The family Christmas was scrapped this year in favor of a trip to Dallas over Super Bowl weekend back when I thought the Patriots had no shot of making it there. Instincts! Look at me, diagnosing the problem early on: no real playmakers and a shoddy defense. Look at me, forgetting late last week when asked if I thought the Jets +8.5 line is too high. “After a couple beers Friday night, I was convinced the Patriots were going to win,” I told Frowns. “And I never feel that way.” That should have been the sound of sirens, alarms, car horns. If I never think the Patriots are going to win, and they almost always do, I had the answer in my hands and let it slip away, like Alge Crumpler. The end was nigh.
It wasn’t inevitable, but it was clear from the second drive of the game that it was the type of game the Patriots lose. Any Patriots fan would know it, too, but many were so blinded by the 14-2 record that they felt a trip to the Super Bowl was a birthright. Even Kornheiser and Wilbon picked the Patriots over the entire rest of the playoff field. Now we’re looking a third Steelers Super Bowl in six seasons straight in the face, along with Roethlisberger/Brady arguments to propel the perpetual motion talk machine. All because the Patriots managed to lose to a divisional opponent, one which had previously defeated them and was designed specifically to beat them. All credit to the Jets: they have more talent than the Patriots. Yesterday was a clinic in what bigger, stronger players can do.
A word on Rex Ryan. Talking is not his strategy. Talking is part of his strategy. Note the quick retreat after the game in Ryan’s Brady-taunting. Watch the Jets quiet down this week against a team just as big as strong as them. I don’t think they’ll win the Super Bowl, but that’s not what yesterday’s game was about. Not that you’d notice, if you’d followed the postgame on Twitter, where the Internet was praising the Jets as if they had been crowned champions. It’s a great win, sure, but Ryan has said all year the goal is to win the Super Bowl. The guy has his priorities straight. Let’s not praise him for getting closer than the other losers. If the Jets win next week, we can start building rhetorical towers to his greatness.
For Patriots fans, remember: the Super Bowl is always the goal, and not getting there reinforces how good we were to win three. Those years are fading fast in our memories, but the Super Bowl is not a birthright. It must be earned. You don’t win that game without wining this one. Sometimes the bar eats you, and sometimes Tom Brady cannot stop it. If you want to take solace in anything, do it in the fact that the Jets aren’t celebrating today. They’re preparing. They’re trying to revive a championship culture. It might be time for us to do the same.