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Not so super

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff January 29, 2009 05:59 AM

In today's world of professional sports, you generally get what you deserve. There are no real flukes. You keep what you take, and nobody gives you anything.

Which brings us to the Patriots.

Fifty-two weeks removed from their heartbreaking loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots will be spectators this weekend when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals meet in Tampa in Super Bowl XLIII. Hopeless optimists continue to wonder if the Pats might have made hay in the postseason coming off a spirited late-season run, only fueling the notion that the Pats somehow got jobbed following an 11-5 regular season in the socialistic NFL.

If you are one of these people, you are:

a) a homer
b) hallucinating
c) demented
d) a card-carrying Belichicklet, or
e) all of the above

Lest anyone interpret this as an indictment of the Patriots, it isn’t. Instead, it is quite the opposite. Somewhere along the line during this extraordinary run in the history of Boston sports — this is, after all, the Golden Age — we began to equate successful seasons with championships. They are not necessarily one and the same. Rarely are championships expected. Almost always, a successful season is one in which a team reaches its potential.

Once Tom Brady went down in Week 1, the standards completely changed for the Patriots. Most of us agreed that something in the vicinity of 10-6 would qualify as a very good year. The Pats ended up giving us one win more, something that primarily serves as testament to their coach (Bill Belichick) and backup quarterback (Matt Cassel), but reflects just as well on any man who wore a Patriots uniform this season, from BenJarvus Green-Ellis to Matthew Slater.
In the end, we owe them all a pat on the helmet for a job well done.

Just the same, there are those who will watch Super Bowl XLIII with very green eyes, as if the Steelers somehow are occupying a place that rightfully belongs to the Patriots. These are the people who believe the Patriots somehow got cheated by the system, that they could have beaten any team in the postseason, who are using the 47-7 victory over the Cardinals in Week 16 as a statement of New England’s superiority.

We should know better
Excuse us here with our feet on the ground, but when did we in New England get so arrogant and downright greedy? When did we emphasize a blowout win over an Arizona team that had checked out while ignoring a 33-10 loss to the Steelers, at home, on national television? When did we begin to arbitrarily assign great value to wins over weak (or invisible) teams and no value to one-sided losses?

Fact: This NFL season, the Patriots played five games against playoff opponents in which both teams still had a vested interest. (That excludes the Arizona affair.) They lost four of them by a combined score of 119-48. Their only victory was a 48-28 decision at Miami against a Dolphins team that defeated them in Week 3, 38-13, meaning they effectively played Miami to a draw over the span of eight quarters.

Yet some still compare the Pats to the Steelers more than they would to the Dolphins, a group that many regarded as an overachieving, heartwarming bunch more than a championship threat.

So why don’t they see the Pats the same way?

Of course, these are the same people who walk off the golf course having shot an 82, lamenting the three putts that lipped out and might have produced a 79. They never remember the shot that ricocheted off a tree branch and landed in the middle of the fairway, producing a birdie instead of penalty strokes. If you play the game long enough, the breaks usually even out in the end, and you get exactly what you deserve.

As Bill Parcells taught us, you are what you are.

In these parts, given the success of our local teams in recent years, we should now have a far better grasp of what a champion looks like and what it takes to win a title. Independent of Brady, does anyone really believe these Pats were anywhere near as good as the teams that won Super Bowls in 2002, 2004, and 2005? The hopeless optimists point out that the Pats of January (and February) 2002 went 11-5 that regular season, resulting in a first-round bye that led, eventually, to the snow game against Oakland and the infamous tuck rule. There is the suggestion that this team was somehow just as good and just as worthy, all because the Pats happen to have the same regular-season record and a coach capable of winning any matchup at any given time.

But could he really win this year, with that defense, in three consecutive weeks on the road? Based on what we learned this season, the odds say no. And that’s really all we can base it on.

Patriots had their chances
Clearly, as the Cardinals are now teaching us, anything is possible. The entire NFL is built on that singular truth. Using that logic, the Dolphins could have won the Super Bowl, too. Or maybe the Jets. Or maybe the Cowboys. In the end, none of those teams will hoist the Lombardi Trophy simply because they did not take the necessary steps to do so, whether during the regular season or postseason, against the Steelers, Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, or Philadelphia Eagles. The first step in winning a title is giving yourself a chance, something the Patriots did not do despite ample opportunities during the course of the year.

To wit: The Pats had a chance to defeat the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 8 … and failed. They had a chance to beat the Jets at Foxborough … and failed. They played the Steelers at home and got pummeled. They went to San Diego and got vaporized.

And yet, in the eyes of many, the Pats still got jobbed.

As for the realists, we all know the challenges that now face these Patriots. Belichick is certainly among this group. Between now and September, the Pats need to improve their defense and special-teams play, and settle the issue (perceived or real) at quarterback. If and when the Pats do that, they will be contenders for the Super Bowl, as they have been at the start of every season for the entirety of this decade.

In recent years, from the Deion Branch holdout to last year’s upset loss to the Giants, the Pats might have given away a Super Bowl title or two.

But really, people, let’s be honest with ourselves.

This year wasn’t one of them.

