Sunday, December 30, 2007
Straight Cash Homey: 16-0
The 2007-2008 Patriots further cemented their place in history last night as they completed the first ever 16-0 regular season with a 38-35 comeback win over the New York Giants.
The win was made even more special given the circumstances: all the records broken and the fact that they took place in a tight contest rather than a blowout filled with both teams backups.
In a game that meant nothing to the Giants (10-6), New York chose to play the starters all game and as a result, they almost pulled off one of the great upsets in NFL history. With Eli Manning at the helm however, one had to feel like that was quite unlikely. After playing the first half of his life, Eli made a couple of his now routine blunders (a long sack and bad pick) in the second half to ensure that nobody would remember this edition of the Giants in the future.
In the process of going 16-0 last night at the Meadowlands, the Pats set the three biggest records in the NFL (the perfect record obviously trumping everything): Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to go to 50 on the season, one more than Peyton Manning. Randy Moss caught both touchdowns, giving him 23 on the year and also putting him one ahead of the great Jerry Rice. As a team the Patriots also set the scoring record for a season since all they needed was six points to top the '98 Minnesota Vikings.
From the opening kickoff, the Giants showed that they weren't going to be pushed around in a game in which nobody gave them a chance. They were just the second team all season (Pittsburgh) to score on the first drive against New England and first to make it a touchdown as Eli found Brandon Jacobs on a 7-yard pass for a score. The big play of the drive was a 52-yard bomb from Manning to Plaxico Burress who was "covered" by the Patriots single weakest link, cornerback Ellis Hobbs.
New England moved the ball on their first possession but were forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Stephen Gostowski. It was 7-3 Giants after the first quarter.
The touchdown passes and catches record were tied with the first play of the second quarter as Brady found Moss on a 4-yard pass. Moss got a taunting penalty after the score which was key as the Pats had to then kickoff from their own 15-yard line.
Wouldn't you know the Giants returned that kick for a touchdown. Domenik Hixon (most famous for temporarily paralyzing the Bills Kevin Everett) took it 74-yards to the house.
New England started to get stops on defense but could only cash them in for three points, on 45-yard and 37-yard kicks. Any thoughts of the Pats going into halftime with the lead were erased when Manning found rookie tight end Kevin Boss on a 3-yard toss just before the break. 21-16 G-Men at halftime. It was the second time all season (Indy) that New England trailed at the half.
New York scored first in the second half as Manning found Burress with a nice 19-yard pass. The 12-point deficit was the largest New England had faced all season.
The Pats chipped away, getting seven points back on a 6-yard run by Laurence Maroney (19 carries, 46 yards).
That started a run of 22 straight points for New England as Brady fittingly found Moss on a 65-yard touchdown in the start of the fourth quarter. Amazingly enough, the score came one play after Moss had dropped a big gain (it was underthrown but you never see him do that). What a way for him and Brady to shatter their respective records.
The crowd that had been so fired up all game, suddenly realized the window was closing, the Patriots weren't letting this one get away. Manning obliged New England by throwing an interception to Hobbs (his first of the season). Maroney scored from five yards out on the ensuing drive and 16-0 was firmly in their grasp.
Burress added another touchdown, from three yards out but Mike Vrabel snared the onside kick and with that, the Patriots were perfect.
Wes Welker had a huge game (11 catches, 122 yards) and he also broke Troy Brown's team record for catches in a season. Another unsung hero was Kevin Faulk (8 catches, 64 yards) who made two clutch first downs in the second half for the Pats, plays which he has been making his whole career in New England. Brady finished 32 of 42 for 356 yards and two touchdowns, breaking the NE single-season passing record as well.
Who would have expected that type of performance from Eli (22 of 32, 251 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 INT)? I wouldn't say it's anything but a fluke until he proves me wrong by doing it next week against the Bucs in the playoffs. Jacobs had some good runs (15 carries, 67 yards) and Burress (4 catches, 84 yards) was great when they called his number.
The Patriots have the top seed in the AFC playoffs and home-field throughout. All they have to do is win three games in five weeks, to go 19-0 and truly be hailed as the greatest NFL team of all-time. There's plenty of things to sure up (the passing defense and special teams foremost) but for now, they have a few days to sit back and enjoy the unbelievable season they've already had.