The 11 most painful ways the Patriots could lose the Super Bowl

brady  3 .0 - The 11 most painful ways the Patriots could lose the Super Bowl

What’s the most brutal way for the Patriots to lose back-to-back Super Bowls?

The New England Patriots have been a crusher of dreams in the Super Bowl. Tom Brady’s first two NFL titles came thanks to game-winning Adam Vinatieri field goals with four seconds or less on the clock. His third was the result of classic Andy Reid clock management and Donovan McNabb possibly vomiting in his own huddle.

And those were only the tip of the heartbreak iceberg. Pete Carroll’s stunning refusal to give Marshawn Lynch the ball at the goal line led to Malcolm Butler’s star-making moment and the utter disbelief of fans across the Pacific Northwest.

Then came Super Bowl 51, where the Falcons held a 28-3 lead with three minutes to play in the third quarter and somehow still lost, giving us the greatest comeback in NFL history.

New England has faced a handful of bad beats as well. The Patriots have lost to their greatest rival’s little brother twice in the Super Bowl, then got beaten in 2018 by the Eagles’ backup quarterback. But none of those losses compare to buzzer-beating field goals or the massive, tidal waves of emotion and momentum that have come in the team’s last two wins.

So what would it take to crush the Patriots like they crushed the Seahawks and Falcons? There are a few ways it could play out.

11. Brandin Cooks scores the game-winning touchdown

The Patriots are pretty careful about who they trades with every year. When the team decided to cut bait with Jimmy Garoppolo before his contract expired, New England sent the quarterback to the 49ers — an NFC team that wouldn’t run into the Patriots often. It was the same strategy when pass rusher Chandler Jones was shipped off to the Arizona Cardinals.

So Bill Belichick was probably thinking the same thing when he sent Brandin Cooks to the Rams for a first-round pick last April.

But now here we are, with Cooks set to play against the Patriots for the first time in his career.

It’s still too early to tell if the first-round pick that was used to select offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn will prove to be a good one (Wynn missed his rookie season due to an Achilles tear). But if Cooks wins it for the Rams, it’ll be a rare case — at least for a moment — when a Belichick trade blows up in his face.

10. Aqib Talib comes up with a game-sealing interception

Back in 2012, the Patriots took a chance on a talented, young cornerback with a history of off-the-field problems. Talib lived up to his end of the bargain, helping the Patriots to back-to-back AFC Championship appearances and earning his first Pro Bowl honors in 2013.

So even though the Patriots let him walk in free agency in 2014, Talib doesn’t have hard feelings about the split.

“That’s a great organization,” Talib said earlier this week, via the New York Post. “A lot of respect for Tom Brady, a lot of respect for Bill Belichick. I feel like they’re the best. If you win, you want to play against the best.”

When the Broncos decided to part ways with Talib in the 2018 offseason, there were only two teams he hoped would make the trade:

But it was the Rams that were willing to give up a fifth-round pick to acquire Talib. It’d be pretty tough for the Patriots to stomach not scooping up the cornerback themselves if Talib ended up winning the game for the Rams. But hey, at least New England has a fifth-round pick.

9. The Rams drive for a game-winning field goal, exactly 17 years after Super Bowl 36

The year is 2002. The Wire hasn’t yet debuted on HBO, we’re still a few months from having to see Hayden Christensen play Anakin Skywalker, and 24-year-old Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is in his first Super Bowl.

With less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Rams tied up the game with a three-play, 55-yard touchdown drive capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to Ricky Proehl.

Then in the last 1:21 of the game, Brady led the Patriots into field goal range and Vinatieri drilled it from 48 yards to win the game. A dynasty and the legend of Brady was born in that moment.

What a perfect and painful ending to the Patriots’ reign of terror it’d be if that narrative came full circle.

Now it’s 24-year-old Jared Goff trying to plant his flag in the history books and what better way to do it than to go full Tom Brady and win the game in the final two minutes? Doubt him all you want, but he did exactly that in the final two minutes of regulation against the Saints in the NFC Championship. Do it against the Patriots and the legend of Goff will be born.

