Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez gather themselves after the failed hail mary attempt and Super Bowl loss.
They say you win or lose as a team. But in the aftermath of the Patriots' loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, fans and media members disagreed with that sentiment.
"Patriots’ Wes Welker Not So Sure-Handed When It Matters Most" blared one headline.
"Wes Welker, Patriots let Super Bowl slip through their fingers" screams another.
The truth is that Welker has already spent plenty of time accepting blame for the loss.
"It's a play I never drop. Most critical situation, and I let the team down," Welker said, fighting back his emotions.
It's admirable that Welker has stepped up and assumed the bulk of blame publicly for the loss to the Giants in Super Bowl 46. Admirable, but not true.
Just as the Baltimore Ravens made plenty of mistakes as a team in the lead-up to Billy Cundiff's missed 32 yard field goal that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl, this loss leaves no member of the Patriot organization blameless.
In addition, just as Patriot fans didn't want to hand all the credit or blame for their own appearance in the Super Bowl to the Ravens, it's worth remembering that the Giants, much as it's painful to admit, played a pretty good football game. Flawless? Hardly. Good enough to win? Clearly. They made plays when they counted most, and the Patriots didn't.
This was about as close a game as one could have possibly imagined. There was never any reason for any fan to feel too confident in the outcome. Even as the Giants outplayed the Patriots in a brutal first quarter that saw them take a 9-0 lead, they were never able to assume control of the game.
The Patriots made their fair share of mistakes too, and not just Welker. The Giants had three fumbles, bot only two, the ones they recovered, showed up in the box score. The other never really happened because it was waved off by a penalty on the Patriots for having 12 men on the field.
Shortly after, the Giants would score the only touchdown of the game that the Patriots didn't literally allow. By now, the list of mistakes has been pored over ad nauseum, as has the list of very good plays made by the New York Giants.
The sports world of 2011 has been one of champions who "got hot" at the right time. In last year's Super Bowl, the 10-6 Green Bay Packers made the playoffs as a wild card, and then ran (or rather passed) over their competition en route to a Super Bowl victory.
A few months later in the NHL, the Boston Bruins, only a three seed in their conference and sporting the seventh best record in the league, would go on to beat the league's best team, the Vancouver Canucks, in the Stanley Cup.
The NBA Finals featured the Dallas Mavericks, the western conference's three seed, who disposed of the favored Miami Heat in only six games.
The 2011 baseball season saw the 103 win Philadelphia Phillies upset by the 90 win St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the National League playoffs. Those same Cardinals would go on to beat the Texas Rangers in a thrilling seven game World Series.
All of that led up to last night's Super Bowl. The 9-7 New York Giants, a team that needed every last win of the regular season to even gain entry to the postseason, were without question the best team in football over the last month and a half.
The Giants didn't have the best team when the season started, nor did they have the best team in the middle of the season, but they were clearly the best team last night, when it counted most. To play the "blame" game and try to attach needless criticism to players such as Welker, Tom Brady or any of the other Patriots who played their hearts out is just plain silly.
It's about making plays, and the Giants simply made more than the Patriots did. Blame is not only useless, it also denigrates the New York Giants who were simply outstanding for most of the game.
The New England Patriots have been to five Super Bowls this century. They're 3-2, and while Patriots fans can all lament the two losses, they should probably keep in mind that the three wins is still more than any other NFL team this century, as is the five appearances.
The formula for success still exists in New England. The key components are likely to remain. Will this Belichick and Brady group ever win another Super Bowl? It's hard to say.
One thing is for certain though: This era won't last forever. At some point, both Brady and Belichick will be gone. That's when New England Patriot fans will really have something to lament. If you think 13 wins and a losing trip to the Super Bowl is bad, then I'd suggest you look at the plight of the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles or St. Louis Rams.