The Patriots have developed a fatal pattern of playing their best football in the regular season and their worst football in the playoffs.
Here's the evidence.
In 2007, the Patriots averaged 36.8 points per game in the regular season and finished with a 16-0 record. But they imploded during Super Bowl XLII; the Giants sacked Tom Brady five times and held him to a single passing touchdown. The Patriots only scored 14 points.
In 2009, during a playoff game against the Ravens in the Wild Card Round, the Patriots allowed Ray Rice to burn them for an 83-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. The Ravens scored again on their next possession, too, going up 14-0 after five minutes. The Patriots didn't sack Joe Flacco once all day. The Ravens sacked Tom Brady three times and they also intercepted him three times. The Patriots only scored 14 points.
In 2010, the Patriots averaged 32.4 points per game and finished the season with a 14-2 record. Then, during a playoff game against the Jets in the divisional round, the Patriots allowed Mark Sanchez to throw three touchdowns without a single interception. They didn't sack Sanchez once. Meanwhile, the Jets sacked Tom Brady five times, intercepted him once and held him to two touchdowns.
In 2011, the Patriots averaged 32.1 points per game and finished the season with a 13-3 record. Then came the ghosts. During Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots were hit with a safety on Tom Brady's first throw of the game. The Giants sacked Brady twice and hit him eight times. New England's high-powered offense only produced 17 points all night. The Patriots lost, despite the fact that Eli Manning only threw one touchdown in the game.
In 2012, the Patriots averaged 34.8 points per game and earned a playoff bye. And, yet again, they imploded in the playoffs. They scored a dismal 13 points against the Ravens in the AFC Championship. They let Joe Flacco throw three touchdowns without an interception. Worst of all: The Patriots went scoreless in the second half.
This pattern is too clear to ignore. This isn't a lack of talent, this is a lack of leadership and preparation, starting at the top.
Bill Belichick should have his team ready to play their best football in the most important games of the postseason. Instead, the Patriots regularly look passive and baffled in these big games.
There's plenty of blame to go around, but the head coach gets the bulk of it.