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No 'W' in Manning

JJ Feigenbaum is a freshman at Wesleyan and an Andover, MA native. He has followed the Patriots for the entire 18 years of his life. Fanaticism runs in the blood, as his father, Mark Feigenbaum, was Patriots Fan of the Year in 1996. Ladies beware; he plans to name his first born child, son or daughter, Belichick.

Next Sunday, the Patriots play the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Pittsburgh, for the right to go to Super Bowl XXXIX. And that is all you’ll hear here about that game here. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and company may have already forgotten about the drubbing they laid on the Colts, instead deciding to focus on the work still to be done. And sure that’s admirable, because everyone in New England, myself included, really wants the Pats to have a chance to win their third Super Bowl in four years. But to the Patriots fans out there, this game against the Colts is something to savor and I intend to do just that. Having witnessed it first hand, in all its hand numbing and voice losing brilliance, this game was something incredible.

The Patriots beat the Colts up all over the field. All week, everything anyone could say about this game, made it sound like the Patriots were in trouble, that they were the ones who had to prove they could beat the Colts, that they had a huge challenge in derailing Peyton Manning’s high powered offense. Sure, the Colts presented a challenge, they are a great team, but last I checked, the Pats are the reigning Super Bowl champions. On Sunday, they reasserted themselves as just that, proving they are the team to beat, until somebody does just that in a playoff game.

The Pats held the Indy offense, the vaunted Peyton Manning-led-pick-your-poison-multi-faceted-attack to a measly three points, and were a Eugene Wilson dropped interception in the end zone away from a shutout. Manning went without a touchdown for the first time all season. In fact, only the Baltimore defense held Peyton to a single touchdown in 2004. The Colts had only 276 yards in the game, about 70 of which they picked up in garbage time on the last drive of the game. The Pats won the turnover battle, three-nil, and Corey Dillon ran wild over the Colts defense. It was a total team effort by a total team. Maybe Manning had a better game this year than last year, but at the end of the day the only stat that really matters is win-loss, and Peyton, again, finished his season with a loss, courtesy of the Patriots.

Sure, it would be easy to look back at the predictions made by all the experts, how so many people didn’t give the Pats a chance. And it would be a lot of fun to point out how wrong all these people were. But these projectors made their bed and will have to lie in it. They doubted the Pats, they probably had before and probably will again, and this time, just like in the past, the Patriots proved they were the best team on the field. For the Pats and their fans, all those doubters just make the victory sweeter.

Maybe the best thing that I can say about Sunday’s game, the best way to describe the atmosphere at the Razor, is simply to say that it was a stand-up game. All three plus hours of football not a person that I could see sat down, not even during timeouts. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine a game that ended 20-3 would have ever been in doubt, but I don’t think any fan dared to take a play off from screaming until Rodney Harrison’s last second pick of Manning. It was cold, snowy, windy, generally lousy, but if anything, the conditions only fired up the crowd more. Just like a packed Fenway Park last October put their collective wills behind Derek Lowe in his ALCS game four start, every fan at Gillette put every ounce of their energy behind the Patriots. On Sunday, Tedy Bruschi wasn’t the only one going full tilt, full time. The fans were right there behind him.

(To be continued this week)

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