Perfection Pt. 1

Posted by rich on December 30th, 2007

Cris Collinsworth is one of my favorite NFL announcers, and a big reason for that is that he gets it. He understands that the Patriots have put forth an incredible season, but at the end of the year, if they don’t win the Super Bowl then it will have been a disappointment.

Sure going 16-0 is sweet. They made the fans sweat, and God Bless the Giants, they brought their ‘A’ game. Winning a super-hyped game like this one had to be more rewarding than rolling over a team that didn’t try. Unfortunately for Tom Coughlin’s crew, though, trying may cost them next week in the playoffs dearly as they lost one of their starting linebackers and their center. But, they didn’t want to be a footnote in history, they wanted to be the ultimate spoilers, and they played like it. Heck even Eli Manning played well, although he still looks really lost to me in the big spots. There’s way too much little brother in him. When things go wrong he makes his own version of The Manning Face, and it actually looks more pained that the one we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Peyton throw out there. (side note: how whiney was that family on a bad Christmas? Imagine Eli if he didn’t get what he wanted. Good thing they came from a rich family).

At 16-0 this has been a surreal ride for Pats fans. They’ve blown teams out, they’ve won close ones. They’ve re-written the NFL record book’s offense section. Most TD passes by a QB, Most TD receptions by an individual, Most Points by a team, Most players scoring a TD for a season, and so on and so on.

Lost in the records was a superlative season by my favorite Pats receiver, Wes Welker. No. 83 set a new franchise record for receptions in a season and leads the NFL heading into today’s games in catches for the year.

Offensively, this is almost the perfect team. If they had never lost Sammie Morris it just might be perfect. Sammie gave them the ability to gain the tough yards on the ground that Laurence Maroney doesn’t have. LM did call upon his inner Marion Barber at times against the Giants, but he still dances to the hole too much for my liking.

And let’s not forget the biggest unsung hero on that offense, Kevin Faulk. That guy has been coming up with big play after big play throughout the Patriots tenure as one of the elite teams in the league this decade. Against NY he converted two huge third down plays to keep scoring drives alive. He knows how to get to the sticks and beyond them. With him and Welker out there on third down, Brady is like a super-happy Linus … two security blankets.

Game 16 was played with the intensity of a playoff game, on the road, and the Pats got the job done. Even if they are the best team in the league, winning on the road is difficult for any NFL team, especially in an atmosphere that buzzed and hostile toward your goal. Let’s not forget that even though Giants Stadium is in New Jersey, those are New York fans, and they hate teams from Boston. They would have reveled, basked even, in ending the Patriots perfect regular season. It would have been cathartic for a fan base that is still trying to come to terms that we live in a world in which the Patriots are the best team in the NFL and the Red Sox have won two World Series titles since the Yankees last even played for one.

The ultimate goal is now 84.2-percent completed. Two weeks from today, at least I’m rooting for a Sunday game, the Pats will open up the playoffs against a team with a much lesser record. They will then, most likely, have to get by the defending Super Bowl champions and then the NFC’s best.

It isn’t going to be easy. That last 15.8-percent of the mission will be the most difficult stretch. But, this team has what it takes. We knew that they had the talent all along, and the last month has proven that they have the heart and ability to pull out a close one.

Here’s to the last legs of the fantastic voyage. May it be smooth.

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