Well that was pretty painless.
For all the legacy talk, Manning vs. Brady XV was a flop. It was never even close. For me, the game was over when Aqib Talib exited the game in the second quarter. I was already feeling a bit despondent late in the first quarter when Brady missed a wide open Julian Edelman on a deep cross. Those opportunities weren't going to arise often, and I knew Brady missed a golden chance.
It was like yanking a bandaid off a scab. It was evident early on the Patriots were overmatched. They couldn't stop the Denver running attack. They couldn't stop the Broncos' stable of wide receivers. Offensively, the Patriots didn't have the weapons to attack a depleted Denver secondary. Brady wasn't even close to his Hall of Fame self.
It was painless-- pretty much what I would imagine death by lethal injection would be like. It wasn't like death by Old Sparky.
Sometimes I prefer seasons end this way. The Patriots were beaten by a better team. There were no "what ifs." There were no once-in-a-lifetime catches in the final minutes. No missed field goals. No unfortunate turnovers. No poor coaching decisions which could be second-guessed.
The Patriots were under-manned. Looking back, it is remarkable the Patriots won thirteen games this year. Amazing they were in the position to be one win away from the Super Bowl.
Before a preseason game was even played, one of the team's best players was imprisoned on charges of murder. Yes, murder. Their other star tight end was in a dispute with the team over his timetable for his return from an injury. A circus atmosphere surrounded training camp with the arrival of Tim Tebow. A quick look at the wide receiver depth had everyone longing for the days of Brandon Lloyd.
Injuries are a part of the game. The Patriots had their fair share of injuries. The heart of their defense was ripped out. The first signs of the inevitable decline of Brady were revealing themselves-- kind of like finding that first gray hair on your head or that first wrinkle in your forehead. It may have been subtle, but it was evident to the observant eye.
So, yes, it hurts. It hurts because we all know time is running out on Brady's career. It is another year with no Super Bowl championship with the greatest quarterback of our generation at the helm. Nobody wants to think about what life will be like after Brady and Belichick.
With Brady and Belichick, expectations have always been Super Bowl or bust. There was a time pre-Brady and Belichick when just making the playoffs was considered a successful season. There was a time when we celebrated AFC East divisional championships.
There are a generation of Patriots fans who don't understand the frustration of missing out on the playoffs year-in and year-out. They may not have been alive when the Patriots were the laughing stock of the league. They don't realize how close the Patriots were to becoming the St. Louis Patriots.
It's been a great run-- a historic one. The first half of it was far better than the second half.