Super Bowl 2012: Dear Mr. Belichick...I'm Sorry I Ever Doubted You

Erik ManzelliContributor IIJanuary 26, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks on the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Wow.  Only a few days have passed since the Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship Game and I'm still in awe of what happened. 

Sometimes, when your team wins, you get a rush of confidence that spills over to the championship game.  The moment the Red Sox dispatched the Yankees in 2004, I felt like they were invincible against the Cardinals. 

Over the past three playoff runs, New England lost to tough, intense teams that beat up Tom Brady.  The tables were turned last Sunday.  The Patriots were able to finally beat a team that has been their kryptonite.  How sweet is that?

It took three years, but the Bill Belichick blueprint for success has finally started to work. Over the past three years his, plan made sense on paper, but had one fatal flaw; you can't go young on defense at every single position all at once.

The best defenses in the NFL are usually a mix of draft picks and proven vets like Andre Carter.  If you miss on a high draft pick (and you will) you need to plug the hole with a trade or free agent to pick up the slack.

On principle, I hate the bend-but-don't-break mentality, but if it worked for the '09 Saints it can work for the '11 Patriots.  Yes, New Orleans was a dome team, but with the new league rules you probably don't have to tailor your team to your environment anymore. 

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Brandon Spikes #55 of the New England Patriots celebrates after intercepting a pass from Joe Flacco (not pictured) #5 of the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on Januar
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Looking back at the Patriots 2011 regular season was crazy. 

At times, it felt like everything we knew about football was thrown out the window. If you didn't know any better, you'd think the 2011 Patriots were exactly like the Dick Vermeil-led Kansas City Chiefs: quality QB, unreal passing game, effective running game, but not enough on D to win a Super Bowl. 

This year's defense illustrates how statistics are a mixed bag. The old adage, "The numbers don't lie," is 100 percent true, but they can mislead you.  Sometimes statistics don't tell you the complete story.

The perception is that the Patriots had an awful defense, but the reality is their D was OK.  The defense would give up a TD, and that made the Pats' defensive numbers look a lot worse than the defense actually was. Here are a few examples:

1.  Week 12 against the Eagles: In the fourth quarter, the Patriots were leading 38-13 when Vince Young threw a TD pass to Jason Avant.  Final score: Patriots 38, Eagles 20.

2.  Week 13 against the Colts: In the fourth quarter, the Patriots were up 31-10 when Dan Orlovsky hit Pierre Garcon for two touchdowns.  Final score: Patriots 31, Colts 24.

3.  Week 15 against the Broncos: In the fourth quarter, the Patriots were up 34-16 when Tim Tebow scrambled in for a touchdown.  Final score: Patriots 41, Broncos 23.

4.  Week 16 against the Dolphins: In the fourth quarter, the Patriots were up 27-17 when Matt Moore hit Davone Bess for a touchdown.  Final score: Patriots 27, Dolphins 24. 

Not even the most ardent Patriots homer can say their D is elite, but with the way the league is going, it may be enough to win Super Bowl XLVI.

Ten years ago, I never thought I'd write something like that.