Where Did (18-0) & the Patriots' Perfect Season Go?
Sour grapes? Definitely. Dwelling in the past? What else do you do in the offseason! A cut that never fully heals? Well, just exactly how do you "move on," as Belichick would say?
In reality, those three questions do not make a difference one way or the other. The point remains: the Patriots lost. They lost! Not only did they lose, but they lost the biggest game in the history of pro football—and did it in grand fashion.
Throughout the year, a wise confidant of mine continually repeated, “they can throw all they want in September and October, but when it gets cold, they’re gonna have to run the ball.” He was absolutely right.
They ran effectively in the final four games of the year (be it against the Jets and Dolphins)—but when the chips were stacked against a stout D-line in Super Bowl XLII, they couldn’t move the ball on the ground. And it cost them everything.
Our young, offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels—however brilliant in his designs and play calling—looked outmatched early on, and by the second quarter, he had all but abandoned the run (16 attempts total). That’s four attempts a quarter. And when the opposing club can make an offense do that, the offense becomes, dare I say it, one dimensional.
But one dimensional or not, the Pats' defense did their job on the other side of the ball and held the lead for over three quarters. If at the start of training camp you had personally asked Bill Belichick (much less any other NFL coach) if he would take at 14-10 lead into the final two minutes of the Super Bowl—he’d sign on the dotted line!
Because it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get there. And after going down 10-7, Brady and McDaniels rallied the troops and took a 14-10 lead.
Yet, on the final drive, they allowed the Giants to convert on two, critical third downs. And they got beat on two plays when it mattered most. TWO PLAYS! The 3rd-and-5 play (in which Manning slipped through their hands) resulted in a 32-yard completion, and the touchdown to Burress in single coverage against Hobbs.
The 3rd-and-5 and a 3rd-and-11 from inside the 30 were the two killers. Coaches make calls to put players in positions to succeed, which happened, and it resulted in the Giants being at a disadvantage on third downs along the drive. Yet the Pats played soft in the secondary on those third downs, allowing the Giants to convert.
Watching it all unfold was truly perplexing.
The 3rd-and-5 was a broken play, therefore it was understandable. But the 3rd-and-11? How does a defense so disciplined in their assignments, and with such a nose for the ball, give that up? Not to mention the 4th-and-1 early in the drive. It’s like a bad nightmare that got worse.
Oh, and Asante Samuel could have ended it by doing what he is paid to do: hold on to the ball. You go all the way to 18-0 on the back of these guys, and when the team needs them most, some of them ain’t playmakers. The rookie Meriweather was exposed HARD on that final drive.
So now the greatest team ever, my team that I’ve gone to see since I was barely out of diapers, disappears. They go in the books as the greatest upset ever off of TWO PLAYS.
Two plays away from everybody I know calling me and complaining how MY club—the same club that almost moved to St. Louis, the same club with the female reporter sex-scandal of 1990, the same club that had a dump for a stadium and such an atrocious front office that every time they’d build a winner, things would fall apart as quickly as they would be put together—had finally achieved elite status comparable to NO OTHER. And it evaporated in two minutes.
It’s hard to live with after traveling so far, dumping your money into the club left and right, watching the Sullivans continually squander that money until a savior like Kraft leads you to an 18-0 record. Your club, 18-0. Being mentioned alongside the likes of Lombardi, Halas, Walsh, Montana, Unitas—and they blow it in the closing moments.
Now a perfect club has holes. And as we approach training camp, the sting has yet to go away.
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