Monday, February 04, 2008

Giants 17, Patriots 14

I've tried to justify it. I've tried to make excuses in my head, tried to convince myself that I should have seen it coming, tried to justify that entire pathetic performance. And I can't. The better team won. There's no way around it.

I suppose I could ease my pain by convincing myself that the Pats would win that game 8 times out of 10, but what good would that do? One of those two, the only one that matters, is in the books. The Pats just finished the worst 18-1 season in history. Their place alongside the '01 Mariners is secure.

You could blame Brady's injury, but I won't. He was clearly hampered in the AFC Championship Game, but they managed to score more than 14 freaking points in that one. If you can blame anyone on the field, it's the offensive line. Ross nailed that one - the Giants' pass rushers had their way with our large, bearded white men, regardless of how much pressure they brought. I had the week 17 game playing on my TiVo early in the day while I was setting up for my party, and Cris Collinsworth commented early in the game that the Giants were pushing the Pats' O-line back into the pocket, giving Brady less room to maneuver. I didn't really remember that being a huge issue in that game, so I stopped and watched a few plays, and he was right. Granted, the Pats had a few guys out with injuries, but it was a pretty convincing effort, still. That concerned me, but probably not as much as it should have.

Of the field, a lot of the blame has to be laid at the hands of the coaches. I will spend the next seven months trying to figure out why they didn't challenge that fumble recovery in the second quarter, when a Pats D-lineman clearly had the ball in his arms and was laying flat on the ground, only to have a Giant rip it right out of his hands. He was down; it was clear as day. They forced the punt on the next play, but that mistake cost them a good 45-50 yards of field position. I'd look it up to be sure, but it would just make me more upset.

And what the hell is the point of having a kicker if you won't try a ~49 yard field goal when the alternative is going for it on 4th and ~13 (again, I don't have it in me to look up the exact numbers)? For once, I would like an actual explanation from Belicheck on that, instead of the standard non-answers that he usually gives. Those are cute when you're winning, but when you gag like that I think you owe people some explanations.

I think I feel worse for Randy Moss than I do for Junior Seau. Moss is the most talented player I've ever seen in a Patriots uniform - he transformed this team into an absolute offensive juggernaut, which was refreshing after watching a season of Reche Caldwells and Chad Jacksons. And as far as I can tell, he never complained or showed a bad attitude. He'll be tough to replace. Seau, on the other hand, missed out on capping the "Roger Clemens with the Astros" portion of his career with that elusive Super Bowl ring, instead punctuating it with a vague, grammatically-incorrect speech at the AFC coronation that would turn out to be the beginning of the end for the team. It probably would have been easier to win the Super Bowl if he had stopped holding up his middle fingers towards Miami and San Diego long enough to play the game. Please just retire... for real, this time.

As for his hilarious-at-the-time, "and now we have a chance... a chance to be part of ever..." line, you can see looking back that this was where the team started to think too much about making history. Players started thinking about the real possibility of going 19-0. You can take it one game at a time until the last game, but when you get that close, you're bound to start seeing the big picture. I think that happened to an extent, to the coaches and the players. Writers kept mentioning that they could see that players were starting to think about it. This had to affect them. It's a pretty lame excuse at this point, but it's all that I've got.

One thing that does make me a little happy is that the national media, and by that I mean ESPN, looks a little stupid in all of this. Two weeks of talk about whether this is the best team ever, whether Brady is the best QB ever, whether Belicheck is the best coach ever... can we play the game first, fellas? There's a time to debate stuff like that. It's called the off-season. You know, that time that you spend way too much time talking about the draft?

And how about the Boston Globe making a big fuss about a Tuesday parade possibly conflicting with the primary elections? This is the kind of stuff that other cities used to do, and the Patriots would use it as motivation. Now we're the ones looking ahead and taking victory for granted? Good grief.

And here's my "Breaking My Silence" moment: I'm not prepared to live in a world where the Manning family owns the NFL. Back-to-back Super Bowl MVP's? Really? We haven't been subjected to enough commercials with Archie and his smug "I was a mediocre player and I am in no way living vicariously through my sons" look? I remember a simpler time when it looked like Peyton would never even make it to the Super Bowl. I miss those days. Eli played great, hats off to him, but we will be seeing much, much more of him now. This is not a good thing.

I am happy for Tom Coughlin, though. New York was ready to run him out of town coming into this season, but he's always been a good coach, and I think he got a bum rap from the media and Tiki Barber (thinking about him also makes me happy, by the way). Good for him.

But I still can't believe they lost to the fifth seed from the inferior conference. I can't believe they only scored 14 points. I just can't believe any of it.

Anyway, congratulations, guys. The Giants earned it.

Ten days until pitchers and catchers...


Ross said...

I think after the Patriots, Tiki Barber has to be the biggest loser in this.

He's criticized both Manning and Coughlin, which now makes him look stupid.

He gave up on the team and his career, because he wasn't into it anymore, which makes it look like he has no heart.

He was considered by many the best player on the team, and as soon as he retired the team got much better, and won a Super Bowl. It takes away from his playing legacy.

It was a very bad day for Tiki Barber.

Warren said...

I can't believe I managed to jinx the opposing team when I wrote about how the Pats offensive line (particularly Matt Light) was better than Tom Brady. Maybe this makes up for all the times I've jinxed my own teams.

Brady looked like most quarterbacks do when they don't have five seconds to make every throw. Even the plays where the Giants got less pressure he didn't seem particularly comfortable.

I wasn't all that confident at halftime - at that point, I couldn't imagine the Giants really playing any better, and they were still losing. That's the amazing thing about this game - all everyone is talking about is how the Pats didn't play that well, how the Giants defense dominated, etc. Well, the other side of this is that the Pats faced one of the great defensive performances of all time and still almost won. If this was a great performance by the Giants (and it was), then it was an almost-as-great performance by the Patriots. I think once the sting of the loss recedes a little bit, people will realize that the Patriots played a damn good game.

But I realize saying that is like saying that the Mets had a "damn good" season last year - maybe that's true, but that's not what I want to hear with the sting of their collapse still so recent.

Sully, at least baseball is more important than football. I'd gladly trade this Super Bowl win if I could get the Mets retroactively into the 2007 playoffs.

Sully said...

Three things make this loss especially hard to take, despite the fact that football is my third favorite sport:

1) 18-1
2) It came at the hands of New York
3) The '72 Dolphins

Freshman year, when the Patriots lost to the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI, I was pretty bummed out. Now, three titles later, a Super Bowl loss, especially a loss to any old NFC team like Minnesota or Atlanta, would suck, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. But after that season, against that team, with the specter of every '72 Dolphin going to their grave without the smug, overly self-important attitude they've been copping for the last 35 years... it's just going to be hard to avoid any reminders of this for a long, long time.

That being said, the fact that baseball starts in a few weeks makes this immeasurably easier to handle. The only silver lining is that this might possibly knock some of the annoying bandwagon fans that have made the Patriots almost as universally loathed as the Red Sox off of the, um, bandwagon.

And yes, the Patriots played an amazing game, and I wish more people realized that. But the '03 Red Sox played an amazing ALCS, too, as did the '04 Yankees; it didn't make the losses any easier to take in the immediate aftermath.

Man, pitchers and catchers... pitchers and catchers... pitchers and catchers...