His name haunts my dreams. Even just the mention of him makes me curl into the fetal position. He is the reason the Patriots have three Super Bowl titles instead of five.
He is Bernard Pollard.
Ok so maybe I'm being a bit dramatic. But let's have real talk for a moment. Bernard Pollard has been the closest defender to three All-Pro Patriots who have suffered season altering injuries, twice because of hits he's delivered, and twice he's cost the Pats a legitimate shot at a Lombardi trophy.
Let's hit the way back machine.
September 7th, 2008 - On a gorgeous September afternoon in Foxboro the Patriots took the field for the first time since the 'Super Bowl that shall not be named'. The team is on a 20 game regular season winning streak, and enter the season prohibitive favorites. And then Pollard, until then an unknown 3rd year safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, struck for the first time. (Apologies for the AWFUL music)
Tom Brady's left ACL disappeared, and thus so did the 2008 Patriots Super Bowl aspirations. Matt Cassel came in and the team somehow won 11 games with him at the helm (I think 4 years into the 'Cassel in KC' experiment we can safely say he is not very good at football). While it is impossible to say that the Pats would've won their 4th title in 7 seasons, Pollard's hit on Brady took away a year from #12's prime - and that is a catastrophe in and of itself.
January 3rd, 2010 - Let me preface this by saying, this is the one example of Pollard 'injuring' a Patriot that requires me to stretch a bit. However there is no denying that in Week 17 of the Pats ill fated 2009 campaign, the team decided to play all of their starters against Houston, despite the fact that they were locked into the #4 seed in the AFC. In the first quarter, Brady found Wes Welker for the 123rd time that season, Welker took off up the field, when Pollard, now a Texan, entered the play. Welker pivoted, his ACL did not. Welker's season was done, and the next week the Patriots got absolutely crushed by the Ravens in the Wild Card round. If Welker had been healthy would he have made a difference? In a word - no. The 2009 Patriots sucked. Not compared to other NFL teams, but compared to what we're used to. Belichick said he couldn't reach them, and it was obvious. Welker or no Welker, that team was doomed.
January 22nd, 2012 - AFC title game at Gillette, Ravens and Patriots absolutely beating the crap out of one another. Ravens lead 20-16 at the end of the 3rd quarter when Brady finds All-Pro Tight End Rob Gronkowski running up the seam for a 21 yard gain. At the end of the play, Pollard, now a Raven, drags Gronkowski down by his legs causing his ankle to roll severely underneath Pollard's body. Of course Gronkowski came back into the game, but was clearly limited. The Pats outlasted the Ravens, thanks to one Mr. Billy Cundiff, but two weeks later - Gronk's ankle had not healed. The Patriots lost 'The Super Bowl that shall not be named II' by the slimmest of margins, and Gronkowski played far from 100%. Two plays that really stick out; 1. Chase Blackburn's interception of Brady that Gronkowski just could not get to, and 2. The potential Super Bowl winning Hail Mary falling less than two feet from a limping Gronk. There is no way to say for certain, but I think many would agree that a healthy #87 means that the Pats and Giants would be tied at 1 in their Super Bowl series. Alas, they're not.
What does all this mean? I have no Earthly idea. I don't think Pollard is dirty (he was pushed into Brady, didn't touch Welker and was doing anything in his power to tackle the massive Gronkowski). I'm not really into 'fate' or anything of the like that would cause me to think that Pollard was sent by the football Gods to punish the Patriots. I just think it's one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. The same dude, while playing for three different teams, has been the closest defensive player to three different Patriots All-Pro's who've suffered devastating injuries. How is that even possible? And how is it possible that once again we find Pollard in between us and a Super Bowl appearance? The mind reels.
One thing I do know is that the Patriots Hall of Fame has three really cool looking trophies in it, and that's awesome. But if it weren't for Pollard, there may be five.
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