December 9, 2016

….And There Goes The No-Hitter

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

I’ve had that headline since, like, the fourth week of the season, and I can’t believe I’m using it now.

It may, perhaps, be the worst loss in profesional football history, this 18-0 powerhouse, favored by two touchdowns, losing to the lowest seed of the allegedly inferior NFC in the only game that really matters when real history is written. It sure feels like the worst loss in history tonight, as the New York Giants scored the winning touchdown with less than two minutes left to beat the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Dreams of immortality have been replaced by nightmares of ignominy that may last a generation, or two, or even longer.

The Patriots, frequently conceded the championship at various points through an often dominant but tumultuous season, were left flinging hopeless and aimless bombs to no one as the final seconds of the game evaporated into the Arizona desert. Their record-setting offense, the most prolific scoring machine in the history of the game, went out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Their once proud defense, now reduced to a mere supporting role in the shadow of their starry offensive teammates, was too old and too slow and too weak to win the game on their own, to make the one play they had to, when the outcome of the game rested solely in their hands.

Where to go from here? The heartbreak of Indianapolis has nothing on the pure devastation of this moment. How do they come back from this? How do they gather again, to go that one step farther, to once again be the last team standing? With the burden of this failed attempt at perfection strapped to their backs, in the harsh light of already furious opposition? For all their powers, it seems impossible in this aftermath of incredulity. For all this winning, this loss, this unforgettably awful loss, only makes me feel like it’s time for a page to turn.

It’s The Defense, Stupid.

I’m glad they got Wes Welker and Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth and I know that they probably wouldn’t have made it this far if they hadn’t. But what good did it do in respect to closing the deal? Super Bowl XLII was won with defense, and the defense that made the most plays took home the prize. Meanwhile, as the Pats loaded up their offense this off-season, they also also welcomed back 38 year old Junior Seau, 35 year old Rodney Harrison, 34 year old Tedy Bruschi and 32 year old Mike Vrabel as the core of their defense, with their only reinforcement coming in the way of 30 year old free agent Adalius Thomas. The middle of this defense, the core of so many past glories, the heart of so much of the organization, has gone as far as it can go. The game was in their hands tonight and they didn’t have enough left to grab it and hang on.

Tom Brady

Nothing – nothing – will ever take away from what Tom Brady has done for the Patriots, and tonight, he rallied a moribund offense to score the go-ahead points with just under three minutes to play in the Super Bowl. But for too much of the game, he and his record-setting teammates did nothing, and all the long bombs and jump balls and pinball machine scoring over the past five months meant less than nothing in the end. The Patriots defense lost the game at the end because Tom Brady and the offense put them squarely in the position to do so.  Brady’s the best player that ever has played, or ever will play, for the Patriots, but even that, even a perfect season punctuated by barrier-breaking offensive performances, was not enough. The road back after this season will be considerably longer than last.

A Truly Offensive Performance

As much as anyone, the offensive line lost the game for the Patriots. This decorated crew of pro-bowlers could not give their quarterback a moment’s peace from the opening gun. There was no running game, because after a few promising rushes, there were no holes. Stephen Neal went down to injury, but let’s face it, there is no excuse for the way the Patriots offensive line played tonight. It’s hard to believe that when the big game came, so many big game players didn’t show.

Randy Moss

His season here was an unforgettable one, and one gratifying thing about tonight’s game was to see Moss emerge, after a frustrating playoff, to make the difference on the Patriots last drive. I honestly thought Randy Moss had won the game for the Patriots. Who knows what happens from here; will his legal entanglements in Florida prove to be just enough to break up this marriage of convenience that produced so many memorable, but now bittersweet, moments? Will he return? If he does, we now know the Patriots can’t win the championship on he and Brady alone.

Wes Welker

I believe he tied a Super Bowl record for receptions tonight, and there’s two things for certain on a night of many doubts: Wes Welker is all football player, and he’s going to be with the Patriots through 2011. Not all news tonight is bad.

