The Patriots Did Their Job
Critics were calling for heads at the beginning of the New England Patriots' season.
After signing Darelle Revis and Brandon Browner, many labeled the Pats as a serious Super Bowl Contender in the offseason.
But, as we all know, New England's season didn't start as expected.
It started in Miami, where the Pats always seem to have trouble and that was the case in Week 1.
The Dolphins have a strong defensive front and, with the Pats still figuring out their starting offensive line, Miami put pressure on Tom Brady all game.
Combine that with Rob Gronkowski working his way back from his knee injury and Brandon LaFell working his way into the offensive scheme, Brady really only had 1 viable passing option in Julian Edelman early on in the season.
The Pats then won at Minnesota and against Oakland, the former win being mainly contributed to special teams and defense, and the latter being unconvincing as New England secured the win with a Vince Wilfork interception.
Then, all hell broke loose.
The Patriots went into Kansas City against another strong defensive front and still not having a consistent offensive line.
And it led to a blowout loss where people questioned Bill Belichick's schemes (i.e. revolving offensive line) and Brady's future.
Meanwhile, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos had just beaten the Chiefs the previous week and were putting up points left and right (and almost beat the Seahawks in Seattle in an exciting game).
So, early on, everyone fell in love with the Broncos' prolific offense as they put up at least 30 points in every game from Week 5-8.
Also, in that time, New England began their upward trend.
They killed the Bengals at home after everyone was a critic (including myself, but still believing in them) following the KC loss.
In the Cincinnati win, Gronk looked to be back at 100% with 6 receptions for 100 yards and a TD. And the offensive line looked strong against a pretty good defense as Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 203 rushing yards and a TD.
After Cincinnati, New England took care of the rest of the AFC East. It's important to note that LaFell broke out in the Buffalo game with 4 receptions for 97 yards and 2 TDs.
When the time came for another Brady-Manning battle, the game was still considered a toss-up.
As mentioned, the Broncos were putting up points left and right with strong receiving options for Manning in Julius and Demaryius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders (who the Pats tried to sign).
Sanders and Demaryius had big games, but couldn't get into the endzone. Julius had a TD, but it was his only impact in the game with just 1 other catch besides that.
This game showed that the Pats finally had their offense right, going against a supposedly tough Denver defense. Gronk, Edelman, LaFell, and Vereen had TDs in the rout of the Broncos.
The win convinced the national opinion that the Pats had their act together.
I keep referring to the Broncos' season because it demonstrates why the Patriots were ultimately successful in their Super Bowl winning season.
Denver killed the Raiders after their loss to the Pats, but after their win in Oakland, their offense couldn't keep up their impressive pace.
They began to focus on running the ball as it seemed like Peyton's arm fell off.
When they couldn't establish a solid running game, they lost to a team like St. Louis.
The Pats used all facets of their team to win games. Strong defense, spreading the ball and doing what is necessary for each particular game to come out with the win.
And that tells the story of each team's success in the playoffs.
Denver was one and done because they couldn't throw and their defense couldn't stop Andrew Luck.
And New England did their job in each of their playoff wins. They were resilient against Baltimore after going down by 14 points, twice. They dominated the Colts with their rushing attack, but also still having the pass threat, to move onto the Super Bowl.
The Pats executed what was needed in each particular match up.
They kept doing that against Seattle. They focused on short passes and yards after the catch. And when Brady had Gronk on 1 on 1 LB coverage, he went deep on the pass for the score.
Obviously, the perfect example of doing your job is Malcolm Butler. He had seen the look before, on the last play, in practice. He knew the slant was coming. So did Browner. They did their job and it led to the Pats' 4th Super Bowl in one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl History.
New England improved with each week. Their offensive line stuck together after a tough start. The receiving corps got more comfortable with their reads on routes. And the defense applied more pressure and locked down coverage in the secondary.
After being at their lowest in Week 4, the Pats trended upward with each passing game. And it led to the highest point in a Super Bowl win.