Chris McGrath / Getty Images The Patriots celebrate their record-breaking touchdown.
By Ron Borges
The Patriots hadn’t yet completed their remarkable 16-0 season and the drums were already beating to minimize what they had done. Sadly, that’s what society seems to have come to.
For weeks prior to their stirring, come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants Saturday night at, fittingly enough, Exit 16 W of the New Jersey Turnpike, any Patriot with cable TV or a radio heard some nitwit or other claiming that their prefect jaunt through the regular season would not mean much if they didn’t go on to win their fourth Super Bowl title of the decade.
That’s like saying dating
Certainly if one asks if it’s more important to go 16-0 or win the Super Bowl, anyone would choose the latter over the former. Richard Seymour made that clear after the 38-35 victory over the Giants when he said his goal never was to go undefeated. His goal was to win the Super Bowl. But he added, in his usual well thought out manner, “When you walk away from the game, you say, ‘That’s special.’ Right now, I don’t know. I think it has to set in a little more. I think I may have to go home and watch it on TV. It was never a goal of ours to go 16-0. But to do it along the way, it definitely feels great.
“I don’t know how to really put it in perspective at this point right now. I think it’s something when you walk away from the game, one day, that you can look back upon and say, ‘That was a special team.’ Right now I don’t know how to look at it.”
It can be expanded upon by three more victories, to be sure, and to say they are the equal of the NFL’s definition of perfection – the ’72 Dolphins – a Lombardi Trophy is required. But to say as NFL Network talking head Cris Collinsworth said during the broadcast Saturday night that the Patriots would have accomplished “nothing’’ if they lose in the post-season is to take to a ludicrous extreme the importance of a championship.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, where we are told that the only thing that counts, the only measurement, is a trophy. If that’s the case than the world is filled to overflowing with losers in life when the reality is that the opposite is true.
We will not waste too much time here lecturing on the importance of effort just as we won’t go too far overboard in praising the Giants for their effort IN TRYING TO WIN THE GAME because, after all, isn’t that why they play the games? To try and win?
The point is the Giants ennobled themselves and honored the Patriots’ accomplishment with their effort Saturday night and losing didn’t minimize what they accomplished. They could have laid down or head coach Tom Coughlin could have justified pulling his starters at any point by saying it was more important to win a wild-card playoff game in
But he would have been wrong if he’d done that just as it is wrong for people to argue that 16-0 is meaningless if one doesn’t end up 19-0. The fact is any team good enough to get into the playoffs is good enough (with the exception of whoever is the sixth seeds this year) to get hot and beat anybody.
You really believe the Chargers don’t feel they can beat the Patriots? You honestly think the Cowboys aren’t craving a return match with
So to insist that anything less than 19-0 makes 16-0 meaningless is to be the kind of person that gets angry because he or she has to share their lottery winnings with someone else who hit the same number.
Winning the Super Bowl is the goal but any number of things can affect that. A ball bounces off the helmet of a defender and into those of one of his teammates and he returns the ball for a touchdown. A running back is walking in for the winning score and simply, inexplicably, drops the ball on the ground without being hit. An incomplete pass is scooped up by someone else before it hits the ground and instead of a celebration in one city we have an Immaculate Reception in another. A young player, pressed into action because of injuries to others, has a moment of doubt and is beaten on a big play at the worst of times. These things can happen but they would not lessen to nothingness a historic 16-week march to perfection.
So while it is legitimate to say, as Seymour did, that the goal was never 16-0 but rather winning the Lombardi Trophy it is not legitimate to babble, as one radio talking head blustered last week on WEEI’s Big Show, that the Patriots would be the laughing stocks of the NFL if they go undefeated in the regular season but fail to win the Super Bowl. Regardless of what happens from here on out, the Patriots became the rarest thing in sports. Perfect for a season.
“Again, as far as last night’s game, we talked about it last night; it’s something that we can all be proud of in this organization,’’ Bill Belichick said this morning. “Everybody played a part in it. Everybody had a job to do. Certainly the players deserve the credit. They’re the ones that made the plays. It’s something that we can all be proud of. But we have a lot of football left to play and the next time we step on the field we’ll be 0-0 in the second season.’’
That’s what the playoffs really are - a second season. A season where anything can happen and often does. But whatever happens won’t change what happened in the first season.
A remarkable thing happened that no defeat can take away. The Patriots beat the second-best teams in the league on the road,
That’s a whole lot more than “nothing’’ even if, in this new season, someone finally finds a way to beat them.