Tony Massarotti can be reached at tmassarotti@globe.com and can be read at www.boston.com/massarotti

66 comments so far...
  1. I love the Pats, and have been waiting for Cassel to get his chance for years (though I couldn't quite figure out how to just push Tom Brady aside for a few weeks, I wouldn't have wanted Tom away longer than that). But I couldn't agree more with Tony here. Maybe if the Pats were on the NFC side of the leage, they might have made it to the big dance, but the AFC just had too many hurdles. Good points thru-out the article....

    Posted by poteat January 29, 09 08:43 AM
  1. Tony your both right and wrong on this. Sure we all knew in week one that the season was likely over after sixteen games. I was amazed when they won more than six. But as fans, you have your rational off-season mind and you have your rabid homer mind. Both minds are a part of every good fan.

    Yes, we were unlikely to win the Superbowl.
    Yes, we were jobbed at the end of the season.
    Both statements are true.

    Posted by Chad January 29, 09 09:08 AM
  1. I think Tony assessment is spot on. While we can fool ourselves that the running game was back, Cassel was getting better every game, defense wins championships!!! We were playing the NFC West which 4 wins but we missed our chance in Indy and the Steelers clearly showed us who was top dog. So Bill, stabilize the defensive line, draft linebackers and corners and we'll pick up another ring next year.

    Posted by Chris L January 29, 09 09:13 AM
  1. Tony,
    Don't always agree with you but you are right on here. The Pats failed to make the playoffs with an 11-5 record because there was practically no tie-breaker in which they held an advantage. That's a pretty good indicator that they didn't get it done when it mattered. Counting the Ravens in preseason, they lost to every AFC playoff team except the Titans (never played them). In fact, save for the one win over the Dolphins, there wasn't a single impressive win- and you're right, the 47-7 win over a warm-weather team on the road in a snowstorm with nothing to play for doesn't count....

    Posted by BryanY January 29, 09 09:20 AM
  1. The way the Pats were playing at the end would have given them as good a shot as anyone to be playing this weekend. You seem to forget the Steeler's game was close until Slater muffed that KO return - and things snowballed from there. The Pats were not "jobbed" but if you look at the unlikely set of circumstances that had to happen for Philly to get in the playoffs the Pats did not catch a break either.
    The Steelers O is pathetic and if Ward is hampered they will have a hard time scoring against anyone. This is not a good match up for Pitt and I would not be surprised it AZ wins by 10 or more.

    Posted by Dave January 29, 09 09:24 AM

    Posted by MARTY January 29, 09 09:28 AM
  1. Tony, as Bill Parcells says, you are what your record says you are. The Patriots had their chances, and blew it in Indy and at home against the Jets. I'll bet the rest of the teams in the NFL were pretty happy that the Patriots didn't get in, because given the way they were playing toward the end of the season, anything was possible, even the Superbowl.

    Posted by modernarch January 29, 09 09:30 AM
  1. Agreed, Tony. And I've been waiting for someone at the Globe to write a story on this topic, thanks.

    But it still would have been fun to watch this the Patriots try to make something happen in the playoffs, and it's hard not to wonder how it would have played out. Alas.

    Posted by Jimmy C. January 29, 09 09:42 AM
  1. In all honesty, Tony Mazz is quickly becoming the worst writer in Boston. He was a favorite of mine on the air but his writing now seems to be very insulting like he is trying to make a name for himself by being a jerk instead of writing thoughtful opinion. In this one, he could have stated the same OPINION without the insulting part and maybe try to make it obvious it was an opinion not fact. That kind of self-serving pompous attitude is why this is the last i will read of him (who used to be so much better).

    I love how everyone points to our stuggles against Pittsburgh and uses that for the reason the Patriots should feel they were not robbed. Arizona went into the playoffs 3-7 vs teams OUTSIDE the NFC West (the Pats were 4-0 vs them but also 7-5 vs others). I guess Arizona has no shot at the Super Bowl, RIGHT?

    The key in the NFL is not how you played the team the first time, but how you are playing at the time and how your coaches make adjustments. The Pats ended the season in good form and thy most likely would have played 2 of 3 games vs teams they already played and we all know BB's teams usually do better the second time they play them (usually).

    Anyway, when a 9-7 team hosts a Conf Champ and a 8-8 team was very close to hosting the other, I don't think it is crazy to think an 11-5 team was robbed or that they had a chance to win it all.

    Boston.com, I don't plan to ever read this guy again. Let me know if he reverts back to his old self when he used to write from what he knew and not from what he thought would annoy people. If he ever goes back, I'll read him again.

    Posted by Eric January 29, 09 10:10 AM
  1. This year's team was way way different from the 01 team. Not nearly as good. If you think having Brady play the whole year instead of Cassel would make a difference, I don't know who your kidding. I have a hard time believing our record would be much different if Brady had never gotten injured. I was watching Super Bowl 36 on NFl network and our defense was awesome. Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Otis Smith. Willie Mcginist in his prime, a young bruschi, vrabel, and seymour. We had a pretty good offense, lead by a very good quarterback. Thats how you win. Does anyone remember what Brady was like before 07? He never put up the type of stats Manning would, because he didnt have Moss and Welker, but he still won more championships than him. A very good defense, with a pretty good offense and a great QB. Go back to that formula, it's the best there is.

