The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Tuesday, Sept. 29, 1:12 p.m.

Brady, Belichick glory years are behind them

The New England Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2005 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Since then, they have made it back to the big game on two occasions, losing both games to the New York Giants. It’s safe to say that the New England Patriots will not win another Super Bowl in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

This is easy to see. The Patriots don’t play fundamental football. They don’t play defense, and they don’t run the ball well. They focus their game plan on outscoring their opponents with the use of their multi-talented skill position players. After seven-straight seasons of misfortune, you’d think Belichick and Brady would get the memo that their offensive schemes for success aren’t working.

Back in ’02, ’04, and ’05, the Pats had the most formidable defense in the league. Their defense had the big names of Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Rodney Harrison, Lawyer Milloy, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour. They had a balanced running attack over those years with Kevin Faulk, Corey Dillon and Patrick Pass. In recent years, their lack of a consistent run game and poor defense is evident in their postseason record. Since their last Super Bowl victory, the Pats are 8-7 in the postseason, and in 2008 they didn’t even make the playoffs.

I don’t believe the Patriots can win a Super Bowl unless they become more defense oriented, which isn’t likely with offensive mastermind Bill Belicheck at the helm of the team. Belicheck and the Patriots organization have gone after offensive players in the offseason since their last Super Bowl victory and have drafted a majority of offensive players. They didn’t even make an attempt at going after high-caliber defensive free agents over the past few years, like Jared Allen, Karlos Dansby or Nnamdi Asomugha. Today, the Patriots defense is plagued with a no-pass rusher, a lack of depth at the linebacker position and a young and inexperienced secondary.

Defense wins championships: It’s a cliche, but it holds true to every sport. In the lost effort last Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots only accumulated 13 points in four quarters and were held scoreless in the second half. In both Super Bowl losses against the Giants, the Patriots averaged only 15.5 points per game. During the regular season those years, the Patriots averaged a combined 35.3 points per game, a difference of nearly 20 points.

You can’t outthrow Tom Brady. But, you don’t have to if you can play better defense than New England. The Patriots have been able to ride their offensive firepower into the big games, but they haven’t been able to get it done because they can’t play defense.

Ultimately, to win a game, you have to be able to run the ball to run the clock out. The Patriots have hope in this area with Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. They are both promising, but they aren’t Frank Gore or Ray Rice quality backs yet. It’s time to invest in some run blocking lineman so they can close games out. When you throw the ball 80 percent of the time, you risk the possibility of the pass being incomplete, which stops the clock.

At this point, the only hope the Patriots have is to do some shopping in this coming offseason. They should not renew the contract with Wes Welker this offseason. If they choose to let him go, it will free up $11 million in salary cap space. This could allow the team to pick up a versatile defensive player or someone to help out the run game. Cliff Avril, the defensive end for Detroit, is a great young player who can rush the quarterback. Jake Long of the Miami Dolphins, arguably the best offensive tackle in football, would be a great offensive acquisition to help the run game. Kenny Phillips of the New York Giants would also be a great veteran safety to add depth and take some stress off the struggling secondary.

It’s time for a cultural change in New England. They’ve strayed too far from fundamental football, and wandered too close to aerial assault offenses. If you can’t run and you can’t play defense, you can’t win in the NFL — that is why their drought of a Super Bowl victory is at seven years and counting. Unless evasive actions are taken in the coming seasons, the Tom Brady-Bill Belicheck era in New England has won its last Super Bowl.