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The New England Patriots ended the 2014 season with 53 players on their roster. They will start the 2015 season with 53 players on their roster. There is a seven month period that will tell a different story.

Of the 53 players on the roster for the Super Bowl, 13 are headed for free agency. For those doing math at home, that means there are 40 players that were on the 53 man roster signed thru next year. Now consider this.

13 players due to hit FA + Ridley + 7 players who ended the season on IR: Buchanan, Dennard, Dobson, Easley, Gaffney, Mayo  + 8 draft picks + Free-Agents the Patriots may sign (Assume the Patriots lose as many as they gain in free agency) That leaves New England to determine 29 players for 13 spots. Still think you can be an armchair GM?

With that in mind, put the homer aside and understand a few things:

  1. There will be some GOOD players that you LIKE who will not be back (Wilfork, Amendola, Mayo, Ridley, Mccourty, etc.
  2. The Patriots are likely to trade picks to move up in this years’ draft or stock picks for future drafts
  3. The Patriots have to spend money but are tight against the cap; expect them to compensate their cap inflexibility with guaranteed money and term
  4. Their practice squad will have some good players on it
  5. This will be an incredibly deep, talented roster 1-53

I broke the 14 free agents to be into three tiers. The top tier will garner the vast majority of media attention, rightfully so, but it is the second and third tiers that New England consistently does an outstanding job of managing. I will likely be incorrect on many of my picks, but this is how I see the internal free agent picture shaping up.

Tier I

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Darrelle Revis

Revis has dominated headlines in recent weeks. While he is under contract, his pending $25 million cap hit for 2015 renders him a free agent for all intents and purposes. The 9 year veteran joined New England after seven seasons with the New York Jets and one extremely forgettable season with the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He came to New England eager to prove he had fully recovered from his torn ACL injury from 2012 and to win the elusive Lombardi Trophy. Mission accomplished. Revis and the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX and did so thanks large in part to Revis’ dominant coverage all season long.

Historically, Revis has “chased the money”. I have a problem with the notion that players should sacrifice money to win but owners shouldn’t. The salary cap makes it more difficult on the owners but players who have high market value in a league where the average player lasts 2.5 years should never be crucified for electing to reward the highest bidder with his services. A mercenary, a “player-agent”, a money-grabber are all terms that preceded Revis when he was first signed. Interestingly enough, fans and experts remember the Wes Welker and Logan Mankins contract situations far better than another trend. The Patriots pay elite talent with elite money. Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, and Rob Gronkowski are or were all one of the highest paid players at their respective positions. How quickly people forget. Thus, in a passing league with a down CB market and few viable options in the draft, the Patriots will get a deal done with Revis. He will be signed with term and big money. STAY.

Devin McCourty

Devin McCourty

The Patriots drafted McCourty in the first round out of where else, but Rutgers in 2010. As a rookie, he started every game and recorded seven interceptions on the way to earning a Pro Bowl nod. Unfortunately, he hit a woeful sophomore slump inspiring the coaching staff to move him to Safety. Since that time, he has thrived in his role and transformed himself into one of the best safeties in the NFL. A recipient of the Man of the Year award, McCourty is a high character individual who is very involved in local charity work. He has been adamant about his desire to stay with New England and why wouldn’t he? In his five seasons as a Patriot, he has appeared in four AFC Championships and three Super Bowls. On Monday, he expressed to Josina Anderson that he was surprised he did not get the franchise tag which would have kept him on a one year deal worth roughly $9.6 million. This situation is an interesting one: McCourty is a player who is unequivocally the best player at his position this offseason. He is due to field some lucrative offers but he ultimately wants nothing more than to stay with a team who knows this and plans to sign him but at their cost and their cost only. Quite the predicament. The safety free agency market is incredibly weak and the draft is worse if that is possible. McCourty has never cashed in on a big deal having only played his rookie deal. The 27 year-old has a difficult decision to make: money or Super Bowl contention (and in a few select cases, he could potentially have both). His market is anywhere from $8-12 million and it would be surprising if the Patriots went any higher than $8 million annually. One interesting thing to note is that the Patriots are one of the few teams below the mandatory cash spending threshold while in a struggle to stay below the salary cap. I expect the Patriots to make up for their less than market value offer with more term and guaranteed money. It won’t be an easy round of negotiations (McCourty is an agent’s nightmare) but I think McCourty comes back to New England on a slightly player friendly deal. STAY.

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Shane Vereen

One of the heroes from Super Bowl XLIX did himself and his agent a big favor with his 11 catch, 64 yard performance. The second round product out of California has seen increased snaps over the past three seasons and filled the role that the Patriots love: a third down, change of pace back with good hands, pass protection ability, and situational running. Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead are the two that come to mind and Vereen is certainly in that group. While recent contract history has not been kind to running backs, Vereen is different because of the variety to his skill set. There are not many players hitting free agency at his age with his skill set. Guys like C.J. Spiller and Ryan Mathews have injury problems and guys like Reggie Bush are a little bit older. Vereen is 25 and is about to hit his prime. I do not think Vereen is a top priority for New England because they have a wealth of running backs on their roster and have never valued the position. With that said, they will certainly make him an offer because of his success in their system and Brady’s comfort level with him but the offer will be below market value and test Vereen’s desire to remain with New England which by many accounts, is high. Unfortunately, I think Vereen walks to a team like the Giants or Jaguars for a contract around $4 years, $14 million. LEAVES.

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Stephen Gostkowski

The Patriots applied their Franchise Tag on Gostkowski this past Monday which raises his salary to roughly $4.1 million this season. That figure seems high for a kicker but keep in mind that Gostkowski is an elite kicker and the tag gives New England until July 15th to work out a long term deal. Gostkowski had enormous shoes to fill after taking over for the three time Super Bowl Champion Adam Vinatieri but since he arrived in 2006, he has been a steady presence. He hasn’t been asked to make many big kicks but the three time pro bowler has been excellent over the past three years. He has made 73/78 kicks including 6/7 from 50+. I don’t know if the Patriots will negotiate a deal now or next offseason but he will be kicking for New England in 2015. Just ask Detroit what it was like to not have a reliable kicker. STAYS.

