That’s what all of New England is saying this morning. How did the Patriots lose that Super Bowl? It leaves everyone a little numb,but that’s sports.
It’s as if everyone around here forgets what it was like in 2001 when the Patriots — the lovable underdogs back then instead of the hated favorites — essentially did the exact thing the Giants did this time around. At its core, the reason most of us love sports in the first place is because you just never know what can happen.
In this game, you saw a truly gutsy performance by Eli Manning and the Giants. The pass Manning made on the last drive to get the ball to the 25-yard line and the catch made by David Tyree to finish that play is one of the most unbelievable athletic plays I’ve seen in my 25 years or so of watching sports.
You saw the Giants make incredible plays on offense and come up with stifling stops on defense. You saw them overpower the Patriots on both the offensive and defensive lines. You saw them play with no pressure on their backs and instead, just truckloads of momentum and confidence. You saw a hard-nosed coach in Tom Coughlin finally reach the top of the mountain. You saw a tremendous veteran in Michael Strahan finally taste a Super Bowl.
And in the biggest of big games, we finally saw the Patriots lose. They’ve spoiled us in this region ever since that fateful day when Mo Lewis crunched Drew Bledsoe and created an opening for Tom Brady. The Patriots were very lucky to get the tuck rule against the Raiders in 2001, otherwise that first Super Bowl never gets off the ground. They were fortunate that the Rams played tight in the Super Bowl that year, much like the Patriots did this time around.
In 2003 and 2004, the Patriots were flat-out the best team in football and they won the rings to prove it. The 2005 team was never right, and beaten down by injuries, and nobody was all that surprised when they lost in Denver. Last year? They never replaced Deion Branch, yet somehow pulled out an all-time gutty win in San Diego and simply ran out of gas in Indy to miss a chance at another ring.
This year? The Patriots had the most talent, the most smarts and for most of the year, the most heart, in football. But along the way, the whole complexion of this thing changed. It became more than just a football season. It became a crusade. It became more of a battle against history than their opponents.
The Patriots put so much into being the first undefeated team in 1972 and it took its toll. Everyone played the Patriots with the intensity of a Super Bowl. It was as if, starting with that game in Indy against the Colts in early November, almost every opponent came at the Patriots with championship-like force.
In this Super Bowl, the Patriots were tighter than the Giants. I think that was obvious. There was a tell-all shot before the game, during warmups. Eli Manning came charging on to the field, smiling and all fired up, and sort of patted Tom Brady good-naturedly as he ran by. Brady had a death-like stare on his face and didn’t even blink at Manning’s friendly gesture. It was as if the weight of the entire world was on his shoulders, while Manning looked much like a young Brady did back in 2001, with all that confidence and no burden.
The great Bill Belichick is as good at what he does as any coach or manager there has ever been. He’s right up there with Auerbach and Lombardi and Stengel and Torre or whomever else you want to throw out there. But guess what? Coughlin outcoached him in this game. There is no shame in that. It happens.
The one move that was extremely confusing to me was the 4th and 13 when Gotskowski could have kicked a 49-yard field goal. Why didn’t they go for the three points? The game was indoors and Gotskowski has a very strong leg, two things that were in New England’s favor at that moment. Yet Belichick went for it. That was a real head-scratcher. I would have punted or taken the three points.
The other perplexing thing was just seeing Matt Light and the rest of the offensive line get beaten up. All year long, the offensive line was a huge strong point of the Patroits and in this one, they got handled so badly. I feel like Light spent most of the game on the ground while Brady was getting clobbered.
It seems as if we’ve all become Yankees fans around here lately, just feeling so entitled. Just savor every time one of your teams has a "CHANCE" as Junior Seau would say, to win a championship. You aren’t always going to win it. The Red Sox aren’t always going to come back from 3-0 against the Yankees or 3-1 against the Indians. Sometimes it’s going to go the other way, and the same goes for the Patriots.
Other regions would be in sports heaven to experience the type of sports moments we’ve had here early in the 21st century so instead of crying in your beer, just relish the era we are in right now. The Celtics are about to seriously challenge for a championship for the first time since I was in high school. The Red Sox have the best farm system in baseball and should be in the playoffs every year for the forseeable future.
And the Patriots? They’re going to be a force for a few more years, I would imagine. Tom Brady is 30. Bill Belichick is still in his coaching prime. Randy Moss remains hungry to win his first Super Bowl. Maroney is going to keep getting better. This loss hurts right now, but it will pass.
Enjoy the moment. And as Junior Seau would say, enjoy just having a "CHANCE". Because without having a chance, you have nothing. And as the Giants showed in this classic sporting event, having a chance can mean EVERYTHING.
Just a little over a week until pitchers and catchers report under the blissful sun of Fort Myers, Florida!