The 2007 New England Patriots: 35 Seconds From Perfection
I'm the youngest of three boys.
Known as the "baby Jesus," a term coined by my brothers, they always assumed I was the favorite due to the unusually large portions of presents found underneath the Christmas tree every year. It's been a funny joke for every Christmas however, there is no way my parents played favorites.
How can you choose a favorite son?
Well, that's how I feel about picking my favorite New England Patriots' team.
The 2001 bunch changed my life, shocking the Rams for my first ever Boston championship, which was—without a doubt—the most exciting moment as a sports fan.
The 2003 team was equally exciting because it proved it wasn't a fluke in winning another Super Bowl, and it showed the type of dominance associated with the late 90's Yankees or Jordan's Bulls.
The 2004 Pats cemented the status of "Best Team of the Decade" and this was the first time I went into a season absolutely knowing my team would be the last one standing...and they were.
Over the course of those seasons, my whole outlook as a Boston sports fan turned from hoping my team would make the playoffs to expecting greatness.
Unfortunately, the next two years ended in absurdly frustrating fashion, with a playoff loss to Denver where Ben Watson knocked the ball out of Champ Bailey's hands through the end zone for a touchback. And the following year to Indy—Troy Brown's missed third down conversion still haunts my dreams.
Then came my all-time favorite team—the 2007 New England Patriots.
It would seem to go against all conventional wisdom to pick a team that dominated every game except the only one that really mattered, but this was the best team I have ever seen in any sport.
My favorite season? 2001 and there's not even a close second.
But when it comes to teams, I don't think I will ever see a team as dominant as the 18-1 Patriots.
They were a Super Bowl caliber team before this season. Then they decided to add Randy Moss and Wes Welker, giving Tom Brady his first weapons of mass destruction. Everyone in the league knew this was going to be a team to be reckoned with, but nobody realized just how dominant they were going to be.
The first game of the season against the New York Jets was the catalyst for the play of Belichick's squad, as they went on to win by 24 points. They were accused of taping signals illegally which caused a firestorm of anti-New England sentiment.
You may know it as "Spygate," a term which means next to nothing to me, but seems to be the be-all-end-all for everyone else—the justification for our dominance to those who think the Pats were average without those tapes.
For a team that has never needed bulletin board material, this incident sparked a fire under an already unbelievable team. From this point on, they went into each game with absolute resolve to leave no doubt.
Through the first eight games, they never scored less than 34 points and their closest contest was a victory by 17 over the Cleveland Browns.
In that stretch, they beat the supposedly vaunted Cowboys by 21, the Redskins by 45, and at no point were ever even close to challenged in an NFL that supposedly had more parity than any other professional league.
Whispers of a perfect season began to permeate throughout the NFL, especially after a closely fought win over Indianapolis, kicking off the second half of the season with their toughest opponent and first tough game. They were tested multiple times down the stretch, with three wins over the Eagles, Ravens and Giants that most likely should have been losses—yet they continued to get it done when it mattered.
By season's end, Tom Brady had put together the best season by any QB in NFL history. Throwing for 4,806 yards with a record 50 TD passes and an anemic eight interceptions. His rating was 117.2, and for those who doubted his ability to compete with Peyton Manning regarding stats ate a nice helping of humble pie.
Randy Moss lived up to the billing, with 98 catches for 1,493 yards and a league record 23 TD catches.
Wes Welker, a seemingly discarded member of the Dolphins, caught 112 passes for 1,175 yards and 8 TD's, making him one of the most productive slot receivers in history.
The bottom line is that the Patriots didn't just go undefeated, they annihilated the competition unlike any team before them.
Their achievements had been questioned and neigh-sayers across the country wanted an asterisk next to their championships due to the ridiculously overplayed Spygate saga, and what do they do? Go 16-0.
That is why they are my favorite team of all time.
Unfortunately for me, this story has a tragically painful ending, as the Patriots ended up losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl. They had a perfect season until 35 seconds remained, but that's all it took to topple what would have been the greatest season by any team in NFL history.
Their season of winning by large margins was eventually the thing that probably did them in. They relied too heavily on their offense and ability to put up inordinate amounts of points, and moved away from stalwart defense and ball control.
The Giants put a ton pressure on Brady and, when they couldn't adjust, it turned into a dogfight that either team could win. If the Patriots played the G-men 10 times, I'd guess they would have won eight of the games, but that and a couple of bucks will get you a cup of coffee.
People will disagree with me, and that's fine, but this was the best team ever to play in the NFL.
They don't have the hardware to show for it, which is what matters, but it doesn't change my feelings. They came as close to true perfection as a team can come before falling short.
This was my favorite group of Patriots...that is, of course, unless they go 19-0 in 2009.
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