    Posted by Smithy January 29, 09 10:43 AM
  1. The Pats were clearly a playoff calibre team. It's true they would not have been favored in every postseason matchup, but frankly that doesn't mean much. Winning the SuperBowl is against the odds for every playoff team, the Patriots would certainly have had a shot, just like everyone else.

    The notion that they were "jobbed" out of a playoff berth is based on the arbitrariness of the tie-breaker that was used. Against both the Dolphins and Ravens, the tie-breaker that decided it was conference record. This is taking a completely arbitrary subset of games and looking at a team's record in that subset. For instance, the Patriots lost the division to the Dolphins because they beat the Cardinals and lost to the Chargers, while the Dolphins lost to the Cardinals and beat the Chargers. How is that a way to decide that one team is better than the other?

    Meanwhile, the Patriots scored more points, allowed fewer points, gained more yards and allowed fewer yards while playing a more difficult schedule. By these objective, meaningful measures they were a better team than the Dolphins.

    The tie-breakers should be:
    1) head-to-head record
    2) strength of schedule
    3) net point differential
    4) net yardage differential

    Posted by RobertB January 29, 09 10:57 AM
  1. Tony hates the Patriots, what else is new?

    Posted by Tired in NH January 29, 09 11:12 AM
  1. Eric - observing the season with an unbiased and objective opinion does not make it "insulting." I'm as big a Pats fan as anybody, and was bummed they didn't make it in the playoffs at 11-5, but it works both ways, and if they Pats got in at 11-5 and a 12-4 team didn't get in, would you be complaining? Arizona also had their DIVISION clinched as early as anyone and had nothing to play for against the Pats. Take a breath and wait for next year dude.

    Posted by jeffab January 29, 09 11:15 AM
  1. Hey Eric If tou're so smart why don't you write a column for the Globe. Ya know why? "cause you're DUMB & DUMMER. Grampa Mel

    Posted by Mel Goldman January 29, 09 11:23 AM
  1. Right you are, Eric. I do NOT buy Mazz's baloney that the Pats would have rolled over in the playoffs. Is Mazz. trying to tell us the Pats would have rolled over to the Ravens a la the no-show Dolphins? Ridiculous. By the end of the season the Dolphins' wildcat offense was tamed (by the Pats and other teams).

    Years ago the Steelers schooled the Patriots in regular season before a recharged Brady and the Pats decisively beat the Steelers for the AFC Championship in Heinz Field. Enough already with the predestined nonsense that the Pats did not deserve a playoff spot. No they were not "robbed" - the tie break system "is what it is" as BB would say -- but the Cards are in only because they went 6-0 in a cupcake division ! I look for the Steelers to roll.

    Posted by Mikey January 29, 09 11:27 AM
  1. So as Red Sox ticket sales disappoint the front office, Tony is ordered to write an Anti-Patriot Article, which will in turn put the Sox in a better light.

    At least for the first time in 3 months, we were treated to something written by Mazz that did not have a single mention of Texeria or Varitek.

    Thank you for that, Tony!

    Posted by Boom Boom Was Here January 29, 09 11:34 AM
  1. So as Red Sox ticket sales disappoint the front office, Tony is ordered to write an Anti-Patriot Article, which will in turn put the Sox in a better light.

    At least for the first time in 3 months, we were treated to something written by Mazz that did not have a single mention of Texeria or Varitek.

    Thank you for that, Tony!

    Posted by Boom Boom Was Here January 29, 09 11:34 AM
  1. I think its pretty dumb to say they had no chance

    you know the giants did win it last year after being 10-6 and looked anything but likely win it all, especially when they went against us at 18-0.

    I still believe the patriots could have made a run. This article is ridiculous

    Posted by joe January 29, 09 11:45 AM
  1. The Pats haven't won a Super Bowl in 4 years because of one reason--their defense used to be great and now it's just a bit better than horrible. Crennel's departure has not been made up yet. Brady may have gotten one or two more wins for us in the regular season. The article was spot on in the sense the Pats were not robbed. Their offense tried to compensate for their defense but it was not enough. Unless they make a spalsh in free agency, that won't change for years, as young players need time to develop. The problem then will be that by the time the defense is in top-tier form, the offense will be on the older side. In '03 and '04, they had good balance.

    Posted by chokeme January 29, 09 12:02 PM
  1. Let's see .....
    a) a homer
    b) hallucinating
    c) demented
    So if you're a Patriot's fan who feels the team was playing their best in December and could have gone to Super Bowl and win (aka Giants from last year) your one of the above.... But when you write about the Red Sox, wouldn't you fall under one of those categories? It was your squealing voice that bothered me more than your writing.....NOW I HAVE TO RECONSIDER!!!!!

