February 5, 2012 was the date, Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Indiana was the site, and Super Bowl XLVI between the New York Giants and New England Patriots was the event.
That was a game that most New England Patriots’ fans would scream and probably the majority of NFL fans would admit that if Wes Welker catches a pass with 4:02 left in the 4th Qtr of a 15-17 game, the Patriots would have won their fourth Super Bowl in an eleven year span; however, Welker didn’t and the Pats went on to lose the game 21-17.
Mark it down in your calendars, that was the beginning of the end of the Brady-Belichick dominant era in New England. Fast forward two offseasons later, and the Patriots who were dominated in the AFC Championship game in 2012 could be in some serious trouble in 2013.
Looking at the Super Bowl roster of 2011, the Patriots were extremely thin at wide receiver, but extremely stacked at the tight end position; a position that would be the catalyst of that run to the Super Bowl.
It seemed that between quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Wes Welker and the Patriots’ tight end position that consisted of young budding stars Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, that the New England Patriots would be a dangerous, if not lethal offensive football team for as long as Tom Brady could hold up.
Since the playoff loss in 2012 to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, Gronkowski has undergone back surgery (which will most likely land him on the Physically Unable to Perform List to start out the season which would ensure him missing the first 6 games of the regular season), WR Wes Welker (and Tom Brady’s security blanket) was allowed to sign with the Denver Broncos and now TE Aaron Hernandez is caught up in the middle of a murder investigation and at minimum is probably looking at obstruction of justice charges.
With the TE position that is now in flux, and a receiver position chocked full of rookies, marginal veterans and Danny Amendola are the Patriots in a position to handle the blow of possibly starting the season without both of their TEs?
Are the Patriots strong enough in other areas to weather the blow of their less than potent lineup? Can Danny Amendola step and be the new Wes Welker? Is Tom Brady secretly harboring a little resentment at the Patriots brass for allowing Welker to walk? Can Brady build a rapport with the new cast of receivers in New England fast enough for the Patriots to reign supreme in the AFC East once again?
Only time can tell whether the Patriots can return to form in 2013 but one thing is for sure, with the ongoing investigation of Aaron Hernandez and the controversy surrounding that situation, Rob Gronkowski having been injury prone over the last season and half, and new comer Danny Amendola have injury issues of his own, the Patriots might not be “The Patriots” in 2013 and possibly moving forward.
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