots defense doesn’t quit following that back-breaker, as it appears the Broncos unit did on the turf of MetLife Stadium.

Maybe the Patriots keep it closer in that regard. Realistically, we’re still talking a blowout with New England involved, and frankly, you have to wonder if the Patriots might have come out on the short end in the first shutout in Super Bowl history. If the record-setting Broncos could only muster one touchdown with a healthy receiving corps, how could Brady possibly manage the same with his troupe of fill-ins?

Oh, and it would have happened in the home of the New York Giants. As if they need to prescribe another pill.

But if there was an underscore to Sunday’s game, it relayed the importance of re-signing Talib, and the need to continue to build the Patriots’ emerging defense after the last few seasons of bottoming out and depending on Brady. It’s no secret that the Patriots have yet to raise Lombardi since Belichick decided to “Manning Up” after losing to the Colts in the ’06 AFC title game, eschewing the defense that was so vital to the franchise’s run to three Super Bowl wins.

The ’01 Rams were the ’07 Patriots were the ’13 Broncos. Goose eggs all around.

Denver is now 2-5 in the Super Bowl, including a handful of some of the most lopsided scores the game has ever seen. Overall, the Broncos have been outscored 206-115 over their seven appearances. It’s a little more within reason for the Patriots in that regard, outscored 186-138 over their seven Super Bowl appearances, but it likely would have been New England losing a record fifth title game Sunday had they made it to Jersey, not the Broncos.

MLB Network re-played Game 6 of the 1986 World Series in the hours leading up to kickoff Sunday, conjuring up memories and controversy (Clemens: Blister! McNamara: Quitter!) that no Red Sox fan wants to re-live, even in the glory days of the franchise a quarter-century later. Of course, earlier that year it was the Patriots’ turn to break hearts across New England with their 46-10 loss to the Chicago Bears in the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. Things got better.

But to think they would have been any different Sunday night against the Seahawks had it been Brady instead of Manning is foolish.

With Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Brandon Spikes though?

Hmmm.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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