8. The Patriots lose and the next day, Kyrie Irving demands a trade to the Lakers

It doesn’t really matter how the Patriots lose in this scenario. Just that they get bested by a team in LA and then immediately the Celtics star decides he wants to rejoin LeBron James.

The Boston vs. LA rivalry has been mostly confined to basketball. Yes, there was just a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series, but that was the first time it had happened between Boston and LA. Basketball is where the rivalry really lives.

It was the Lakers vs. the Celtics clashes of the 1960s and 1980s that established the city vs. city hate. It was revived about 10 years ago when the teams met in the NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010.

Football has never really been much a factor in the rivalry, though. The Patriots spent the majority of their first 35 or so years of existence being pretty terrible, and it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that Bill Parcells brought them to consistent prominence. By that point — and when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick arrived — the Rams and Raiders had both vacated Los Angeles.

But hoo boy would that rivalry fire back up if the first ever LA vs. Boston Super Bowl ends with a win for the Rams, immediately followed by the poaching of the Celtics’ best player. It’s not that far-fetched, either. Kyrie Irving is “genuinely interested in reuniting with” LeBron James in LA, according to Bleacher Report.

Even if Irving didn’t end up getting traded to the Lakers, just asking would piss of Boston fans to no end.

7. Julian Edelman throws a back-breaking pick-six

Once upon a time, Sean McVay played two games against Julian Edelman. The Rams’ 33-year-old coach was a rarely used wide receiver at Miami (Ohio) and Edelman was the quarterback at Kent State.

Edelman won the first matchup; McVay won the second.

In the latter, Edelman threw two interceptions and no touchdowns — some solid foreshadowing for his future position switch to wide receiver in the NFL. But in his 10-year professional career, Edelman has attempted four passes — two in the regular season and two in the postseason.

If the Patriots dialed up a little trickeration and let Edelman throw his fifth career pass in the Super Bowl, nobody would be less surprised than McVay, who watched Edelman the quarterback in person.

So it’d be a delicious moment if the Patriots shot themselves in the foot by falling right into that trap. And it’d be a wonderful moment of irony if McVay got a win because of Edelman’s inability to avoid an interception — just like their meeting in October 2007.

6. Another blatant pass interference no-call benefits the Rams

Nobody can say for certain whether or not the Saints would have beaten the Rams in the NFC Championship Game had the officials made the right decision and called the extremely obvious pass interference. I also don’t think the league could do anything after the fact to placate the Saints or their fans, and I understand why they’re mad.

But, good lord, could you imagine Patriots fans if the same thing happened in the Super Bowl? Part of me wants to see the utter chaos, but the other part of me is worried many of them would deteriorate to such a degree that they would turn into empty husks, rocking back and forth in the fetal position.

On second thought, both parts of me wants to see that. What an absolutely crushing ending that would be for Patriots fans, and imagine the delight Patriots haters would experience. And on the plus side, such a mistake so soon after the first one, and in the Super Bowl no less, would likely lead to the league taking the issue seriously and trying to remedy it.

5. Playing Gronk on defense for no reason, again

I still have no idea why the Patriots put Rob Gronkowski on defense at the end of their Week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were in a “last chance” situation, but were at their own 31-yard line when Gronkowski entered the game on defense, back near where a safety would normally be.

The only reason to have Gronkowski on defense is to position the big guy in front of everyone else for a Hail Mary jump ball. The problem with that is that Ryan Tannehill wasn’t going to attempt a 70-yard bomb. The Dolphins were not going to attempt a Hail Mary, and everyone seemed to know it but the Patriots.

Instead, the Dolphins went for a crazy multiple-lateral play and Gronkowski missed the game-saving tackle. It was a hilarious and stupid way for a game to end, and it was fantastic. Please let it happen again.