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Dan Connolly

The 32 year old guard has been a regular starter since 2010 but never was his impact more realized than this year. In the three games he missed, the Patriots offensive line struggled mightily. He is not a sexy player, what OG is for that matter, but he has good chemistry with his linemates and remains an above average guard. One of the Patriots biggest priorities this offseason is upgrading their offensive line. Connolly was making roughly $4 million in 2014 so it is entirely possible that he gets replaced by an early round rookie with a much smaller salary. Between Connolly and Wendell, I believe only one will be with the team in September. Connolly is a slightly better player but Wendell is four years younger and makes half as much. LEAVES.

Tier II

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Alan Branch

After Sealver Siliga got hurt in late October, the Patriots signed the 6’6 324 pound Alan Branch to fortify their run defense after they were gashed against the New York Jets among others. The former second round pick never earned substantial playing time but certainly strengthened the Patriots defensive line depth especially after Easley was put on IR. Having played with three teams in three years, Branch will be a fairly cheap option. With that said, if the Patriots sign Siliga and feel they can upgrade in the draft, Branch will become expendable. My gut tells me that they let Branch walk to a team desperate for some interior line help. LEAVES.

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Jonathan Casillas

In another move prompted by an injury, Belichick traded a 2015 5th round draft choice for Jonathan Casillas and Tampa Bay’s 2015 6th round draft choice. Adding Casillas essentially cost the Patriots one draft spot because New England picks last in the 5th round and Tampa Bay picks first in the 6th round. When Jerod Mayo’s season ended against Buffalo, Casillas provided depth and special teams value. LB Chris White and James Morris could make a bid to earn that utility linebacker spot but if Casillas is willing to come back for a similarly low base salary, a deal could be struck. He will be 28 next season so he has some good years ahead of him and I expect Belichick to bring him back and fight for a spot in camp. STAYS.

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Stevan Ridley

When Stevan Ridley’s season ended in Buffalo, many presumed Ridley’s time in New England was over. His fumbling problems were overstated but still a cause for concern to a perfectionist like Bill Belichick. At times Ridley is a quick and decisive runner with more power than meets the eye. His best year was 2012 when he rushed 290 times for 1,263 yards (4.4) YPC with 12 touchdowns. However, on some occasions he reminds Patriots fans of Laurence Maroney with his inability to hit the hole and fall forward. Unfortunately for Ridley, New England has never placed high value on running backs and they have a stable of cheap, capable running backs on the roster. Jonas Gray, LaGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, James White, Brandon Bolden, and maybe Shane Vereen figures to make for a cloudy running back picture. Additionally, the draft and free agency is loaded with running back talent so an above average, fumble prone 27 year old running back coming off a torn ACL is not exactly a hot commodity. For this reason, it is more likely that Ridley comes back to New England on a one year “prove-it” deal but there are too many teams with too much money to spend. The Stevan Ridley era will end next week. LEAVES.

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Akeem Ayers

Outside of the top tier free agents for New England, Akeem Ayers is the most intriguing to me. The 2011 2nd round draft pick was traded to New England in October when Chandler Jones injured his hip against the Jets. In Jones’ absence, Ayers filled in admirably. He put in extra time to quickly learn the intricacies of the defense and recorded three sacks and many more quarterback hurries. At 6’3, 255 pounds, Ayers has a unique combination of size and speed that makes him very versatile from a schematic perspective. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio had this to say about Ayers: “He showed his versatility and we were able to use him in a multitude of roles and he was able to benefit the team as a result. We were fortunate that it worked out the way it did.” That is high praise from a high ranking official on the New England staff. Chandler Jones has yet to prove himself as the elite pass rusher that he has been projected to be. Rob Ninkovich has been very dependable and efficient while playing almost every snap from scrimmage over the past three years. A third pass rusher with Ayers’ versatility is desirable, but at the right price. The Patriots used Ayers sparingly after Jones returned and some conspiracy theorists would suggest this was the “Tommy Kelly” treatment in order to diminish his market value and raise the likelihood that New England can sign him at their price. Ultimately I think Ayers’ value is too high for the Patriots to bring him back.  LEAVES.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Sealver Siliga

The 300 pound run stuffer came to New England last season as part of the solution for replacing Wilfork’s heavy workload. He only appeared in seven regular season games this year but played a role in all three postseason games and proved to be an average run defender. He, like Branch, is good but not great and his spot is in jeopardy in the event the Patriots bolster this position via free agency or the draft. Easley’s return from knee and shoulder injuries will impact Siliga’s playing time as well. Luckily, Siliga is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent so as long as the Patriots make him a minimum offer, New England is the only place he can play next season. Thus, Siliga will have a chance to prove himself as a regular contributor. STAYS.

Tier III

Chris White

White is a sneaky two year veteran for the Patriots. He has played almost exclusively special teams while providing linebacker depth. However in the event of an injury, the Patriots would make a trade (Jonathan Casillas) before letting White see extended time. Nevertheless, White is an ERFA and will likely be signed to a minimum contract. STAYS.

Danny Aiken

The four year veteran has served as New England’s long snapper in all but one game during that time. Aiken has never noticeably struggled but he has not exactly been a beacon of consistency. Punter Ryan Allen has saved Aiken from more extended criticism from fans and writers. Aiken played through an injury for most of the 2014 campaign and will likely sign a small deal. Similar to last year, expect Belichick to bring in a body to make Aiken compete for his position. STAYS.

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James Develin

The Brown graduate brings a hard hat and lunch pail attitude to practice every day. He has been on New England for three years and contributed in multiple ways. Aside from his few highlight reel touchdown receptions, Develin has paved running lanes for his running back counterparts and earned his way onto almost every special team. He only plays in roughly 15-20% of offensive snaps but serves a defined role. The Patriots are a gameplan offense and his presence allows the Patriots to exploit certain matchups (see Indianapolis). Develin, like White and Siliga is an ERFA so the Patriots would be remiss to not at least sign him to the minimum and bring him into camp. STAYS.

Brian Tyms

Tyms is another fascinating player for New England. He followed an impressive preseason (largely with Garrapolo) with an underwhelming regular season. The 6’3 210 pound wide receiver did have his 15 minutes of fame this year against Buffalo when he snatched a 43 yard touchdown pass between two Buffalo defenders. He has shown flashes of ability but has not always been on the same page with Brady (see Indianapolis and Buffalo). To his credit he was one of the more demonstrative and passionate guys on the sideline all season long, in pads or street clothes. He is another ERFA so the Patriots will likely sign him back to compete for a wide receiver position that will bear monitoring this summer. Assuming LaFell, Edelman, and Amendola are back, Tyms and Dobson will be fighting against each other and any free agent or draft choice that New England brings in. STAYS.

