In the 2013 AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots held a halftime lead of 13-7. Nothing extraordinary, except that with Bill Belichick as head coach and Tom Brady as Quarterback, the Patriots were 67-0 at home. After the game they became 67-1.

This defeat unofficially marked the end of the Hinge Dynasty for the New England Patriots.

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The Hinge by itself consists of moments and people that make all of the difference. Throw enough Hinges together, with enough time, and there becomes the New England Patriots. The New England Patriots ascension to greatness had been on hinge moments and people. Some people may call it twists of fate; because both fans and non-fans of the Patriots have benefitted from watching the Patriots win and lose.

Depending on our beliefs, The Hinge in part, serves as a proof that things happen how they are supposed to. Let’s examine the Hinge Dynasty….

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In 2000, Bill Belichick was the head coach at The New York Jets for just 1 day before resigning to take the head coaching position at The New England Patriots.

In March 2001, Drew Bledsoe, already a pro-bowl quarterback for the Patriots, re-signed a deal with the team for a then record, $103 million. During the second game of that season, Drew Bledsoe was knocked out the game and replaced by, 6th round and 199th overall pick, Tom Brady.

In 2001, the AFC playoff game took place between The Patriots and The Raiders. The game was in the snow at Foxborough stadium and the Raiders led 13-10. Tom Brady and The Patriots had the ball with 1:52 left when Charles Woodson sacked Tom Brady, the ball came loose, and was recovered by The Raiders, which would have sealed the game…“When you see a guy sulk his head, like Tom did, you know he fumbled”- said Raider, Roland Williams.

The Hinge…

The play was reviewed and the infamous, now defunct, “tuck-rule” was put into play and the call was reversed. NO FUMBLE! The Patriots tied the game up, won it in overtime, and won super bowl XXVI against the heavily favored Rams.

To this day, try and find someone outside of the New England area that doesn’t think that Tom Brady fumbled the football.

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The Patriots were dubbed a “dynasty”, after winning three Super Bowls in four years; quite the feat. Then in 2007, the infamous “SpyGate” took place, which found that the Patriots illegally videotaped practices and other teams walk-throughs. The details of “SpyGate” still remain controversial about how long the videotaping actually took place. However, many people still clamor that this scandal was a turning point or hinge moment for the franchise as well.

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In 2007, the Patriots were undefeated and ready to cap off the “perfect season” by beating the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. A perfect season comes up every year but hasn’t been accomplished since the 1973 Dolphins.

It became one of the best Super Bowls in history with the most miraculous play. Eli Manning somehow escapes the grasp of Jarvis Green and makes the throw. Rodney Harrison was the defender on David Tyree, when he made “the catch.” Was there anyone else in the league better at knocking down passes? Rodney Harrison later said, “Not in a million years does he make that catch again.” He also later commented how David Tyree must have been meant to make that catch.

The Hinge…

One play before “the helmet catch” was even more significant, yet most outside of Boston and New York don’t even remember it. Eli throws an awful pass to David Tyree that All-Pro corner back, Asante Samuel of the Patriots jumps and intercepts… Except Asante Samuel didn’t catch it, as it went right through his fingers. Asante Samuel, (the same corner back who has seven post-season interceptions and four interceptions returned for touchdowns.)

During the rematch, Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots were leading 17-15. It was 2nd and 11 at the Giants 44 yard line, four minutes left in the game, and the Patriots were driving…

The Hinge…

Tom Brady threw a pass to the best receiver on the field, Wes Welker. If there is one person in the entire NFL that catches the ball, it’s Wes Welker. Oddly enough, a wide-open Wes Welker dropped the pass, which would have given them a first down. Chris Collingsworth stated at the time “[he] catches that pass 100 out of 100 times.”

The following play was the best of the game, a sensational 45-yard pass and catch from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham. The Giants win…

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The Hinge consists of moments and people that make all the difference. The hinge certainly cannot explain all of the “what if’s” of this dynasty. It just illustrates that these moments made all of the difference. Maybe these events were just coincidences, or the way things work out, or that these were meant to happen. It depends entirely on the belief system that we possess.

The New England Patriots were a Hinge Dynasty, and the loss at home in the 2013 AFC championship marked the end. However, perhaps if we look close enough, all dynasties are formed through hinge moments.

You may know the feeling… Cold water and lack of oxygen jolts you: you realize that you jumped in way over your head.  Limbs are flailing, lungs are gasping, and your mind can’t focus on anything but the struggle between fighting to breathe, and giving up completely…Maybe it’s just your morning shower or perhaps as I thought and did, “Hey, triathlons would be a good idea!”

This was my situation as I attempted the longest open water swim course I had ever swum.

The “swim-for-dear-life” technique is not very effective. When you are under the influence of Fear, most of your energy is wasted. I wasn’t swimming hard enough that day to really raise my heart rate.  But the most powerful tool fear uses is the endless cycle of “what-ifs” and “negative thinking”.

I was not just exerting myself physically.  I was also mentally spiraling back and forth between belief in myself and doubt. There was a distinct moment halfway through when I recognized that my doubts and fear had a cold grip on me.

Fear is between you and your goals and there are two things you must do.

1. Get in touch with your motivation.  What is your “why” for racing? I was in this water because I had an even bigger race goal, the following month.  I knew that I had freely chosen this event, had trained properly for it, and needed it in order to accomplish the bigger goal.  Aligning with your original motivation for the task at hand will give you the needed courage.

2. Focus. Have a “mantra” – something to repeat to yourself that would be encouraging in times of stress.  I have a favorite prayer that is short and sweet, and repeating it to myself put my strokes to a rhythm and cleared my mind.

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” – Dorothy Bernard

 About the Author: Elyssa Smith is a triathlete and distance runner. She and her husband own Runnertainment, a sportainment company that provides encouragement for runners and multisport athletes. Elyssa is now pursuing her master’s degree in counseling and sports psychology.   Elyssa@runnertainment.com

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