4. Tom Brady crumples in upon himself like a dying star

Brady is 41 years old, well past the standard expiration date for an NFL quarterback. And yet, there’s no real question as to whether he’ll return for a 20th season. Any concerns about a relative downturn after two amazing years at age 39 and 40 were quelled by a dynamite performance against the Chargers and then an explosive finish in the AFC Championship Game where he rallied New England for three straight fourth quarter and overtime drives that took the lead back from the Chiefs and sent the Patriots on to their 11th Super Bowl.

For him to immediately regress into a regular 41-year-old man would be the most painful possible outcome for the Patriots. Not just for the 21-44, 180-yard, one-touchdown, three-interception performance, but for the months and months and months of arduous debate that would follow.

Would it affect his ranking among all Super Bowl quarterbacks? Was Brady’s awful game an outlier? The logical conclusion of a legendary career in a sport where players mostly burn out and rarely fade away? A testament to the Rams’ defense? What’s Bill Belichick got to say about all this?

And then the retirement speculation will come. Brady will maintain radio silence — there will be no Facebook Live series this year. Gisele will make various pointed remarks that say nothing but get brought up on New England talk radio on an hourly basis. Every third article on every internet sports site will pontificate on whether the Patriots’ dynasty has reached its terminus. Freddie Mitchell, somehow, will be asked for his opinion.

The retirement talk won’t be limited to Brady. Will Belichick hang up his sawed-off hoodie knowing he can no longer rely on the greatest quarterback of all time? Is Rob Gronkowski willing to play another year if he’s got a half-speed Brady, a rookie quarterback, and Brian Hoyer lofting him passes over the middle of the field? Will Devin McCourty stick around knowing his nine-year postseason streak will likely come to an end?

A crumbling Brady wouldn’t just be devastating on Sunday; the pain would last through an insufferable winter, into an unbearable spring, and culminate with an excruciating summer in Boston and its outlying areas. It would be heady revenge for Seattle and Atlanta.

3. It goes to OT, they lose the coin toss, and the Rams score a long TD on the first possession

It’s not the Patriots’ fault that the NFL’s overtime rules are stupid, but it sure would be funny (and/or tragic depending on your fandom) if the Patriots and Rams go to overtime, the Rams get the ball first, and they score a big touchdown on the opening possession.

Especially considering how the Patriots got the Super Bowl in the first place. They called heads in overtime against the Chiefs, the coin came up heads, and they scored without letting Patrick Mahomes even touch the ball.

If it happened the other way in the Super Bowl, it would be absolutely devastating for Patriots fans, and perhaps enough to get the NFL to change the dang rule. So, you know, a win-win.

2. They get boat raced, from start to finish — like Cowboys/Bills kind of bad

This has never happened to the Patriots — all of their Super Bowls have been close (and exciting). These days, blowouts don’t happen very often in the Super Bowl anyway.

The last true one was five years ago, when the Seahawks dominated the Broncos from the opening seconds of the game (a safety, 12 seconds in!). Now just imagine the same kind of humiliating defeat for the Patriots. Brady looks washed, Belichick is outcoached by a 33-year-old savant, and the Rams put up a 50 burger a la the Cowboys’ 52-17 rout over the Bills in Super Bowl 27.

What better way to let everyone know that the Patriots are old news and that there’s a younger, sexier, more adventurous team in charge now?

Then while we’re all writing hearts all around Sean McVay’s name in our notebooks , the Patriots can go off and eat ice cream (avocado or otherwise) and binge on some Netflix with Sean Payton.

1. The Patriots blow a 28-3 type of lead

New England overcoming a 25-point deficit to beat the Falcons two years ago was an iconic moment in Super Bowl history — and in meme history. It would be pure poetry to watch the Patriots blow a similarly massive lead to the Rams and lose — particularly a Super Bowl that’s hosted in the Falcons’ stadium.

But this time, instead of 28-3, it should be worse. Like 35-0.

Think of all the memes. THINK OF ALL THE MEMES.

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