Patriots Dynasty Died at the Hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins

Brian Giuffra
Patriots QB Tom Brady
Patriots QB Tom Brady / Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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The desperation amongst the 11 Patriots players on the field for their last-second, lateral-filled play against the Dolphins was palpable. They knew, like so many others, that they needed this win against the Dolphins, not only for the first-round bye in the playoffs, but to guarantee a home game in the divisional round. So, trailing by four with two seconds left standing on their own 37-yard line, the Patriots kept lateraling the ball to wide receivers and running backs and offensive linemen and even Tom Brady, anyone to try and keep their hopes alive.

It did nothing. The Dolphins won in Foxborough behind another magical performance from Ryan Fitzpatrick, a stunning result that could reverberate throughout history as the day the Patriots dynasty died.

The Patriots have lorded over the NFL for 19 years. Their unmatched run has included six Super Bowl titles, nine Conference championships and 17 Division titles. But now, based on everything we've seen this year, it appears that dynasty is over. Shockingly enough, it happened at the hands of the 4-11 (entering the game) Dolphins and a journeyman QB known best as FitzMagic.

Of course, many have pronounced the Patriots dynasty dead before, specifically after they lost to the Giants in 2007 and 2011 and didn't make it back to the Super Bowl until 2014. But this feels different for so many reasons.

1. Tom Brady, at 42-years-old, finally looks his age. It's not just his stats, which are his lowest in a 16-game season pretty much across the board since 2006. It's also the eye test. He's missing wide open receivers. He's throwing inexcusable interceptions, including a pick-6 against the Dolphins that gave them a 10-0 lead. He simply doesn't look comfortable anymore. Another offseason of aging isn't going to help.

2. Brady might not even be there next year. He's reportedly interested in proving himself elsewhere and has interest in the Chargers. The Patriots reportedly have equal interest in building for the long term and are willing to let Brady walk. That's an interesting dynamic that doesn't seem destined for a happy breakup.

3. They have no plan at quarterback behind Brady. There have been reports that this is Brady's last season in Foxborough. If that's true, who takes his place and keeps the dynasty alive? Jarrett Stidham? A lot of people like the rookie out of Auburn, but do we really trust him to take that big of a leap and fill Brady's shoes in his sophomore NFL season? Even with Bill Belichick helping, that seems farfetched.

4. During their dynasty, the Patriots have never made the Super Bowl without being a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. They had a chance to secure the No. 2 seed against the Dolphins in Week 17. They lost, giving up a go-ahead touchdown to the Dolphins with less than 45 seconds to go. Now they are the No. 3 seed and will need to win on the road in the Divisional round and likely the Championship round. Again, they've never done that before.

5. The AFC is getting tougher to win thanks to the young quarterbacks dominating the Conference. Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, the reigning MVP and presumptive MVP, aren't going anywhere. Deshaun Watson isn't either. If anything, they're going to get better. That'll make life much tougher on the Pats.

I could go on and point out the lack of young talent on the Pats' offense or what the makeup of the team without Brady's leadership would be or even the injury-woes Brady has dealt with recently, but the fact that the Patriots couldn't beat Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins at home knowing they needed to win to secure a first-round bye tells me everything I need to know. They're running on fumes, having played in the last three Super Bowls and not getting enough young talent in there to take the pressure off the veterans. They were trying to put together one more run with that veteran group. It ain't happening.

Perhaps Belichick and Brady have a little more magic in their back pocket. I certainly wouldn't be the first pundit they made look silly for prematurely pronouncing their dynasty dead. But this feels different, this looks different, and the end appears imminent. FitzMagic saw to that.

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