(Ezra Shaw, Getty Images/ North America)
Now that I've let it settle in, I'm done pointing at what each individual player did wrong and I'm just going to come out and say it, the reason New England isn't playing in Super Bowl 50 is Bill Belichick. I'm not coming out and saying that he is to blame for the result of the AFC Championship Game, because the O-Line made it almost impossible for Tom Brady to make any throws and he was hit 23 times (most of his career in the playoffs). But Bill should be taking more heat for how the second half of the season was played as a whole.
It almost seemed as though he was trying too hard to cement himself into football history (as if he really needed to) and tried to look even smarter than he already is. In doing so, he out-coached himself. The list goes on from just the scenario where he had Nate Ebner do a drop-kick onside kick against the Eagles, which the Pats lost 35-28 at Gillette. A GIMME!
Let's fast forward to Weeks 16 and 17, the Jets and the Dolphins. Both were road games, both were very winnable games. However, Bill Belichick decided it wold be a good idea to kick to start OT against the Jets, which seemed like a good idea at the time because the offense couldn't do anything all game. But the Jets won 26-20 and New England didn't even touch the ball in OT.
Then on to Miami. I understand the thought of trying to keep Tom Brady and his receivers healthy for the playoffs, but when you risk facing the Broncos in Denver, you have no margin for error, win the game! You're still not getting Solder back, you already weren't playing Edelman, so sit TB12, let Jimmy G play and go from there. They needed to take care of business and win one of those last two games and they didn't.
And it wound up hurting them in the end.
I'm not saying that the venue could've changed the performance of the O-Line because they are AWFUL, but try having Peyton Manning and his HGH using fivehead throwing a football with no feeling in his fingertips in Foxboro after a snowstorm. Chances are, he wouldn't even have been able to throw it past the yard markers.
On to the fourth quarter of the Title game. The defense was putting their foot on Manning's throat and held the Broncos to 83 total yards in the second half. That's stout. So why go for it on those two early 4th downs when you're well within Gotskowski's range? I don't care if he missed the PAT, he's still the best kicker in football and was more likely to hit a 40+ yard FG than Tom Brady would have enough time to pass it 5 yards downfield, or 1 for that matter.
That wound up biting the Pats in the butt because Gronk's TD could've won the game, instead we lost on a failed 2-pt conversion.
Once again, I'm not saying Bill is the only one to blame, I just think he should be taking a little more heat than he has been getting. Let's remember, the Pats started the year 10-0 and finished 13-5 when you include the playoffs. That's 3-5 in their last 8 games.