FOXBORO — As the final seconds of your New England Patriots’ football season drifted away here at Gillette Stadium amid a sea of Terrell Suggs’ “F-bombs,” two words — the same two words that crossed my mind last February in Indianapolis — crept to my tongue.
Your Pats — once thought of as the late 90s Yankees (who won 4 titles in 5 years) — have drifted into football’s version of the 2002 Oakland Athletics, a franchise built to win games in the regular season that self-destructed in the playoffs.
They are “Moneyball,” a team laden with Scott Hattebergs. Value picks and scrap-heap signees are mixed with safe high draft picks with very little room to grow. Singles hitters abound. And the home run hitters have disintegrated into a myriad of smurf-ish, awful defensive backs, who don’t belong in this league.
Bill Belichick stars as Billy Beane. And everyone else, save for Wes Welker and Tom Brady, plays the part of Scott Hatteberg.
Scarily, this football team is no longer a contender, not for titles.
Belichick has built a product that reigns over the arduous 16-game long haul but simply can’t be trusted when a decent opponent swings back.
I know they fell two wins short. It might as well be 20.
All night long, I uttered “7 and 7, 7 and 7, 7 and 7 …” and there was no bartender in sight. Your Patriots still employ the game’s dominant coach. And Tom Brady, once 10-0 as a playoff starter, still calls the signals.
But the sons of Bill have gone 7-7 over their past 14 postseason games. Remember how we mocked the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s when they lost in four straight Super Bowls?
Jim Kelly was 7-4 in that span, the Bills as a team were 8-4 in that stretch.
Your band of gridiron Hattebergs is 7-7.