"When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." - Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
I've watched the thing three times now, trying to figure just what in the name of Vince Lombardi happened to the surest thing since ... well, since Vince Lombardi. Surely, the events of Super Bowl XLII were flat out impossible, right?
Ah, dear overly dogmatic Watson. With a little scientific open-mindedness and sober analysis we can understand the most shocking events, such as the murder of one member of nobility by another or even a 12-point underdog winning outright against a football machine. And after Jaworski-like analysis of the game film, the following Holmesian deductions may be made.
• Randy Moss is defendable. Though many opponents in the second half had double- and triple-teams on No. 81 to limit his effectiveness, Tom Brady mostly shrugged off the limitation to find Donte' Stallworth on the long threat or Wes Welker short. However, the Super Bowl Giants somehow managed to bring a four-man rush while still stymieing Moss. The New York 'D' was willing to give up the short pass all day long, which concomitantly leads to the conclusion that...
• Pro Bowler or no, Welker's relevance may be overestimated. All right, so he's the best pure slot receiver in the game; additionally, aside from perhaps Terrell Owens, Welker in 2007 was the single deadliest force at WR post-reception in the game. The Giants showed, though, that the Patriots can dump off to Welker on the screen and/or short over the middle all game long without the win. Welker may be able to feint one or two guys with those ridiculously smooth moves, but you can't fake out a swarm. Four-yard gains from Brady to Welker would be just fine with most defenses.
• The defense was not the problem. Heck, if the Patriots had pulled this one out somehow, the MVP could easily have gone to Rodney Harrison. In fact, Harrison and Junior Seau -- both reckoned to be retirement fodder -- outplayed the younger guys throughout. Without these two and Tedy Bruschi, the New England defense looks to lose a step in 2008.
• Brady's injury is worse than indicated. Though it appeared as though mentally tweaked through three quarters of overthrows, hurried throws and ill-advised throws, Brady was once again able to flip the switch in the fourth, going 8 of 11 for 71 yards on the 80-yard TD drive. (The Patriots probably could have used another run or two in there to burn clock, but a drive is a drive.) The Super Bowl XLII loss was not the result of loss of nerve, for certain.
• Bill Belichick may be too old. Thanks to Bill Simmons' age corollary for football coaches, obsession set in last year with the simple blinding truth that coaches beyond 55 not named Dick Vermeil don't win Super Bowls. Just as in political viewpoint, age leads to conservatism when the chips are on the table. Whoever thought The Hooded One would produce a game plan that makes Marty Schottenheimer look like Jim Mora Jr. on speed probably also didn't see the dissolution of the Soviet Union or 500 TV channels via satellite coming, either.
• Finally, there's the key to the entire game, the reason we're talking about 17-14 and not, say, 38-17. Mere days after a particular Web site posted a piece regarding the possibility of an offensive lineman winning the Super Bowl MVP award, the Patriots' OL put in the sorriest performance this side of Detroit at the worst possible time. Whilst during the season, Brady had enough time to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy and still buzz through a few reviews while waiting for receivers to get open. In XLII, one of the finest quintets in history put the "offensive" in "offensive line," and Brady was inexplicably sacked more times than he'd ever been in a single game since 2003.
Well, nearly inexplicably. Based on the evidence and the elimination of all things impossible, I'm afraid it is my dire duty to inform the world that the New England offensive line has been replaced by an otherworldly malevolent force. Yes, the aliens live among us.