The pain of losing a Super Bowl can hit at odd times. You could be washing a dish or bringing the laundry basket up the stairs after just looking at it the past three trips when that small wave of pain laps at you.
Man, they lost. But, what if …
Here’s where I step in, Patriots fans. It’s time to stop that part of the grieving process. Quit going through that thing you’ve been doing for the past four days, where your brain envisions scenarios of how the Patriots could have beaten the Eagles. You’re only hurting yourself.
It wasn’t going to happen. In their 41-33 win over New England, Philadelphia proved themselves to be the better team. Their offensive line handled the Patriots defensive line, giving quarterback Nick Foles time to seek out receivers and connect on 28 of 43 passes (65 percent) for 373 yards, three touchdowns, and one tipped pass interception. Their defensive line got the best of the Patriots offensive front, holding Tom Brady’s crew to a mere 12 points in the first half despite the QB passing for 276 yards, then forcing a turnover via their lone sack of the day with less than three minutes left.
But, what if Stephen Gostkowski had made all of his kicks? That’s four points. Not enough.
But, what if Brady had hauled in that fourth-down pass from Danny Amendola? Even if they scored a touchdown on that drive (no guarantee), that’s seven points. Not enough.
But, what if Brandin Cooks hadn’t gotten hurt? Well, they only scored 12 total points in the half he played, so unless he’s tallying two touchdowns in your little scenario, not enough.
But, what if Malcolm Butler had played defense? I don’t know. How many touchdowns could one defender have prevented? How many first downs? Putting a lot on Butler’s plate, there.
But, what if – Will you please listen? The Eagles were better. That’s it. They proved their dismantling of Minnesota’s top-ranked offense in the NFC Championship was no fluke. New England kept it close because they always do, but that Philly team, with those lines on both sides of the ball, was going to do make life tough for the Patriots from the start. Add a coach in Doug Pederson who has shown a season-long willingness to stay aggressive offensively, going for it on fourth down more than any other NFL coach, and the Eagles had the right combination to win.
Yup, it’s a bummer. Losing stinks; losing a Super Bowl stinks like hot limburger on road kill. But losing Super Bowl 52 has to hurt less than others for Patriots fans. New England made the championship game after losing go-to receivers Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell to injury and starting 2-2.
I’ll tell you this: Number 52 had to have been the least important Super Bowl in New England history. Right? I mean, what were they playing for? Legacy? Come on. I think five championships cemented the legacy. If you don’t see Brady and Coach Bill Belichick as Hall-of-Fame worthy right now, I don’t know what to tell you.
Actually, I do: stop acting like a nincompoop. Someday, the Patriots could win their sixth Super Bowl. Their chances to do so next year increased this week, as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels showed the Colts his best impression of the Heisman. New England has a good a chance in 2018 as any team. Plus, Patriots fans can revel in the fact that Philadelphia seems to be wasting no time in their quest to become the country’s least likable fan base. You can keep the tiara, you drunken rabble of manure-munching, pole-climbing car-flippers!
Some good health, a couple of solid acquisitions, and a few breaks, and back they go to the head of the pack. We’re on to 2018.
There’s No Beginning And There Is No End: Still a member of the Tom-Tom Club? You should be. The fact that Brady put forth one of his best career efforts gets lost the final result. A not-so-fun fact this week from Pro Football Talk: Brady was only the sixth NFL quarterback in history to throw for 500 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Of those six, he is the only QB to do so in a losing effort. So … hooray, I guess?
At times on Sunday night, it was possible Brady couldn’t hear the pass rush, as they got into the backfield faster than the speed of sound. Yet, he managed to rack up 505 yards passing, completing 58 percent of his passes, even getting his team the lead in the fourth quarter after three straight touchdown drives to open the second half. Each of those drives focused on a different target. The first relied on Rob Gronkowski (nine catches for 116 yards, two TDs), as Brady found the big tight end for 25- and 24-yard gains before seeking him out for a 14-yarder on third and six, then capped that possession off with Gronk’s five-yard touchdown pass. The next drive saw receiver Chris Hogan (six for 128, TD) haul in a pass across the middle that he turned into a 16-yard gain, followed four plays later by Hogan’s 26-yard touchdown reception in traffic. Their fourth-quarter scoring jaunt involved Amendola (eight for 152), who snatched the ball for a 30-yard gain to get New England into the red zone, then added a nine-yarder to set up Gronk’s second touchdown.