Ellis Hobbs

As long as he lives, Ellis Hobbs will never live down that fade route that left the Patriots down by three with 35 seconds left. Which stinks, because I remain convinced that he and Asante Samuel are the least of the Pats worries, if you don’t count Samuel’s upcoming free agency. Hobbs was out there on an island on that last play, and though he was helpless against it, that fade was merely the end result of a total team breakdown when it counted most.

The Coach

Before the game began, the names Lombardi, Noll and Walsh were being uttered. After the game, the words ‘undefeated three-time champ and two touchdown favorite loses the Super Bowl with two minutes left’ are too difficult to grasp when thinking about a coach who has become nearly invincible over the past eight years. Bill Belichick, Super Bowl loser? Like Brady, nothing can ever change what Bill Belichick has done for the Patriots and their fans, but has the phrase ‘sixty minutes’ ever had such poignancy as it does tonight? Once again, they didn’t play sixty minutes.

From Here

There will no doubt be more thoughts in the days ahead, some of which we’ll share with you, some of which we’ll be better off not sharing at all. Perhaps other members of the PD team will stop by for a final word on what tonight became history, for all the worst possible reasons. In the meantime, we leave you with our thanks for your support this year – for your clicks, for your interest, and for your participation. It’s hard to call this a ‘good year’ tonight, but it will be one that we never forget. 

Comments

  1. chrisa798 says:

    The dynasty ended tonight, sadly. Completely outcoached and slightly outplayed. Given how flat the Patriots were, I think the psychological strain of getting there unbeaten wore them down. I don’t expect to see them back in the SB in the next couple years. I salute the Patriots.

  2. Scott, I think the only one who went out a winner tonight was you. For some reason I’ve been unable to sleep tonight so I’ve been hitting all the links about the game. Yours was easily the best. Congratulations to you and the rest of the guys on a great year.

  3. John Williams says:

    They have “Tom Brady” didn’t cut it last night. The offensive line was over matched unlike any game this season. Giants had better players where it counted.

    However you look at Superbowl 42 one thing you can say without any reservations, when we talk about the head coach the better MAN won.

  4. oh, for crissakes. Yeah, John, that’s so f**king important to all of you down at the Concerned Citizens of the PTA. Grow up.

  5. Just to be clear. You all are welcome, if so moved, to comment here for as long as you want about the perforamnce of this coach and these players in last night’s game, over the course of the season, or over the last eight years. You can rail on about the line, or the quarterback and the offense doing squat in this game after rolling nearly every week all year, or the defense that couldn’t make the picks or make the stops to win the game, or the decision to go for it on 4th down. Have it at. But if you’re here to somehow extend this national referendum on classiness and integrity of the game – because it so titilates you as a skirt wearing, tissue dabbing, ‘what about the children?’ faux moralist – you’ll be out of here just as soon as I can blast your over-tightened sphincter off into space, where it belongs.

  6. Winning the SB is tough enough, I wonder if the building pressure of the perfect season started to wear them down in some way. Despite the “One game at a time” mantra, I think it was impossible for them to keep the thoughts of immortality out of their heads. They are still a great, great football team, and I am confident that every attempt will be made to retool in the off-season. Am I disappointed ?, …yes, Depressed ?…No F*cking Way !!

  7. It wasn’t the red hoodie instead of the grey one that did New England in. It was, as you said, a Giants defense that ran roughshod over our offensive line. To be fair, many experts suggested that this is where the Giants had us, and the game hinged on that tipping point. Harassed all night and little time to allow pass routes to develop and open up, Brady couldn’t deliver even three more points during the course of their drives. Defense wins Championships, they say, and it was proven last night. As bad as I feel for Seau and Moss, I’d feel even worse if the Pats had the better of the play and still lost. You can rationalize this by agreeing that the better team did win Super Bowl XLII.

