There were problems with this year’s Patriots team. There’s no doubting that. They struggled on defense throughout the entire regular season. New England’s running game never developed into the reliable balance to the pass that they must have hoped for. Rob Gronkowski wasn’t able to play at full strength in the Super Bowl and it made a huge difference.
Too bad none of that really matters. Throw it all out. What matters is that the Patriots, on Sunday night, were not a particularly lucky team. What matters is that the Giants stepped up when very few teams are capable of stepping up. What matters, more or less, is that the Patriots lost because sometimes football teams just lose.
Don’t blame Tom Brady for not having a fantastic game. Patriot fans are spoiled by Brady. Tom Brady on an “off night” is still a better option than some really good quarterbacks. Even Rocky Balboa lost a fight, and Rocky is a fictional character, not to mention the hero of a series of movies with his name on them. Perfection is impossible.
Don’t blame Welker or Branch, either. Deion Branch won a Super Bowl MVP. They don’t just hand those out. Without Wes Welker it’s entirely possible the Patriots would not have played in this Super Bowl at all. People are really going to get on them for dropping one pass each?
Don’t blame Gisele. A) You would too, and you know it. B) Give me one scenario that sounds the least bit sane as to how falling for a supermodel and having her fall for you would cause you to pay less attention to the thing that made you appealing to a supermodel in the first place.
Seriously. Think about it.
Tom Brady is able to end up with someone like Gisele because he is the star quarterback of a championship caliber football team. If he were not the star quarterback of the New England Patriots—if he were, say, pretty much anyone else in the league excluding a handful of other stars, he would likely not have been in a position to so much as meet someone like that. So wouldn’t that, in conjunction with the ridiculous piles of money he’s paid to throw touchdown passes, actually make him want to be even better at football?
Maybe this is just me, but if I had a talent that allowed me access to circles in which supermodels travel while earning me millions of dollars, I would do everything humanly possible to make sure that talent isn’t going anywhere. So no, I’m not buying any argument about Tom Brady losing his edge because he’s enjoying the rewards of being awesome at football.
Yes, the players cared about winning. No, they probably didn’t care for the same reasons that the audience at home cared about winning. Keep in mind that most professional athletes do not play in their hometown. They don’t poll NFL Draft entrants on who their favorite teams are and then make sure they get to play for those teams. Sometimes, you grow up living and dying with a team, and end up playing for that team’s rival.
Paul Pierce of the Celtics grew up a Lakers fan in Los Angeles. Bill Cowher had a standout playing career for the Cleveland Browns and ended up coaching the Browns’ archrival to a slew of playoff berths. The Manning Brothers aren’t from Indianapolis or New York. Participants and fans don’t really inhabit the same world.
It’s not about who was on the field or not on the field. Don’t blame Chad Ochocinco, he’ll just swear at you on Twitter. Don’t blame “Spygate” or Randy Moss or any of the assistant coaches that went on to other jobs.
Blame the defense for flaws in the regular season if you must. In the playoffs, the Patriots’ defense played well enough to win. Keep this in mind: in the second half, the Giants settled for two field goals when they needed touchdowns. Until that last drive, the Giants had scored all of thirteen points on offense. Against a team that had previously toppled the NFL’s highest ranked defense (San Francisco) and outscored another top passing attack (Green Bay), the Patriots played tough.
If you’re going to blame the running game, blame the refusal to try and establish one. BenJarvus Green-Ellis did not fumble. Not once, all season, and all he does is run hard between the tackles. I know running games aren’t trendy these days, but that’s a rare set of qualities. Most running backs fumble. Green-Ellis doesn’t. Add an outside rusher to compliment that, and the Patriots suddenly have a tough running game.
Most of all, blame dumb luck. Blame Eli Manning kicking his game up in big moments. Blame the duality of winner-take-all contests: someone has to lose. Blame the odds: even the greatest have an off throw here and there, or a dropped ball, or a missed play. Blame injuries, even if injuries happen anyway. Blame football for being football: this is the same sport that robbed Baltimore of a Super Bowl berth by way of a missed kick, the same sport that took a shot at the title away from San Francisco with the bounce of a loose punt.
Sports are just like that.