I got hopeful when Randy Moss grabbed that touchdown in the 4th. But then I gulped when I realized that the Giants still had 2:42 -- and three timeouts -- remaining. Yet, I certainly didn't envision Eli Manning orchestrating that miracle drive. Honestly, I don't even think Giants fans could have imagined that. They wanted him benched earlier in the season for his inconsistent play.
But the Giants defense just handcuffed the Pats and Tom Brady, who spent too much time on his back—with defensive ends lying on top of him. The Patriots offensive line got smoked, man-handled, beaten up, out-hustled, and out-muscled. It was a very un-Patriot-like performance. That group was stellar all year long, and always gave Brady great protection and lots of time to pass. I can't figure out why they were so bad on that day. But the Giants' defensive ends were just terrific.
The Pats are still undeniably one of the greatest teams of all-time. But now there is room for argument over who is "the" greatest team. However, winning three Super Bowls in the free agency and salary cap eras is unprecedented, and a challenge no other dynasty had to face.
And winning 18 straight in one season, and 21 straight over the course of two previous seasons, are also amazing and unprecedented achievements. And again, both of those streaks were accomplished in the free agency and salary cap eras as well.
When the Pats beat the Rams in 2002, they weren't the better team. They got lucky. At best, they were better in one game, on one day. The same goes for the Giants.
The Patriots are absolutely, positively, not removed from the discussion of "greatest team ever". Only a hater, or a contrarian, would say so. In a seven-game series, the better team will almost always win. In a football game, that's not necessarily so.
I always try to approach these things as objectively as possible. I try not to be a homer. So if it seems like I'm trying to defend the Patriots in a overly-loyal, provincial sort of way, that's not my intention.
Objectively speaking, the 2007 Pats were a historically great team—among the very best. But there's no denying that they blew it. They choked. It was humiliating, and it will never, ever be forgotten. Most people don't remember Super Bowl losers. But that particular Patriots team, and that game, will never be forgotten. It will be remembered as one of the most epic losses in all of sports' history—not just NFL history. That's one damn ugly distinction.
But I'm just a fan. I wasn't humiliated personally. I didn't play. I didn't feel nearly as bad as the Patriots players must have—especially Junior Seau. That loss had to be devastating to him. As I said, I'm thankful for the three Super Bowl wins this decade—something I never thought I'd live to see. I remember being a little kid in the late '70s, when my dad and I had season tickets for a few years. This kind of team was unimaginable back then.
With Brady and Belichick, the Pats will likely remain strong contenders for the next few years. They have great organizational strength. And that savvy trade with the Niners last year gave them the No. 7 pick this year (even though they lost their own first-rounder for cheating). The Patriots needed to get younger at linebacker, and they did. And, by the way, I get why people don't like Bill Belichick. I don't like him either; he's surly and devoid of any charm. But I'm sure glad he coaches the team I love.
The fact that the Patriots were such prohibitive favorites made this loss sting, as did the manner in which they lost. It was hard to believe. They lost in the final seconds, on a great drive, and facing a great defense—exactly the way they won their three Super Bowls. They are a .500 team in the Big Game (3-3) and I've seen it all—heartbreak and triumph. Some fans don't know the of joy winning. Others don't know the pain of losing the Big Game. I've seen and felt it all. I know the rainbow of emotions very well.