We got to re-live Super Bowl XLII without the trauma of a 19-0 going down the drain Sunday. This was the same cold story - as Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard filled admirably in for David Tyree and Plaxico Burress. While the roles of Rodney Harrison and Ellis Hobbs were shared by Sergio Brown, Kyle Arrington and Tracy White, Sunday's 24-20 gut-wrencher was much more relevant and revealing than a replay of the Pats' worst nightmare, however. 19-0? 18-1? 6-3 would be miraculous for most Pats fans after next week's game at the Jets. Just about every single possible flaw in this team has been exposed in the past two weeks - with the latest cracks coming courtesy of pass interference and a blown lead at home in the final two minutes.
Bob Kraft was at the LSU-Alabama game Saturday night. Maybe he was scouting for his next coach or at least defensive coordinator. Nick Saban already has a statue and national title with the Tide. Maybe he'll be looking for another challenge once he gets tired in Tuscaloosa. Kraft is a pretty shrewd guy. In the back of his mind - he has to have an idea on whom might replace the Hoodie when that time comes. Three months ago, did anyone think the Red Sox would be swapping out both Theo and Tito after the season? Doubt it. There will be Life After the Hoodie. When that begins is to be determined. A few more games like Sunday's and another winless playoff campaign might bring that day to Foxborough a lot sooner than planned. The crowd was so quiet Sunday that I thought I heard the PA announcer calling for "Charlie Weis" to report to the field from the press box in Gainesville. BTW, the last time the Pats were shut out in the first half was thanks to the Saban-coached Dolphins back in 2006.
Tom Brady did the bare minimum to get the Pats in a place to win - leading the team downfield just like he does on those highlight DVDs and Madden 2012. But Brady is not Brady these days. Or is this the new normal? Without a deep threat, it's inconceivable how he can go back to the good old days - like in September - of throwing 400 or so yards in a game. 342 yards never looked so ineffective as they did on Sunday, even though each one counted. Brady has thrown 10 interceptions this season (two on Sunday plus a fumble), four away from his career high/low. Is it Gisele? The contract? The lack of a deep-threat? The offensive line? Better defenses? Who knows?
They can't count on this offense to continue to cover for this defense against a legit playoff contender. The Steelers and Giants, and I'm sure the Jets next Sunday night, have the magic formula figured out on how to keep Brady down for 58 minutes. Eventually, he'll get you. His missile to Gronk in the end zone with 1:36 left on the fourth-and-8 was vintage. But that left 96 seconds on the clock and the Giants only needed 81 to go 80 yards on eight plays in their final drive.
All week, the talk was whether or not Eli was an elite QB. The question has to be asked: Is Brady is playing like an elite QB? Yes in a sense that he rolled the Giants defense at crunch time and put his team ahead in the final two minutes. No because the Pats' offense hasn't scored more than three touchdowns in almost a month. Up-front pressure left Brady scrambled for three-plus quarters. The Giants chipped Deion Branch, Wes Welker and the tight ends all day, throwing them one or two steps off in their routes. Few adjustments were made. As far as Ochocinco - he and Brady aren't even in the same Kindle, never mind the same page. Five targets. Zero catches. But @ochocinco told us Sunday that he had to wait an hour for breakfast at IHOP because he forgot to turn back his clock. His timing was off all right. But those pancakes looked good.
The Pats' defense played great - for three and a half quarters. But the "Mostly-No-Name-Defense" (or is it the "Bend-But-Eventually-Break Defense") lived down to its moniker. The big plays and key stops we saw all day dissolved into crushing penalties and the Giants scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes. New York converted just 1 of 11 third downs through its first 13 possessions. But on the final one, the Giants converted all three.
Arrington was called for pass interference, carrying the Giants from their 25 to the Patriotsâ€™ 40 with 5:51 to play. Turn around next time, please. Six plays later, Manning replayed the final TD of Super Bowl XLII for the 1st time of the day with a pass over Arrington (Hobbs) into the hands of Manningham (Plax) at the back corner. Fast forward to the last minute after the Pats took the lead. On a first-and-10 from the Pats' 21 with 35 seconds left, Brown was called for pass interference as he tripped Cruz in the end zone. The game-winner came as Ballard beat White with ease in the far corner. Ballard wore No. 85 (same as Tyree) - so he could be either Plax or Tyree - depending on your preference. How come the Pats ended up with the No. 85 who can't catch?
That catch ended a few streaks for the Pats: 20 straight regular-season home wins, 31 regular-season home wins for Brady and the feeling that this team was safe in Foxborough - at least before the playoffs.
Check the standings. The Pats are a game behind the Bengals. There's a three-way tie atop the AFC East. If the playoffs were to begin today - the NFL would have to go down to its 37th tie-breaker - fewest player arrests. Julian Edelman remains innocent until no longer productive - although his fumble might change things.
The calls for change in Foxborough will be ringing off the hook this week - a real offensive coordinator, a better defensive coordinator, a veteran leader in the secondary (sorry Pat Chung), a deep-threat on offense, etc. But the core of this team is Belichick. He's responsible for the players from the day they arrive until they leave. Yes Chung was hurt late, but the defense that was on the field for the final drive included the likes of White, Brown, Phillip Adams and the legendary James Ihedigbo.
If the Hoodie wants to shake things up, he might start by looking in the mirror.
Don't forget to join us right here for our weekly Patriots in-game fan chat Sunday against the Jets. We'll get it started at 8 p.m. As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to follow us on twitter @realOBF. Thanks for reading. Pass the clicker.
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