After finishing off the New York Giants in similar fashion as they have finished off every other team this year – Brady to Moss – the New England Patriots complete a remarkable 16-0 regular season. Though most consider their achievement the greatest run in NFL history, I see it as the perfect backdrop for the biggest, most pressure-filled football games these players will ever experience.
If you thought Saturday night’s game was nerve-racking for the Patriots, consider the alternative outcomes:
- They lose; end their pursuit of perfection and go on to win the Super Bowl. They are still considered one of it not the greatest football team ever. Their regular season loss further solidifies the ’72 Dolphins feat in history.
- They lose; play well in the playoffs, make it to the Super Bowl and lose. Their team is still considered one of the best, but more credit is given to their opponent’s win in the championship.
- They lose; fall early in the playoffs and their collapse is duly noted.
But they won, as expected. Now the real games begin. Not only are they playing for their 4th Super Bowl in 7 years. They are playing to avoid being remembered for the biggest collapse in NFL history. With such gaudy numbers as a perfect regular season, 19.7 average margin of victory, single-season records for TD passes (50 – Brady), TD catches (23 – Moss) and team scoring (589), it seems inevitable that they will sit side-by-side with Shula, Griese, Csonka, and the rest of the ’72 Dolphins.
The pressure resonated through the cliché – “Any given Sunday” has never been more evident. Nothing is guaranteed, and that is why they play the games!
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