Sunday, December 30, 2007

'72 Dolphins, you can still rest easy for now.

Well, Tom Coughlin kept his word. He not only played his starters, but he played them the entire game.

Problem was, Bill Belichick had the same idea.

The Giants took a 28-16 lead in the third quarter before the Patriots (surprise, surprise) came back for a 38-35 victory to wrap up a perfect regular season.

Besides finishing 16-0, the Patriots set an NFL record for most points in a season, Tom Brady became the first QB to throw 50 touchdown passes in a season, and Randy Moss broke Jerry Rice’s record for touchdown receptions in a season.


None of the records will mean much unless the Patriots get three more wins and take home the Lombardi Trophy.

Don’t think that I’m bitter, because I’d say the same thing if the Cowboys were in this position. I’d certainly be happy, no doubt about that. But, there's nothing like realty and perspective to keep that excitement reeled in.

New England has had a great season, and they deserve a ton of praise for all that they have done up to this point. But, there are three teams still standing in their way of glory, so no confetti and thrones yet.

They’re the favorites to do so, especially if Tom Brady is as sharp as he has been most of the year. You don’t throw for more than 4,800 yards and 50 touchdowns without being good and having some quality receivers to throw to, and both are certainly the case with Brady. It doesn't hurt when you have Randy Moss, who's back to being Randy Moss (minus the dysfunctionality) and Wes Welker, who's having a career season.

But, it’s certainly not all Brady, because the team as a whole just gets it done, somehow, which is why so many people hate/envy them. You can’t blame them though, because they get paid to win, just like everyone else in the NFL, but just happen to do it more than most, thanks to that 'walking, not talking' attitude that they have, thanks to the stone-like Belichick, who's good for about three smiles a year. He does deserve whatever criticisms that he has gotten for the videotaping controversies, but that's another issue for another time, and doesn't carry much relevance now when they've emphatically answered any questions about if they need to cheat to win.

Before it starts to look like I'm joining the Patriots' love fest, let's get this straight: They, like the other 31 teams in the NFL, and any other football or sports team on the planet, can lose, and will, sooner or later, and maybe sooner rather than later.

They can be beaten, but it’s just a matter of actually getting the job done, which involves minimizing your flaws, because one little mistake is more than enough for New England to punish you. Just ask the Cowboys, Colts, Eagles, Ravens, and Giants, who all did plenty of things right against the Patriots, but not quite enough, because football is a 60-minute game, and knocking off the Patriots requires remembering that important fact.

For example, when the Giants went up 28-16, they just seemed to shut it off, and that allowed the Pats to come back. And then, even when New England went up 31-28 in the fourth, it wasn’t over, with 11 minutes still left. But, with a holding penalty that negated a first-down run and then an interception on the next play, the Giants all but sealed their fate.

Aside from making few mistakes (or at least not letting the ones you make burn you), it also requires finding the dents in the Patriots’ armor, because believe it or not, they do have their flaws like anyone else - their running attack is questionable, and their defense is susceptible to getting scored upon. And, as invincible as Brady looks, he can be forced into a mistake or two here and there, especially if he’s under duress - which is something that the Giants, as good as their pass rush is supposed to be, didn’t do much of tonight.

Best team through 16 games in 2007? Certainly. Best team ever? Ask me again in a little more than a month.

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