INDIANAPOLIS Ė A somewhat stunning 21-17 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI closed the book on the Patriotsí 2011 season in disappointing fashion.
Letís take a look back.
WHY DID THE PATRIOTS LOSE?
In my opinion, because the offense didnít make enough plays. And the entire unit was to blame. From Tom Brady, to an offensive line that got leaky at the end, to a limited receiving corp, it just wasnít enough. The offense put the defense in a 9-0 hole thanks to a safety, and then the defense held the Giants to two field goals until the final drive. The Patriots had a 17-6 lead and the offense was blanked for the final 26 minutes of the game. Thatís not good enough.
- QB Tom Brady (left shoulder) never left the game, but it looked like that troublesome left shoulder was giving him problems. Wouldnít be surprised if he needs off-season surgery.
- TE Rob Gronkowski (left ankle) played the entire game but was a non-factor. He couldnít get off the line, which basically left the Patriots with Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead as weapons for Brady. Thatís a little light.
- LG Logan Mankins (unknown) was slow to get up at one point. Not sure if it affected him the rest of the game or not.
THREE THINGS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT
- Patriots came within a minute of winning the Super Bowl: As bad as the loss hurts and as long as it will linger, it was a heck of an accomplishment for the Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl and be so close to winning. That does mean something.
- Defense: Yes, the Patriots lost but I was wrong about the defense. That unit did its job in this game, holding the Giants to 15 points until the final minute Ė with nine coming on the safety and subsequent drive. The Patriots played very well against a potent offense. The defense did its job.
- The future: A strong core is there on this team. The entire offensive line will be back, along with Brady, the two rookie running backs, Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and a franchised Wes Welker. A couple of more pieces are needed. Defensively, a line of Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick and Myron Pryor has a lot of promise. Jerod Mayo and Brandon
FletcherSpikes anchor the linebackers, with Rob Ninkovich capable on the outside. In the secondary, the Patriots have a potential star in Patrick Chung, Kyle Arrington proved worthy, they need to figure out where Devin McCourty will play, and hopefully get Ras-I Dowling healthy. Thatís a very solid core.
THREE THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT
- Offense throwing up goose egg late: Patriots had zero points in the final 26 minutes. Thatís beyond disappointing for that group, and they need to find out why it happened.
- Line breaking down: The offensive line had a rough time at the worst time. It looked like 2007 all over again, right down to Logan Mankins having some struggles.
- Opposing good teams are making plays late: When the Patriots were winning Super Bowls, they were the closers. They got it done when it counted. In their four losses this season Ė the other team was making the plays at the end of the game, and not the Patriots (and you could almost count the Ravens since they blew their field goal). Is there something to be said about that, or is it just a fluky thing? Not really sure.
- QB Tom Brady: He played well for most of the game, but didnít make the plays when he needed to. Still, the guy set a Super Bowl record with 16 straight completions. Puzzling he couldnít get them over the hump. Weíll have to watch the film to see what happened.
- TE Aaron Hernandez: With Gronkowski limited, more weight of the offense fell on Hernandezís shoulders. He did very well except for a big drop. He has a terrific future..
- DE Mark Anderson: Had 1.5 of the three sacks and another quarterback hit, in addition to five tackles. He wasnít heard from much at the end of the game.