Photo Courtesy Boston.com
It still stings, no matter how much I rationalize it. As I mentioned on Friday, all year the Patriots didn’t resemble a prototypical “Super Bowl” team. They didn’t have that intangible teams have when the football powers peg one team a champion. They just didn’t have “it.” I certainly didn’t think they had a shot at the Super Bowl, until they beat San Diego.
Like all of us, my hopes were raised. My eyes widened to Reche Caldwell levels. I then saw they were matched up with the Colts, and I really got excited. I said to my dad, “This could actually happen.” By far, of the Super Bowl teams that won three of four, this team would be the weakest. A sketchy offense coupled with a slow(er) defense made them vulnerable, but playing the Colts has been easy for them, and of course the NFC is like Division II football compared to the mighty AFC. So long as Peyton keeps being Peyton and Tony keeps being Tony, this will be the fourth Super Bowl in six years! Piece of cake!
I picked against them on Friday, and the reasoning was two-fold. First, and most rediculous: I picked against them because it worked against San Diego. If my picking San Diego to win was going to screw it up for them, I sure as hell was going to do it to Indy. It’s the most retarded thing I think I’ve ever thought was legitimate, but as a die-hard Patriots fan with an uneasy feeling about the team, I was willing to pull out all the stops. The second reason, what I just eluded to, was an incredible uneasiness with this game.
The Colts beatings of the Patriots the last two years were not coincidental, or lucky, or any of that. And yes, I do say beatings because even though the last game was decided by a touchdown, the Patriots had phenomenal opportunities to turn the tide of the game and couldn’t. To me, that’s a beating. Because of their lack of success, I just wasn’t sure which version of this rivalry we would see. Or more importantly, I was mostly sure I was going to see the most recent version of it, and that’s what scared me.
Leave it to the Patriots to make things interesting. I’m sure all of us were a tad jovial when the score was 21-3 and Peyton was having ‘Nam flashbacks all over again. The offense was struggling, but still moving and the defense was awesome! Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel played VERY well last night and should be congratulated. The game was not lost on the outside, where many of us thought it could be. I think the focus was on stopping those two receivers, and they did just that. No big plays (from them) and no mistakes.
What bugged the hell out of me was how wide open the middle of the field became. It’s awful when Dallas Clark is ripping up your secondary for huge gains. DALLAS CLARK! He sounds like a 70’s porn star, not a game breaking tight end! DALLAS CLARK! And that’s either a fault of the scheme or the safeties. I think it’s a combo of both, because I didn’t notice much zone coverage. But how sorely were Eugene Wilson and Rodney Harrison missed last night?
I don’t need to recap the game, because we all saw it. But I think the biggest point to be taken is the fact THIS Patriots team is nothing more than a shell of its old self. Last night I posted briefly with the title, “Dynasty Finished.” I think it’s appropriate because in fact, this team is not a dynasty anymore. Will they still be successful? When you have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, you almost always have a chance. But one of two things will happen this offseason, and that will determine the direction this team is going. They will either hit with some big free agents and get this team back on track for another run, or they will miss and get some disappointing players and start the rapid descent. The Patriots have some aging players, and some players that just aren’t very good. If they can’t replace them with the right mix of talent and heart, their dreams of winning will fade away.
Last year they could’ve been to the Super Bowl. This year they should’ve been. They left us a lot of questions about where they’re going next. It’ll be very interesting to hear the answers.