I remember stretches of days where I just LOVED being a sports fan. You know that I’m talking about – those days where every team you root for manages to pull it out and it just seems like nothing can go wrong. Here in Boston, this past weekend was the opposite. From the Celtics to the Bruins to the Patriots, each team managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and it was hard to watch. On the bright side, none of the teams were eliminated from anything and, even in defeat, there are some positive take-aways.
Patriots: Let’s start with the most painful one first (and the one with the most to discuss). Quite simply, this was a game we should have won. We totally outplayed the Colts for 56 minutes, but couldn’t close the deal. And it wasn’t just the ‘interesting’ clock management and decision making by the head coach. With 4 minutes left we were up 13 and the Colts were 80 yards from the endzone. Giving up the game at that point is inexcusable. Looking back over the entire game, however, we see that the Patriots left, at best, 10 and, at worst, 18 points on the field because of failures to convert key plays and redzone turnovers. Despite dominating throughout they let the Colts hang around and, in this league, when you do that you often pay for it.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on “the play.” I am not one of those who is going to jump all over Belichick for going for it on 4th down at his own 28 with just over 2 minutes remaining. I don’t agree with the call (and I said so before the play) but I do understand the rationale. A first down seals the win and a punt allows one of the top 2 QBs in the league a chance to win it. Think about it. When the Pats were facing that 4th down, was there any doubt in your mind that Manning was going to be able to drive his team down the field and put them in a position to win? None in mine. Do I trust a banged-up and tired D vs. Manning or Brady to get two yards against a fairly inexperienced Colts D? Tough choice.
I’ve looked at replays and pictures of Faulk’s catch and boy is it close. It seems to me that he initially made the catch somewhere around the 31 yard line and did bobble the ball momentarily. However, he regained full control at the 30 yard line which would have been enough for the first down. Either way, don’t you think it odd that the official who made the call was positioned in such a way that he could NOT have seen Faulk’s arms. He made the call looking at Kevin’s back. Sure, the Patriots should not have been so careless with their timeouts so they could have had the option to challenge the play, but that doesn’t excuse the official being in the wrong position to make that call. However, I am pretty sure (and I’ve read a few others who agree) that Faulk did have enough for what should have been a game-winning first down. One final note on this: If Coach Belichick knew he was going to go for it on 4th down (and I’m sure he did) why not run on third down to keep the clock moving and get you a bit closer. I have more of a problem with that call than I do with the decision to go for it.
What are the ramifications? Well the failure to put the Colts away will cost us any shot at the #1 seed and, because the Bengals are playing so well (I can’t believe I just wrote that), will make getting a first-round bye a real challenge. Does this mean we won’t go to the Super Bowl? Absolutely not. But it does mean that the road to Miami won’t go through cold and snowy Foxboro and that, my friends, will make the road much more difficult for Brady and company.
Bruins: The B’s have been tough to figure out all season. They have some real talent on their roster yet have had trouble scoring. They have one of the best goalies in the NHL, yet have had days where they seem to forget how to play defense. However, they are still a fun team to watch and that is why I, and many other Bostonians, were so keyed up for the tilt against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Sadly, the incredible excitement when they scored twice in three minutes to take a lead with just over 2 minutes remaining was so cruelly dashed. Even when Pitt. got possession of the puck in their defensive zone with about 10 seconds left, I NEVER thought there was any chance they could mount an attack in time. But attack they did and, old friend, Bill Guerin put it past Thomas with a scant .4 seconds on the clock. We were .4 seconds away from a HUGE win against one of the best teams in the NHL. After that, it was no surprise we lost in OT and the one point we got was no consolation.
Celtics: The Celtics are one of the best teams in the NBA and will certainly be one of the top seeds in the playoffs again this year. However, this weekend, they played like they were all hung-over or thinking about something other than basketball. Losing to Atlanta can be excused – the Hawks are a good team and seem to always play the Celtics tough. However we have so much more talent than the Pacers and our sloppy and unfocused play pretty much handed them the game. It is time to get back to fundamentals. Losing 2 in a row and 3 out of 5 makes me nervous!
With all that gloom out of the way, let’s end with some positive take-aways.
1. The Patriots were about 24 inches (or an official’s mistake) away from knocking off an undefeated team, on the road. Even in defeat we showed we are still among the top teams in the AFC and, by extension, the NFL.
2. The Brady to Moss connection worked a couple of times and, once again, we were able to establish a running game.
3. The Bruins showed that they can play in a high-scoring game against a very good offense.
4. The Celtics are, well, the Celtics. They will be fine.
5. Even with all the losses, the Pats still lead the AFC east by 2 games and are only 1 game behind the Bengals for the #2 seed in the playoffs.
6. The Celtics still have a 2.5 game lead in their division and are .5 game behind Atlanta for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Finally, not to be cheesy, but I got to watch the games with some pretty awesome and fun people and had a really fun time watching the games. At the heart of it, isn’t that what sports are all about. Having fun watching with good people. Ok, you caught me. I’m just saying that because we lost, but it sounds good right? 🙂