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Nitpicks & Nitwits: Keeping it in context - you can't win 'em all

It's understandable.  There is disappointment with what should have been, frustration or anger with what could have been.  You might not have expended your own physical energy on Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver Sunday, but you were right there with every Patriots' player.

Emotionally, at least.

So it's time to take in a little perspective.  Some will say it's time to eat a little humble pie, and that's fine.  It gets lonely at the top, so for the rest of the NFL, it's nice that others can have success (wink, wink).  

As much as you'd like to, you can't win them all.

That might be simplistic, but let's face it - you can't.  The run that the New England Patriots have experienced over the past 15 years has been extraordinary, and it is an era that will stand out in the NFL record book.  But for every win, division title, championship game or Super Bowl appearance there has been, there has also always been someone on the other side of the field.

And as it turns out, the "someone" this past weekend was a mere two points better.

*You can certainly "what if" the strategy and play-calling.  *

Don't think for a moment that the coaches and players aren't doing the very same thing.  Chances are with most of the second-guessing, you would be right.  That's why they call it second-guessing.  We're supposed to learn from our mistakes the first time around, aren't we?

Human nature, and sports' nature, tell us that isn't always the case, however.  We still make mistakes.  We repeat them often.  So do our teams, our favorite athletes, our coaches.  They are us, and we are them.

The Patriots were fortunate to be where they were.

Mumbo-jumbo aside, perspective is important when trying to gain reason behind successes as well as failures.  21 Patriot players found themselves on a season-ending list this year, which was the highest total in the league...and yet, New England found itself with the opportunity to repeat as a Super Bowl champ.  

Next man up?  Who was left?

Tom Brady was hit an astounding 20 times by a relentless Denver defense Sunday, more than any other QB in a single game in the NFL over the past nine seasons.  It took an extraordinary effort to beat TB12 and the NE offense, and the Broncos won by two points.  

There's your perspective.  

Sometimes, you need to applaud the other guy.

Yes, there are several areas for the 2016 version of the Patriots to improve upon.  As the team discovered, there is never enough depth on your roster.  Based on knowledge of who should be back and under contract for next season, there is every reason to believe the Patriots will be contenders once again.  

If, of course, health prevails.  You know the old adage "he who has the most toys, wins?"  You'll perhaps recall Denver used last off-season to improve its' personnel on defense.  It was that defense that shut the Patriots down with superb execution of a game plan.  It was enough to win by two points.

Maybe the players who are "next up" next season will figure out a way to return to the Super Bowl.  Perhaps the coaches will strategize differently, and learn from mistakes made this year.  Sure, there were mistakes, not much doubt about that.  But in the larger scheme of it all, there have been many more successes.

The "revenge tour" ended abruptly.

It may ring hollow right now.  Considering the angst Patriot fans have gone through over the past 12 months - thanks, NFL - you probably wanted your moment of vindication or revenge, and felt like winning was the ultimate opportunity to cash in.  

It didn't turn out that way, but let's keep this in mind.  Real vindication lies within the truth.  The real victories come with the fight that is fought.  Noted economist Fabian Linden is credited with having once said "It is useful, occasionally, to look at the past to gain a perspective on the present."  

This is one of those occasions.  In other words, it may hurt right now, but look at the road you've traveled.   It isn't easy wearing the black hat.  

And it usually gets very lonely at the top.  

Line up for accountability

Clearly, it was not a good day for the offensive line.  Marcus Cannon will have visions of Von Miller racing around end through the entire off-season, no doubt.  Sebastian Vollmer, while admittedly less than 100%, had trouble on the other side of the line with Demarcus Ware.  The center and guards also had their difficulties up the middle - and just where did the Patriots' running game go?  

He did have a rushing touchdown, but Steven Jackson, we hardly knew ye.

With Brady under pressure on every drop back, the line's troubles never allowed the offense to get into a rhythm, much less find receivers for short gains.  Denver's game plan to "flood" the middle of the field made it very difficult to find Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and even Rob Gronkowski with any regularity.  

Adding a fierce pass rush to a defensive game plan designed to make it tougher for receivers to find open spots was a big difference-maker for the Broncos.  They held NE to 2-for-15 on 3rd down.  On top of that, a rough day at the office for the offensive line only made things worse.

To kick, or not to kick?

The decisions to go for touchdowns rather than field goals in the second half will fuel off-season debate for the next several months.  But the argument for kicking field goals is a bit short-sighted overall.

It's easy to say "hey, kick those first two field goals and the TD at the end wins it!"  What you might be forgetting is that play-calling strategy would undoubtedly change for Denver, with better field position following New England kickoffs instead of taking the ball over deep in their own end of the field.  

Chris Harris, Jr. made a great play on Julian Edelman on the 4th-and-1.  Rob Gronkowski was double-teamed on the 4th-and-6 play.  Sure, in reality a do-over in either spot might bring about a different decision.  But even one kick on either of those chances could also have been a game-changer.

There's little issue with trying to let TB12 put you in position to win a game with touchdowns.  But in the big picture, with the way the defense had limited Denver's offense in the 2nd half, why not place some trust in the other guys, too?

Speaking of kicks...

No, it was not Stephen Gostkowski's fault the Patriots lost the game.  

His first missed extra point of the year, snapping an NFL-record streak of 523 consecutive conversions (covering nine seasons), certainly came at an inopportune time.  After spotting Denver an early 7-0 lead, the Patriots had regained some momentum with their first score following a successful replay challenge of a turnover.  You're on the board and then - bang!  A missed kick takes a little wind from your sails.

It also forces you to go for two, rather than settle for kicks to tie the score at the end for a potential overtime.  To his ever-lasting credit, Gostkowski wanted all of the blame afterward.  But he won't get it here, nor does he deserve it.  There was plenty of blame to spread around, if you must.  There's a reason he's the highest-paid kicker in the game, because right now - he's the best kicker in the game.

Was his missed PAT the reason the Patriots lost?  No.  But it was a factor in the loss at the end, no doubt about it.

Someone else has it worse

In the "no matter how bad you have it, someone else always has it worse" department - consider the plight of the Arizona Cardinals and Carson Palmer.

If Tom Brady had a bad day Sunday, Palmer had a rotten day, to be sure.  With his chance to show he belongs in the discussion with the games' greatest QB's, Palmer threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles in Arizona's 49-15 loss to Carolina for the NFC title.  

The Panthers' dominance looked impressive, almost ringing up a 50-burger.  But it's tough to get a real read on just how impressive, because of the Cardinals' (Palmers'?) own ineptitude.  If Carolina is the real deal here - blowing out both of their NFC foes (leading Seattle 31-0 before eventually winning 31-24) on the way to the Super Bowl - Denver and Peyton Manning might have more than they bargained for.

It could be a good match, that Carolina offense against Denver's defense.  But if you're in Denver, be careful what you wish for.  

You might get it.

*John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and is in his 23rd year as the Patriots' stadium voice.  Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 27 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.  *

Follow him on Twitter - @JRbroadcaster

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