Saturday, January 27, 2007

One Week Later... still hurts. It's been six days since the Colts eked out a Super Bowl berth over the Patriots and the dissection, analysis, and overall bitching continues. All of which speaks to how great a game it was.

In my humble opinion, it may have been the best playoff game I've ever seen - crappy outcome aside. All the Patriot haters across the land - and there are many of them - are trying to equate the Pats squandering an 18-point lead to the "Greatest Choke in the History of Sports", aka the Yankees' losing the 2004 ALCS to the Sox. Not even remotely close. These harebrains are overlooking two things - the crazy Bills-Oilers playoff game 14 years ago where Frank Reich led the Bills back from a 32-point deficit, and the simple fact that a) the Patriots had no business beating the best team in football the week before, and b) it was an utter miracle that they came within two blown refs' calls and four measly yards from going to another Super Bowl.

What makes the sting still intense almost a week later is just how winnable this game was. We were on the doorstep of witnessing history, but so many pieces made this one unravel. First, the players and the coaches made key mistakes at crucial times. No question about it, so let's get that one out of the way. Belichick should have burned a timeout in the 4th quarter, which would have given Brady more time on the last drive, Brady made some bad reads and panicked on the game-ending pick, Reche Caldwell had some gigantic drops, Laurence Maroney looked at times like he was running with concrete boots on... and on and on.

Unfortunately, there were other outside forces conspiring against our squad. Key injuries to Rodney Harrison (think the Colts' not having Bob Sanders) and Junior Seau (who may have provided some speed at ILB). Having to travel to the west coast the week before and pour it all out to beat the Chargers. The flu that traveled through the locker room in the week leading up to the game. Key injuries (Faulk) during the game. And some poor, poor refereeing. I understand the Pats have been mostly beneficiaries during this amazing run, but some of the calls that were made against them Sunday night - in a game with enormous stakes - were just atrocious. The two that continue to piss me off the most are non-interference call on Caldwell in the end zone, and the call that was made on Hobbs when he had his back turned on Wayne. Caldwell was absolutely mugged and Hobbs didn't touch Wayne - not to mention the fact that the ball was uncatchable. And this was an all-star ref crew? BRUTAL. My question is this: if coaches can review plays that are called, why can't they review plays that aren't called? Give them one challenge per game. And I say this not because of this particular situation and the fact that I'm a Pats rooter - I've always felt the most important thing is to GET IT RIGHT. Making the blood boil more, the NFL office came out yesterday and said the refs did indeed blow those two calls. The Colts' can thank the lucky horse shoes on their helmets for their all-expense paid trip to Miami. Though I do give a lot of credit to Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark. Manning was downright surgical when he needed to be, and Clark was immense. The Patriots had no answer for him. And I guess I'm happy for Tony Dungy - who seems like a genuinely nice guy. Other than that, I detest the Colts and I'm rooting for da Bears.

Anyway, this one's in the record books as an L but something tells me it's going to linger for quite some time - both with fans and the players. I'm trying to stick to the high road in thinking that this was an enjoyable season that came out of nowhere. We're so spoiled around here, and in many ways I hate what success has done to us - but this season was a gift. The last two weeks (Chargers, Colts) rivaled the joy felt in the first Super Bowl season. We should be proud of what these guys pulled off. According to this well-written piece from the Globe's Mike Reiss, Coach Bill is.

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