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Tom Brady, Patriots Clinch 2019 NFL Playoff Berth with Win vs. Bengals

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 2019

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes in the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Gary Landers/Associated Press

The New England Patriots clinched a berth in the 2020 NFL playoffs Sunday with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals.  

The Patriots' 34-13 triumph sent them to the postseason for the 11th straight season as they look to lock up the AFC East.

New England Patriots @Patriots

Playoff bound. https://t.co/ydZzkgVqdf

The historic streak could have been 17 straight division championships if it weren't for Tom Brady tearing his ACL in the first game of the 2008 season. That's been the lone gap in divisional supremacy for the Patriots, who have reset the record book during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.

No other team has won more than eight straight divisional championships.

The Patriots will enter the postseason as one of the favorites to make their fourth straight Super Bowl appearance and ninth straight conference championship game, the latter of which would break their own standing record. New England would tie the Buffalo Bills for the most consecutive Super Bowl appearances if they make it to February. 

Despite being among the first teams to clinch a playoff berth, this Patriots team's place among the NFL's best feels far more precarious than previous seasons. Their offense has bordered on disastrous in recent weeks, with Tom Brady showing signs of his age and struggling with a developing receiving corps.

"It's kind of just where we're at," Brady told reporters of the offense. "We've added some players late, and guys are coming back from injury and so forth—I've said this before—like every team in the league. There's no excuses. It's 'Did you win or did you not?' At the end of the day, that's what it comes down to. We're trying to score more points than them, and teams that are good in all three phases are tough to beat. And we want to be one of those teams."

The Patriots will need to find a better offensive flow to make another deep run into the AFC playoffs. That said, we've long ago learned to not count out the Patriots in December and January.