Just shut your eyes and throw, Eli. It always seems to work out for you. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Okay, pop quiz. One question, multiple choice. But first, let me set the stage for you.
New England Patriots vs. the New York Giants. Pats home team in blue, Giants the visitors in white. What was expected to be a high-scoring game turned into an, ugly, hard-fought matchup where points were at a premium and both defenses were coming up big when it mattered. The 4th quarter sees things open up a bit, and both offenses start to find some rhythm. Giants take a late lead, but Tommy B brings the Pats down inside the 10. A last minute TD catch puts New England up and in control of the game with less than 2 minutes to play. Eli Manning gets the ball and seems to be having trouble getting anything going. We see a dropped interception by a Patriots defensive back. A back shoulder, freak catch on 3rd and long sets up great field position for the game winning touchdown. Giants run an end zone corner route off a New England blitz to win the game. Alec smashes the remote control and spends the rest of the night crying into his whiskey and watching reruns of To Catch a Predator.
Now, here's the question. Am I describing a) Superbowl 42, b) yesterday's loss to the Giants, or c) all of the above?
Superbowl 42 was one of the worst days of my life. It wasn't just that the Patriots lost; it was how they lost. It was realizing what almost was and what that '07 team could have been if not for some absolute absurdity. It was being so confident after watching Tommy B once again engineer a late 4th quarter drive to put the Patriots in position to win it. Then you get a ball bouncing off a defender's hands, followed by a circus catch on 3rd and long when you think New England is about to make the stop, and that sinking feeling starts to come over you where you just know that it isn't going to go the Patriots' way. And when the inevitable happens, you try in vain to prepare yourself for a night spent staring up at the ceiling, reliving everything that went wrong in your head over and over like it's going to make a lick of difference. It's an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
It's been 4 years since that fateful night. And only just recently was I starting to get over it. I'm at a point in my life now where the occasional day goes by and I don't think about that game in some capacity. My hopes for having a semi-normal life were starting to grow. I was almost there. Until, that is, I had the distinct privilege of reliving that El Manning final Superbowl drive all over again yesterday, almost down to the minute. In 96 seconds, 4 years of slow, painstaking healing just got torn wide open and now I'm left as vulnerable and and nervous as a lone hot dog vendor outside the holding area for people who didn't pass the audition for The Biggest Loser.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, this loss is far from the end of the world, and there are actually some good things that we can take from yesterday's game that give us cause of optimism going forward, particularly on defense. But I'm having a hard time thinking about any of that right now. All I can picture is Eli Manning's face - that misshapen, ugly, Cro-Magnon, backwater mug - celebrating yet another victory over the Patriots that resulted from an absolutely absurd final drive.
And to make matters worse, I'm stuck here in New York City for the inevitable aftermath. Game notes after the jump.
- Thank you, Fox, for flashing Tommy B's 31 straight home wins stat right when the game started. Is there a particular reason that they show stats like that every freaking week? Is the NFL on some mission to make sure that this is the year that every impressive record and streak New England has gets broken?
- Make some noise, Gillette. Come on! One of the quietest 1st quarters ever from the home crowd.
- Not a huge fan of watching a Patriots game in Week 9 and not recognizing several players on the defense.
- Hey, look at that! A 3 and out! It was glorious!
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis must be more injured than we know. He always runs well, but then disappears for long stretches in a way that always leaves me scratching my head. The only plausible explanation is his injury.
- Brandon Spikes! Light ‘em up!
- Very pleased with what Brandon Deaderick brought to the table yesterday. Hope he can build on that performance.
- 12 Sacks in 4 games for Tommy B. Hmmm. Not cool, O Line.
- If only we had the technology to successfully install a "Welker Cam" inside Wes's helmet so we can get a glimpse of what he sees. On-field vision is a stat you can't measure and he's got it in droves.
- I absolutely love it when Tommy B takes off running. Looks like an 8-bit bunch of pixels from John Elway's Quarterback for the original Nintendo.
- Absolutely boneheaded play by Brandon Spikes jumping offside after he thought there was a false start. Even if there was a flinch, you don't just charge in there like that.
- Haynesworth drew some nice holding penalties yesterday. That's what I wanted to see all year.
- Steve Weatherford is an absolutely phenomenal punter. Patriots had to deal with a long field after almost every single one of his punts.
- There seems to be a strong correlation between Hall of Fame quarterbacking ability and absolutely inane, bumbling buffoonery in the announcer's booth. Here's hoping Brady doesn't join the ranks of Phil Simms and Troy Aikman as incompetent playcallers after he retires.
- Wes Welker had absolutely no business catching that 21 yarder before the 2 minute warning.
- He also had no business getting right back up and back into the huddle after that monster hit.Tough as nails.
- What's wrong with
Ray FinkleStephen Gostkowski? That's a layup kick to close out the half which ultimately would have decided the game. The laces were out, too - I checked. He just hasn't been the same this season.
- I'm starting to think that the NFL has figured the New England Patriots out. Their scalding hot start combined with what has been happening as of late leads me to believe that other teams are starting to realize how to stop this offense. They have been scoring less points each and every week and Brady doesn't look nearly as comfortable as he did to start the year. A lot of game tape of New England being made to look mortal is starting to pile up.