NFL: New England Patriots-Press Conference

Last week, I noted Bill Belichick’s worst offseason trades and signings: http://thefullcourt-press.com/2015/02/18/bill-belichicks-top-5-worst-free-agent-signings-trades/. This week, I wanted to start off the week on a more positive note. With the NFL Free Agency period only 8 days away, this article should serve as a reminder that there is plenty of reason to trust the Patriots brass to make the right decisions for the organization. While the Patriots have built success through the draft with players like Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Asante Samuel, Matt Light, Richard Seymour, and Rob Gronkowski, they have made numerous prudent, low risk-high reward moves in the offseason. Just over a year ago, Belichick signed three veterans who made the Super Bowl run a reality: Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Brandon LaFell. At this point in time, all signings could be considered a success based solely on the fact that they helped bring the Lombardi trophy back to New England. However, I have left those three players off the list because they have only been here one year and cannot yet be compartmentalized for various reasons. However, they are worth mentioning before looking back at Bill Belichick’s top 5 offseason signings and trades.

Brandon Browner (2014)

Browner was brought in from Seattle for 3 years and $17 million to help establish a physical, ball hawking secondary. Browner, at 6’4” 221 pounds has consistently wreaked havoc on receivers’ ability to get a clean release and execute timing patterns. Browner plays with a chip on his shoulder and his hard-nosed style of play was infectious. The Patriots defense possessed a swagger and toughness that was devoid since the days of Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Willie McGinest.

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Darrelle Revis (2014)

A quiet, confident, “lead by example” locker room presence, Revis was the consummate pro on and off the field. He was a key piece to the defense and his ability to lock down opponents’ top receiver allowed defensive coordinator Matt Patricia the flexibility to present different defensive looks and schemes. The top story line of the 2015 offseason is what the Patriots will do with Revis who, for all intents and purposes, signed a 1 year $12 million deal as his 2015 cap hit is $25 million.

Brandon LaFell (2014)

When the Patriots signed Brandon Lafell for 3 years and $9 million, it did not exactly send shockwaves through New England. LaFell quickly earned Brady’s trust en route to a pleasantly surprising 2014 campaign. LaFell caught 74 passes for 953 yards and 7 touchdowns. Moreover, in the 3 playoff games, he caught 13 balls for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Now, Bill Belichick’s top five best free agent signings and trades.

5. Mike Vrabel (2001)

Mike Vrabel was one of first players Belichick added and he proved to be an incredibly important piece to New England’s stout defenses of the early 2000’s. The Ohio State alum was signed to a team friendly 4 year, $3.7 million contract after four uninspiring years in Pittsburgh. Under Belichick’s tutelage, the 1997 3rd round draft choice played eight seasons in Foxboro. In that time, he accrued 48 sacks, 11 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, and 411 tackles. He played outside linebacker in the 3-4 and inside in the 4-3. His versatility, dependability, and big play ability were hallmarks of Vrabel’s tenure with New England. In 2007, he was earned All-Pro honors with 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 55 tackles. Additionally, Vrabel made an impact on the offensive side of the ball. He was inserted into New England’s goal line package and his impact was realized instantly. Vrabel caught 8 touchdown passes on 11 targets including two in Super Bowl victories (2003 & 2004). Both touchdowns came in the second half and gave the Patriots the lead. Vrabel was a consummate Patriot and the three time champion proved to be a special signing by Belichick.

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4. Corey Dillon (2004)

After the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2003, their second in three years, Belichick wasted no time upgrading his roster. Rather than rest on his laurels, he identified a weakness and filled the void with a bang. Incumbent starting running back Antowain Smith was 31 and his rushing yards, YPC, and touchdowns had declined for the second year in a row. Belichick declined to re-sign Smith and instead dealt a 2004 2nd round draft choice to the Cincinnati Bengals for Corey Dillon. The 6’1, 225 pound three-time pro bowler, locker room malcontent was a player with high upside but a fair amount of risk. In 15 games in 2004, Dillon rushed for a whopping 1,635 yards (4.7 YPC) and 12 touchdowns. He helped form New England’s offense into a true dual threat. While Dillon amassed 1,738 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage, Tom Brady tossed 28 touchdowns and 3,652 yards. New England went on to win Super Bowl XXXIX and New England has Belichick to thank. Dillon went on to play two more seasons and while neither was as effective as his 2004 campaign, he was a steady force in the backfield.

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3. Wes Welker (2007)

The loss to Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC Championship Game and devastating drops by the then-#1 receiver Reche Caldwell confirmed that the Patriots needed a drastic upgrade in the pass catchers department. Belichick wasted no time in the spring of 2007 acquiring the versatile slot man Wes Welker from division rival, Miami for 2007 2nd & 7th round draft choices. In his first season, he contributed immensely to one of the most dominant NFL offenses in league history. He hauled in 112 receptions for 1,175 yards and 8 touchdowns. Brady leaned on Welker heavily over the years and with good reason. Welker’s gritty style of play and willingness to go over the middle was not lost on teammates who spoke highly of Welker. In six seasons with New England, Welker averaged 112 receptions, 1,243 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Welker’s drop in the 2011 Super Bowl is one of the lasting memories of Welker. Nevertheless, Belichick got a five time pro bowler and two time all-pro for a 2nd and 7th round draft choice. Advantage: Belichick.

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2. Rodney Harrison (2003)

Similar to Vrabel, Harrison was one of “Belichick’s guys” who helped reinvigorate New England’s defense with a fearless attitude and hard-hitting style of play. After nine seasons with San Diego, many NFL front offices feared the 31 year-old Harrison did not have much left in the tank. Harrison visited Belichick in the offseason and left with a 6 year, $14.45 million contract. Harrison played out his contract and won two Super Bowls in his first two seasons. With Harrison as the backbone of the secondary, New England reached three Super Bowls and four AFC Championships in his four healthy years with the team. He was limited to three games in 2005 (lost in Divisional round) and 2008 (did not make the playoffs but worth noting that Tom Brady missed the entire season as well). Coincidence?  Unlikely. In 2003, Harrison earned All-Pro honors and solidified a defensive unit that lost Lawyer Milloy. Similar to Welker, Harrison is remembered by many as the one who was unable to break up “The Catch” by David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII. Regardless of a miracle reception by Tyree, Harrison was excellent in his time with New England for roughly $2.5 million per year. One of Belichick’s best.