New England’s 33 points were the most the team has ever scored in Super Bowl regulation (the final six of last year’s 34 points came in overtime). They came closest in Super Bowl 38, when the Patriots beat Carolina by the score of 32-29 off a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri (*wisftul sigh*). While it’s true that, against Philly, New England could have executed some offensive plays better, the ability to put up over 30 points – the bulk of which came after losing his most productive receiver to injury in the first half – against this top-ranked defense looks all the more impressive.
Yes, Brady got sacked, once, and fumbled. He instantly found himself in a phone booth with human walls and failed to get rid of the football fast enough. But what if, as when Brady got strip-sacked vs. Houston in Week Three, the Patriots had recovered the fumble? Well, maybe the Patriots would have scored. But, if they’d left more than a minute on the clock, could they have stopped Philadelphia’s offense? Would they have gotten a 7-point lead via the 2-point conversion?
Speaking of extra points…
Giving Up The Ghost: I mean, I guess I’m okay with Gostkowski staying with the Patriots for the rest of his career; I just think it’s a shame that “Missing A Playoff PAT” has reached a Swallows-at-Capistrano level of inevitability. The earlier field goal miss wasn’t really his fault, as Joe Cardona offered a low snap that Ryan Allen couldn’t handle, but it feels like that botched kick got into his mindset and led to the ensuing askew extra point. Gostkowski’s a very good kicker, but Belichick might bring in some competition to camp next year. And maybe another long snapper, too.
I wouldn’t be shocked. And I wouldn’t be upset.
Out The Door Matt: A shame that coordinator Matt Patricia’s defense allowed 41 points in his final game for New England. Again, the Philly offensive line set the tone, helping reliable receivers play to their fullest potential. Nelson Agholor (nine for 84) made a couple of beautiful (or excruciating, depending on your point of view) over-the-shoulder, diving grabs and at times seemed unstoppable. Rookie running back Corey Clement stepped up, catching four passes for 100 yards, including a back-breaking 55-yard gain on third down that set up the Eagles’ trick play touchdown with 34 seconds left in the half. Old friend/new not-friend LeGarrette Blount broke tackles as if they were bottles in an Edward Albee play, barreling for 90 yards on 14 carries and a score.
Maybe therein lay the issue. As myriad Eagles seemed to jump into the limelight for their chance to shine, few Patriots defenders made plays. Stephon Gilmore did many good things, breaking up passes and covering his man. Duron Harmon nabbed Foles’ one interception with Gilmore’s help. Kyle Van Noy showed up early with a tackle for loss, but his five total stops seem lower than what was expected.
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers: Defensive lineman Trey Flowers ended up with five tackles while linebacker Marquis Flowers had one. New England had zero sacks on the day, and, more importantly, precious few pressures on Foles. A long day for the defensive front seven, as dictated by the Philadelphia offensive line. The team needed a playmaker.
The Butler Didn’t Do It: We may never hear nor comprehend the full story behind cornerback Malcolm Butler playing only on special teams vs. Philadelphia, possibly because there’s not that much of a story there, as laid out by Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Eric Rowe started in Butler’s stead, and in some cases, that made sense: Rowe has greater height and longer arms and disrupted a few passes. The 36-yard lofted beauty that Alshon Jeffery caught over Rowe would have been about two feet over Butler’s head.
I do have an issue with the way the coaches informed the rest of the team of Butler’s lack of playing time, waiting until soon before the game to break the news. As a team that prides itself on ignoring the noise, that seems like an ineffective way to deal with a potential distraction. A hell of a game of telephone, really: Psst! Malcolm’s not playing. Pass it on…
And, really, coaches: Rowe was one thing, but Johnson Bademosi? He gave the Patriots a better chance to win? Butler has always brought tenacity, sure tackling, and ball-hawking to the defense, three things in short supply on Sunday. As referred to earlier, no one’s saying Butler would have won it all by himself (though he did something just like that a few years ago), just saying that, for example, when Bademosi whiffed on tackling Agholor on third and six early in the third quarter to surrender a first down, that looked like just the type of play Butler would have made. Sorry to see Butler leave as a free agent. Even more so that he couldn’t depart on a high note.
