FOXBORO, Mass. — Adam Vinatieri watched Sunday as several of his former New England Patriots teammates pumped up the Gillette Stadium crowd.
The scene sparked wide-ranging emotions within the Indianapolis Colts kicker, but his overriding sensation following the Patriots? 45-7 AFC Championship Game win was one of disappointment.
?For the last decade and a half, two decades, whatever, they?ve been as successful as anybody out there,? said Vinatieri, who played 10 seasons with New England from 1996 to 2005. ?Obviously, this is another Super Bowl appearance for them, and they?re a really, really good team.
“I can appreciate what they?ve done. It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth today, though.?
Vinatieri, a four-time Super Bowl champion, entered Sunday?s contest with a perfect 5-0 record in conference championship games. Three of those victories came with the Patriots, who went on to win a title in each instance.
For proof that some things never change, one must look no further than Vinatieri’s journey. The 42-year-old has continued to enjoy success in nine seasons with Indianapolis — even earning a Pro Bowl selection this season — and his respect for New England?s two main stalwarts remains as high as ever.
?Obviously, when you?ve got a coach like Bill Belichick and a quarterback like Tom Brady, it?s never really over,? Vinatieri said. ?They?re clearly a very, very good football team. You?re not the No. 1 seed in the AFC by playing bad football all season long. Any team and every team kind of has a hiccup occasionally throughout the course of the season. But whatever they were saying early (about the Patriots), they outgrew that, for sure.?
Ty Law, Troy Brown and Tedy Bruschi — all of whom played with Vinatieri in New England — served as the Patriots? honorary captains against the Colts. Each was shown on the big screen throughout the contest, which Vinatieri couldn?t help but notice amid the Patriots? start-to-finish beatdown.
?Those guys, along with 53 guys, did a lot of great things a decade ago,? Vinatieri said after Sunday?s game, looking back on his time in New England. ?It?s interesting, it?s fun to see those guys out there. They got the crowd going and a lot of good memories, I?m sure.?
Vinatieri was a non-factor Sunday. He missed his only field-goal attempt, and the Patriots broke things open in the second half. New England’s effort mirrored the type of all-around performance Vinatieri became accustomed to during his days with the Pats, but this particular performance surprised the three-time Pro Bowl pick to some extent.
?It was a butt-kicking across the board,? Vinatieri said. ?They outplayed us in all three phases. They were ready to play and I thought we were, too, but unfortunately we just didn?t show up as well as we thought we would.?
Someday, Vinatieri could stand next to Law, Brown, Bruschi and other members of the Patriots? early- to mid-2000s Super Bowl-winning squads, waving a towel in an effort to fire up the Foxboro Faithful. But for now, he?s focused on helping the Colts take the next step. And Sunday represented a missed opportunity for Indianapolis.
?Every day that I put on a helmet, I feel like it could be my last day,? Vinatieri said. ?I wish it would have ended a little bit differently today, for sure.?
The taste of defeat sure is bitter, even when one falls to a respected adversary.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images