Monday, February 6, 2017

And Sometimes, Miracles Happen For Good Reasons

     This morning, I'm not a political blogger. For today, I'm not a liberal or a novelist or even a native New Yorker. Today, I'm a proud member at the epicenter of Patriots Nation. And I imagine that all over Massachusetts, and across New England, what's usually the dreariest day of the week, Dreaded Monday, is lit up at water coolers and loading docks with the smiles of those who'd watched last night's Super Bowl LI.
     Sports has a talismanic way of healing a nation's wounds after trying times and this is especially true in America. We could forget for a bit about the baleful rise of Hitler when Jesse Owens took gold after gold at the 1936 Berlin Games. We could forget Watergate for a bit when Hank Aaron became the alltime home run champ early in the 1974 season.
     And, considering the nation's, and the world's, upheaval since Election Night, what we needed was Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to pull off the most stunning upset in Super Bowl history in what was arguably the greatest football game ever played.
     Massachusetts-based sports teams seem to specialize in these comeback championship wins. Just ask any Red Sox fan about the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. Denis Leary had filmed a pregame spot that practically predicted the sweep of the Red Sox after the Bronx Bombers raced to a 3-0 lead. No baseball team had ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win the pennant. But Kevin Millar takes the walk from Mariano Rivera with a high, inside cutter, he's lifted for a pinch runner and Dave Roberts, and the Red Sox, were off to the races.
     Last night in the first half, the New England Patriots seemed to be replaced by pod people who'd never played football before. Bad passes, dropped passes, a porous offensive line that let Brady get sacked five times, an ineffective special teams, a Brady pick-for-six. By the time Lady Gaga started flying around Houston like the world's oldest fairy, they were down 21-3. At one point, we were down by 25 points. No team had ever come from more than a 10 point deficit to win a Super Bowl.
     We don't know what happened in that locker room during the halftime show. Maybe Bill Belichick showed his players Polaroids of their kids sleeping in their beds. But whatever happened sparked the most amazing second half in Tom Brady's Hall of Fame career. And as good as he was in the third quarter, he was spectacular in the fourth. And again in overtime, the first in Super Bowl history.
     The team that needed to score four unanswered touchdowns and a couple of two point conversions did just that. The Falcons' first 28 points were also their last. 93 plays later the Patriots had engineered the kind of comeback you only see in movies. Brady finished the night with 466 yards, James White scored the tying, and winning, touchdown, two of three. And Julian Edelman made perhaps the most miraculous catch in the history of the big game. It was one that perhaps wouldn't have been possible without the unwilling and improbable participation of the three defenders who'd surrounded him.
     And it all made up for Super Bowl 42 against the Giants. And Super Bowl 46, again against the Giants (and in older brother Peyton's house, at that). It made up for Deflategate. It made up for the suspension, Roger Goodell's snubbing of the Patriots during the postseason, his irrational stalking of Tom Brady...
     Well, almost. As Goodell swallowed a ton of crow and handed the Lombardi trophy to owner Robert Kraft, the Pats fans in Houston couldn't resist letting loose with a deafening chorus of pent-up boos that should've been reserved for Lady Gaga and her ridiculous Peter Pan routine and let him have it. Haters hated on Twitter and insisted the game was rigged but in the end, the New England Patriots had earned their fifth world title under the same owner, same head coach and same quarterback. We were the GOAT, period.
     It was all about love, pride and, yes, even revenge. It was about burnishing an unnecessarily tarnished name that had been dragged through the mud by a petty, vindictive liar named Roger Goodell. It was all about Tom Brady's mother seeing her son play for the first time all year during her battle with ill health for the last year and a half. And for nearly four hours, we could forget about Donald Trump and, once again, making something that had nothing to do with him all about him ("My friend, Tom Brady", tweeted the Tweeter in Chief yesterday in a now-deleted tweet, "you got to back up your friends." And yes, we can even forgive Tom Brady for being a Trump backer and having a "Make America Great Again" hat in his locker.
     We love and idolize Tom Brady because he's simply the greatest quarterback who ever lived. And he's the greatest not because of his political beliefs and who he votes for. And sports at the highest level at which human beings can play give us real drama and, depending on who you root for, happy, fairy tale endings. And last night was one, an ostrich-sized plume in Tom Brady's cap that's already gaudy with them.
     Tuesday we'll go back to worrying about what Trump and Bannon will do to us and our nation and its reputation the world over. Today and the day they take their victory lap through Boston belongs to the New England Patriots.


At February 6, 2017 at 4:54 PM, Anonymous CC said...

If you subscribe to the Boston Globe, you'd best cancel your subscription. (I believe it also predicted Clinton defeating Trump?)

When the Falcons went up 28-3, which one of you thought the Patriots would pack it in? Not I.

While I didn't expect the Patriots to come back and win at that point, I did expect them to make it a game.

You have to hand it to the Patriots for getting their act together, but the Falcons choked the game away.

Up by 25, they could afford to run the ball a little more, which they'd been doing quite well up to that point. Sure, Ryan was having a great passing day (his passer rating was a perfect 158.3 at one point), but the Falcons should have mixed things up a bit because they could afford to.

Doing so would have kept the Patriots' offense off the field longer. Down by 25, they'd have to become one-dimensional by having to pass on almost every down. Brady was capable of that. Moreover, despite its big interception earlier in the game, the Falcons' pass defense wasn't that good overall.

So, the solution to beating the Patriots seemed clear: keep Brady on the sideline for as long as possible.

Instead, the Patriots' time of possession came to over 40 minutes compared to fewer than 24 minutes for the Falcons. That translated into 93 plays for the Patriots compared to 46 for the Falcons.

Little wonder that the Falcons' defense was exhausted by the end of the game.


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