The last time Bill Belichick was here, coming off a frustrating loss with the foundation of his New England Patriots seemingly uncertain, the loudest critics were taught the harshest lessons.
Dial it back to fall 2014, when the Patriots suffered a brutal 41-14 Monday night loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Tom Brady had an awful game. The wide receiving group was leaning on middling veteran Brandon LaFell. The offensive line was cracking. Even an extremely talented defense had just been diced up and battered by Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and 1-2 running back punch of Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles.
When the team boarded its plane for the trip home, it might as well have been traveling in a body bag.
“Let’s face it, they’re not good anymore,” ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said that night, in a postgame comment that has followed him for years. “They’re weak.”
History gets fuzzy as the years go on. However, Dilfer was hardly riding solo with many predicting that Chiefs loss as the death rattle for the Patriots dynasty. Something just felt different that night. After all, nothing lasts forever, right?
Anyone who knows the Patriots knows the rest of this story.
New England resoundingly responded to that 2-2 start to win the AFC East for the sixth straight year. Then, Belichick, Brady and a disgustingly good defense ran all the way to a win in Super Bowl XLIX.
New England rolled to five more division titles (11 straight through last season), three more Super Bowl appearances (including two wins) and a general reminder that what we perceive as a Patriots death rattle is almost always a brief and fixable sinus infection.
You simply could never predict the date of an inevitable Patriots teardown. It didn’t matter how many draft blunders were absorbed or free agent mistakes were made. As soon as you were bold enough to stamp the dynasty’s death certificate, Belichick, Brady and a rotation of reliable veterans and assistant coaches would make you look like a fool.