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1. Randy Moss (2007)

The crown jewel of Bill Belichick’s personnel moves. In April of 2007, Belichick sent a 2007 fourth rounder to the Oakland Raiders for the enigmatic, supremely talented, narcissistic wide receiver. After several outstanding seasons with Minnesota (five pro bowls in seven years), Moss wore out his welcome. He was dealt to Oakland and in two full seasons, his performance was underwhelming for a player still in his late 20’s. Belichick saw the potential for Moss to revive his career in a winning culture, something that had eluded Moss for most of his career. Moss responded with the greatest single season by a wide receiver in NFL history. En route to a 16-0 regular season, Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns. Over the next two seasons, one with backup quarterback Matt Cassel, Moss averaged 1,136 yards and 12 touchdowns. In other words, the Patriots received unthinkable results for a mere fourth round draft choice. Despite his colored background which is phrasing Moss’ prior transgressions quite nicely, Moss was well behaved during his time in New England. He was dealt in 2010 after four games and retired two years later. The Patriots never had a receiver with the big play ability like Moss and have not filled his void in the five seasons since he left. There may be another receiver like Randy Moss in his prime. And there may never be a better trade. Advantage: Belichick.

Honorable Mention:

Aqib Talib (2012)

2012 was a dark time for the Patriots secondary. The trio of pass defenders (that term is used loosely here) at the outset of the season was comprised of Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole, and Alfonzo Dennard. Enter the embattled malcontent, Aqib Talib. On November 1st, 2012, Belichick traded a 2013 4th round draft choice for CB Aqib Talib and Tampa Bay’s 2013 7th rounder. Talib instantly turned the secondary around and helped the Patriots reach the 2012 AFC Championship Game. Unfortunately, Talib only lasted two series against Baltimore before injuring his thigh. Patriots fans have nightmares about the subsequent series of events, namely Anquan Boldin catching 5 balls for 60 yards and two touchdowns on the undersized and outmanned Marquice Cole. Talib returned to form in 2013 and proved that he possessed the talent to compete with the best receivers in the NFL. In 13 games, he finished with 4 interceptions, 13 pass deflections, 38 tackles, and a forced fumble. The Patriots filled a massive void with their signing of Talib. Unfortunately, Talib left both AFC Championship Games with a lower body injury and cost his team a potential trip to the Super Bowl.

Rob Ninkovich (2009)

A three year castoff veteran out of Purdue, DE Rob Ninkovich was picked up by Belichick in 2009 for 3 years and a measly $2.185 million. He later earned a 3 year, $13.65 million extension in 2013 after consistent play in New England. When Belichick signed Ninkovich, he saw in him something that few other General Manager’s saw. After spending a year learning the defense and improving his game, Ninkovich has accumulated 34.5 sacks in his past five seasons. Additionally, he continually manufactured big plays in key moments. He has 9 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries, and 5 interceptions in his career with New England. Ninkovich has provided consistent production in his time with the Patriots, appearing in his last 80 regular season games and posting three consecutive seasons with 8 sacks.

R.I.P Court Storming

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Old Sull

What can you say about court storming? He* was a hell of a guy.  The type of guy that you hoped to end every game with.  He was a blast and the source of memories at every level of competition across the world.  He had great intentions and had never harmed a soul.  From doing it prematurely:

MOEN

To random moments of pure jubilation:

CS1

CS2

CS4

I will never forget the time I met court storming.  Yes I met this legend.  I was at the Division 2 NCAA Men’s Basketball Finals in 2007.  Winona was the defending national champion and had won 57 consecutive games.  They were up 6 shooting free throws with 47 seconds left and then it got real.  PLEASE watch how the events unfolded in the link below.  Hands down the best game I have ever witnessed.

Anyways it was at this point that I met court storming and boy was it electric.  14 year old me was king of the world running around the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA.  And like all great stories I embellished the shit out of it the next day in my 8th grade class.

But you are gone now court storming. Gone but never forgotten.  RIP.

Anyways, I know what you are thinking “Old Sull, why on gods earth did you just make me read 199 words of a fake eulogy to court storming.”  Because reader, court storming is coming to an end at a rapid pace for two reasons.  One, because it poses a great risk to the players on the opposing teams.  I know that sounds soft but the truth is it is unavoidable that someone attacked an opposing player.  Although this week’s incident at the Kansas vs Kansas State Men’s Basketball game:

RUINING IT

Did not cause any serious injury, it is exactly the spark that the NCAA needs to ban something they disapprove of anyway.  It was only a matter of time before some drunk co-ed attacked a player which would be inevitably followed by a law suit.  So, although court storming is not dead yet I wanted to practice writing my eulogy because the writing is on the wall.  It sucks, but court storming is a dead man walking.

*Yes I made court storming a male because like most of the court storming’s have been at male events by males.  Also cause it just didn’t feel like a she.  Sorry feminists.

Let’s be honest though, court storming was becoming a little watered down.  It was something that everyone wanted to be a part of so as time went on people began to force the issue and it started to become the “cool” thing to do instead of the appropriate thing to do.

Even though court storming will be gone soon, I wanted to come up with a few quick fast do’s and don’ts for court storming.

  1. You CAN storm the court if you beat a Top 15 team in the country while being unranked
  2. You CAN storm the court if you are from a lesser division, a la Appalachian State or a D2 school beating a Division 1.
  3. You CANNOT storm the court in a rivalry game.
    1. You have played each other enough that this is not warranted. I don’t know this one makes sense in my head.
  4. You CAN storm the court if you win on a buzzer beater.
  5. You CANNOT storm the court if pride your school on its history and success
    1. What I mean by this is don’t claim to be the royalty of the sport and be in the upper echelon of programs and then want to storm the court like regular fans. This applies mostly to Kentucky, UNC, Duke, and Kansas in basketball and Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame in football.

That is all that I could think to set in stone right now.  Disagree with me with? Leave a comment.  Want to add to the list? Leave a comment.  Seriously please. I need page views and/or interactions.