If the Patriots do manage to win another Super Bowl one day, maybe it won’t come down to the final minute and make me feel like I have a blue crab trapped in my rib cage trying to claw its way out. Hmm. A comfortable Super Bowl win. What’s that like, I wonder? It would be fun to find out, some day.
No Brave Calls: The NBC crew with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth did a fine job. Just fine. The replays looked good, the play-by-play stuff sounded accurate. I did end up missing CBS’ Tony Romo factor of predicting a play before it happened and getting it right. Collinsworth seemed to dwell in hindsight, commenting on plays with a knowing tone, saying things like, “We thought something like that might happen, Al.” Okay. “We talked to the coaches about that on Friday, Al.” Great, Cris. Try telling us beforehand, all right?
And do you think Collinsworth appreciated that fourth-and-goal reverse pass touchdown to Foles? Great play, but sweet Jesus. I’ll bet ol’ Cris will wake up in the middle of the night at least once a week for the next year and murmur to himself, “How about that fourth and goal call? My gosh. I mean, my GOSH!”
Some other NBC tidbits I didn’t necessarily appreciate:
• I failed to see the use of the avatars, the creepy ghost things standing next to the stats of certain players. Can’t understand why using photos wouldn’t work; plus, at least one of the replicants looked cross-eyed. Strange choice.
• After Philly’s opening field goal, NBC went to commercial playing a song by Spoon called “Underdog.” Seems biased. And yes, I’m bitter.
• With 11:42 left in the third quarter, Collinsworth actually said, “You really get the feeling that the difference in the game could still be the play of this (Eagles) offensive line.” Really, Cris? With almost a full half to play, you think the O-line will factor in there, somewhere?
I mean, why say that? Why even vocalize the words? “You know, with an hour left on this road trip, I really get the feeling that having us arrive there will still depend on this car’s wheels continuing to move.” Yeesh. Thanks for reading the captions on the film strip out loud to us, Professor Obvious.
• NBC halftime commentator and former Patriot Rodney Harrison stunned me at halftime with these words: “One thing I know about Tom, once he gets hit, he becomes an average quarterback.” Wow, Rodney. I mean … Wow. Did someone in the New England organization fart on your fruit loops? Such a weird thing to say. And, also, wrong, as Brady opened the second half with three straight scoring drives.
• Al Michaels said, after Gronk’s fourth-quarter touchdown, “And the Patriots take the lead.” No, Al, they tied it at 32, and – given the recent history of Pats and PATs being about as shaky as 1906 San Francisco – you had millions of New Englanders telling you not to jinx it.
Three good moves by NBC worth mentioning: one, the instantaneous graphic after Philly’s 12 men on the field penalty in the first quarter. Seemed like they barely had time to count to 12, much less diagram it. Two, they isolated defensive lineman Fletcher Cox to watch how brutally unblockable he appeared. There’s a bull in a china shop, and then there’s an orca in a balsa wood cage. Ridiculous. Two, the statistic that this season Philly had converted a league-leading 17 fourth down tries on a league-leading 26 attempts. They came prepared.
My favorite scene of the night involved the coin toss with Medal of Honor winners, featuring World War II vet Herschel “Woody” Williams. I couldn’t believe how well that guy moved. He fought at Iwo Jima! What an asskicker. Seriously, forget TB12: I’m getting on the HWW2 regimen. (Which, if he’s anything like my old man, involves pretzels, cheese, and day drinking.)
It’s Not Media, It’s Youdia: Another rough aspect of losing the Super Bowl? The amount of people who watch it far surpasses the number who know much of anything about football. So many terrible takes. Saying Brady lost the game because he fumbled is like saying the Gardens at Versailles are a failure because a hedge died. It’s a blemish on a masterpiece. Remember, in sports, we have unforced errors and forced errors. The Eagles forced an error. Congratulations to them.
Also, please continue to burn down your own city. No disrespect.
Let The Good Times Roll: Oh, the Cars? Sure. Three different car ad pairing to discuss. The first, Toyota, had “Good Odds,” with scenes of paralympic athletes – a sweet and sincere way to advertise both Toyota’s and NBC’s Olympic brand. The car company also had the “Big Game Ad: One Team,” featuring four men of different religions going to a football game. Effective, emotional tie-ins there.
