The last time the NFL playoffs kicked off without the New England Patriots taking up a spot in the postseason, George W. Bush was still occupying the Oval Office (although Barack Obama was weeks away from being sworn in).
Now, by virtue of New England’s 22-12 defeat at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, the NFL playoffs will begin once again sans Patriots, just before Joe Biden begins his presidency.
Sunday’s loss ends a historic streak of 11 straight postseason appearances for New England and coach Bill Belichick, all of which came with Tom Brady under center for the Patriots.
“It’s obviously a disappointing day for us,” Belichick said after the loss. “We didn’t do anything really well enough to win the game. We all just came up short. To win these games, we’ve got to do a better job, I’ve got to do a better job.”
At the same time that New England’s run of playoff appearances, the longest in NFL history, comes to an end, so does the team’s streak of finishing with a winning record. Now 6-8, the Patriots can finish at 8-8 at best, ending a 19-season run of being over .500. (Dallas holds the NFL mark with 20 straight seasons with a winning record.) In New England owner Robert Kraft’s 27 seasons in charge in Foxboro, this is just the fourth time the Patriots will finish with a record of .500 or worse.
Also, by virtue of the Bills beating the Denver Broncos on Saturday, Buffalo ensured they will win the AFC East, the first time a team other than the Patriots will finish atop the division in 12 seasons.
With an overall record of 16-8 during the historic playoff run, the Patriots made eight appearances in the AFC Championship game, winning it five times to advance to the Super Bowl. In those Super Bowl appearances, including a run of four in five seasons, New England went 3-2 and won two out of three from 2016-2018. Over the 11-year run, no other NFL team even made three appearances in the Super Bowl, let alone won it thrice. (The Broncos and Seahawks have both appeared twice and both teams went 1-1.)
Individually, Brady won two MVPs and two Super Bowl MVPs during the run. Belichick won Coach of the Year once. Now, without each other, neither one is really even in the conversation for those awards in 2020.
Often discussed as one of the greatest sports dynasties outside of New England, the San Antonio Spurs also saw their streak of postseason appearances come to an end in 2020.
After missing the playoffs following the 1996-97 season — the year Gregg Popovich took over as coach 18 games into the season — the Spurs made an NBA-record 22 straight playoff appearances. That streak ended last season with the Spurs finishing at 32-39 in the NBA bubble in Florida.