WINSLOW — By the last quarter of the AFC Championship game, the crowd at the Pointe Afta sports bar had started to clear and seats at the bar were opening up. And while Patriots fans were disappointed by their team’s loss in the game that determines who goes to the Super Bowl, there was one fan in the crowded bar who was celebrating Sunday night.
Debbie Paterson, 40, was one of only a few people in the crowded sports bar who was not cheering for the New England Patriots on Sunday, even though the friend she was watching the game with was wearing a New England jersey. Sean Bragnan, 41, of Auburn, said he thought it would be a close game but believed the Patriots would squeeze out a victory at the end. He made a bet with Paterson that the fan of the losing team would have to pay their tab at the Pointe Afta.
“I’m so glad,” said Paterson, who said she planned on celebrating by going home to feed the 30 horses at the stable where she works.
Paterson, who is from Sidney, said her love of horses, along with a girlhood crush on former Broncos quarterback John Elway, have made her a committed fan since she was a child.
The Broncos-Patriots game was a matchup billed as another face-off between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. This time the Broncos’ Peyton Manning topped Tom Brady of the Patriots in the box score.
It was the 15th matchup between the two quarterbacks and the fourth in the playoffs.
Going into the game, Brady had a 2-1 advantage over Manning in the playoffs.
But in the last playoff matchup in 2007, Manning and the Indianapolis Colts topped the Patriots 38-34 to advance to the Super Bowl where they beat the Chicago Bears for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
On Sunday, Patriot’s fans from around the region said they were disappointed with the end of the season.
“The Broncos had better players,” said Patrick Quinn, 33, of Topsham at The Depot Sports Bar in Gardiner. “The Patriots did the best they could with the players they had. I think everyone knows who had the better team.”
Wes Littlefield, 33, of Pittston, said he thinks the Patriots had a good season considering what they had to work with in terms of players.
“They’ve been a dominant team for the last decade,” Littlefield said. “What do you want?”
Earlier in the game, Dustin Haskell, 29, of West Gardiner, who was sitting with Quinn and Littlefield, said he was surprised how well the Patriots did this year because the team lost several key contributors before and during the season.
The Patriots started the season with questions on offense.
The team’s leading receiver last year, Wes Welker, signed with the Denver Broncos in March. The Patriots later released tight end Aaron Hernandez after he was charged with murder in June.
The other half of the team’s tight end duo in past years, Rob Gronkowski, started the season on the sideline because of injuries and ended up tearing his ACL and MCL in Week 14, knocking him out for the rest of the year.
“I’m baffled. They didn’t play like they should have,” said Doug Dutton, 47, of Augusta, who was wearing a Gronkowski jersey.
During the first half of the game, when the Patriots trailed the Broncos by a score of 10-3, Dutton said he had planned to stay up late and watch post-game interviews if New England won.
He still plans to watch the Super Bowl and said Sunday he was rooting for the San Francisco 49ers to make it. San Francisco faced off against the Seattle Seahawks in a later game Sunday night.
Despite the loss, many fans said the Patriots had a good season overall.
Quinn, who watched the game from the corner of The Depot Sports Bar in Gardiner with a group of his friends, said he and his friends always go to that bar to watch any big sports games.
“It’s a great place to watch a game,” Quinn said.
Littlefield said most of them have families now, but the game was a way they can all get together.
“We’re all football fans so it gives us a great excuse to come out,” Littlefield said.
And at the Pointe Afta, at least one fan was looking ahead to the Super Bowl, which will take place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Feb. 2. Paterson is already planning her trip to New Jersey to tailgate at the Super Bowl. Bragnan said he hadn’t decided yet whether he would be talking to her over the course of the next two weeks.
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