It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion, such as the production of a magical effect for the first time in public, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Whether we must attribute this to the malignity of matter or to the total depravity of inanimate things, whether the exciting cause is hurry, worry, or what not, the fact remains.
I was looking for some way to describe the end of the New England Patriots season. A season ago when it ended in Indianapolis at the Super Bowl, it was easy to point to “The drop”. With the Patriots having an opportunity to put the game away, Tom Brady fired to Wes Welker in the seam. Whose fault it was would become a topic of conversation for almost a year, essentially ending today. The fact of the matter is that it was credited as a drop in the score-sheet, Eli Manning got the ball back and drove the New York Giants down the field for the game-winning score. In the end the Giants were the better team that day and played the better game and deserved to win that game.
I wasn’t thinking about last years Super Bowl during the AFC Championship today. Much like I the Patriots, I was taking it one game at a time with the ultimate goal being hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans two weeks from today, or yesterday, or whenever this hits the internet.
Before the playoffs, I had mentioned that the Baltimore Ravens were the team I least wanted to play for the simple fact that they believe they can beat the New England Patriots. In recent years, they have been the Patriots greatest rival, both on the field and in the media. Despite the fact the Ravens were arguably the coldest team coming into the playoffs, they always had that going for them. When the AFC Championship opened with the Patriots over a touchdown favorite, we should have seen this coming. The Ravens believe that they get slighted in the media all the time and then use that for motivation. This despite the fact they have one of the most beloved middle-linebackers of all-time. It is a media-slight they have created themselves and its part of what makes the Ravens the Ravens.
They played the better game on Sunday, and that is why they won. They were more physical, created the bigger plays, simply put they were the better team. This is no different than what happened in last year’s Super Bowl. At some point in the past three seasons, the Patriots high-flying offense comes to a screeching halt because the opponent plays better than them and the Patriots respond to late.
What should have been recognized already is Murphy’s Law. That opening statement, in layman’s terms, reads “anything that could go wrong, will go wrong”. That might have been the story of the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. In total, four plays stand out in the theory:
Lloyd slips on a 3rd and 2
Brady runs into the referee on a scramble who was just out of his field of view.
Wes drops a ball at the 30 yard line
Ridley Fumbles it at the 50
People want to put this blame on Tom Brady, who truthfully got outplayed once again by Joe Flacco, or the defense who let the Ravens march up and down the field in the 3rd quarter. Still, more than any other of the bad Patriots’ losses of the past three seasons, this game felt like a tidal-wave of **** that hit the Patriots square in the face. If Lloyd doesn’t slip and fall on a perfectly thrown fade route, the Patriots walk into the end-zone. If Welker stops listening to the #PayTheMan hype, the Patriots likely score again, and same with Brady running into the referee in the second quarter. Finally, Ridley’s still questionable fumble rings true, if only because B.K.P was directly involved with the play. The Patriots were driving for the tying score and the first turnover of the game shifted momentum from “in favor of the Ravens” too “If the Ravens lose this game I wouldn’t go into Baltimore city limits because they are going to riot like Vancouver in 2011″.
After the Stevan Ridley “Man, I hope he is still alive” fumble caused by the Notorious B.K.P himself, it was basically over for the New England Patriots. The fact still remains that more than any other of the losses, it felt like the world was crumbling down around the Patriots. Yes, the Ravens played better, but if a couple of plays swing the other way, the ball-game changes. Hell, the Talib injury changed the Patriots game-plan, but that is more “That’s what happens in football” than the other things tonight, which felt like the football gods punishing the Patriots for hosting the Ray Lewis retirement party.
Recurring character and my friend Sully said it perhaps best tonight saying “They just haven’t got the breaks lately”. That is true, and it wasn’t more apparent until tonight. At least last year, however, the ride was still memorable. After a two game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Patriots turned it around, pulled off one of their all-time “We don’t deserve to win this game” victories in the AFC championship and got out-played by a Giants team in the Super Bowl. Something felt different this year. I’m not sure if the Patriots expected to get to Indy last year, but New Orleans was 100% the end-all-be-all-goal this season. With the moves the Patriots made during the off-season and regular season, it was Super Bowl or bust. Slight bumps against good teams like Seattle and San Fransisco happened, but the course was still set. Which is also why this season is more disappointing than last.
Any given Sunday, something strange can happen on the football field. That happened for the Patriots. Everything that could have gone wrong basically did and combined with the Ravens superior effort means they are going to the Super Bowl and the Patriots are not. It’s just more unsatisfying in 2013 than it was in 2012. In reality all that can be said tonight is the Ravens played better, but it still feels like somehow it was in reach.
God. Damn. It. This sucks.