After the AFCCG, Greg Knopping wrote, recalling Superbowl XLII, that "On that day, Patriots fans learned the hard way that the Lombardi trophy is a lot more important than an unblemished regular season record." Even more bluntly, D.S.T. wrote a fan post remarking that: "A team that has gone into history thanks to at least three lucky plays. The Catch. The missed interception. The Plaxico Burress touchdown. The Aftermath? The Patriots are now the Cheatriots. The moral of the story? Cheating never pays. Blowing out teams never pays." And these views are not rare. I still remember reading before Superbowl XLII that the game would decide whether the 2007 Patriots are remembered forever or whether they quickly disappear as a footnote.
Really? One play, one drive does not, should not, and cannot define the 2007 New England Patriots, what they accomplished, nor their place in history. So I'm here to say ENOUGH ALREADY.
Superbowl XLII still hurts. No, it still kills. It's more painful than any other "event" in my life -- and I'm sadly not exaggerating at all (possibly why people tell me I'm too into sports). My heart will always ache at what could have been. It hurts because we were so damn close. It hurts because I can still picture, in slow motion, everything that had to go exactly right -- and did -- for the Giants in that fateful last drive. One un-dropped pick, one more step for a sack, one more incompletion, one defended pass in the end zone, one more foot on a desparate hail mary throw -- one different play and the story ends differently.
But I'll take it. If I was given the choice, for 2007, between an 18-1 season with a 16-0 regular season or an 11-5 season with a Superbowl win, I'd take 18-1, 16-0. Why? Because Brady and Belichick did the Superbowl thing -- 3 times in 4 years. But who has done 16-0? If the Patriots hadn't won the Superbowl in 2001, 2003-4, I'd make a different choice -- I'd take the Lombardi. But 3 Lombardi trophies and 16-0? I'll take that over 4 Lombardi trophies.
Quick, who won the Superbowl in 1975? I'm guessing most of you don't know -- I sure as hell don't. But everyone knows who the 1972 Miami Dolphins are. The 2007 New York Giants won't be remembered because they won the Superbowl -- they'll be remembered because of the circumstances of who they beat. They stopped 19-0. But is anyone really going to forget who they stopped? Of course not. Be real. In ten years, Superbowl XLII is forgotten if not for the Patriots run at perfection that year. A footnote in NFL history? Give me a break. And in the next 50 years, assuming no lockouts, 50 teams are going to win the Superbowl; but in the next 50 years, how many teams are going to have perfect regular seasons? Far fewer. Again, I'll take 3 Lombardi trophies and 16-0.
The pain of losing -- the way we lost -- will never go away. But enough already. The 2007 season was, is, and will always be historic for the New England Patriots. A David Tyree helmet catch does not erase:
- A 16-0 regular season. Last I looked, its the only one in NFL history (a big thank you to Jim Caldwell in 2009 and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011).
- 50 and 23. The NFL record number of TD and TD Receptions in 2007 by Tom Brady and Randy Moss, respectively. Peyton, who?
- 589 and +315. The total points and point differential for the 2007 Patriots, both NFL records. That year, the Patriots beat the Bills in their two games by a combined score of 94-17, the Jets by a combined score of 58-24 and the Dolphins by a combined score of 77-35. Sucks to be the AFC East.
- 15. This is the number of 4th down conversions for the New England Patriots in 2007. The stat itself is very ordinary, but who doesn't remember us going for it on 4th down plays, already up by 30 points? Maybe running up the score doesn't pay, but somehow it just seemed so fitting that year.
- Speaking of 4th down conversions, how about the Week 13 game against the Ravens? Lost in the memories of the 2007 blowouts is a simultaneously thrilling, lucky, clutch drive by Brady with 3 minutes to play that kept the pursuit of perfection alive. Thanks for that timeout, Rex Ryan.
- 49 out of 50. The number of MVP votes Brady received in 2007, the most votes for one player in NFL history. This record, of course, was broken in 2010.
- Brady to Moss bombs. It's not a stat. It's probably nothing even that special in the history of the league. But I'll never forget the thrill of Brady winding up and launching it deep. I actually think, a long time from now after Brady retires, that Brady to Moss will be an enduring image shown over and over again in highlights.
Most of these records will be matched and broken. That's the reality of sports. And none of these stats are quite as enduring as 19-0 could have been. But so what? 2007 was epic. The New York Giants won a Superbowl, like the Colts the year before, like the Steelers the year before that, and like the Patriots 3 of the 4 years before that. But the 2007 New England Patriots, for good and bad, are the most memorable NFL team thus far from the 21st century.
So the next time a Giants fan or Patriots-hater gives you a hard time about Superbowl XLII, congratulate them on their Superbowl ring and ask them to get back to you when their team transcends the sport. To paraphrase the almighty Hoodie: Three Lombardi trophies and an unmatched perfect regular season, s--- my d---.
I'll take it.