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Coming off a 1-4 road trip and with the news of Bruins center David Krecji expected to miss 4-6 weeks and defenseman Kevan Miller out for the season, the panic button has been pressed on the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have been woeful in their own end, Tuukka Rask has been pedestrian more times than not, Chara looks as though he is moving at half speed, and finding the back of the net has been almost as challenging as remembering that General Manager Peter Chiarelli put the Bruins in this very position. The state of the Black and Gold as of February 24th, 2015 is rather bleak.

Which is why I am not worried (yet). The Boston Bruins are currently in the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. They have 23 regular season games remaining and 12/23 are against teams currently out of the playoffs and the trade deadline has yet to pass. Point being, the team we are (reluctantly) watching right now is not necessarily the team we will be watching in mid-April. In the past, highly successful regular season campaigns have been the foundation for wildly disappointing postseasons. Too many times Bruins fans have overestimated their teams’ potential based on their position in February. Those same fans are guilty of rushed judgment, only this time, they are failing to recognize the potential of this group. The NHL Playoffs are polarizing because the best team does not always win. Seeds don’t matter, home ice does not matter. As long as the Bruins have the ticket to the dance, anything can happen. I have taken a look back on the previous six seasons which strongly indicate that using Boston’s regular season performance to determine their postseason outcome would be a grave mistake.

2008-2009: After finishing 1st in the Eastern Conference, eight points better than the next best team, the Bruins were bounced in the conference semi-finals by the Carolina Hurricanes. The decisive Game 7 loss to Carolina came at home and even worse, in overtime. A dominant regular season was quickly erased by a mediocre performance against a good, not great Carolina team.

2009-2010: This campaign will be forever remembered by two major events: the trade of star forward Phil Kessel for three draft picks (notably Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton) and an epic collapse to the Philadelphia Flyers. After slightly overachieving (the Bruins finished 6th in the Eastern Conference) and the emergence of Tuukka Rask, the Bruins found themselves within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals before blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers (including a 3-0 lead in Game 7 at home).

2010-2011: A 3rd place finish in the regular season was almost spoiled by the Bruins’ arch rival, Montreal, in the opening series. The Bruins failed to capitalize on a 3-2 series lead and needed a one timer from Nathan Horton in double overtime to dispose of the feisty Canadians. Led by a resurgent Tim Thomas and breakout performances from Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years.

2011-2012: The defending Stanley Cup champions showed few signs of slowing up en route to a 102 point, second place finish. However, they ran into a third string goalie Braden Holtby and a gritty, skilled Washington Capitals. The Bruins lost in Game 7 in overtime (a familiar theme), a bitter disappointment after a strong regular season campaign.

2012-2013: In a lockout shortened season, Boston finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference but it is Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals that will forever live in Bruins history. Down 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs with just under ten minutes to play, the Bruins mounted a furious comeback and went on to win on an overtime goal by Patrice Bergeron. Following a near first round playoff exit (and what threatened to be the second in as many years), the Bruins steamrolled the rest of the Eastern Conference and eventually fell to a superb, deep Chicago Blackhawks team in six games.

2013-2014: The Bruins finished first in the Eastern Conference with a gaudy 117 points, eight better than Pittsburgh. The addition of Jarome Iginla fortified their top two lines and provided reason to believe this team was poised for a deep postseason run. After dispatching Detroit in 5 games, Boston fell to Montreal in Game 7 in what was an uninspiring, mind-bogglingly ineffective seven game stretch for the Bruins. Outplayed, outcoached, and outhustled, the Bruins lost the series clinching game in front of the Boston faithful marking the third year in a row the Bruins season ended on home ice.

Postseason success is generally predicated upon strong goaltending, effective penalty kill, a sound forecheck, and opportunistic hockey. This last element is the most difficult to anticipate and predict because it represents what is so endearing about hockey. One deflection, unfortunate roll of the stick, or screen of the goalie can be the difference between advancing and casting a line earlier than one would like. While the Bruins have certainly experienced a far more tumultuous regular season than year’s past, it is important to understand that regular season success has not been an overly effective predictor of postseason success for Boston. Additionally, as much talk as there is about home ice advantage, of Boston’s last five playoff exits, all have come at the Garden including four ‘all or nothing’ Game 7’s. If the Bruins do in fact make the playoffs, they will almost certainly be without home ice advantage.

Appreciate and enjoy that the Bruins have made the playoffs six years in a row, with a possible seventh on the horizon. Their 2014-2015 campaign has been marred with injuries, defensive breakdowns, power play ineptitude, and volatile goaltending. With that said, there are roughly 8 weeks between now and the end of the regular season including the trade deadline. Far be it for me to use the Bruins regular season as a means to project their postseason endeavors. As history would suggest, that would be futile.

Nba all star gameFor all 200 viewers of this site I would like to introduce myself. SUP! I’m Old Sull (My preferred nick name is inappropriate) and I am the former host of Show of the Year Jock Talk and Ian asked me to join the staff so here I am.  Some quick facts:

  • No this isn’t my first blog, my internship this summer which paid as much as this blog does ($0/ hour) required me to blog and they’re written in my corporate voice so no I’m not posting a link to them.
  • I’m a Boston Sports Fan
    • Small clause, that doesn’t apply to college sports. For college I am a die hard Wisconsin Badgers Fan
  • I am a degenerate gambler
  • Expect some drogs (new term I’m gonna try to coin for drunk blogs)
  • I plan on writing like I speak so please don’t tell me I spelled something wrong or pretend to be offended by my swearing. This is how I would tell you to your face so that’s how I am going to do it over the internet

SO, for all of you that hate the NBA All Star weekend, I’ll start this blog with the quick and dirty version of the weekend (with lots of pictures).

What you need to know:

Kevin Hart showed up (simply to promote a movie which actually looks good, but that’s a story for another day

Kevin hart 1

He got dominated by the future of UCONN basketball Mo’ne Davis

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And somehow was able to force enough jokes to win MVP

kevin hart 3Steph Curry DOMINATED the three point contest, confirming what everyone already knew, no one is scarier 30 ft from the basket than Steph

http://www.nba.com/news/2015-three-point-contest-event-page/ (click the link to watch cause we’re poor and can’t figure out how to embed videos)

JJ Reddick pretends he is still shooting from the Duke 3 point line.  But he was a good sport about it as you can see from his tweet:

JJ Redick        ✔ @JJRedick

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Just found out that I set the record for most long 2s in a 3 Point Contest. Ever. Couldn’t be prouder.

