PerfectPats.jpegContrary to popular myth, big games have never come easy for the Patriots. Each of their Super Bowl wins has been by just three points. Teams that others think the Pats should beat handily make a squeaker of it. It’s just the way it is for the heart-attack Patriots under Bill Belichick.

So it was no surprise to me that the Patriots did not crush the New York Giants by three touchdowns last night. Neither was I surprised that they defeated them in the end and that the game in the end was not as close as the score indicates.

What was very evident to me was that the Patriots, especially Tom Brady, were having a good time. Even after a promising drive bogged down and they had to punt, Brady could be seen on the sidelines looking loose, talking happily and animatedly with this teammates, perhaps saying something, “Dang, we should have had that. Here’s what we do next time…”

Let’s also not discount the importance of so-called “lucky breaks”. For any time to go undefeated, they need plenty of timely errors by the other teams, penalties that go their way, and officiating mistakes in their favor. Every team gets them occasionally and most bear the brunt of opponents getting them, too. This season the Patriots got more than their fair share of lucky breaks.

By the way, can we all agree that the announcing team of Bryant Gumbel and Chris Collinsworth were the best argument against watching games on the NFL Network. In a close second place was constant, not-so-subtle campaigning in their battle with the cable systems to be made part of basic subscription packages that almost made it impossible for me—and millions of other fans throughout the country—to see this historic game.

The big debate at the end of the game is whether the 16-0 record will be meaningless if the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl. I think as far as comparisons with the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the title of the Greatest Team Evah, then yes, they will have to win it all. That’s never been in doubt, in my mind. Nevertheless, running off a string of 16 straight, regular season wins is an accomplishment that stands all alone, specially in this age of the salary cap and league-induced parity.

That’s not to put in doubt that the Patriots will win it all. While all the teams in the playoffs are formidable opponents, the Patriots have proven they can beat them all. The Colts, the Steelers, and the Chargers have all fallen victim to the Perfect Season. They could fall again. Yet I won’t be comfortable until they’re all in the rear-view mirror and I hope to be celebrating in February the first 19-0 Perfect Season and the undisputed era of the New England Patriots dynasty.

  • Being primarily a Bills fan I am not a Patriot’s fan.  Though I am a Patriot’s admirer.  What that team has achieved over the years and especially this year is quite amazing with a 6th round Quarterback and a reformed Randy Moss.  Maybe the most amazing thing for the Patriots is Randy Moss no longer being such a jerk and actually becoming a team player.

    The comparison’s to the Dolphins are obvious though I think to go 16 games in a longer season is a greater accomplishment considering with free agency every team you play is going to be pretty good. Thirty five years ago I think the teams were not as well balanced as they are now.

    I do hope they go all the way to stop the Miami comparisons since they really are the best team ever fielded with a great coaching staff.

    The game last night really showed this and while the Giants played a great game the Patriots when down by 12 came back to win.  That is the measure of a great team that twice this year they feel behind and came back to win.

  • It was certainly a “fan of the game” game; a great contest with the lead switching several times.

    The coverage was horrid; worst in memory. Better at times with the game muted. I loved how Collinsworth and Gumbel were taking measurements for the Pat’s 15 – 1 coffin with 11 minutes left to play and then opps…


  • As a long-time Miami fan, my hat is off to the Patriots and the success they have had this year.  And while they may very well be the best team ever, (assuming they win the rest of the way) they have been fortunate in ways the ‘72 Dolphins were not.  First of all, they didn’t have to play over half their games with Matt Cassel at quarterback.  In ‘72, Bob Griese had his leg broken in the 5th game of the season and had to go with Earl Morral the rest of the way, until deep in the playoffs.  Had Brady gone done in the 6th or 7th game, odds are we’re not having this discussion now.  Second, the Patriots, rightly so because of their record, have secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  In ‘72, for whatever odd reason, the best record didn’t mean you held the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  I believe it rotated each year, perhaps by division, I’m not sure.  Some may remember that Miami had to face a tough, up and coming Pittsburgh Steeler team on the road, despite their perfect record.  This, by the way, was the game that Griese came back in the third quarter to lead them to victory.

    So, while I congratulate the Patriots, it is hard to compare different eras facing different challenges and circumstances.

  • Yet such comparisons will be made.

    On the other side of the ledger, in the circumstances you outline, the 72 Dolphins had a shorter regular season, had no salary cap, had no free agency, and was not in a larger league of 32 teams where parity is an overriding value.

  • Dom,

    You make some valid points.  However, one could also make the point, just as when comparing different eras in baseball, that with expansion, also comes a bit of dilution in the talent pool.  That pool of really good players may not expand appreciably, but there is still a need for a much greater quantity of players than in previous eras, due to the increased number of teams.  Therefore, a lot of players that might never had been good enough to play in the NFL with less teams, not are able to do so by the mere demand for more players to fill rosters.

    And I still think winning 10 straight games with an aging backup QB, while their star QB recovered from a broken leg to preserve the undefeated season, is still a hurdle that most likely will never be duplicated.  wink