  8. Matt Light doesn’t deserve to be going to the Pro Bowl and he really proved it last night. The entire offensive line sucked, pretty much without exception, and Light is always held out as one of the big stars of that line. Yet he continues to rack up false starts, continues to have trouble with speed rushers like Jason Taylor, and as the season wore on it was like he was wearing a bulls-eye for other teams. The defense certainly didn’t help, giving up a lot of big plays (especially on third downs). Linebackers need help, defensive backs need help, Brady threw like he was shook all day long. The Pats need a lot of help this offseason… but damn they looked good for 18 games. If they can keep Asante/find some one better than Duane Starks to take his place, find some youth to fill in for the elders at ILB, and maybe find some help for the line (I’d be cool if they could somehow swing a deal to get Jake Long…) then the continually rebuilding AFC East shouldn’t be too difficult to take once again. This team’s got too much talent not to be a contender again next year. If I could add one more member of personnel, maybe a FA LB to tackle Belichick when he decides to go for it on 4th and 13.

  9. - For all of his accolades, Richard Seymour was unheard from last night. Whither Vrabel? At least Adalius showed his worth.
    – I don’t blame Hobbs that much. I thought the coaching decision to blitz on that play, leaving Hobbs w/o safety help against a taller WR, was a bad one. Plaxico scored a TD on nearly the exact same play (corner route, wide side of the field) in the previous meeting. Clearly NY is going for a score w/o any timeouts at that point in the game and Plaxico is the primary target in the red zone. Weird also that the Pats never swap corners (for some reason, I guess they don’t do this like other teams) and put the taller, ball-hawking Samuel on Burress.
    – Going for it on 4th-and-13 was very strange to see from Belicheck. If it was 4th-and-short then I am a big proponent, but 4th-and-really-long was questionable.
    – Maroney needs to learn when to just fall into the pile. He had some good runs but too many negative yardage plays.
    – How Woods lost that fumble, I don’t know.
    – Pats seemed overly confident that the Giants pressure wouldn’t be a factor, especially in the first half. It was clear from the first Pats snap that it would be an issue and the coaching failed to adjust. Screen pass, anyone? Outside of his pass interference draw, Watson was underutilized, not to mention 2 costly penalties.
    – In the 4th, NY was only rushing 4 and the defense was clearly winded by that point, but it was a major morale booster for the Giants to go into halftime only down 7-3.
    – Welker and Faulk came to play. Hats off to them.
    – Agree with Chris that the better team won.

  10. Thought the column summed it up well.

  11. Too many questions. Why on EARTH did they finally switch to 4WR mode with only 5 minutes left?

    If they would have gone no huddle right out of the gate with 4 or 5WR packages, they would have worn down the Giants D-Line at least a LITTLE.

    And why on EARTH did they have Brady under center almost all night, and not in the Shotgun so he could better gauge the hotreads? If they had done that, Welker probably would have had 20 receptions and 200 yards.

    I am DISGUSTED with the Offensive coaches – they should not be allowed to cash their check for the game.

    Hand it to the Giants D-line, though. True MVP’s.

    p.s. The officiating SUCKED for both sides.

  12. The handwringing moralist with an e-mail address that includes the phrase ‘always doing 69′. You want to do this all day, ‘JJ’, we can.

  13. maybe we should have all the NFL coaches ( & ex-coaches) invited to that new Fox show Moment of Truth. It would be interesting to see them answer whether or not they had conducted illicit espionage during their career. The Pats were a target, and made to be a scapegoat for the NFL. It made for “storylines” for the media, nothing else.

  14. The more I think about it, I think the defense did the job last night. It’s unfortunate the lasting images of the game will be that final drive. Overall, the defense played well enough to win. The record of Super Bowl teams that allow 17 points or less is 29-5, and the last such team before the Pats to lose the game was the Vikings in SB IX–33 years ago. On the other hand, teams that score 14 or less have gone 1-20.

  15. This must have been Drew Bledsoe’s fault. Right? Right?!!!

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