The Patriots won 18 straight games then lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Wow. It’s still really hard to realize that the Super Bowl turned out the way it did. The unbeatable, invincible Patriots lost a game…. to the Giants? To the same team that started out 0-2 and gave up 80 points in the process. The same team that was down 14-0 to Buffalo in the first quarter and got absolutely annihilated by the Redskins at home in December. The same team that had the once questioned number 1 overall pick, Eli Manning, leading the way. It was fate. It was destiny. It was whatever you want it to be, but it was meant to happen. Come on, the Patriots had the best offense anybody has ever seen and only put up a season low 14 points in a game. Their offensive line had protected Brady all year, but failed to do so in the biggest spot. Bill Belichick made more coaching mistakes than he ever has in his tenure with the Patriots. Asante Samuels had an interception he catches 99% of the time, go right through his hands. Adalius Thomas and two other Patriots had Manning in their hands for a sack to force a fourth down, but Manning escaped his grasp. David Tyree who had only 5 catches for 39 yards coming into the big game, came up with the most miraculous catch we have ever seen. Tom Brady seemed to have thrown a perfect ball in the closing seconds that fell two yards short. Destiny. Not the Patriots destined to go unbeaten, but the Giants destined to be that team. That team that spoiled the party.
Maybe we should have all seen it coming. But how many people really had the guts to go against an unbeaten team? The Patriots had the edge at every position on the field except maybe defensive line. Near the end of the season, the Patriots looked more beatable than ever while the Giants were getting better with every game.
The legacy of this Patriots team that was going to be the best of all time is in my mind, tarnished. The only other teams that won 18 games, the ’84 49ers and the ’85 Bears, also won the championship. This Patriots team didn’t. They bent down the stretch, but broke in the biggest game of their lives. Now, they’ll have to live with the consequences. Their dynasty and season will be remember by this one game. The one game they failed to win all season. The one Super Bowl they were out coached and out played by their, not so perfect, opponent. They’ll have all those lovely records, but this team and even most of its players will be remembered by failure.
So what about next year? The only way this team can heal their pain is by winning the championship next season. Forget going undefeated. Just worry about winning the championship. If it means throwing the last game of the season to rest your players and avoid the enormous pressure, then so be it. Even the greatest pressure of winning the last game to stay unbeaten will force even the strongest to crumble. It’ll force a team loaded with potential hall of fame talent to crack when the game is on the line. Just take a look at that fourth quarter drive that broke a defense when it bent all season. It forced a coach to call a desperate all out blitz only to see Eli Manning play catch with Plaxico in their backyard. It made the Patriots feel as if they had to go for it on fourth down and 13 from the 31 yard line instead of kicking a field goal. The only time the Patriots didn’t feel the pressure is when they marched 80 yards down the field for a touchdown. In those 6-7 minutes, the Patriots didn’t think, they just played. That drive was natural to them. During the rest of the game, the Patriots didn’t seem like themselves. And trust me, they’ll never be themselves ever again.