- You know whose name you never hear? Brian Waters. That's the best sign of a quality lineman
- Brady forcing the seam route to Gronkowski is a trend I'm really not a fan of.
- Seriously - that's his 3rd interception this year that came off Tommy B forcing one in there where he shouldn't have. Tom Brady has never been known as a quarterback who forces things. He's been forcing more than his share of throws as of late and I for one don't like it.
- More than a few times during this game, Eli Manning was about .5 seconds away from getting sacked and so he just closed his eyes and hucked it off his back foot. Almost all those passes fell incomplete, LIKE THEY ARE GODDAM SUPPOSED TO, DAVID TYREE.
- Never a good sign when the biggest play of New England's day through 3 quarters is a muffed punt.
- I know very little about football from an Xs and Os standpoint. I was also drinking fairly heavily yesterday. I correctly predicted 8 offensive plays that that the Pats ran. That shouldn't happen.
- Chad Ochocinco actually ran some fairly nice routes yesterday, and he also got a fair number of looks. I don't want to call it a sign that he's finally got the playbook down, but hey - it's something.
- That Julian Edelman muffed punt is very indicative of the kind of player he is. Big play ability and elusiveness means he wants to take every punt return to the house and isn't smart with the ball or his body. He needs to get back into the classroom to study effective fair catching.
- The Kyle Arrington pick was the EXACT same play that cost the Patriots a perfect season in 2007. Eli Manning read the blitz and threw a corner post route to the X receiver. McCourty, much like Ellis Hobbs on that fateful day, was completely beaten. Great read by Arrington to come off his man and make the play there.
- Arrington actually had a really solid day. Of course all anyone is going to remember is the PI call, but I was very pleased with his play.
- There's a scene in Rocky II when, in between rounds, Rocky tells his trainer, "I ain't goin' down no more!" That's what I thought of as soon as I saw Brady's face after New England's first touchdown of the day. And from that point on, Brady really turned it on. It was just a little too late.
- There was a brief cut, following the ensuing kickoff after the Patriots TD, where they showed Tommy B going over to say hi to Bob Kraft before the game. Near him was a young man wearing a red beanie that was looking at Brady with the kind of wide-mouthed, starry-eyed adoration that is usually reserved for men staring at Brady's wife. I'd make fun of that young man, but I do the exact same thing and I watch the games at home.
- It's a very weird feeling , in this day and age, to be a Pats fan and to be more nervous when your offense is on the field than when your defense is.
- Love the defensive 3rd down playcalling yesterday. A lot more blitzes and disguised coverages. It all leads me to believe that the complete lack of pressure that New England hasn't been generating is more the result of head-scratching gameplanning than a pure lack of ability.
- If I didn't know any better, I'd say that there was a low-scoring game between LSU and Alabama on Saturday.
- I don't think it's erroneous to say that this team needs Wes Welker almost as much as it needs Tom Brady. The Patriots were completely stagnant until Welker got going. Once he did, the entire offense opened up.
- Rare signs of life from the Gillette faithful in the 4th quarter.
- GRONK! Guy is just a beast.
- Made 33 straight 4th quarter FGs?? Really, Fox? Come on!!! Who is in charge of finding these stats and putting them up at the worst possible time??
- I know it was the right call, and there wasn't really much that Arrington could do, but that Pass Interference call was the equivalent of the driver in front of you intentionally slamming on the brakes just so you rear end him and have to foot the bill for a new set of wheels. Sucks to be a defensive player in this league.
- That PI call at the end, though, was a no-brainer and an absolutely horrible angle by Sergio Brown. Basically just ran right into Victor Cruz on what would have likely been an incomplete pass. Paging Rodney Harrison.
- Rush defense remains solid. Stopping Brandon Jacobs on 2nd and Goal from the 1 is pretty impressive.
- Didn't do much good, though, did it, Jake Ballard?
- Jake Ballard's number? 85. David Tyree's number? You guessed it - 85. Debt for SpyGate repaid and then some, football gods. Enough already.
- I spoke to my friend after the game, who was equally as miserable as I was, and we were both in agreement: this team is not of Super Bowl caliber. It's especially frustrating knowing that they so easily could be if they could just put a few more things together - but I would not feel confident if this team had to face the Giants, Saints, Lions, Packers, or Eagles in February.
This is one of those losses that gets under your skin and just burrows there like some weird mutant space-bug. It's a game that the Patriots should have won, but didn't because of some crazy catches and critical defensive mistakes that ended up costing them the game. The Jets did the Patriots a favor earlier in the day by defeating the Buffalo Bills, giving New England the opportunity to take sole possession of 1st place in the division. However, once again New England couldn't capitalize and Brady took his first loss at home in 31 games. It would appear that this is officially the year that streaks end for the Patriots.
Which leads me to believe that, since this is the year everything gets shaken up, there just may be another streak that has been associated with the Patriots as of late that may be falling this January.
I just hope it's their playoff loss streak and not the streak of New England having the best record in the division since 2001. At this point in the season, who knows.
If anyone needs me, I'll be under my desk.