The New England Patriots have been the NFL's standard of excellence for the past decade, riding Bill Belichick's hoodie and Tom Brady's right arm to three Super Bowl titles since 2002. During the past 11 seasons, the Patriots have reached double-digit regular season wins 10 times, and nine in the other season (2002). They have qualified for the playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons.
But lately, writes Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, the Patriots' postseason well has run dry. The Patriots have lost three straight playoff games, all against lower-seeded opponents.
Back in the day, New England in the playoffs meant you had better have your parade route at least sketched out for the Tuesday after the Super Bowl. But the dynasty has hit a drought of sorts, losing three consecutive postseason games since winning the 2007 AFC Championship at home against San Diego. That's more playoff losses than the Patriots incurred in the first 16 postseason games of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, when New England went 14-2 from 2001 through that 2007 AFC title-game victory over the Chargers.
To put it another way, by the time the Patriots and Broncos hit the field at Gillette Stadium Saturday night, there will have been 40 playoff games played in the NFL since New England last won in the postseason, and that three-year-plus gap ties for the longest barren stretch of the Kraft era in terms of postseason success.