There goes the last great American dynasty: For the first time since 2008, the New England Patriots will not be participating in the postseason.
New England's fate was sealed with Sunday's 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins, a defeat that dropped Bill Belichick's Pats to 6-8. The loss also clinched the franchise's first season with a .500 record or worse since 2000, the first year of the Belichick era, when the Pats finished 5-11.
Asked after the game how he felt about missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, Belichick said, "Disappointed, but we didn't deserve to win today so..."
The Patriots' historic loss comes one day after the Buffalo Bills clinched their first AFC East title since 1995. In a cruel twist of fate, Belichick's Pats were knocked out of postseason contention by the Miami Dolphins, coached by Brian Flores, the latest Belichick protege to rise from Patriots underling to rival head coach.
In their first season without Tom Brady under center for the bulk of the year since 2008, and their first without him on the roster since 1999, New England tried to keep the good times rolling with Cam Newton at the helm. The Patriots started 2-1 on the strength of Newton's legs and right arm, but lost four in a row starting in early October. The skill-poor offense never recovered, the defense failed to prove as dominant as last season's outfit and New England slowly fell out of contention in the AFC.
Before the 2020 season, the Patriots had won the AFC East (and made the playoffs) in 11 consecutive seasons (an NFL record) and in 17 of the last 19 seasons (the Jets won in 2002 and the Dolphins won in 2008). New England has not made the playoffs as a wild-card team since 1998.
New England finishes the season against AFC East rivals Buffalo and New York. The Patriots can play spoiler against the Bills, who are gunning for a higher seed, and potentially send the Jets to the third 0-16 season in NFL history. But that's all that's left for the Flying Elvii: having a marvelous time ruining everything while watching from the couch in January.