What. A. Game.
I sat on my couch for almost five quarters and four hours–which is about three hours and 59 minutes more than my doctor recommended weekly allotment of Chris Collinsworth–and watched the biggest comeback in Tom Brady‘s illustrious career. Against Peyton Manning no less.
Talk about a roller coaster ride of emotions. Like I imagine most New England Patriots supporters were, I was distraught after the first half, wondering aloud to myself if I should just call it an early night and do my best to avoid Sportscenter over the next few days. I expected to roll around in a pitiful half-sleep, the beating against the Broncos a sign that the Belichick-Brady era of dominance was truly over and that they’d have to settle for just a notch below elite for the rest of my natural-born life (little bit dramatic, but you get the picture).
Boy am I glad I stayed awake.
Let me say this: I never had extremely high expectations for this Patriots team in 2013, especially after losing versatile back Shane Vereen to a ten week wrist injury after Week 1.
- An over reliance on rookie wide receivers (talk about a roller coast ride)
- Rob Gronkowski‘s health.
- Losing one of the NFL‘s biggest match-up nightmares–Aaron Hernandez—really killed us (too soon?).
- No true third down back–a la Danny Woodhead–with Vereen sidelined.
- Belichick is becoming senile in his old age.
That last point became increasingly apparent when Stone-Faced Bill chose to go with the WIND over keeping the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands in the first possession of overtime. A move I refuse–despite the outcome–to give him credit for. This is the same guy that chose to go for it on 4th and short from inside his own 30 to keep the ball out of Peyton’s hands just a few years prior, now Peyton is equipped with a potent rushing attack that has been gashing your defense all night long and you say “Hey, here you go, hope the wind slows you down?”
Yet, despite all the Patriots had to endure–giving up over 300 yards on the ground, a 24-0 first half deficit, and Belichick’s craziness–they came through.
And blissfully, they reminded me of something I’d seen before. They aren’t the most talented team. They won’t and haven’t blown away opponents like the 2007 and 2011 teams that faltered in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants did. They don’t have that superior talent. Their personnel on defense is depleted with big injuries and filled with duct tape and stick-type practice squad players and their offense is entirely too simple to stop.
They just aren’t that dominate of a team anymore. For the first time in a long time, they aren’t expected to win every game these days, they’re just happy to scrap their way to a victory, just like they did against the Broncos on Sunday night.
This team has character. That’s something the Patriots haven’t had since they last raised the Lombardi Trophy almost nine years ago.
And that’s a beautiful thing.