As droves of people evacuated Gillette Stadium by the thousands in the 4th quarter of Sunday night's game, I turned to a friend and jokingly remarked "Now that everyone's leaving, the Pats will win." In reality, I didn't think they had a chance. Two touchdowns in the last 61 seconds. Unbelievable.
It shouldn't have to come to that against the Cleveland Browns. But it did. And a win is a win is a win.
It's funny how if the Red Sox play 8 bad innings then come back in the 9th, it's a thrill. Or if the Bruins score goals with the goalie pulled in Game 7 against Toronto, it's fantastic. Or if the Celtics have an amazing second half comeback against the Lakers, it's magical. We see these as great sports moments. However when the Patriots need late drama, or "win ugly," fans seem more pained than entertained. Patriots fans have no joy in them, only bitterness and resentment if things aren't perfect.
It's sports. It's a game. It's entertainment. Enjoy it.
And frankly, regular season wins don't mean much so who cares if they're ugly or beautiful. They're all part of the total you collect in 16 tries. Ugly wins, pretty wins, tough wins, lucky wins, they all count the same. And that total means nothing compared to playoff wins and losses. A dozen ugly regular season wins mean the same as a dozen pretty ones. And if you lose in the playoffs, every regular season win means nothing.
On the other hand, losing Rob Gronkowski does have tremendous meaning. He destroyed his ACL and MCL. He's done for the season. And the Patriots offense now becomes completely different. Gronk was not only Brady's favorite weapon, especially in the Red Zone. He also opened up acres of space for his teammates, by drawing attention and causing matchup difficulties. With Gronk, this offense was like Brady in the driver's seat of a Corvette. Now Brady's driving a Toyota Camry.
Shane Vereen is the only remaining difficult matchup for opponents. Give him the 12th Man Award for most contribution from an unexpected source this season. He caught 12 passes Sunday for 153 yards. He also ran for a touchdown. I wish I had picked him up off fantasy football waivers, and I'm not the only one kicking myself for not doing so.
Stevan Ridley had 0 fumbles. That's the only stat of his I care about.
With Gronkowski this team was a Super Bowl favorite. Without him they fall back to the pack of potential contenders. He's so ridiculously good. And so ridiculously injury prone. In 2014 they should bench him until Week 14, let him warm up a few games, then only really use him in the playoffs. That's not a serious suggestion, but it's not completely insane is it?
Some are saying that the Patriots' season is over without Gronk. As Barstool so eloquently put it: "Like the second you saw this you knew the season was over." What part of speech is "like" there? Quality, interesting writing, Barstool. Anyway, I understand the sentiment and I would agree with it. Except the Saints game seemed over and the Patriots won. The Broncos game seemed over and the Patriots won. This game Sunday seemed over and the Patriots won.
I'm not going to lose hope and turn my back on this team like all the so-called fans who left the Saints game early, then the Broncos game early, then the Browns game early. I'm sticking around for the 4th quarter and overtime. As stressful as these games have been, they've been a thrill to watch.
Patriots travel to Miami next week where they can clinch the AFC East.