A year ago, the Pats had just locked up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs thanks to the Bengals’ win over the Broncos in Week 16. We were thrilled that the Pats didn’t have to risk further injury to a team that had escaped the season with season-ending injuries to only 2 key contributors — Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley — but no one would say that Pats fans were at peace. We not only wanted a 4th Super Bowl more than anything else in the sports world. We needed Brady and Belichick to get that 4th ring.
This year, we have an inner peace. Don’t get me wrong, I speak for every Pats fan by stating that our Patriots passion has not diminished in the slightest. But if they lose this season in the playoffs like every year from 2005 to 2013 except for 2008, we’ll always have that 4th Super Bowl last year in Glendale. Brady and Belichick were still able to put the final bookend on the shelf of their time together, even if it runs for a few years. They still won one without the defensive superstars of 2001-2004, still won without Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, and still took the taste of 2 Super Bowl losses and 3 January losses in Foxboro out of our mouths.
Pats fans have been through a lot this year. Deflategate was one thing, but the internal struggle that each of us had between “GOODELL IS TRYING TO SCREW US OVER THIS IS BOSTON WE DON’T STAND FOR THIS” and “Maybe I’m taking this too seriously, and maybe I shouldn’t cuss at my girlfriend’s friend who still stupidly believes that 11 out of 12 balls were significantly underinflated.”
Can you even imagine how much worse this spring and summer would have been if Malcolm Butler hadn’t jumped that route? Throughout that entire sting operation, it felt somewhere between 50 and 5000 times better because we had the backdrop of a SB49 win. When my Seahawks fan friend texted me wondering if Tommy Football was gonna play as well in 2015 with properly inflated balls, I was able to respond, “Well, they were properly inflated in Arizona in February, and l think you know that he did just fine then.” Being able to respond with that instead of “Fuck yourself, learn the facts of the case” probably decreased my chances of a heart attack by about 35%.
Overall, the Patriots and their fans have had a damn good 2015. We almost saw another playoff loss in Foxboro to the Ravens, which would have left us with the feeling that Brady and Belichick were destined to end their careers as playoff losers. Then we saw them stomp the Colts in the AFCCG and face the BS that was deflategate, and nobody wanted to admit it, but we were kinda worried on the Monday and Tuesday after the game that Brady or Belichick would be suspended for the Super Bowl. NExt, we went on one of the all time emotional roller coaster rides in sports history in the final 2 minutes of the Super Bowl with the Jermaine Kearse catch and Malcolm Butler interception. Then there was deflategate, followed by a win in court that felt like a playoff win itself, and then we had a 10-0 start en route to a probable #1 seed. What a year.
When you reminisce on how great of a year this has been for the Pats and us as fans, remember how much better it is because Russell Wilson’s pass would up in the good guy’s hands. Heading into the playoffs at the start of 2016, we may care just as much, but even if they don’t go all the way, we’ll still have a sense of inner peace that we never could have dreamed of last year.