    Posted by J January 29, 09 12:21 PM
  1. I agree with the person who commented that you are right and wrong. The Pats had their chances, they weren't jobbed, and they most likely would not have made it to the Super Bowl. But why wouldn't they have had a chance to make it? You obviously didn't watch the Steelers game, which spun out of control . The Patriots loss to Miami was in week 3, Cassell's 2nd game, so you can't say that has equal weight to their victory over Miami later in the season. Their defense was probably not good enough to go all the way, but by the end of the year, they easily had the best offense in the AFC.

    Posted by Jarvis January 29, 09 12:22 PM
  1. Your such a moron. I'm glad I don't have to hear your little girly voice anymore on WEEI. Good Riddence!

    Posted by J.H January 29, 09 12:42 PM
  1. I saw an extremely good Patriots team play down the stretch. I saw a Jets game partially decided by an overtime coin flip. I saw a close game versus Indianapolis. I saw the Patriots offense drop into murder mode 3 times in the last 6 weeks, scoring 47, 48 and 49 points.

    The Patriots, a passing team with their top runners injured 3 deep that week, were playing the Steelers, a running team, in an ice storm. At halftime the score was tied 10-10 only because Pro Bowler Ghost missed a short field goal in the ice storm. Time after time the Patriots' receivers dropped the ball instead of scoring, and still the first half stats were all Patriots. In average weather conditions I think the Patriots would have hung in very well with the Steelers.

    Posted by PaulK January 29, 09 12:49 PM
  1. The Pats won 11 games with an inferior defense. They accomplished that all while going through the Cassel learning curve who clearly was much better the last month than he was the first month. Maybe because of the learning curve he had to go through we may have won one more game and made it to the playoffs. Then who knows? I know the Steelers defense is much better than the Pats but it would have been fun to see what the Pat's would have been able to do against them in the playoffs the second time around.

    Posted by nick January 29, 09 01:09 PM
  1. I don't think the Pats were "jobbed" out of getting into the playoffs, it's just the way it went with their record and their key defeats at home against the Jets and the Dolphins. That doesn't mean that they "could't" have made the Superbowl though. They would have been home to Baltimore who beat the Titans because they self destructed. Baltimore then made Miami look like the 1-15 team the were the year before. The Pats in Pittsburgh where they stole the crown twice in this decade for the AFC Championship. Not an easy road, but things happen. I still can't believe the Pats beat St. Louis. That's why they play the games.

    Posted by Brent January 29, 09 01:09 PM
  1. I agree that the article is insulting, carrying an underlying elitist tone and speaking down at Pats fans.

    Massarati sets this tone by immediately using quintessential demeaning language. He starts by labeling people who disagree with him as "one of those people," then proceeds to name-calling, placing ithem nto one of 5 characters that Massarati insinuates are unflattering. It continues through the entire article.

    Even more troubling, Massarati does this in an article that in no way needed to be written as a response to Pats fans, instructing them to open their eyes. He could have simply stuck with the underlying premise that the Pats didnt do what was necessary to get into the playoffs, and were not a Super Bowl caliber team.

    On top of all this, its audacious for him to insult fans who are dismayed that their team didn't make the playoffs. After all, they were 11 and 5 despite their flaws. Moreover, plenty of flawed teams with worse records have made it to, and even won the Super Bowl. Plenty of other posters have also outlined numerous other facts and statistics that I need not repeat.

    But, according to Massarati, they are ignorant and blind homers, while he is intelligent and unbiased realist who doesn't get caught up in fans' nonsense

    Posted by Chris January 29, 09 01:16 PM
  1. Mazz is right. We knew the rules. We play by them and didn't make it even though we ended strongly. Say what you want about last year's Super Bowl, but the way to win is to never let it get too close. I still remember 2001 where seemingly everything went our way and the improbable became a victory.

    I'm rooting for the Cardinals, because they are fun to watch and a great comeback story. Yes, and a little bit of me feels that if Arizona wins, the Pats were good enough again to get it all.

    Can't wait till next season!

    Posted by Rajiv January 29, 09 01:59 PM
  1. Just because I think the pats would of had a shot had they made the playoffs makes me delusional? Thats a bit arrogant. Any given sunday any team can win. See arizona.........Now I don't think the pats got jobbed from the playoffs, that the way the rules are set, just the way it is. The pats did more with less this year, and I'm extremely proud of them. Can't wait to see them next year.

    Wish these writers would get off thier high horse.

    Posted by 00chief00 January 29, 09 02:50 PM
  1. We were all "tooled" by Massahoosy...played like an over aggressive marketer calling you at home during dinner pretending to know you....next time he writes another "high and tight" article to sell this web page to advertisers hit him in the wallet where it hurts by not posting anything....thats how you return serve in this game!!

    Posted by Iknowbetter January 29, 09 02:56 PM
  1. Mazz put down the meatball sandwhich for once in your life you and stop in think before you actually write. You continue to stick it to 'fans' for simply being a fan. Why don't you try to come up with another story line, you witless drip.

    Posted by Talen January 29, 09 03:13 PM
  1. Pats obviously had to go through a huge adjustment when Brady went down and they got better continuously after Cassell took over. They definitely ended the season on the uptick and think they would've had as good as chance as any team in the playoffs.

