The New England Patriots are going to spend the next week explaining to you that this was just another win. That this was only one game in a long season that is coming to a quick close. That beating the Giants in New York doesn't mean anything, that what happened on the field doesn't reflect the past, that this exorcism was for...who exactly?
There are just eleven players on the roster that were a part of the 2011 team that lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Two of them couldn't suit up due to injuries (Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon), and one was gravely hurt (Julian Edelman), but the other eight played crucial roles to close out the game.
Patrick Chung was brilliant in coverage of running back Shane Vereen and tight end Will Tye. Jerod Mayo stepped in after Jonathan Freeny was unable to sufficiently fill in Jamie Collins' monstrous shadow. Rob Gronkowski broke open with a 76-yard touchdown catch and Rob Ninkovich sacked Eli Manning in one of the most important moments of the game. Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty are two of the most important leaders on the team.
This was an extra-important win for these players, even if they won't admit it. Nothing will make-up for losing in the Super Bowl, but certain ghosts have been put to rest.
The other two players are the only Patriots to be a part of the 2007 team. They were also the two most important Patriots on Sunday. This was a win for them.
"We don't rank wins," Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski said after the game. "We're 9-0. It was a fun game, don't get me wrong. Obviously those guys have had our number. It counts as one win."
For Gostkowski, this game has to officially put him outside of the shadow of Adam Vinatieri. Gostkowski claimed the Patriots record for field goals on Sunday and he's starting to establish his own legacy.
After replacing Vinatieri in the 2006 season, Gostkowski was in an impossible situation trying to replace an all time great. In the 2007 Super Bowl, Gostkowski knocked a kick off out of bounds early in the second quarter, and head coach Bill Belichick decided to go for it on 4th down early in the 3rd quarter instead of letting Gostkowski attempt a 48-yarder. It was a down point for Gostkowski and it's take years for him to gain the trust of the Patriots fans.
Belichick let Gostkowski kick the 54-yarder to win on Sunday and it was never a question.
"That's the guy you want out there," Belichick said. "You want your best player in that situation - an opportunity to win the game for you - and he did, as he's done many times before."
The last constant on the Patriots is quarterback Tom Brady, who had to feel the weight of the game on his shoulders.
Brady threw an awful pass at the goal line that was intercepted by the Giants with 6:10 left in the game. The play never should have happened, but an awful call by the officials flagged David Andrews for holding and brought back a LeGarrette Blount touchdown. A touchdown would have put the Patriots up 30-23 and New England would have to decide to kick the extra point, or to go for two and make it a two-score game.
Instead the ball was intercepted.
"It was just a bad throw," Brady said after the game. "A terrible throw."
And yet it was Brady that led the Patriots down the field to set up the game-winning field goal with mere seconds left on the clock. It has always been Brady, giving the defense a lead with minutes left in the game, only to watch the Giants march down the field to steal the victory. It has always been Brady that has to go back on with an impossible task that inevitably failed.
This time he did it. The Patriots won. They've moved to 9-0 and the ghosts were expelled by, well, Ghost.
The victory over the Giants will hold very little sway in the scope of the full season. The division is all but won and the rapid deterioration of Peyton Manning and the Broncos defensive composure means that a first round bye could be locked up in two weeks.
But this was certainly a milestone game for the Patriots. They beat a division leader that always has their number, while on the road, and with an offensive line that will hopefully never be as half-baked for the rest of the season. Strip the narrative and this was a legitimately good win.
And there was still a weight that was lifted after this game and a demon that was exorcised. But maybe the weight didn't come from Brady, or Gostkowski, or Belichick.
Maybe it was our own.