from the moment you realized the Super Bowl was being played in Indianapolis,
you had to know that the Patriots would be in the mix.
the lockout happened, giving an edge to all of last year’s top teams (New
England had the NFL’s best mark at 14-2).
then came Week 1, and Patriot fans could have booked their trips to
Indianapolis. When the Dolphins predictably, and fruitlessly, ran a fade
pattern on 4th-and-goal at the 1 and Wes Welker followed with a
back-breaking, 99-yard touchdown reception, the game, and frankly season, was
the same thing happened in Week 2, when yours truly yelled at Norv Turner
through the TV set and begged him to kick the field goal on 4th-and-goal
at the 1 trailing New England by three in the second quarter. Instead, the
NFL’s worst coach went for it, Mike Tolbert got stuffed, and the Patriots
erased any doubt with another 99-yard touchdown drive.
England was a mere 5-3 through eight games, and there was hope that maybe they
had returned to earth. But one glance at their second-half schedule reminded
you that there wasn’t another loss in sight.
clobbered the hapless Jets, then when Matt Cassel broke his hand, they got to
face one of the worst quarterbacks in NFL history in Kansas City’s Tyler Palko.
A week later, rather than deal with the lethal Michael Vick, they got sad-sack
Vince Young and, inevitably, another victory.
final five games? Try Dan Orlovsky, Rex Grossman, Tim Tebow, Matt Moore, and
Ryan Fitzpatrick. That’s 5-0 without breaking a sweat. Their final record was
13-3, a mark Brady had not yet achieved. Thrice he had gone 14-2 and went 12-4
in 2006, but now he had a 13-3 for his resume as well.
nothing would top what happened in the playoffs. Perhaps we should have known
even before the Patriots miraculously escaped the Ravens in the AFC title game
that they were well on their way to the big game. It all started in Denver,
with God’s other son, Tim Tebow.
was a heavy favorite and loomed as New England’s divisional round opponent.
That would have made things tricky for the Pats, as the Steelers dominated them
in a 25-17 win in Week 8 that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Surely,
hope that New England would finally have to earn their way after not beating a
team above .500 in the regular season.
folks, we’re talking about the Patriots here. Tim Tebow made sure the magic
carpet ride continued.
league’s top pass defense was facing the league’s worst passer, perhaps in
history. Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champion, and the Broncos
were an 8-8 team that had lost their last three games. So naturally, the absurd
threw for 316 yards (a fitting number for him), including an 80-yard touchdown
on the first play of overtime, and somehow, inexplicably, the defending AFC
champs were gone. No rhyme or reason, other than it made life easier for New
went to Foxborough thinking they had a chance, but that was wiped away less
than two minutes into the game, and Tom Brady threw six touchdowns passes in a
45-10 demolition of one of the worst playoff teams of all time.
again, the Patriots hardly had to exert any effort against a mediocre team to
reach the doorstep of the Super Bowl.
we save the best for last, the AFC Championship Game.
better team arrived in New England in the Ravens, but an intimidated one as
well. Baltimore did everything but win the game, and again in fitting fashion,
New England was aided by a one-time Buffalo Bill. Remember, the Bills franchise
has been overly kind to the Patriots this past decade.
Evans failed to secure what would have been the game-winning touchdown pass, as
it was knocked away by undrafted, rookie free agent safety (yes, you read that
right) Sterling Moore. The youngster Moore then deflected a third-down pass to
force Baltimore into a chip-shot field goal to tie the game.
remember, this is New England. An extra point isn’t even a chip-shot.
Ravens bumbled their way into the attempt, and journeyman kicker Billy Cundiff
channeled his inner-Ray Finkle and shanked the kick wide left with the laces
out. While most Ravens fans were left in shock, I simply shook my head and
muttered, “I knew it.”
it sounds pessimistic and bitter, but there is some vindication in knowing that
you can see the signs in advance. The night prior to the game, I looked at the
Patriots roster and wondered who would be Sunday’s unsung hero.
Brady? Come on, been there done that. Rob Gronkowski? That’s too obvious. Even
Wes Welker, Deion Branch, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Vince Wilfork were too
I pinpointed two defensive newbies – Mark Anderson and Moore. Anderson was a
cast-off defensive end from Chicago and Houston despite solid production, and
he made me feel smart with a sack on the game’s second possession as the Ravens
failed to get a first down in their first two drives.
Moore saved the best, and most painful, for last. The young man that couldn’t
keep a job with the Raiders felt the divine spirit at just the right moment and
made the play to send New England, and more importantly its obnoxious, spoiled,
entitled fans to the city of their archrival to watch Tom Terrific join his
idol Joe Montana in NFL lore.
haven’t even played the Super Bowl yet, but lest we forget this is Brady’s
final frontier of destiny, to avenge the Super Bowl XLII loss that cost New
England its perfect* (please note the asterisk) season.
Giants beating the Patriots in yet another Super Bowl? That doesn’t happen to
the Golden Child. Bill Belichick remembers, adjusts, and defeats, especially
his former employer. Bon Jovi will be there rooting on his buddy, too.
can expect a perfectly symmetrical flip of the script, as I figure New England
will win in the same fashion the Giants did in 2008. That sent thousands of “Patriots
19-0 Perfect Season” shirts to less fortunate youth in Nicaragua rather than
fans parading the streets of Boston.
high ankle sprain and all, will find a way to get it done. Danny Woodhead,
Brandon Spikes, Zoltan Mesko, and Patrick Chung? I full expect at least one of
those players to make a massive impact.
Don’t be surprised if longtime
Patriot Kevin Faulk (for the record, the only New England player to pre-date
Belichick) plays a key role on the field where he came up just short on
Belichick’s infamous 4th-and-2 gamble against the Colts in 2009.
Because remember, no matter the
circumstances, the Patriots always get their retribution. Sorry, Giants fans.
The writing has been on the wall since day one. Etched in stone, then written
over with permanent marker.