    I don't think they got "jobbed" in not making the playoffs other than the NFL system that gave the tied Dolphins a last-place schedule and Pats a first-place schedule. But as many breaks as they got in '01, they couldn't seem to get any in '08... from the coin flip and funny bounces of the ball against the Jets to the unsportsmanlike penalty on Thomas against the Colts that could've easily been let go to amazingly not getting any help at all over the last several weeks of the season other than the Seahawks win over the Jets (I root for the Cowboys once in my life and they give up back-to-back 80 yard TD runs to Baltimore!).

    I agree with others that the Pats were outplaying the Steelers till Slater's muff and were more than capable of beating that club. Not saying they would've been the favorite in the post-season, but nobody would've wanted to play them and they would've had as good a chance as any.

    Posted by chluke January 29, 09 03:19 PM
  1. Had the Patriots made the Playoffs, they probably could have taken the Miami Dolphins and possibly the Colts. Beyond that is anyone's guess, and I really think they would have had trouble with the Ravens and the Steelers.

    Posted by Juggernaut January 29, 09 03:27 PM
  1. When Randy Moss pulled a Houdini on the final play of regulation and took a TD away from his defender, and put his team into overtime against the Jets, the Patriots demonstrated one good thing: they could move the ball down the field. But when the Jets were third-and-fifteen from their 15--and picked up 18 on the make-or-break play, the Patriots demonstrated one fatal flaw: their defense couldn't stop anyone when it had to. Super Bowl? Please. Love the Patriots, but 2008 wasn't going to be their year. And that third-and-fifteen was a snapshot of the Eli Manning escape from Richard Seymour and David Tyree's unbelievable catch over Rodney (why didn't you knock it down?) Harrison. One stop needed--one stop failed. Over and out. Deal with it, Patriots Nation. Let's look forward with pleasure to 2009!

    Posted by Witch-king January 29, 09 04:44 PM
  1. Given everything that happened this year, I thought it was a very successful season and I really enjoyed it.

    Posted by Erik Draheim January 29, 09 05:02 PM
  1. "meaning they effectively played Miami to a draw over the span of eight quarters." - Mazz, you honestly have no clue about football.

    Posted by randym81 January 29, 09 05:10 PM
  1. Hallucinating, demented homers. Suppose that’s a step up from being yahoos, hero worshipers and gutless suck-ups, no?

    Hey Tony, we’ve already heard the ‘Patriots had their chances’ rebuttal; it’s tired and flawed. You accuse us of having overblown expectations while arguing that the Patriots deserved to stay home for ‘failing’ to win 12 games (or 11 wins with a 5-1 AFC East/8-4 AFC record). Meanwhile, San Diego locked up the 4th seed and hosted 12-4 Indy during Wild Card weekend DESPITE LOSING HALF THEIR GAMES. How exactly is this fair?

    Sure the Patriots had their weaknesses (the most glaring being pass defense), but which team didn’t? Tennessee may have owned the league’s best record, but they only managed 10 points in their one playoff game!

    The best teams deserve to go to the playoffs, and by any measure the Patriots were superior to half of the teams that qualified for the postseason. You were right in saying that the NFL is socialist: guaranteeing a playoff spot to the ‘champion’ of a crappy division while better teams stay home in January is an ongoing injustice. It’d be like asking fiscally-responsible taxpayers to bail out people who borrowed beyond their means and defaulted on their mortgages (oh wait).

    Time to adopt an NBA-type seeding formula.

    Posted by Tyler Carter January 29, 09 05:38 PM
  1. Mazz, I hope you read this comment. I have to say I was excited to find out that you were joining the globe a while back, I always thought you were the best writer with the Herald. I honestly have to say that your recent columns have turned me off lately and as a Boston fan, I am staying loyal. From the Mea Culpa column and now this column you have been throwing out a lot of bad vibes. I can take out of town writers and fans saying what they want about Boston, what else would you expect, thats rivalry. But I expect more out of a very respected journalist to demean and degrade the very people he proposes to write for. Although Boston fans may be tough on its teams, we want the best for them and expect it, as they have promised. An acknowledgement of that passion is all thats required, you dont have to like it. I would not want one of Bostons best writers to become one of "those people" himself.

    Posted by beantownfan January 29, 09 06:14 PM
  1. Tony is spot on. No way do the Pats win 3 straight road games with that joke of a defense. In addition, how good was that offense? We know they could put points up against really bad teams, and there were plenty on the Pats schedule. What elite defenses did they shine against? Seems to me they played 1 elite defense, the Steelers, and were embarassed. I know, I know, if Moss makes those catches, if Gostkowski makes a field goal, yadda, yadda, ... Seems like a lot of the bellyaching we're used to hearing from other teams when Pats find ways to beat them

    Posted by Lusitano January 29, 09 06:49 PM
  1. Tony,
    I think you would be at your best writing for the Arts/Entertainment section... or maybe the Leisure section. You obviously don't now much about football... you putz.