Jeep Wrangler had an interesting pairing as well. First they went the fantasy route with “Jeep Jurassic,” having actor Jeff Goldblum use his Wrangler to flee from and then chase a T. Rex. Fun way to show off the Wrangler’s abilities. They got more straightforward in “Anti-Manifesto,” which shows a Wrangler nimbly traversing a river and riding up its bank.
Strange way to begin a commercial, though. “How many car ads have you seen with grandiose speeches over the years?” Um … none? Unless by “grandiose” you mean Denis Leary shouting some braggadocious b.s. about trucks. Who listens to the content of car ads? Maybe “Anti-Manifesto” would have been better served by no speaking. Just watch that Wrangler do its thing, no ominous “In A World“-type voice needed.
Last of the notable pairings was the Dodge Ram truck. On the one hand, the Icelandic Vikings saga “We Will Rock You” highlighted the things we’d like to see in a truck: room for big bodies, drivability, and the sense of reassurance that we can be, indeed, manly enough for such a beast of a vehicle. Fast-paced, anachronistic, visually solid, and fun. Then, for some reason that must have gotten by the ad execs, Dodge decided to use Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voice in “Built to Serve.”The real shame about this involves the fact that, on the 50th anniversary of that speech, they wasted some well-shot, cinematic bits of people in service to others. If they had to use the speech, maybe instead of the recording of Dr. King, they could have had people read excerpts, and donate a certain amount of money/trucks to rescue efforts? A disconcerting choice, and an disorienting one when considered alongside the entertaining Vikings offering.
Perhaps Dodge could’ve taken some pointers from Hyundai’s “Hope Detector” ad, which showed Hyundai owners singled out by security and getting brought into a room to watch a video from people who have been helped by the company’s efforts to fund childhood cancer research. Surprise: the people in the videos are actually right behind a door, allowing them to meet the Hyundai owners. Straightforward, heartfelt, and memorable. Pay heed, Dodge!
I’m just going to mention the Kia Stinger ad here because, like Steven Tyler, I too reminisce about being younger and, in my case, hanging out in the basement listening to “Toys In The Attic.”
Don’t Be A Stranger: Great ad campaign by Tide, using actor David Harbour of “Stranger Things” to promote the idea that every commercial is a Tide commercial. Clever use of of Harbour’s everyman qualities to play on the heightened tone of the evening. Tide based it on a simple idea: if the ad you’re watching features clean clothes, it’s a Tide ad. A wonderful way to attach themselves to viewers’ consciousness, as I spent the rest of the night anticipating just about every ad would start shilling for Tide.
Good Timing For Pizza-ing: Can’t imagine Pizza Hut knew Terrell Owens would make the Hall of Fame when they shot their “Hut Rewards” ad (featuring Owens as a professional boaster on behalf of a family earning pizza rewards), but kudos to them for taking a shot. Nobody out-pizzas the hut.
Still loving “pizza” as a verb. Last night my wife and I spinach-and-artichoke-dipped, big time, but I think I coffeed a little too much this morning. Where’s your bathroom?
While we’re on that topic …
I’ve Seen Fire And I’ve Seen Rain: Looks like Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew Ice teamed up, using actors Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman. Two things came to mind on this. One, during their everyday lives, do these actors go anywhere near these products? Two (and this is a two-parter), what effect would these products have on my body, and should I load up on them before visiting the doctor just to get a reaction from the lab?
Sorry I forgot to put my name on the urine sample: it’s the blue one.
I Choose To Accept It: Movies I plan on checking out based on the trailers include Mission Impossible: Fallout (Tom Cruise is older than I am and shows more physical activity in this trailer than I have endured over the past six months), The Cloverfield Paradox (Sci-fi monsters? Yes, please), and Solo (which, coincidentally, is how I will watch all these films).
One note on the above. The other morning my pajama-clad daughter plopped down on the stairs, refusing to go up to her bedroom and get changed for school. So, as most fathers are wont to do, I figured I’d encourage her on this assignment by singing the theme to “Mission: Impossible.” She looked at me with eyes agog and asked, “Where did you hear that song?” I of course asked her the same question and found out that, when her teacher wants them to get ready to leave for the day, she plays the M:I theme in the classroom. I love that idea.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put your worksheets in your backpacks. And don’t forget your mittens!
