Two hundred and sixty-two games. That’s how many games are in an NFL regular season and postseaons prior to the Super Bowl and that’s how many games I have once again picked this year. When you write it out it looks like a lot more and feels like a lot more and reminds you of the 20 weeks of predicting and checking and picking and writing about lines. Two hundred and sixty-two.
After the 262 games this season, the record sits at 129-129-4. A .500 record and even winning percentage across the board after five months of football. Now there is only one game to pick, and that game has many more implications than just deciding if my record ends one game over or under .500.
On Feb. 3, 2008, I was in college in Boston when the New York Football Giants avenged what had happened to the Yankees (and more importantly me) four Octobers earlier. I was at a Super Bowl party where the ratio of Patriots to Giants fans was about 30-to-5. At halftime, the four other Giants fans watching the game and I went into a separate room at the party to watch the game on a smaller TV, leaving the Patriots fans in the living room with the big screen. The only time we would come in contact with each other for the second half would be when we needed to visit the keg.
With 2:42 left in the game, Tom Brady found Randy Moss in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown pass, giving the Patriots a 14-10 lead and leaving them one defensive stop from finishing off a perfect 19-0 season with the franchise’s fourth championship in seven years. Tom Brady would be 4-0 in Super Bowls, the leader of the best team ever and the best quarterback in league history. All 30 or so of those Patriots fans came barreling into the room as if there was a fire in the living room and all 30 or so of them were laughing and screaming and yelling in our faces just two minutes and 42 seconds away from perfection.
Two minutes and seven seconds later it was our turn to break up their party. Plaxico Burress embarrassed Ellis Hobbs to get open in the back corner of the end zone and Eli Manning floated a pass to Burress that seemed to hang in the air for minutes. From the second I realized how open Plaxico had gotten through the ball’s entire flight in the University of Phoenix Stadium air, I started to envision everything that had been building to this game.
The Giants’ Super Bowl loss in 2000, the Patriots three championships in four years between 2001 and 2004, Eli Manning’s rollercoaster career, the legacy of Tom Coughlin, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s place in history, Michael Strahan coming back for one final year, my hatred for the Patriots and Boston sports and the New York-Boston rivalry. And that thing that happened in October 2004.
When Plaxico went down to one knee to celebrate the go-ahead touchdown with 35 seconds left, I went up to no feet to celebrate, jumping so high I probably could have dunked a basketball for the first time. The five of rushed into the other room where a dejected group of Patriots fans were slumped and slouched over looking like they had all been told their houses had been burned down and they had lost everything. Everything.
That night we headed to the bars in Faneuil Hall to celebrate a Giants victory on Patriots ground the way Red Sox fans had done in New York four Octobers earlier. I drank everything that was handed to me, sang along to every song that was played at the bar, screamed until I didn’t have a voice left to scream with, and all the while I kept watching the highlights over and over and over.
The next morning when I woke up it felt like it never happened. Were the Giants really Super Bowl champions? Did they really end the Patriots’ perfect season? I walked out of my apartment and on to Hanover Street in the North End and it looked like the beginning of I Am Legend. There was no one to be found and if you did find someone they looked like their whole life had been devastated. It was a great feeling.
Four years later, the Giants once again ruined the Patriots’ chance to win a fourth Super Bowl and for Tom Brady to join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl wins and for Bill Belichick to inch a little closer to Vince Lombardi even if he can never be caught. The Giants’ incredible finish to their regular season and their improbable postseason run and how they beat the Packers and how they won the NFC Championship Game and the two weeks between that win and the Super Bowl all felt the same way it had in 2007. And when Ahmad Bradshaw found the end zone with 57 seconds left I celebrated the way I had four years earlier when Eli found Plaxico.
The Giants were nowhere to be found this postseason and the last time they played in the postseason was in Super Bowl XLVI three years ago. The Patriots, on the other hand, were back in the playoffs in 2012, losing to the Ravens in the AFC Championship, and again in 2013, losing to the Broncos in the AFC Championship. Now they’re back in the Super Bowl, which is something I didn’t have to worry about the last two seasons. Except this time Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin aren’t there to stop Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and tput another dent in their legacies.
But if the Giants can’t be there to do to the Patriots what no other team in the league has been consistently able to do during the Brady-Belichick era, then I’m glad the Seahawks are there to fill in.
(Home team in caps)
SEATTLE +1 over New England
This week I wrote about being a Giants fan for the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX and about becoming an honorary 12th Man for Sunday and that’s exactly what I’m going to be.
Seahawks 24, Patriots 13
Last week: 1-1-0