Blogging the National Football League, Blogging the NFL
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. The New England Patriots had run off an incredible 18 straight wins against no defeats to find themselves in Super Bowl XLII with a chance to make history and become world champions in the process. Yet in one fell swoop, they lost their undefeated and championship season with a 17-14 loss to the N.Y. Giants.
I sat in stunned silence after this was over. It wasn’t as though I had any emotional investment in the game. I honestly didn’t care who won. On one hand, I wanted to see the upstart Giants overcome the odds (they were nearly two touchdown underdogs) and beat “Goliath.” But on the other hand, I wanted to see history being made by one of the best teams I have ever witnessed. It left me somewhere in the middle just hoping for a good game. And I certainly got just that. (For the record, I picked New England 28-24.)
My satisfaction with the outcome, though, dates back to the first week of the 2007 NFL season. Unbeknown to many within the New England Patriots organization, head coach Bill Belichick broke NFL rules with an illegal videotaping incident (aka “Spygate”) that was certain to mar a perfect or championship season. If, in fact, a perfect or championship season happened. I knew that even if this Patriots team did go 19-0 — winning the Super Bowl in the process — that questions of legitimacy would forever be brought up. I’m on record as saying the rules that were broken had no impact on the outcome of that Kickoff weekend blowout over the Jets. And I still believe that.
The Pats earned their 18-0 record heading into yesterday’s Super Bowl. And I cannot begin to imagine how difficult of a task that was for this team. But in their final game loss, it’s almost as if justice had been served.
Now, in saying that, I want to be very careful that people understand I am not trying to take anything away from the incredible achievement for New England this season. That wouldn’t be fair to those players and coaches who put in so much time and effort. In fact, I doubt 18-0 will ever be achieved again. But when you knowingly break NFL rules — even if it’s the old “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” adage — you must pay the price as a team. Of course, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down a severe punishment months ago, but it was as if the ultimate punishment was handed down yesterday by the N.Y. Giants. New England won’t have to answer questions about the legitimacy of their undefeated championship season because they didn’t have one.
As an NFL scribe, the New England Patriots gave me a lot to write about this season. Week after week, they were something special to watch. I got to work with them up-close-and-personal in their November 18 game against the Buffalo Bills and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They were an offensive machine. Because of this Super Bowl loss, I know they didn’t achieve their ultimate goal, but they have plenty to be proud of. After the game, players like Tom Brady, Junior Seau and Richard Seymour couldn’t have had more class and respect for the difficult situation and their opponent (too bad I can’t say the same for some of the Giants players). So, my congratulations to the New England Patriots on what was an incredible 18-1 season.
Inset Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images