12:26 AM – 15 Feb 2015

(Sorry no one screenshotted this tweet. We are learning as we go.  I know I’m not as professional as bone, leave me alone)

Zach Levine (WHO?) won the dunk contest in convincing fashion with moves I couldn’t do with a nerf ball on a 5 foot hoop

dunk 1And finally there was the All Star game aka Carmelo’s last “game” of the season. A game in which no one played defense and Steph Curry stole the show, again.

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Best fact from the all star game is in a game when no one plays defense and everyone scores, somehow Carmelo epitomized his career and had 0 assists.

One final takeaway from the weekend is whoever scheduled this event is definitely looking for a new job now.  Why on gods earth you would schedule it on the same night in the same town as SNL 40 is mind boggling.  Me living the blogger life I was forced to watch the whole game just to bring that hard hitting fact to you. So I hope you guys are happy.

Now for the part none of you are looking forward to, my opinion on the weekend and all-star games in general.  I personally think everyone needs to lighten up a little bit.  This is not supposed to be as intense as a playoff game or even a regular season game.  This game counts for nothing (and thank god it doesn’t) so no I don’t expect lock down defense on what is a night off for most NBA players.

To use an overused saying, this weekend is what it is.  There are only so many ways to dunk a basketball and watching someone shoot threes is fun for 10 minutes.  They’ve tried to add events like the rising stars game and skills competition neither have been a huge hit.  But the bottom line is it’s not going to change, so stop acting disappointed every year.  You’re not going to get a high stakes competition.  I will say this does bother me though

group photo

I know I was young, but I miss the days when players hated each other.  I don’t want to get into it cause I get too riled up and I’m in Philosophy of Art and that just wouldn’t fly, but God damn.  You’re competing with these guys for the ultimate goal.  The pinnacle of your sport. A championship!!!!!! Hello?!  You can be friends another time but for now, the guys I want in my fox hole are guys like KG who would do anything to rattle the opponent to win (i.e your wife tastes like honey nut Cherrio’s).  I’m not asking them to spit on each other during an All Star game but you don’t need to take a picture after that looks like the caption should be “friend’s forver”.

I feel like it’s the popular thing right now to just trash All Star games on social media because we are exposed to 3 in the first two months of the year, beginning with the NFL, followed by the NHL, and finally the NBA All Star weekend.  At every single event the public just releases a unanimous groan and bitches about how they’ve seen it all before and no one’s trying.  While I agree with these gripes and I see their point, these fake games are not meant to invigorate you because they are not sporting events.  They do not invoke competition and you rarely identify with more than one or two guys.  So just sit back and appreciate their extreme athleticism and abilities.  Or do not watch and take a break from the sport, like most of the players are. But don’t act like this is a surprise, like I said, it is what it is.

With all that being said I think there are some fun ways to spice up the All-Star games, don’t play the sport.  Take these people out of their comfort zone and have them do events where they look human, are stripped of their arrogance, and they can get competitive again.  Just throw in events that are a joke and do them all day and put it all in one day.  Have a ping pong tournament, a pie eating contest (this mostly applies to the NFL Pro-Bowl), water pong, or even beer pong who knows.  But I love the idea of just taking a break from the sport and joking around because pretending like the game means something is pointless and you can see right through it.  It is not a game, it never will be and the sooner we can all agree on that we’ll all be better off.

PS-I cried writing this blog because February sucks, I have post football depression, and all I want is March Madness.

With NFL Free Agency period less than three weeks away, it is important to remember two things: Adam Schefter was born for this three week stretch and that “winning” in free agency does not necessarily translate to winning games, or more importantly, championships.

Take the Denver Broncos for example. Last March, GM John Elway went out and signed three defensive pro-bowlers: Aqib Talib, Demarcus Ware, and TJ Ward. Moreover, he added a speedy slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders to complement Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas. Many experts lauded Elway’s bold, “win-now” personnel decisions.

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On January 11th, 2015, Peyton Manning and the rest of his Denver teammates walked off Sports Authority Field after their season came to an end at the hands of the surprisingly pedestrian Indianapolis Colts.

Bill Belichick is one of the few NFL head coaches who also serves as a General Manager. It would be difficult to find an individual more suited for the job, however many experts suggest Belichick is mortal when it comes to offseason personnel decisions. No one is perfect and I have taken a look back on the five worst offseason signings and trades Belichick has made in his 15 year tenure in New England.

5. Chad Johnson (2011)

There haven’t been many opposing players that have received openly glowing praise from Belichick. Chad Johnson is one of the few (Ed Reed is another one that comes to mind): “I like Chad. I like him as a player. I like him as a person. I like his enthusiasm and the fun he has with football, and I like how he competes on the football field. I have a lot of respect for that.”  When Johnon’s play started to decline, his high salary and unusual antics became too much for Cincinnati to handle. Belichick dealt a 2011 5th round and 2013 6th round draft choice for Johnson who at the time was still under his 6 year, $33.5 million contract. Johnson willingly took a pay cut to an annual salary of $1 million with no bonuses.

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Unfortunately, while Johnson was a “model citizen” during his one year in Foxboro, the 33 year old did not resemble the 6-time pro bowler that New England thought they were getting. There were reports that he struggled to understand New England’s offensive schemes. He caught 15 passes on 32 targets for 276 yards and 1 TD.

4. Matt Cassel/Mike Vrabel (2009)

After Tom Brady’s season ended in Week 1 of the 2008 season, backup quarterback Matt Cassel filled in admirably en route to an 11-5 campaign. He threw 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 3,693 yards and completed 63.4% of passes. Much to the delight of New England, Cassel played well enough to garner interest from other teams. He was disposable to New England who went on to sign undrafted free agent Brian Hoyer out of Michigan State to assume the backup quarterback role.

101109 cassel vrabel

Additionally, OLB Mike Vrabel, a “diamond in the rough” signing by Belichick became expendable. Set to turn 34, Vrabel had only missed 3 games in 8 seasons but his production was declining (12.5 sacks in 2007, 4 in 2008.) Belichick packaged these two players to Kansas City for a second round pick. The reason this trade will go down as an unsuccessful one is for three reasons: 1) Cassel signed a 6 year, $63 million deal, indicating his perceived value across the league was fairly high. 2.) The Patriots sorely missed Mike Vrabel’s pass rush ability and knack for big plays. 3.) New England used Kansas City’s selection to take DT Ron Brace out of Boston College. Brace started 7 games in 4 years and was released after a wildly disappointing tenure.

