Are the 2015 Patriots the toughest team Bill Belichick has ever had?
Take a second to think about what it took for the Patriots to finally lose a game.
Down Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Dont'a Hightower, Dion Lewis, Jamie Collins, Nate Solder, Rob Gronkowski for the end of the Denver game along with a few other players, and you've got a team that is so depleted, they were bound to lose a game.
Also when you consider how the game was officiated, that didn't help matters, but that's not nearly as big a deal as the injuries. A bogus offensive pass interference call on Gronk, a bogus holding call on Patrick Chung in the end zone near the end of the game, missed holding calls on the Broncos offensive line and so much more.
Down 24-21 with a shade over a minute left, playing without Gronk and the majority of the main offense, Tom Brady was able to drive them down the field to set up Stephen Gostkowski for a clutch field goal to send the game to overtime.
With all of this in mind, are the 2015 Patriots the physically and mentally toughest team Bill Belichick has ever coached?
Because if the Patriots showed us anything Sunday night in a 30-24 loss to the Broncos, it's that they're as tough a unit as any Bill Belichick has ever coached, on par with those first Super Bowl champs who shocked the world in 2001, or the killing machines that tore through the NFL in 2003 and 2004.
Playing in one of the league's toughest road stadiums, in the snow, with a makeshift offensive line, minus their two best linebackers and four best receivers, the Patriots still found a way to force overtime.
How do you bury a team like that?
You don't, not as long as Bill Belichick breathes on the sidelines and Tom Brady stands under center.
Instead, you consider the ways their season can still end in Santa Clara in February at Super Bowl 50, and a path remains, though it won't be easy and they're going to need some help in the health department.
At 10-1, they remain in the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and homefield advantage, particularly since their pursuers, the two-loss Broncos and Bengals, play each other in Week 16.
10-1. In control of their own destiny. Those two factors alone should be enough to make Patriots fans feel better about losing for the first time in nearly a calendar year. The resiliency of a team down so many key players is hard to overlook, no matter how good or bad the rest of the NFL is. Belichick has always had tough teams. Almost all of them have shown some form of mental toughness at points during each season. The 2015 Patriots are an extension of the 2014 Patriots, one of the most resilient teams I've ever seen.
We remember what that team went through. The blowout loss in Kansas City on Monday Night Football that turned their season around, coming back from 14-point deficits twice against Baltimore in the playoffs. And of course, coming back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX against arguably one of the best defenses of all time. Oh and of course there's Deflategate too.
Many players from that Super Bowl-winning team remain, having been through all the trials and tribulations of a year ago. This team has the mental makeup to win another Super Bowl. They showed it on Sunday night, and they'll keep showing it.
As long as Brady and Belichick are here, there's always a chance.