By Hal Bent
The New England Patriots finished the 2013 regular season with a dozen victories and only four close losses. In the loss to the Bengals, a pass in the end zone at the end of the game fell short in a monsoon; a bizarre penalty call sent the Jets game to overtime where the Patriots lost by three; the last two losses to Carolina and Miami saw the Patriots with a chance to win the game at the end of the fourth quarter. Of course, there were some close victories as well with Week 1 in Buffalo, the Week 6 Saints comeback, the Week 8 Dolphins game, Week 14 against Cleveland, and of course the Week 12 comeback against Denver, to name a few.
The Patriots have been good, lucky, and most of all competitive each and every week. Early in the season games were won by the defense when players like defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, linebacker Jerod Mayo, and cornerback Aqib Talib had big games and helped the Patriots win ugly as the offense adapted to having tight end Aaron Hernandez in jail, tight end Rob Gronkowski out injured, and wide receiver Wes Welker helping Peyton Manning set records in Denver. In their place the Patriots leaned on young wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins as free agent signing Danny Amendola was injured.
When the defense was decimated by injuries (Talib, Mayo, Kelly, Vince Wilfork, and just about everyone in the secondary a one time or another), tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Shane Vereen returned to spark the offense while running back Stevan Ridley took a back seat due to fumbling issues. QuarterbackTom Brady started putting up big passing numbers again and New England looked back to their 2012 level of production. However, another injury to Gronkowski, Vereen dinged up, the rookie wide receivers all injured, and the secondary still in flux due to injury left the Patriots leaning on running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Julian Edelman to win games.
There are a number of deserving players for the cover32 Game Ball for the entire regular season: Click here for much more: http://cover32.com/patriots/2014/01/06/the-2013-patriots-game-ball-goes-to/