Hey, I am upset about the loss...but thanks for the three titles! There WILL be more.
Forty-eight hours later and I am still angry. I am angry at our players for losing a great opportunity. An opportunity to make history. I look at the picture above and my stomach churns. This was probably the best chance any team has had to threepeat. The mighty Colts lost. Take care of our business and we would be hosting the AFC championship game on Sunday. We were certainly not overmatched. Our team had come together.
Over the most trying season in recent memory, this team had overcome horrendous injuries to key players. Rodney Harrison, done for the year. Matt Light, done for the year. Dan Koppen, done for the year. Randall Gay, done for the year. Tyrone Poole, done for the year. Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk missed several games. Richard Seymour missed several games. Most importantly Tedy Bruschi, the heart and soul of the defense had suffered a stroke merely a few months ago. I truly felt at one point that it was too much. I am sorry Mr. Brady, but I agreed with Marty Schottenheimer. The injuries had just become too much to overcome.
Then, Tedy Bruschi comes back from his stroke. Slowly, the team creates an identity. Richard Seymour comes back. Vince Wilfork wakes up and decides he wants to dominate. Ellis Hobbs emerges as a decent cornerback. Wait a minute. Maybe this team can compete. Maybe they can make some noise in the post season. Hey, anything can happen, right? As long as we have Coach Belichick and Tom Brady, we have a chance.
Game one of the playoffs came. The score said we pummeled Jacksonville. In my post game recap, I said I felt the team did not play well. The defense played well, but the offense was sluggish and seemed out of rhythm. I was a little concerned, but thought that the team basically took the final week off against Miami. Therefore, the game was a warm-up to the showdown in Denver.
Onto Denver we would go. Two wins away from a chance to play for history. I honestly thought we would be able to beat Denver. I felt Coach Belichick would focus on shutting down the vaunted Denver running game and make "Jake the Mistake" beat them. The studs on the defensive line would completely shut down Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell, rendering them ineffective. They stuffed these guys so much that Shanahan called a pass on fourth and goal from the one yard line.
Again, the offense however would come out sluggish. Although Tom Brady would not get sacked early, there was constant pressure in his face. His passes sailed and he missed open receivers. The offensive line was getting beat. As the game wore on, I figured we would eventually figure it out and be able to move the ball. We did. Then, the unthinkable happened (well except for Kevin Faulk's fumble as he does this often). The Patriots morphed into the Patriots of the '80s.
Unlike many fans, journalists and others I refuse to blame the officials for this loss. I do agree that the pass interference call on Samuel was one of the most hideous calls I have seen in a long time. The missed false start on Denver during the field goal was another bad call. And, on Bailey's interception, I do think it should have been a touchback but I am sure the official thought that there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it.
Getting back to the horror. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. The New England Patriots had changed their reputation during the past several years. They were the team that never beat themselves. Never. Wow, did that change quickly. Kevin Faulk fumbles as we are moving the ball to possibly put up more points before halftime. Well, I cannot say that never happens. Kevin Faulk is a key component of this team. However, he does this all the time. He coughs the ball up at critical times. I was not surprised. The pass interference call never happens if he does not fumble. From there it was all downhill.
Ellis Hobbs, Troy Brown. Troy Brown? Yup, Troy Brown. Which brings me to Tom Brady. Hey, what can we say? This guy is money. But, it all comes back to the offensive line being asleep during this game. As I watched the play unfold and saw the corner coming from his blind side, I winced thinking he would get hit and fumble. But, I think Brady felt or saw him coming and made a very un-Brady move and forced a throw. He claims he thought he had Troy in the corner...but he is not going to say he thought he could squeeze it in there. Is he? Brady making that type of mistake at that juncture of the game? I thought I was living in an alternate universe. Wow. If he throws it away, we kick a field goal and the score becomes 10-9 and Denver has not moved the ball on us all night. Do you think Jake maybe starts to force the issue?
Well, I truly had trouble sleeping. The loss was surreal to me. How can a team that truly dominated a game like that lose? Any Denver fans that do not think we moved the ball up and down the field ought to look at the stats. True, we gave them very short field position, but they were not able to move the ball on us. It's not right. We ran up over 400 yards in offense on them. We held their rushing attack to under 100 yards. How do you lose this game? The officiating was horrible. But, these guys are professionals and have the championship experience. They should be able to overcome bad officiating. Take care of your business and we move on. We did not take care of business. We gave the opponent every opportunity to take the game from us.
I am truly disappointed and angry in what happened Saturday night in Denver. I am, however proud of this team and all it accomplished this year with the adversity it faced, not to mention their winning the last 3 out of 4 Super Bowls. I truly believe all the talk of "the dynasty being dead" is overblown. This team will remain relatively intact with more injured players coming back. We will return to glory next year. It's just going to be a long, gut wrenching offseason thinking about what would have, could have, should have been. I just cannot stop wondering...