Patriots Super Bowl Window Closing (But Perhaps Not As Fast As Critics Think)

01/27/2013 02:17 am ET
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Another year, another playoff loss for the Patriots. The hooded menace and his star quarterback are on the decline. So long, Patriots Dynasty.

Sound familiar?

Despite not registering fewer than 10 regular-season wins in any year since they last won the Super Bowl after the 2004 season, every campaign without a ticker tape parade is treated as the proof that the Belichick-Brady era is over. It was supposedly finished for them last year after their Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants. The sky was also falling after a postseason loss at home to the Jets the season before that. The dynasty was also over the year before that. And the year before that.

For all the annual doom and gloom, it's not as if the Patriots have completely fallen out of contention. Even with the Patriots' 8-7 postseason record after the last Super Bowl win of the Brady-Belichick era, that number still shows they have a good chance to win it all every year. The Pats won 12 games in the regular season this year. They won 13 last year. 14 the year before that. 10 before that.

Yes, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's postseason numbers since New England's last championship look a lot different than their early years. The Pats looked unstoppable in the postseason when Brady first took. By 2004, the duo was 9-0 in the playoffs with three Super Bowl wins, two of which Brady was named MVP. Since then, he's 8-7 in the playoffs with two Super Bowl losses. Three of those postseason defeats came at Foxboro. And when Brady was out for a season, the Matt Cassel-led Patriots lost in the first round to Baltimore, 30-7.

So go ahead and talk about the end of the Brady-Belichick era. Keep talking about Brady's age. Keep going on and on about how their window is closing. Sure. But how many AFC teams will enter next season markedly better than the Pats? Maybe Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Maybe Denver (Peyton is 36).

The younger players on the Patriots are less concerned with the team's relationship to the previous winning clubs and more concerned with creating a new legacy.

“That whole era is over with. It’s gone. So this is a whole new team," Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich told WEEI one day after the AFC title game. "It’s a different bunch of guys. We all have to experience it and learn for ourselves what it’s like."

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