MINNEAPOLIS – The record books will have to wait. Or, maybe worse, the New England Patriots dynasty as we know it is complete.
The Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 41-33, here in Super Bowl LII, which will be known for its up-and-down play and late comebacks from both teams.
The Patriots’ incredible record — which includes five Super Bowls wins, MVP trophies and acknowledgement as the best 17-year run in modern football history — stands on its own.
But we, like head coach Bill Belichick, don’t take losing the big ones well.
A heartbreaker? You’re darn right. The Patriots don’t lose Super Bowls any other way.
The Patriots have been on the other side of some incredible February wins five times, as well.
In fact, last night wasn’t really a game the Patriots deserved to win, despite the fourth-quarter comeback and eventual lead.
The Eagles were better, and the Patriots defense couldn’t stop anything the Eagles threw at them.
Tom Brady played probably his best game of all the Super Bowls he’s ever played, with an NFL-record 505 passing yards, most from behind, while completing 28 of 48 passes for three touchdowns.
For a long time out there, it seemed like it was Brady versus the Eagles.
Of course, he wasn’t alone, but his ability to make plays and hook up with Rob Gronkowski (9 receptions, 116 yards, 2 TDs), Danny Amendola (8 receptions, 152 yards) and Chris Hogan (6 receptions, 128 yards, 1 TD) bordered on extraordinary.
“Those guys really came through,” said Brady. “I couldn’t be prouder of those guys. They fought ‘til the end.”
But if we’ve learned anything in these Super Bowls, all of eight of which Brady has tied or led late in the fourth quarter, the defense has a role, too.
The Eagles amassed 538 yards and converted 10 of 16 third downs — a no-no for defenses — to control the game from start to finish.
Even when trailing in the fourth quarter, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, the Super Bowl MVP (28 for 43, 373 yards, 3 TDs, 1 interception), converted two big third downs before hitting Zach Ertz on an 11-yard pass for the go-ahead touchdown.
That was one of two plays that went to the replay booth, both appearing possible to overturn.
No such luck.
“I’m proud of the way the team competed,” said coach Bill Belichick. “It wasn’t our best. We didn’t do a good enough job coaching. We had a few chances to score early. We didn’t play good enough defense. We didn’t play good enough in the kicking game. It wasn’t quite enough.”
In a lot of places, losing a game of this magnitude causes immediate pain and heartache. Then, after waking up, there is applause and thanks for the effort, the ride and for making the last 20 or so Sundays feel like holidays.
But when the Patriots lost to the Eagles, agony wasn’t the emotion for New England. Disbelief was more like it.
Another great season – let’s be honest, it was great including the comebacks against the Steelers and Jaguars – ended with a loss.
A few decades ago, it might have been cause for a welcome-home parade, but that doesn’t cut it any more in Boston.
After all, have you seen the standings lately? The Celtics are No. 2 in the NBA, the Bruins are No. 3 in the NHL, and we pretty much expect the Red Sox to play October baseball.
Expectations set by Mr. Sore Loser himself, Belichick, make it a little too soon to be singing anybody’s praises.
Losing the Super Bowl might not even be the worst part.
The Patriots have lost Super Bowls and recovered the following year, remarkably so.
So, what’s the immediate and long-term future of the Kraft-Belichick-Brady trifecta?
While nothing lasts forever, this trio just recently felt like it had more legs — maybe even for two, three or more seasons.
Heck, Brady just won an MVP trophy.
Brady, according to ownership, is going nowhere. He “deserves” to retire when he sees fit and, quite frankly, a lot of people around here agree.
Belichick, the brains of the operation, is the wild card.
He could run any NFL football operation. He appears to have another 5 to 10 years in him, and he has two sons moving up in the coaching business. For him, it’s so much easier to stay here.
But that’s a topic for later.
Losing a big game is one thing. Losing one of the pieces of this incredible trifecta would be another altogether.
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.