    Posted by Mark January 29, 09 07:01 PM
  1. The Pats had a great year considering the circumstances. "You are what you are" still rings true. They were the 7th best team in the AFC. That San Diego loss looked huge on Dec 28th. That Indianapolis loss still stung real bad. That Miami loss is still unexplainable. The Jets, the greatest 8-3 team in the history of a n 11 week season came into Foxboro and smacked the Pats around for 2.5 quarters. Pittsburgh Destroyed them on their own turf. So, did it suck to watch New England take care of business in December and come up a game short? Yes. Do I think the Pats deserve to be there? No.

    Posted by Josh January 29, 09 07:46 PM
  1. Thanks Tony. You and some of these posters renewed my faith in the idea that there are still rational Pats fans out there. To all the Tony-bashers, what's wrong with you? It's one thing to disagree with Tony's analysis but why can't you at least respect the idea that the Pats weren't the best team this year? He "hates" the Pats?? C'mon! You are like a mother who can't admit that her kids aren't perfect. It's sad. Loving your team doesn't mean living in denial, it means sticking with them even if they weren't the best.

    Posted by getreal January 29, 09 10:45 PM
  1. Look, I don't think that the Pats got cheated -- the rules are the rules, for better of worse -- but I think that they could have gone VERY deep into the playoffs had they made the cut. This year's playoffs featured the weakest slate of teams I can remember in a long time, and several powerhouses got knocked out very early on. The Pats could have EASILY been playing in the Super Bowl, and to try to say otherwise is revisionist history. Or a better term for it would be "sour grapes." Tony, do you happen to remember the year 2001?

    Posted by Steve January 30, 09 12:39 AM
  1. Look, I don't think that the Pats got cheated -- the rules are the rules, for better of worse -- but I think that they could have gone VERY deep into the playoffs had they made the cut. This year's playoffs featured the weakest slate of teams I can remember in a long time, and several powerhouses got knocked out very early on. The Pats could have EASILY been playing in the Super Bowl, and to try to say otherwise is revisionist history. Or a better term for it would be "sour grapes." Tony, do you happen to remember the year 2001?

    Posted by Steve January 30, 09 12:40 AM
  1. Only a fool would completely ignore the fact that the Patriots needed a certain amount of football games played to get their act together. Yes, they didn't have the smothering defense, but by the end of the year, your telling Patriot fans they are dillusional if they thought they could beat the teams now in the playoffs. I wish some sports writers had a clue! How many points did they put up in Miami? or Oakland ( Oakland beat some good teams towards the end of the year & the chargers bearly pulled off a victory against them) . The early loss to the Charger was not a very experienced Cassel, even with Delta Oneal playing. Everyone knows how they lost to the Colts. The Jets was the worst ( firat half) defensive game plan I have seen in awhile, in the second half they finally applied some pressure- How many three & outs? after that, plus Warren was hurt & didn't play. Lets not forget one of the worst play by a tight end ever -" oops I'm falling I think I will drop the ball so I won't get hurt when I hit the ground". The only solid loss was to the Steelers - Does anyone think they played a good game? You sure the rain didn't cause some problems? Belechick still can't get that game out of his mind, but he deserved for that time out call in Indy!
    Go Patriots!!!

    Posted by John Avitabile January 30, 09 10:28 AM
  1. I would agree with this article on most points. However Parcel's little bit of wisdom is lacking one perspective. "You are as good as you are" at the time, should be added. The goal for any sports team during its season is to get progressively better (that’s why you always hear, “we need to learn from our mistakes and get better”) and peak at the end. If you agree that the two best teams from each conference should be in the super bowl at the end of the year, then I ask why the Cards?
    My feeling the only way to correct what happened this year is to change one thing. If you have two or three teams in the same conference with the same record there needs to be another game between the two or three teams. I would argue that neither the late season Jets or Dolphins could have beaten the Pat at the end of the season. The Pats did what all well coached teams do, just peaked at the right time. Regrettably they didn't do as well in the conference games early in the season. And as a side note, I feel the Pats peeked to soon last year and came in flat, to the Super Bowl.

    But I won’t argue that Pittsburg romped our butts in an embarrassing manner and in a game that truly mattered.

    Posted by Dennis January 30, 09 12:07 PM
  1. Sorry Tony, your article would read better in the New York Post.
    According to your reasoning, there is no way the Cardinals can beat the Steelers, because we beat the Cs and lost to the Ss. So if Arizona does win on Sunday, will you write an article admitting to being a fool?

    Why did you call the Pats' crushing of the Dolphins a "decision?" That is a word for some weird overtime win from a 60 yard field goal. I think you showed your true anti-Pats attitude.

    Why not mention how the Steelers got blownout by the Titans 14-31? Does that mean that the Steelers should feel that they are in now by grace? How stupid your reasoning is!

    The regular season comes down to ONLY final record, and that final record should be on a level playing field for who makes the Playoffs.

    The NFL should change that calculation scheme starting in 09-10!


    Posted by Concord Wiggin January 30, 09 12:35 PM
  1. I've been a Cardinals' fan for 41+ years so being in the Super Bowl means alot to me. It saddens me that a classic, feel-good story like the Cardinals has been so attacked and villified by the media and my fellow NFL fans. WHY?? Doesn't this great country of ours luv under-dog stories any more??.Isn't that part of what made us great in the first place?? I just wanted to take a moment to say thank-you for your understanding and offering a different perspective.

