New England Patriots 2012: Who Is the One Player Who Will Make the Difference?

Randolph CharlotinAnalyst IISeptember 7, 2012

If QB Tom Brady is to lead the Patriots to a fourth Super Bowl win, he's going to need help.
If QB Tom Brady is to lead the Patriots to a fourth Super Bowl win, he's going to need help.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The New England Patriots were one player away from winning Super Bowl XLVI.

Distilling the loss to the New York Giants down to one play is too simplistic. One drop by WR Wes Welker isn’t the only reason the Patriots lost the game. Don’t forget shortly after Welker’s drop, WR Deion Branch had a drop over the middle with plenty of room to run after the catch.

Safety Patrick Chung didn’t arrive in time to break up the pass to WR Mario Manningham. The defense didn’t recover either of the Giants’ two fumbles. The pass rush faded in the second half. QB Tom Brady had a costly intentional grounding penalty and threw an interception.

All those things factored into the loss.

Should they get back to the Super Bowl, New England will need a player to step up and the difference that pushes the Patriots to a win.

Former kicker Adam Vinatieri had the deciding points in all three Super Bowl wins, including two game-winning kicks as time expired. Vinatieri also split the uprights from 45 yards out through heavy snowfall in the 2001 AFC Divisional game against Oakland to send the game into overtime.

It is considered, by some, the greatest kick in NFL history.

This one player that the Patriots need can be anyone, can play any position. He doesn’t have to make a big play every game. He could have several key moments or just one critical play during the entire season.

He can be a starter, a regular off the bench or just capitalize on his one opportunity. Experience won’t matter. He could be a 10-year veteran or a fresh-faced rookie.

DE Richard Seymour was drafted sixth overall in 2001 and started 13 games for the Patriots as a rookie. Fellow draft classmate Matt Light, a second-round pick, filled the shoes of the recently retired Bruce Armstrong at left tackle as a rookie and anchored the position for eleven years.

This one player away actually isn’t one player. He could be someone different every week. There could be more than one in a game. Several could emerge over the course of the season.

WR Fred Dwayne Coleman had two career receptions. None was bigger than his 46-yard catch and run against the New York Jets that put the Patriots in position for a Vinatieri game-winning 28-yard field goal.

What this one player away does won’t always show up in the box score. He makes sacrifices that are in the best interest of the team. He willingly gives up his body to make the play. Think of RB Kevin Faulk picking up blitzes on third down, for example.

Or that one missing player could be a defensive lineman occupying two blockers so a linebacker can make a tackle for a two-yard loss on third down. It could be as simple as setting the tone for a game or for the season.

The Patriots’ first game without franchise QB Drew Bledsoe after he suffered an injury against the Jets was against undefeated Indianapolis. The prolific Colts offense (87 total points after two games), had their manhood instantly challenged after Patriots LB Bryan Cox lit up WR Jerome Pathon on a crossing pattern.

The Patriots played with unexpected confidence while the Colts shrank. The Patriots destroyed the Colts, 44-13.

This one player away could be an All-Pro that steps up in the biggest moments, like CB Ty Law who picked off three passes in the 2003 AFC Championship against the Colts. Or he can be someone who was overshadowed for his career, only to break out unexpectedly, like DE Jarvis Green who recorded 2.5 sacks in the same game.

This one player away is a playmaker. But not just any playmaker. New England has had plenty of playmakers in recent years. That player is someone you can count on. He comes up big in the biggest moments. He can come from out of nowhere. He’s someone that makes a play when the opportunity presents itself.

Because in the past two Super Bowls, New England had chances slip right through their fingers time after time.

The New England Patriots were one player away from winning Super Bowl XLVI.

Still, I believe that one player is currently on this team.


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