Since the Brady/Belichick era began, the Patriots have had one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. With 4 Super Bowls, 6 Super Bowl appearances and 10 AFC Championship appearances, it's no argument the Patriots have been the best and most consistent teams in football. Right up until their loss in Denver, there have only been two pieces that have remained true from beginning to end, and that is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Love him or hate him, Brady has been one of the best, if not the best quarterback in the league, and Belichick is up their among the coaching greats. With the way the league has changed, it has been difficult to win in the NFL without either a good coach or good quarterback. The Patriots hit the lottery when they brought in Belichick, and then struck gold again when they drafted Brady at #199.
I think it's too much to say that Belichick has taken Brady for granted, but he has definitely taken advantage of his skills as a quarterback. Aside from a few seasons, it seems that the Patriots always have one massive flaw, either on offense or defense. Belichick has relied on Brady's ability to make players better to negate those flaws. Although it has gotten them 4 rings in the last 15 years, I can't help but think they could have more.
In 2007, the Patriots put one of the best offenses in history out on the field. Brady threw for over 4,800 yards, 50 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. The problem was that Belichick relied too much on the offense, and it wasn't enough to win Brady his 4th ring (at the time). Aside from Rodney Harrison, the Patriots secondary was below average to say the least. Belichick was relying on Asante Samuel and Brandon Merriweather to hold down the backfield, and as we know, it didn't work out.
This 2015 team, when healthy, rivaled the '07 team for the best Patriots team of all time. However, just like 2007, there were a lot of lethal flaws that haunted this team. For the first 10 weeks, the Patriots were able to cover up those flaws and win 10 straight, but injuries would catch up to them and expose those flaws.
As we've all seen, the running game has never been the true strength for New England, especially since Brady took the helm. Brady is 16-7 (4-1 in the playoffs) when throwing the ball more than 50 times. For reference, Manning is 4-13, Rodgers is 0-2 and Montana was 2-3. So, Brady has no problem making up the lack of a running game, but the running game wasn't the only flaw with this offense in 2015.
Against Denver, Brady was hit 20 times, more than any team since 2006, proving just how bad this offensive line problem really was. As I said, Brady has no problem putting the offense on his shoulders and throwing the ball 50+ times, but he needs the protection to do it. He prided himself on his quick release to negate the offensive line woes, but when he needs to hold onto the ball longer than two seconds, it results in 20 hits and 18 total points. Brady can cover up a bad offensive line, or a bad running game, but he can't do both.
For years, Belichick's plan was to win in a shootout, beating teams 38-35. It worked for 18 straight games in 2007, unfortunately there are 19 games in a perfect seaon and it didn't work in the one that mattered. Last year, Belichick finally spent the money to put together a great secondary and lo and behold, they won a Super Bowl. Apparently, the ring wasn't enough motivation for Belichick to learn his lesson because he decided to not re-sign his best defensive back. Hopefully this gut wrenching loss will prove to Bill that depth can only get you so far, and you need great players if you want to be in the big game at the end of the season.
At some point, Belichick has to realize that Brady is a great quarterback, but you cannot put the entire offense on his shoulders. He's going to be 39 at the start of next season, although he hasn't shown any signs of aging, you have think he's going to start showing his age sooner rather than later. Spend the money and/or draft picks to help Brady on offense rather than relying on him to make a good offense great. Acquire players that make the game easier for Brady, not harder.
By Matt Watts