First, hats off to the New York Giants for playing a great game they deserved to win.
As a lifelong New England Patriots fan (at least as long as I can remember watching football) the loss to the New York Giants by a score of 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII may the most bitter defeat I have ever experienced. Of course losing any Super Bowl, or playoff game for that matter, is bitter, but some are more devastating and likely to leave lifelong bad memories than others. Yes, watching New England get crushed by the Chicago Bears 46-10 in Super Bowl XX was hard to watch, but that team probably didn’t even belong in the Super Bowl and the result was a forgone conclusion before the game even started. The loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI by a score of 35-21 wasn’t much fun either, but we were behind the entire game and we lost to a better team. Even losing the AFC Championship game to the Indianapolis Colts last year (2006 season) was easier to take because they were the better team. This loss stings worse than any other for many reasons.
The most important reason is we were 18-0 with a shot at immortality. Worse yet, we were outplayed and outcoached, something you rarely ever see from the Patriots in the Postseason. Frankly, we were the better team and there is no reason we should have lost the Giants, who finally played up to their potential this year after a rocky start. We just really blew the Super Bowl. It’s hard to win without any kind of running game. Our biggest mistake was we should have tried to run the ball more, but we should not have come out running like we did. You have to dance with the girl that brung ya and we should have gone straight to four wide receiver formations to see what the defense would do and then mix in the run, and more often, during the game. No running game at all, and very, very poor playing calling means that the Giants could just pin their ears back and pound on Tom Brady. Even though the Giants didn’t have a lot of yards on the ground, they had the threat of the run and we just completely abandoned it.
And where were the screen passes that served us so well in the past to slow the rush down??? What happened to Matt Light?? Nick Kazur has struggled at times this year so his play didn’t surprise me. So has Light, but not as often. And the offensive play calling was just awful with no runs, no screens, going for it on 4th and 13 in the third quarter when the offense was struggling and a 49 yard field goal would have given the Patriots a 7 point lead, and missing it would not have given up much more yards than going for it and not making it.
Our defense has struggled all year and they played about as well as they could be HOW DID WE NOT RECOVER THE FUMBLE BY BRADSHAW? It was right in our hands and they took it away. And how could Rodney Harrison let David Tyree catch that desperation heave by Eli Manning in the game winning drive and not strip it? That was an amazing play by Tyree but Harrison was in great position to knock it out of his hands. Frankly, I love Rodney Harrison, but he is looking old and I think the injuries are catching up with him. I can’t fault Asante Samuel for not getting the interception on that drive, but he had a great shot at it and that would have ended the game. The last drive by the Giants made me sick to my stomach. We had soooo many opportunities to stop the Giants and just didn’t.
So what happened to the Patriots?
First, no team that led the league in scoring has ever won a Super Bowl other than the St. Louis Rams, and even their Super Bowl win was a low scoring affair they won just barely, by inches. Other than that Rams team, no pass first, no real running threat team has ever won the Super Bowl. The K-Gun, Jim Kelley led Buffalo Bills? Four straight Super Bowl losses. And they had Thurman Thomas, a Hall of Fame running back. The run and shoot offense of the then Houston Oilers and later the Detroit Lions? Never even saw the Super Bowl. The 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in Randy Moss’s rookie season? Lost to an inferior Atlanta Falcons team that went on to get crushed in the Super Bowl. And they had a rushing attack too. The early 1980’s San Diego Chargers with Dan Fouts at the helm? Never made it to a Super Bowl. To win the Super Bowl you have to have some kind of running attack and normally (Rams excepted in their Super Bowl win) a reasonably stout defense.
Second, the Patriots peaked in the middle of the season. I know they went 16-0 but their best football was played earlier in the season against the Colts and Cowboys. And recall, Sammy Morris before he got injured had a couple of 100 yard games. Maroney had a couple of 100 yard games in the playoffs. We played our best when we ran the ball enough to make the offense not completely one dimensional. We struggled to win games the last half of the season against inferior teams like the Eagles and Ravens. That struggled and lost against the Giants is not entirely surprising. But we still should have won the game.
Third, the Giants just got all the breaks. Thankfully it was a well refereed game and we didn’t get screwed by the officials like we usually do, but the great improbable pass and catch between Manning and Tyree on the last drive, the inability of Asante Samuel to snag the interception, losing a fumble by the Giants we should have recovered, it all shows the football gods were against us.
It’s a bitter, bitter loss to take, and one that will stick with me for a while.