3. Albert Haynesworth (2011)

Chris Cooley, a widely respected former tight end for the Washington Redskins played alongside Haynesworth and had this to say: “[Albert] was an awful human being”. Be that as it may, when he wanted to be, Haynesworth was an elite presence on the defensive line. He earned a 7 year, $100 million contract from Dan Snyder before being traded to New England for pennies on the dollar. New England traded its 5th round pick in 2013 and paid him a $1.5 million base salary. Belichick’s rationale was not far-fetched: in a best case scenario, Haynesworth would have fortified the defensive line alongside pro bowler Vince Wilfork.

Albert+Haynesworth+New+York+Giants+v+New+England+zFrD6_QS9x9l

Despite the low asking price, this was a rare miss by Belichick. He was cut after eight games only four months after signing with the team. His last appearance came against the New York Giants. He was taken out of the play by Giants guard David Diehl, who cleared room for a 10 yard touchdown run. On the sidelines, Haynesworth had a verbal altercation with linebacker coach Pepper Johnson. Haynesworth was cut the next day.

2. Leigh Bodden (2009)

The former Duquesne Duke appeared to be one of Belichick’s best signings after his stellar 2009 season. Signed off waivers after stints with Cleveland and Detroit, Bodden signed a one-year prove it deal and did he ever? He had 5 INTs, 55 tackles, 18 pass deflections, and one forced fumble. Belichick was convinced and signed Bodden to a 4 year, $22 million deal with $10 million guaranteed.

Leigh-Bodden

To provide a modern day context, the Patriots inked CB Brandon Browner to a 3 year, $17 million deal. They clearly had faith in Bodden’s ability; he was New England’s top paid cornerback. After signing the four year deal, Bodden got injured during camp and was placed on IR before the season. In 2011, he was underwhelming in camp and was released on October 28, 2011. Swing and a miss.

1. Adalius Thomas (2007)

To the many fans and experts constantly lamenting that the Patriots rarely go after big names in free agency (save Darrelle Revis), look no further than Adalius Thomas. After seven seasons with Baltimore, including three terrific seasons to end his tenure, the Pariots signed Adalius Thomas to a 5 year, $35 million deal, including $20 million guaranteed. In 2007, he rotated at ILB with Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau before moving outside to fill the void created by Roosevelt Colvin’s season ending injury. He posted 6.5 sacks, 57 tackles, 1 INT, and 2 forced fumbles including a dominant effort in Super Bowl XLII (5 solo tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble). However, it was all downhill after his monster performance in Super Bowl defeat. In 2008, he suffered a season ending arm injury in November and was placed on IR. In 2009, he had only recorded one sack in 5 games and was deactivated by Belichick. Thomas never recovered from this bold decision by the hooded one: “I don’t need something like this to fire me up. This isn’t kindergarten. I don’t play games.” Two weeks later, Thomas was sent home for being late to a morning meeting despite the snow. He was deactivated again and finished the season with 11 starts in 14 games played and only 34 tackles and three sacks. On April 26th, 2010, Thomas was released ending a very disappointing and expensive stint with New England.

A ripped Adalius Thomas stretching

Honorable Mention:

Richard Seymour (2009)

Eight days before the 2009 season, New England traded All-Pro DT Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for a first round draft choice in the 2011 NFL Draft (the Patriots selected LT Nate Solder with the 17th overall pick). Solder has been a capable blind side protector for the Patriots but their defense suffered tremendously, failing to replace Seymour’s presence.

Deion Branch (2006)

The Deion Branch contract saga ended in a trade to Seattle for a 2007 first round draft choice (the Patriots selected S Brandon Meriweather with the 24th overall pick). The Patriots ultimately got good value for Branch but their failure to replace him looms large on the 2006 campaign. Branch was one of Brady’s favorite targets (78/998/5 in 2005) and the lack of pass catching options eventually led to the Patriots downfall against Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. Reche Caldwell, a 35 year old Troy Brown, and Doug Gabriel were the top 3 WRs.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Marshawn Lynch bullied his way over the goal line with 19 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLIX, giving Seattle the lead and securing their second straight Lombardi Trophy. In a hard fought, physical battle between the league’s two best teams, the Patriots erased a 10 point 4th quarter deficit behind two vintage Brady touchdown drives only to relinquish the lead in excruciating fashion.

The defending champions responded with a 7 play, 80 yard drive orchestrated by the enigmatic, unflappable Russell Wilson capped by Lynch’s 1 yard touchdown run.

The final drive was not without drama or a feeling of déjà vu for one crestfallen fan base.

Wilson’s 35 yard throw to Marshawn Lynch, a few yards past the beaten Jamie Collins and at the feet of a second-too-late Devin McCourty was eerily similar to Mario Manningham’s 38 yard reception in between Sterling Moore and Patrick Chung.

Similarly, Wilson’s pass to Kearse reads in the box score as 33 yard reception. The agonizing symbolism was far more revealing.

A juggling, improbable, gut wrenching catch at a pivotal moment in the Super Bowl forced every New England fan to recall a similarly crippling catch by David Tyree seven years ago. In the same building.

Crazy Catch

Two plays later, Lynch found his way into the end zone and helped Seattle accomplish what many believe to be near impossible in this day in age: a repeat. The only parade in New England will be one full of lingering questions.

Seattle was opportunistic, if not efficient on defense. Tom Brady’s two interceptions thwarted an early scoring chance and positioned Seattle for points, respectively.

Brady’s miscues have reinvigorated the group of experts who feel Brady’s best football is behind him. Brady’s legendary drives from over a decade ago are indeed ingrained in our minds and worthy of admiration. However, it doesn’t excuse his recently playoff struggles. Yes, struggles.

In the 20 playoff games since Brady last hoisted his third Lombardi Trophy, Brady has thrown two or more interceptions SEVEN times.  For a man who turns 38 this offseason, his legacy is now a peculiar one. First ballot hall of famer: 3 Super Bowl rings, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, 2 regular season MVPs, ten pro bowls, and many more record breaking feats.

But as of February 1st, 2015, his career is a tale of two distinct eras. 3 rings in 4 years as a starter. 0 rings in his next 9 (and counting).

Football is a team game, and Brady is only on the field 50% of the time. So how about that defense?