Better Run, Better Take Cover: Favorite trailer for a movie I won’t see? Dundee, starring Danny McBride as the son of Crocodile Dundee, with every Australian actor you could name off the top of your head. I don’t plan to see it because it doesn’t actually exist: it’s a commercial for Aussie tourism disguised as a trailer.
Enjoyable advertising. Interesting to see how well it works. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, just not sure if this commercial takes me to that next step. Got to admire them for trying, though.
Speaking of admiring them for trying…
It’s Not Media, It’s Wedia: In my final game column for Boston Sports Media Watch, I wanted to point out some the many diligent, considerate, talented voices in local sports media who refrain from taking the lazy contrarian route.
• Mike Reiss of ESPN.com provides his Quick-hit Thoughts and notes every Sunday morning, which has entrenched itself in my weekly routine as much as Will McDonough’s NFL notes used to.
• Chad Finn on Boston.com is, for my money, the best writer working in Boston sports media today.
• Chris Price of Boston Sports Journal was the main reason to listen to WEEI’s NFL show on Sunday mornings; he’s now the main reason to subscribe to BSJ.
• The NBC Sports Boston triumvirate of Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi, and Phil Perry, aka two wise asses and a straight man (you know who you are), provides compelling reads and fun, informative watches on their short videos. Also keep an eye out for their various podcasts, including “Quickslants: The Podcast.”
• The Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels has set himself apart by finding original angles from which to tell a story, often interviewing coaches, family, and friends of subjects to get a stronger, more complete overall view.
• Matt Chatham of NESN and Football by Football provides game review on Twitter and his Real Thing Patriots Podcast, bringing his experience as a New England linebacker to his observations.
• I became a regular reader of Michael Hurley of CBSSports.com this season, as his Leftover Patriots Thoughts column utilizes screen shots of game film, graphics, and good humor for what has become an essential look at each week’s game.
• Doug Kyed of NESN is an entertaining Twitter follow as he finds himself in arguments with fans who may not be as well-informed as they think. He has also begun “Doug’s Buds,” a short video series where he and another journalist test various foods. Here he is with Hurley checking out a drink called Faygo.
• Tanya Ray Fox of USA Today’s PatriotsWire often brings thoughtful commentary to New England’s team, handling what can become a messy topic on a national level with sensibility and substance.
• I am so jealous of Dave Brown of the Concord Monitor for thinking up putting into regular practice the next movement of Boston sports journalism: ironic sports takes. If you hear about a hot take and feel exhausted at the thought of arguing against it, check out Dave’s ability to raise that hot take’s temperature until it can’t withstand its own heat. My recent favorite was “Genius country hates the Patriots,” highlighting the absurdity of those who didn’t want to watch another New England Super Bowl appearance.
• Jerry Thornton of Barstool brings it every week via his Knee Jerk Reactions: emotion, analysis, and a sense of humor. Plus at least one weekly sci-fi reference that I tend to appreciate. (Oh, poor, poor Alderaan.)
There’s a media guy (to whom I refuse to link) who is making the rounds with his opinion that, due to this loss, Brady should no longer be considered as one of the best QBs ever. Here’s what interesting about this pundit: this is only the second time I remember seeing him; the first time was after New England opened up 2014 at 2-2 and he declared Brady’s career to be over. I mean, the hot takes just get exhausting.
So, the next time you’re listening to a sports media person saying ridiculous things, save yourself the angst and check out the hard-working, conscientious types. Remember, anyone can say anything about Brady, Belichick, or the Patriots, not even believe it, and benefit from it via listens and clicks. If we ran a “Has Tom Brady Had Enough Of New England?” headline tomorrow, with zero sources or relevant information, it could end up as the most popular column of the month. Don’t do it, people! Be strong!
Want to have a relaxing off-season? Treat the dynasty like it’s over. No expectations. Instead of agonizing over free agency and draft picks while dreading the thought of failing to get back to the Super Bowl, enjoy the off-season process and have optimism for the future. Why not?
Please keep an eye out for our annual Round-By-Round Review of Patriots drafts in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for reading.
Chris Warner played tight end in high school and wanted to be Lin Dawson. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, his Twitter is @cwarn89.