I wish I could sit here and say that this past Sunday's loss to the 49ers didn't hit me where it hurts. I wish I could say that I didn't spend much of Sunday night laying in bed staring at the ceiling, but I did. And I wish I could say that I wasn't going to be the guy in my family who gets way too hydrated this Christmas and says or does something that is going to be the topic of conversation around my various family members' dinner tables for all of 2013, but we all know that the odds of that happening are slim as well. But that's a whole other blog - and several therapy sessions -unto itself.
Now that it's officially time to turn the page to Jacksonville and finishing the season strong in order to gain some momentum heading into the playoffs, I thought I would take one last look at Sunday's game now that I've had a full two days to recover and get all the beer and shame out of my system. And while the loss doesn't sting any less, the bottom line is that Sunday was an absolutely fantastic game that really showed just how much heart this team has. Since I was so negative - even for me - in my last two posts, I thought I would try and balance the scales a little bit and share a few more positives that we can all take away from Week 15.
Resiliency. Do you know how many teams would have mailed it in down 28 in the middle of the third quarter? Do you know how many fans (i.e. me) mailed it in as well? Well not these Patriots. They decided that they were going to go hard until the very end, and because of that they were almost able to pull off one of the all-time great comebacks. And while it didn't work out, and haters will surely point to some injuries along the 49er defensive front as a reason why New England was able to bring it back, the bottom line is that what we saw on Sunday from this team was championship-caliber football. Champions fight until they can't fight anymore. Losers throw four interceptions and fumble snaps after botched punts. There's just no way that the Patriots will allow themselves to get into that kind of a hole again.
This team can hang with anyone in the NFL. Sure, it would have been nice to get a bye. But you know what? I'm going to be totally fine if that doesn't happen. And let's be honest: while I'm not ruling it out (all it takes is one loss from Denver and some Pats wins to flip-flop spots, and for some reason I feel that a Week 17 upset at the hands of the Chiefs isn't out of the realm of possibility), it would appear that the Patriots will be coming into the playoffs as the 3 seed. As the 3 seed, the Patriots are most likely to host the Cincinnati Bengals during Wild Card Weekend before heading to Denver in the Divisional Round should they come away with a Round 1 victory. In my opinion, the Patriots are more than capable of beating both of these teams, even the Immortal Peyton Manning at the Impenetrable Mile High Stadium. In fact, the only person I'm scared of at all in the National Football League right now is Roger Goodell, who is probably so utterly hell-bent on seeing a Manning vs. Andrew Luck playoff matchup that he will personally slather Icy Hot in every single Patriot's jockstrap on his way to greasing whatever referee squad is calling the Pats game that day to ensure that it happens. But even if that does happen, I still like New England's odds.I say bring both of those teams on.
Fortune wasn't with us. I don't want this point to take anything away from what San Fransisco did on Sunday; they came ready to play and 100% deserved to win that game. At the same time, though, this was also one of those games where San Fransisco got all the bounces, and the Patriots didn't get any. The Niners put the ball on the ground four times, but managed to recover all of them - including one which resulted in a Frank Gore touchdown. A questionable touching call that could have gone either way on a punt ended up going to the 49ers as well (which was one of those calls where the refs would have had to stick with whatever the initial ruling on the field was - there just wasn't enough evidence to overturn it). A few holding calls - calls which get missed every week in every game - escaped the refs' eyes on the kick return that set up the go-ahead TD. Every time the Patriots fumbled, on the other hand, the 49ers recovered it. Sometimes you have games where the ball bounces your way, and sometimes you don't. Combine the way San Fransisco played on Sunday with getting a few breaks, and you come away with the win. That's just the way it is. Not a complaint, and not an excuse, because that's football. New England has gotten the good bounces more than it's fair share of times.
So chin up, everyone. Or maybe I should just say chin up, Alec. Let's all go have a few more glasses of egg nog. The Patriots are still the Patriots, and I won't lose sight of that again.
Well....at least not for a few days.