Please Go Away, Patriots

On the day after they upset the top-seeded San Diego Chargers to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the fourth time in six seasons, the New England Patriots once again are being lauded for their brilliance and playoff savvy. Tom Brady again is Mr. Clutch and Bill Belichick again is Mr. Genius. The Pats are one more thing: an annoyingly lucky team that seems that always get breaks.

Of course, this is going to come off as bitterness coming from Miami, where the Dolphins haven't made the playoffs since ... hmm ... when was it again the last time they made the playoffs?

But, come on, can there be any denying that the Patriots are not only good and well coached but amazingly, mind-boggingly fortunate year after year.

Just take the San Diego game, for example.

Read somewhere this morning what a great job Bill Belichick did in controlling LaDainian Tomlinson. Really?

Last we checked, Tomlinson rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries and added 64 yards receiving. That's 187 yards on 25 touches. Yeah, they really shut him down!

New England "held" San Diego to 21 points, but the total would have been higher if not for Marty Schottenheimer -- who would make a wonderful new coach for the Dolphins if the object is merely to make the playoffs but never win in them -- deciding that going for the first down on fourth-and-11 made more sense than trying a 48-yard field goal, and Vincent Jackson deciding he wasn't going to shorten his stride to get his second foot in bounds on a pass in the back of the end zone, and Philip Rivers taking a sack to take San Diego out of field goal range because he failed to see a wide open Keenan McCardell on a slant against the blitz, and Chargers receivers dropping passes as though they were, well, Dolphins receivers.

So spare us the stuff about Belichick coming up with a genius game plan. The Chargers clearly should have topped 30 points against the "genius" game plan, but made mistake after mistake, most of which had little to do with the Patriots.

Then again, that's the way it always seems to go when the Patriots are involved.

Sour grapes because the Dolphins have been looking up at New England for so long? Maybe.

But did New England really do anything that glorious to get cornerback Drayton Florence to head-butt a Pats player to give New England a first down instead of having the Pats face a fourth-and-long from the 36?

Did New England do anything to have safety Clinton Hart drop a deflected pass that softly was dropping into his hands after being deflected high into the air?


But again, this is nothing new. The Patriots have enjoyed this kind of good luck since a strict interpretation of a asinine rule known as the "tuck rule" saved the Patriots on a snowy Saturday night in the 2001 playoffs against Oakland when all agreed they should have lost that game.

It continued in that year's championship game when the Pats were totally outplayed by Pittsburgh, but won on the strength of a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a kick return for another score.

Then there was the playoff game against the Colts when the Patriots defensive backs mugged the Indy wide receivers all afternoon long and got away with it because the refs decided to "let them play."

The Pats' three Super Bowl titles were won by three points. That's not a major margin for error. It's one big play here or there. One big break here or there.

For six seasons now, all those breaks, it seems, have gone New England's way.

Again, go back to Sunday's game against San Diego. The Florence penalty was a good call, but only a few minutes later TV replays showed a Pats defender shove the facemask of a San Diego player. Of course, that wasn't called.

Look, the Patriots are the model franchise in the NFL. It seems every player they acquire gets better in a New England uniform -- wideout Reche Caldwell was a bust in San Diego and now is a solid starter with the Pats, for example.

But no one can argue the fact they've had more luck in the past six seasons than all other teams in the league combined.

Unless you're from Boston or a displaced Patriots fan, it's gotten very old.

At some point, one can only hope, that run of good luck has to run out. Doesn't it?

Sunday's AFC Championship Game would be a good place to start.

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