BOSTON (CBS) — It’s all over for the 2013 Patriots, and instead of playing for a Super Bowl in two weeks, they’ll be watching from their homes just like me and you (though their sofas, televisions and living rooms might be a bit nicer).
While the end of the season was no doubt a disappointment, there’s still little to feel badly about with regard to the team fulfilling all reasonable expectations. Given all of the injuries, it’s fair to say the Patriots even overachieved by reaching the AFC Championship Game.
Ultimately though, the Patriots lost to a deeper, more talented Denver team, and it will be up to Bill Belichick to add the pieces necessary in the upcoming offseason to get the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.
Yet for now, however you want to spin it, the season is still over. But before the football calendar officially turns to 2014, here’s one last look at the most thrilling moments from the 2013 season.
5. Week 9: Patriots 55, Steelers 31
The Steelers were not the normal Steelers this season, as they stumbled out of the gate with an 0-4 start and never really recovered. The Patriots had a lot to do with that.
The Steelers had won two of their three games coming out of their bye and likely hoped a win over New England could propel them to a second-half surge and perhaps a wild-card spot. Instead, they visited Gillette Stadium and ran into a bulldozer.
Brady had his best game of the season, throwing for 432 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, while Stevan Ridley ran for 115 yards and two scores. Rob Gronkowski added to the offensive onslaught by catching nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty each picked off Ben Roethlisberger, and the Patriots stomped all over the Steelers with their highest point total of the season.
4. Divisional Playoffs: Patriots 43, Colts 22
The showdown between Andrew Luck and Tom Brady turned out to have a very different star. After Alfonzo Dennard intercepted a Luck pass on the opening drive, LeGarrette Blount simply took over the game.
The big-bodied running back was unstoppable, running for 166 yards and four touchdowns. It was highlighted by a 73-yard scamper, on which Blount went untouched through the line and then burst free, sending Gillette Stadium into party mode and punching the Patriots’ ticket to the AFC Championship Game.
3. Week 14: Patriots 27, Browns 26
Nobody expected the Browns to give the Patriots much of challenge, but Cleveland found itself in prime position to win late in the fourth quarter. Needing a miracle or two (or three), the Patriots took over at their own 18-yard line, trailing by 12 points, with 2:30 left in the game.
They scored quickly with a Julian Edelman touchdown, after which Jordan Poyer was called for unnecessary roughness. That penalty moved the ensuing kickoff to the 50-yard line, where Stephen Gostkowski tapped a slow roller up the middle. The kicker chased after the ball and ended up getting leveled, but his kick was so perfect that Kyle Arrington was able to recover the onside with just over a minute left to play.
After a 10-yard pass to Danny Amendola, Brady threw deep to Edelman. Though the pass fell incomplete, Leon McFadden was called for pass interference, which set up the Patriots on the 1-yard line. Brady threw to Amendola on the very next play for a 1-yard touchdown, with 30 seconds to spare.
The defense held the Browns on the final possession, and the Patriots escaped with a narrow yet thrilling win. The celebration was a bit subdued, however, as news broke after the game that Rob Gronkowski’s knee injury would end his season.
2. Week 6: Patriots 30, Saints 27
The Patriots lost this game — twice, in fact — and nearly all hope was lost. Yet the New England defense limited the Saints to two drives that only took 1:25 total off the clock, and Tom Brady and the offense had one last chance.
They made the most of it, with Brady completing five of his seven passes (plus a spike), capped off with a picture-perfect ball to Kenbrell Thompkins along the left sideline for the game-winning touchdown.
Scott Zolak unleashed his now-famous “Unicorns, show ponies, Where’s the beef?” radio call. It appropriately made no sense at all, because it was hard to believe that comeback actually happened.
The victory was just Act 1 in Boston sports drama that day, as David Ortiz’s late-inning grand slam helped the Red Sox tie the ALCS in Game 2.
1. Week 12: Patriots 34, Broncos 31 (OT)
It was expected to be the game of the year, but it looked like a real dud in the first half, when the Broncos jumped out to a 24-0 lead thanks in large part to three early Patriots turnovers. Yet the Patriots came storming out of the locker room for the second half and turned this one into the classic it was supposed to be.
With three Tom Brady touchdown passes, a 1-yard Brandon Bolden touchdown plunge and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, the Patriots scored 31 unanswered points to take a lead. But Peyton Manning led the Broncos on a big-time 10-play, 80-yard drive to tie the game at 31.
The game headed to overtime and looked like it might end in a tie, but Wes Welker was too late in telling the punt return unit to bail on the play, and Ryan Allen’s punt hit Tony Carter. Nate Ebner pounced on the loose ball, and Gostkowski hit a 31-yard game-winner to send the frozen fans home happy.