Since 2007, the Patriots defense (led by defensive savant, future Hall of Famer, Bill Belichick) has taken the field THREE times in the Super Bowl with the lead and less than 4 minutes to play.

3 times they have given up the lead. 3 drives, 3 touchdowns. 28 plays, 251 yards. 3 losses. Even worse, in 2007, their defensive failure was preceded by a surgical 12 play, 80 yard touchdown drive by Tom & co. In 2014, it followed a 10 play, 64 yard touchdown drive. Football is a team game. And the Patriots have lost three Super Bowls in a row.

Why hasn’t this been the narrative following Super Bowl XLIX?

Because Malcolm Butler.

Because Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the 2014 New England Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX.

New England exorcised their Glendale demons. Brady and Belichick got #4. The Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl in 14 years and kept the dynasty alive by refusing to pass the torch to Seattle.

ESPN writer Seth Wickersham eloquently phrased Patriots Nation’s overarching sentiment: jubilant relief. As happy as they are relieved, Patriots fans need not worry. Their head coach since 2000 and beloved quarterback from 2001 until present day cemented themselves as the two greatest at their respective roles and unequivocally the best head coach/quarterback tandem.

Brady’s closing window? Mankins trade? Spygate? Deflategate? Belichick the GM hurting Belichick the coach? Trent Dilfer? Brady doesn’t have weapons? All of it has been eviscerated. Blowing a 21-3 lead to Indy in the 2006 AFC Championship Game? David Tyree? Mario Manningham? Losing two straight AFC Championship games? All of it stings a little bit less.

This win felt like 2004 when the Red Sox expunged their own demons by beating the Yankees in the ALCS down 0-3 and sweeping the Cardinals to claim their first World Series in 86 years. Sticking with that analogy, Malcolm Butler, serving as the proverbial Dave Roberts, has established himself as a household name forever.

It’s hard to truly appreciate a win unless you sincerely believe you are going to lose. I remember it so distinctly. The Patriots had gotten the ball back with 12:10 left in the 4th quarter facing a long road ahead of them. Down 24-14, their previous 12 plays from scrimmage had generated a paltry 21 yards: one interception and two punts. It seemed as though the vaunted Seattle defense, one that drew praise as one of the best ever by many experts, had figured out the patriots “dink and dunk” approach and were like sharks circling in the water. Michael Bennett was unstoppable. Patriots receivers were having difficulty creating separation and no one was convinced that Tom was “on”.

The first play of the drive resulted in a sack, good for an eight yard loss. This thing is over. Watching Brady get up slowly off the ground, many New England fans could not help but wonder if the window had closed not just on Super Bowl XLIX, but on Brady’s once decorated, increasingly complicated career. Dramatic? Possibly. But as a screen pass to Lafell went for four yards and the Patriots faced a 3rd and 14, it was then that the 2014 campaign could have come to a screeching halt. If New England had failed to convert, they would have been forced to punt and assuming competent clock management by Seattle (insert Pete Carroll joke here), even a 3 and out would have given Brady the ball back with roughly 7 or 8 minutes left needing two touchdown drives. Gulp.

3rd14

On 3rd and 14 from his own 28 yard line, Brady felt outside pressure, stepped up in the pocket and delivered an Opening Day fastball to Edelman who absorbed a HEAVY hit from Cam Chancellor.

The rest is history.

But for the 15 minutes between Jon Ryan’s punt with 12:10 remaining and Edelman 3rd down reception, there was a woeful acceptance among Patriots fans that New England was going to lose. Again. It is a near paralyzing feeling: body is stiff, eyes want to but can’t take themselves off of the screen, mind is numb but simultaneously envisioning another off-season riddled with second guessing and revisionist hypotheticals.

That feeling combined with the fourth quarter roller coaster of emotions culminating in a Butler interception and resurrecting nine years of playoff heartache made this one so special for Patriot nation.

Winning a fourth title started out as a fun, “playing with house money” quest. Over time, it transformed into a void to an insatiable desire to see Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy one more time. Just one more, Patriots fans pleaded.

From February 6th, 2005 until February 1st, 2015, the Patriots enjoyed unparalleled success. As the salary cap, inconsistent quarterback play, and other challenges in the modern day NFL thwarted most team’s ability to remain a contender year in and year out, the Patriots stood alone. 126-34 regular season record, 9 AFC Division titles, 4 AFC Championship Games, 2 Super Bowl Appearances, an undefeated regular season, home field dominance, first round byes, and yet, no Lombardi Trophy.

Patriots faithful were part of an interesting paradox. They were spoiled from New England’s success but from 2005-2013, but resented their decade long regular-season dominance because it was a reminder of their playoff shortcomings. The reminder at how dominant the Patriots had been during this stretch only personified the agonizing defeats and seemingly annual January and February heartache.

Each offseason became filled with questions and second guessing. Each season ended in similar fashion. The voices got louder as the years went by. The aforementioned fourth ring stopped being a near formality in fans’ eyes and became a necessity. Fans were obsessed over it. One more title, ten years later amidst the ever-changing league run by parity obsessed owners, would confirm what Patriots fans knew but were denied confirmation: The Patriots are a dynasty. They are the gold standard. Tom Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. Bill Belichick is the best Head Coach in NFL history. Winning three titles-none since the 2004 season would have felt like the Big 3 Era for the Celtics: ultimately successful but void of complete satisfaction.

Perhaps even more exciting, is that last Sunday’s winning performance proved that this group of Patriots had the talent, mental toughness, youth, and “it” factor to win a Super Bowl.

Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Darrelle Revis are three of the best players at their respective positions.

The average age of this team was 25.6 years old; the youngest average age of any Super Bowl winnings team ever.

New England trailed Baltimore, its playoff kryptonite, by 14 points at two different points in the Divisional Round game and trailed Seattle by 10 points with 12 minutes left in the 4th quarter. They won both displaying a mental fortitude that many prior Patriots teams lacked.

Best part? Next year’s team may not look all that much different. The front office certainly has some decisions but it would not be surprising to see a similar team take the field on Thursday, September 10th at Gillette Stadium.

After Sunday’s game, Brady was seen flashing four fingers, one for each ring. Well if Sunday’s performance proved anything, it was this: Tom Brady is as good as ever, and as this team turns the page to next year, it is blatantly obvious that they have the pieces to get back to this stage.

Four rings is unbelievable, but not unprecedented. Five? Well, that has never been done before.

2015: One for the Thumb.