I'm a native New Englander, born and raised right outside of Boston. I was bottle-fed Dunkin Donuts as a baby, consider 12 inches of snow a light dusting and know the proper way to pronounce Faneuil Hall and Worcester.
Which makes this article a bit difficult to write. I mean, this is Post Football Therapy. It's supposed to be words of encouragement and reassurance for distraught fans looking for hope and optimism and any reason to believe next year will be their year.
So, what do I do for the Patriots? This year was our year. After a rocky start that supposedly signified the end of the Brady-Belichick era, the season ended with a game that had more twists and turns than a rose ceremony on "The Bachelor." But this time, we were the ones who walked away with the final rose.
Bob Kraft put it best during the trophy presentation when he said, "I never thought another trophy could feel as special [as the one from 2001], but this one absolutely does. And every true Patriot fan understands it."
And he's right. The 2001 championship was a pleasant surprise for Patriots fans. We were the underdogs, the scrappy bunch of misfits going up against the Goliath that was the St. Louis Rams and "The Greatest Show on Turf." After that win, Lombardi Trophies became an expectation for New England fans, as though it was our right to have them. And, when you win three championships in four years, you get spoiled. But after two heartbreaking Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants, we were left wondering if the Patriots' mystique had faded. We were supposed to go 19-0. We were supposed to avenge that loss by blowing out the Giants in the next Super Bowl. But neither of those happened.
Which is why Super Bowl XLIX was so special. We had a newfound appreciation for our team and what it took to win a championship. It took coming back against the Baltimore Ravens (twice), dealing with the Deflategate controversy and snagging a goal-line interception in the closing seconds. This championship was different for us.
Oh, yeah, this is supposed to be about why we should be optimistic about next year. Well, let's get to it then!
Let's start off with the most obvious reason why 2015 could be a repeat year for us. As long as Brady and Belichick are leading our team we have a chance to win the Super Bowl year in and year out. Brady could be 45 years old and tossing up Peyton Manning-like floaters and we'd still be a threat come playoff time. I know people want to talk about Spygate and Deflategate, but the 2007 Patriots went undefeated in the regular season after Spygate (yes, trolls, we lost the Super Bowl, I know) and the Deflategate controversy didn't stop us from winning Super Bowl XLIX. In fact, I can guarantee you those were the most properly inflated balls in the history of inflated balls.
And what a game that was. If that didn't prove the brilliance of Brady and Belichick then maybe you need to rewatch the game again... and again... and again. First of all, the win cemented Brady and Belichick's legacy. Four Super Bowl wins ties them with the Steelers' Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw for the most by a coach/quarterback duo. It also showed what makes Tom Brady the greatest ever. Despite two costly interceptions, Brady led the Patriots back from a ten-point fourth quarter deficit, the largest in Super Bowl history. He surpassed Joe Montana (not to be confused with actor Joe Mantegna) for most touchdown passes in Super Bowl history (13) and tied his idol for most Super Bowl MVPs (3).
And then there's Belichick. With the Seahawks inching towards the end zone with the clock ticking away, Belichick chose not to call a timeout or even let the Seahawks score so the Patriots could get the ball back. He trusted his team. Granted, hindsight is 20/20, and if the Patriots lost the game people would be ripping Brady's play and Belichick's clock management. But guess what? We won. Thanks, Malcolm Butler.
So, as long as we have Brady and Belichick at the helm in 2015, we have a chance to be the first team to win back-to-back championships since... well, us. You don't think Brady and Belichick want that?
A Championship Defense
After Jermaine Kearse made that juggling catch in Super Bowl XLIX, it appeared as though our defense was once again going to cost us a Super Bowl. It brought back visions of David Tyree and Mario Manningham (although, if Wes Welker had made that catch in Super Bowl XLVI it'd be a different story). But after years of defensive shortcomings, it was only fitting that the final play of the game would be a goal-line interception by the Patriots defense.
It's no secret that this year's defense was one of the best we've had. Over their last nine games, including the postseason, the Patriots allowed a combined 12 points in the fourth quarter. It used to be that if our defense gave up 12 points in the fourth quarter we'd view that as a moral victory. But with new additions Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis, coupled with the emergence of second-year linebacker Jamie Collins, the Patriots defense went from 26th in 2013 to 13th last year. The Pats' chance at a repeat drop significantly if Revis leaves, but you have to believe the Patriots will do what they can to re-sign him. They need to take advantage of the championship window while it's open. Plus, the defense gets Jerod Mayo back next season. That can't be a bad thing.
The 2014 season ended with the Patriots and 2015 will start with the Patriots. One of the best parts about winning the Super Bowl is watching your team kickoff the following season on a Thursday night game. The fanfare and buildup makes it feel like a mini-Super Bowl in its own right. Watching the Super Bowl XLIX championship banner take its rightful place in Gillette Stadium will be a sight Patriots fans have waited 10 long years to see. And, I'll go so far as to say that Rob Gronkowski's party bus will somehow find its way to the pregame festivities.