EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Latest News

January 19, 2014

'Amazing' season

Local Pats fans marvel at how team overcame adversities

Doubters have been dogging the New England Patriots ever since training camp opened last summer.

The national sports media downgraded the Pats from the NFL’s elite class of teams expected to compete for a championship when it became clear that quarterback Tom Brady would begin the season without his top five receivers from the previous year.

No way New England makes a Super Bowl run this year, the pro football experts said. Not with Brady’s favorite target — Wes Welker — defecting to rival Denver to catch passes from the great Peyton Manning, star tight end Aaron Hernandez going to jail after being arrested for murder and the NFL’s best tight end Rob Gronkowski unavailable until the middle of the season as he recovers from arm and back surgery.

But the Pats defied the doubters by getting off to a 6-2 start despite losing two of their best defensive players for the year to injuries: tackle Vince Wilfork in the fourth game and linebacker Jerod Mayo in the sixth game. Even with season-ending injuries to more key players, things were looking up with Gronkowski back in the lineup for seventh game. The offense again established itself as one of the league’s best, making up for a weakened defense that was the strength of the team during the first half. Receiver Julian Edelman more than made up for the loss of Welker.

A gruesome knee injury that knocked Gronk out for the year in game 13 revived the skepticism. Many fans believed the rash of injuries had finally taken its toll, jeopardizing the Pats’ chance of making the playoffs. At 10-3 with three games to go — including road games in Miami and Baltimore, things looked bleak again.

“When Gronkowski went down, I thought they were done,” recalled long-time Patriots season ticket holder Walter Fitzpatrick, 68, of Lawrence.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News

AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage
Photos of the Week