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"But here we are,Wholesale China Jerseys," New England Patriots defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich said this week as the defending champions, after all of their problems on the field and off it, enjoyed their sixth straight postseason bye. "I've been in the postseason every year I've been here."
Then the injuries began to mount.
When his punishment was overturned by a federal judge on the eve of the regular season, the Patriots seemed to revel in their role as the NFL's outcasts. As they steamrolled their way to a 10-0 record, there was even talk of another perfect season â€” perhaps capped by another NFL title like the one that eluded them after they went 16-0 in 2007.
"It's just being tough and believing in each other and really just sticking together," he said as he used the bye week to rest up from a late-season shin injury that is not expected to keep him out of the game. "That's the way it is every year."
The loss of offensive linemen like Nate Solder and Ryan Wendell have hindered the team's ability to protect Brady. Injuries to receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola â€” tight end Rob Gronkowski also missed one game â€” have taken away Brady's favorite targets. Running back Dion Lewis was replaced by LeGarrette Blount, who was replaced by Steven Jackson.
Here's a new challenge for the Patriots: While finishing strong has been a hallmark of the team since Bill Belichick arrived â€” they are 54-10 since 2001 in December, eight wins better than the next-best team â€” they lost four of their last six games. This is the first year since '02 that they have lost twice in a single December.
In all,nfl jerseys china, the Patriots have put 17 players on the NFL's various long-term injury lists; they have lost players for a combined total of 201 games, according to the website mangameslost.com â€” the most in the league. Some, like Edelman,NFL Jerseys Cheap, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and defensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, are working their way back.
For the Patriots, it certainly seems that way.
And that's just the offense.
"It's obviously been disappointing to not finish the season as strong as we would have liked,Cheap Jerseys," said special teamer Matthew Slater. "But I think that we're still confident in who we are as a football team."
"Football season is a challenge in a lot of ways for a lot of people," Brady said when asked about the tumultuous season. "I think I'm always up for the challenge."
The year started with another Super Bowl run and a last-minute interception that made a hero of rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler as it turned the Patriots into four-time champions. But the euphoria was soon smothered by the scandal that came to be known as "Deflategate" and the possibility that Brady,Air Max 98 Gundam Release Date, a newly minted three-time Super Bowl MVP, would be suspended for the first four games of the season.
And feared by opponents, too.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) â€” Another Super Bowl title, followed by a summer of "Deflategate."
And then, most unusual of all, stumbling into the playoffs with a 2-4 record after Thanksgiving.
The aborted suspension of quarterback Tom Brady that turned into a 10-game, season-opening winning streak.
Even after a most unusual season, New England easily won the AFC East â€” its 12th division title in 13 seasons â€” and earned a first-round bye. The Patriots will play at home on Jan. 16 against Cincinnati, Houston or Kansas City; they have not played in the wild-card round since 2009, the year Ninkovich arrived in Foxborough.