    Posted by Mark Schaper January 30, 09 12:55 PM
  1. The problem is what RobrtB said above. The formula the NFL uses is cuckoo.

    Great alternative suggestions, Robert!

    Posted by Tim Woods January 30, 09 12:57 PM
  1. RobertB is an idiot.

    The Dolphins and Patriots played the SAME conference schedule, save two games. Both teams lost their non-common conference games. Therefore their conference wins were based on THE SAME SET OF TEAMS.

    How is that not equal?

    Points and yards don't matter. The idea of them counting as a top 3 or 4 tiebreaker is asinine. What matters are the number of wins and losses you have and the teams you beat.

    Posted by R.J. January 30, 09 01:31 PM
  1. Maybe its a good thing they didn't get to the Super Bowl. Most felons will agree. After you pull off a crime, like SPYGATE, you should lay low for a while. Besides after that massive choke job to the Giants and the failed "Perfect Patriot Path to Perfection ", let some else look like overconfident losers.

    Posted by Anonymous January 30, 09 01:32 PM
  1. Maybe its a good thing they didn't get to the Super Bowl. Most felons will agree. After you pull off a crime, like SPYGATE, you should lay low for a while. Besides after that massive choke job to the Giants and the failed "Perfect Patriot Path to Perfection ", let some else look like overconfident losers.

    Posted by Merc The Undefeated January 30, 09 01:35 PM

    Go Cardinals!

    Posted by Patsfansaredouchebaggers January 30, 09 01:40 PM
  1. Hey Dodoratti,

    Gaffney drops touchdown in Indy, Jets hammered by Pats in second half of OT game, Moss drops early passes, including TD against Steelers. All three games Pats could have won and that includes Steelers game which got out of hand via uncharacteristic 2nd half turnovers -(Thanks Matthew Slater!)

    Pats are a solid team that would have had a good playoff run, but yes need shoring up in corners. Dodo should cover Revs.

    Posted by Chuck January 30, 09 03:43 PM
  1. Utterly disgusted by this article. Nobody is saying the Steelers are in NE's rightful spot, but it's discrediting to Tony Maz to insult the fans that believe the Patriots (a proven post-season presence, particularly against the Steelers) had a feasible chance to win the AFC title.

    RobertB is on the right track. The Pats got jobbed in the tie-breaker system. 14 of 16 games were vs. the same schedule, but the Dolphins were given the "statistically easier" schedule in the subset games (HOU and BAL, vs IND and PITT). It is true they both lost both games, but in reverse, maybe the Pats would have beaten HOU? It's bad enough the Dolphins get the easier schedule, it doesn't have to be the deciding factor in the #3 tie-breaker as well. The fact that the Patriots won/lost against harder teams is more relevant than the 1-1 records they and MIA shared against SD and ARI, in which case NE and MIA both won the home game. Strength of Victory, then Strength of Schedule would be more fitting. Better system would be:
    1) Head-to-Head
    2) Division Record
    3) Strength of Victory
    4) Strength of Schedule
    5) Conference Record [if it's still possible that 3 or 4 didn't cover this]
    6) Point differential
    7) Fantasy points (that was a joke R.J.)

    Division record has to be number 2 when you are deciding who is the best in the division and every team plays each other equally, home and away.

    Mr Objective

    Posted by Anonymous January 30, 09 04:21 PM
  1. Sorry for those Pat fans that think they get "jobbed" because they didn't make the playoffs with 11 wins. Typically that would be good enough, but not this year. Get over your "we should get a pass to everything because we are the Pats" BS. You lost key games to key opponents that kept you out, sorry but them the rules, whether you like to play by them or not. It's karma baby, from the spygate stuff that Bill got busted for or the arrogance of last year, trade marking a phrase you had yet to earn on the field of play.

    Nothing is handed to an NFL team. Yeah you beat up Arizona, but deal? We beat up on you as did the Steelers, what does that mean? Just like when the Steelers went from the #6 seed to SB champ or last year, after you beat the Giants, they went on a 3 game playoff streak on the road to then upset you in the SB. It all comes down to how the team plays on any given Sunday and the cumulative affect it has to give you a chance to make the playoffs.

    I will agree however, that had the Pats made the playoffs, they would have made noise. Don't mean that to say they would get back to the SB, as I think the Steelers would have beaten you again. As someone mentioned above, playing a team a second time gives them a better insight to that opponent. Works both ways, you may have played better against the Steelers, but they would have played better against you as well. And you defense is OLD, face it.

    The Pats are a great team, but like every other multiple championship team in any sport, after a while it gives way. Just the nature of the beast. Hope your slide isn't too painful.

    Posted by Ed January 30, 09 06:49 PM
  1. AGree RJ, RobertB is off his mark. When you boil EVERYTHING down, it comes down to one game for each team. The Dolphins beat the Chargers, but the Pats didn't. You are 100% correct as well, the 2 non-common games were all lost by both teams. That leaves 14 like games. Phins beat SD, lose to Arizona. Pats beat Arizona, lose the SD. THE PATS LOST AN AFC CONFERENCE GAME WHILE THE PHINS WON IT. Tie breaks are employed for a reason. This is one of those times, happens every year.

