There in the lonely, last minutes of the Super Bowl, New England was desperate for a big play. A play on offense, a play on defense. Anything. Anywhere. One more fourth-quarter first down, one more stop, one moment when someone stepped up and did something spectacular, and they could have beaten the New York Giants.
It never came. New York won. New England lost. And another season in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick championship window had slipped away.
For years the Patriots had stockpiled draft picks, moving back to bulk up on future second- and third-round selections. They were cautious and smart. It landed them nine consecutive seasons with double-digit victories.