Sunday, January 14, 2007

Division Playoffs day 2 Wrap up: Pats, Bears move on

Please tell me why people pick against the Pats in the postseason?

AFC: Patriots 24, Chargers 21

NFC: Bears 27, Seahawks 24

At the end of the Patriots win over AFC-darling San Diego Shawne Merriroid was reduced to a caricature of himself thanks to some Patriot mimicry, Marty Shottenheimer was re-confirmed as a playoff choke artist extraordinaire, and league MVP and notoriously humble L.T. was transformed into a sour-grapes spewing little bitch.

These are the kinds of things that happens to teams when the playoff express known as the New England Patriots rolls through your fine city and reduces your supposed great team to just another mediocre Super Bowl wannabe.

The Artists Formerly Known as a Dynasty played anything but dynastic football on this typically sunny San Diegan afternoon, but when you've been through so many playoff battles like this Brady&Belichick- led team has you're bound to steal some just from experience, heart, and the will-to-win alone.

And make no mistake the Pats did steal this victory from the Chargers. Well, not so much stole it as the Chargers handed it to them.

New England tried to find every way possible to lose this game, but no matter how many ways they nearly blew it, they still found a way to recover, despite the fact that...

...Tom Terrific was anything but early on, going a miserable 4-12 for 38 yards nearing halftime until he capped an 11-play, 72 yard 2:00 drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jabbar Gaffney to cut the Chargers' lead to 14-10; Tommy Boy was 5-7 for 55 yards on that game-saving drive and an un-Brady-like 27-51 for 280 yards with 2 TDs & 3 picks in the game.

...Belichick completely abandoned the running game in the second half despite trailing by only one score as New England only had 21 rushing attempts in the game. Chew on this bit of irony: the Pats were outgained on the ground 148 yards -51 yards and Brady threw the ball 51 times and somehow they still won the game.

...Brady threw 3 interceptions, his most ever in a playoff game and a quarter of the total he had for the entire season. New England had 4 turnovers and gave the Chargers numerous opportunities to take control of this game. They couldn't.

...New England was trounced in the field position department. Six drives started inside their own 20 yard line while the Chargers average starting position was the 37. Plus San Diego had 3 drives begin at midfield or on the Pats' side of the field.

These AFC heavyweights pulled out all the stops on Sunday and unfortunately for San Diego New England has better stops in their arsenal. Poor Marty. The man led the Chargers to a 14-2 record and top seed in the AFC and is still going to be out of a job because he simply cannot win the big one. His record in the postseason is now a laughable 5-13 compared to the Hooded Genius, whose career playoff mark now stands at 13-2.

It wasn't like Marty didn't try everything he could to win this one. He went for it on 4th & 11 from the Pats 30 rather than have Pro Bowl kicker Nate Keading attempt a 49-yard field goal. Of course the play backfired and New England immediately drove to a 50-yard field goal by Stephen no I'm not AV but I'm pretty damn good Gostowski for a 3-0 lead, but hey, Marty was doing something ballsy so give him credit. It was incredibly stupid, but ballsy nonetheless.

New England won the game despite all of these flaws in their game because unlike any other team in the league they can adjust their play calling, game plan, and strategy on the fly. In Brady's own words when the Pats couldn't get anything going against the fired-up Chargers defense the Pats basically threw every type of game plan against the wall to see what would stick.

"I couldn't get into a rhythm," Brady said. "We were trying to throw quick stuff. That wasn't working. We tried to throw screens. That wasn't working. We tried to call runs. That wasn't working. We couldn't find any rhythm as an offense. Every time I would come to the sidelines, I'd say, 'Let's try something else."'

How many teams, or more specifically coaches, would allow that kind of mentality to take over in a playoff game? The answer: not many, because so many coaches are afraid to veer away from their sacred game plans or admit that something they have done for years isn't working. Brady & Belichick have no such fear. They also have no fear of failure, because as you looked at Brady on the sidelines amidst all the offensive sloppiness and confusion and facing a deficit on the road, he looked as calm & cool as a man with a 21-point lead in an early season game.

In other words these Pats do not panic. Ever. That's why they can win a game they appeared destined to lose. So when Brady throws and apparent game-killing interception late in the 4th quarter he knows that Troy Brown will turn into a defensive back and rip the ball from Marlon McRee's hands, giving New England new life and setting up Brady's touchdown to Reche Caldwell; the ensuing 2-point conversion, a carbon copy of Kevin Faulk's 2-pointer in SB XXXIX, tied the game at 21 and swung the momentum over to New England's side.

Once that comeback was complete you just knew the Pats would win the thing, it was just a question of how. That question was answered on the next drive. After forcing san Diego to punt Brady conducted the game-winning drive with poise and determination. His 49-yard bomb to Caldwell stunned the Qualcomm crowd and set up Gostowski's game-winning 31-yard field goal and it was all over but the crying (by Tomlinson.)

Cheer up, LT. You had a great game (123 yards, 2 TDs), an MVP season, and won the love & respect of football fans worldwide.

You can't help it if your guys ran into one of the most dominant, resilient, and resourceful playoff teams of all time.

Maybe next year.

Oh yeah, Bears beat Seattle on a field goal in OT (yawn.)

Let the REAL games begin:

Next Sunday-

Saints @ Bears
Pats @ Regular Season Wonders

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