    Perhaps he thinks that maybe the tie break should have been last seasons W/L record? Now that would have made him happy! LOL!!

    Posted by Ed January 30, 09 06:54 PM
  1. Robert,

    Even with your suggested tie break, the Phins STILL get in ahead of you, lets take a look, shall we?

    The tie-breakers should be:
    1) head-to-head record
    OK, we each beat the other once and lost once, next
    2) strength of schedule
    Strength of schedule is determined at the START of the season, Pats had an easier one then the Phins. Phins in, you out. But even if you had some calculation that had it go the other way...lets move on.
    3) net point differential
    Dolphins scored FIVE MORE POINTS against you, then you did against us. PHINS IN, PATS OUT!!
    4) net yardage differential
    Not sure how you choose to determine yardages, but WINS are much more important then YARDS. So why you think yardage should be a tie break is beyond me.

    You lost again using your own criteria!! NEXT!!!!

    Posted by Ed January 30, 09 06:58 PM
  1. Stop whining Patriot fans! You want to complain about the Cardinals six and O record vs. Their own division yet you fail to aknowledge the fact your "great" team was 7-1 vs. The NFC and AFC West who Had exactly one team of the 8 with a winning record. That means your great team was 4-5 vs. The rest of the NFL.

    Posted by Ken January 31, 09 03:39 AM
  1. Why do so many Pat fans agree that our mighty Pats couldn't have made and won the Super Bowl? They could have beat the Steelers, should have beat the Jets in OT and could have beat Indy, wait should have beat Indy. To even be considered contenders towards the ending of the '08 season was a testament to their greatness as a team, ability to keep fighting and show cased BB's greatest coaching. Were other teams glad the Jaguars loss to the Ravens or the Jets failed to pull off a win against Miami which kept New England out of the playoffs? Of course there were. No team, AFC or NFC wanted to face our Pats in playoffs. Go p

    Posted by Rick January 31, 09 07:42 AM
  1. The Pats got trounced by a 15-1 Steelers team in 04 and went on to beat them in the AFC championship that year. The notion that loosing to a team in the regular season means you'll loose to them in the playoffs doesn't stack up (see last year's Giants).

    It's anybody's guess how far the Patriots would have gone in the playoffs had they made it. But to say that you're a homer if you think they could have made a deep run is ridiculous. There have been a number of suprise teams to win the superbowl 01 pats, 06 steelers 08 giants. . Massarotti is a jerk who likes to rile up the fans by playing the anti establishment card.

    Posted by Anonymous January 31, 09 03:10 PM
  1. I would have to say that Tony has hit the nail on the head. The truth hurts, but it is what it is. I have no shame for the New England Patriots, I think they played with a lot of heart and accomplished more than most teams would have accomplished given the personnel loses they suffered. My beef is with many arrogant fans, who proclaim to know everything about the game and the Patriots. Sadly, you can meet most of them on them BG Patriots Forum. What an elitest site, dare to ask a question, or opinion that these demi Gods think inappropriate and the castigation will begin. It is fans like this that turn average people against the team and I wish these Homers would go away. No offense to the considerate passionate fan, if the shoe fits in my opinions wear it.

    Posted by Ray Gerrity January 31, 09 06:47 PM
  1. i think most pats fans dont think the team was robbed and realize things breack both ways, jost crap luck t for the pats, so what? they will make up for it down the line.

    Posted by CJ68 January 31, 09 07:01 PM
  1. The Pats would have destroyed all comers in the playoffs. This is what Goodell didn't want. His inferior logic for punishing the Pats wouldn't have held up with Cassell leading the way to a SB blow out.

    Posted by JT February 1, 09 03:33 AM
  1. Tony,
    Please stop writing about football. I have respect for your baseball commentary but your transparent and childish attempts to be provocative (a la Shaughnessy) and your obviious lack of knowledge of the game are laughable. Your editor should be fired just for running trash like this article and your treatment of the Cassel salary cap situation, which was nearly bereft of facts.

    Posted by Ted Murphy February 1, 09 04:33 AM
  1. Keep it up Tony, and no one will read you. Getting a lot of comments doesn't mean you are adding to the revenue at the Globe. It could mean the opposite. I have found myself skipping your stuff more often lately. Quit it with the insults. You're becoming a boring, broken record. When you write like that, we do start to picture you with an annoying voice. You end up sounding like an unreadable blowhard not worth the time.

    I hate to troll you like this, but you have turned into an a$$. Grow up and try to improve. Throwing ad hominems at people who disagree with you is a sign of immaturity. This isn't the Herald. Either improve or expect to be replaced.

    Posted by Nick Faldo February 2, 09 12:58 AM
  1. An annoying "so-called" journalist...who may know something about baseball but nothing of the other sports. Why would the globe bother to sink to this guys level and bring him aboard...scraps from the herald. Please keep him off the Patriots and others it really is annoying like his voice.

    Posted by Nathan February 12, 09 03:01 PM
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Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
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