was lucky and then good and then lucky again, the were good and then lucky, and both the and (and both Harbaugh brothers) got unlucky at the worst possible time. Now here we are, staring at the most spectacular rematch the Super Bowl's seen since the early 90s.
Let's dive right in to talking points, starting with the obvious storyline.
1. "It's, It's The Reeeeematch Ba-bayyy!" [Note: All talk of rematches over the next two weeks is to be read in the key of Weezy.] Indeed, we're getting a rematch of what might have been the greatest Super Bowl of all time, the major characters are all the same, and four years later, the teams are more evenly matched than ever.
The Patriots opened as 3-point favorites, but that number should fall over the next two weeks. Thehave beaten better teams on their way to the Super Bowl, and they've done it on the road. The Patriots defense looked like it was hanging on for dear life in freezing cold weather at home; there's no telling what'll happen against New York's three-headed monster (Cruz, Super Mario, ) in a dome, on turf. On the other hand, Tom Brady is Tom Brady, the Giants secondary is every bit as vulnerable as New England's, and the Patriots offensive line will have two weeks of hearing about Super Bowl XLII to get them motivated for XLVI. All of which is to say, two weeks out, we're basically looking at a draw. Even if you can't root for either team, it'll be fun to watch the matchups play out.
Right down the line...
- Eli vs. Brady. If Peyton Manning is basically Tom Brady's doppleganger, then Eli is something like his polar opposite. If Brady's the heart throb male lead in a romantic comedy, then Eli is the girl's goofy best friend. If Brady's the Brad Pitt of quarterbacks, then Eli is someone like Owen Wilson.
- Coughlin vs. Belichick. This is neither here nor there, but if there's one reason to be excited about the Giants making the Super Bowl, it's two more weeks of outstanding New York Post covers. As for Coughlin-Belichick, here's to hoping somebody like Kenny Mayne can get them in a room and have them to compete to see who can look like the more miserable human being for 3 hours straight. The early line favors Belichick, but just barely (-2.5 grumbles).
- The Patriots vs. Their Demons. In two weeks, New England can avenge the biggest playoff upset of all time. They can also have their hearts ripped out by (pretty much) the same Giants team that derailed their dynasty four years ago. There's really no in between there. No pressure guys.
- The Giants vs. Expectations. Doesn't it seem like Coughlin's Giants always play best when everybody's skeptical of them? That luxury goes out the window while everyone gushes over them during the next two weeks.
On a personal note, this game brings back a lot of special memories. I was living in Boston back in 2008, and let me tell you, there was nobody ON EARTH more obnoxious than the average Patriots fan during their undefeated "Eff You!" season. NOBODY ON EARTH. Everywhere you went you heard how "UNSTAWWWPABLE" the Pats were, and it just got worse and worse as the undefeated season unfolded. Had they won, the suffering would've lasted another 25 years, easy. So, having dealt with these people up close for the better part of six months, watching them watch their favorite team get beaten by a double-digit underdog still ranks as one of the most spectacularly satisfying sports moments of my life. Just thinking about it four years later makes me want to findand kiss him on the mouth.
Anyway, just had to get that on record somewhere. This was one of the best matchups we could've gotten out of the playoffs this year, but it can't possibly top what happened four years ago.
That was once-in-a-lifetime schadenfreude.
Let's all take a moment of silence in memoriam.
[wipes away single tear]
Now we can move on.
2. An Open Letter To
Coming into Sunday's game at New England, I may have been the only person on the Joe Flacco bandwagon besides his family and friends. That actually paid off; delivered over and over again on third downs Sunday, led long touchdown drives as well as the drive that should have won or tied the game as time expired. In generally, he silenced a lot of critics on Sunday. But then he has to go and pretend like he's been great all along.
"Look at the film," he told reporters afterward. "I pretty much play the same every week. If you think I played better this week than other weeks, then I think you're wrong. This is the way I play every week, and I really don't care. I don't know if I'll ever prove everything. That's not up to me. My job is to go out there and give our team the best shot to win." Okay, gimme a second.
Dear Joe Flacco:
COME ON, DUDE.
Don't act like you play like this all the time. We HAVE looked at the film, and roughly half the time you look AWFUL. Even the people who believe in you will admit that you really suck sometimes. Remember Jacksonville? San Diego? Seattle? The two games against the Browns where you went 21-for-47 with an average of 144 yards-per-game? You should really look at the film. You were a disaster. You turned everyone else impotent. You were a human handicap to your defense. You were Purple .
You looked great in New England on Sunday, and you've taken insane amounts of criticism this year, so a lot of people would be pretty happy for you if you just took Sunday's success in stride. You'd be a sympathetic figure if you admitted you're not perfect and vowed to do your best every Sunday. But "If you think I played better this week than other weeks, then I think you're wrong."? That just makes you sound like a spiteful sore loser who's full-on delusional.
America wants to respect you, Joe. BUT YOU MAKE IT SO DAMN HARD.
3., Pretty Much The Greatest.
Even if you hate the Patriots, it's impossible to root against Vince.
He's like the black, ass-kicking version of Winnie the Pooh. (via @paradigm35)
4. Don't Cry For The Harbaugh Family. Not Even For A Second.
If you were Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, you'd look around and see your two sons as A.) Millionaires several times over, B.) Hugely successful figures within their chosen profession, C.) The source of media fascination from (literally) coast to coast, and D.) Two men with unimpeachable job security in an industry where almost nobody's job is ever totally safe. This is the dumbest reaction to Sunday's games you'll see anywhere. Heartbreak or not, the Harbaughs are doing GREAT. So great it's borderline unfair. I fully expect them to run unopposed for President of the United States in 12 years. If you want to feel bad for someone, please direct your calls and letters to Billy Cundiff's parents.
Speaking of which...
5. Why Didn't The Ravens Call A Timeout Before That Field Goal?
It makes no sense. From Stefan Fatsis at Deadspin: "The play itself looked threatened, if not doomed, from the outset. With the play clock at 10 seconds and ticking, I was stunned, like others, to see Cundiff racing onto the field. I haven't talked to him or seen an explanation for the delay. It's possible that Cundiff normally trots out a bit later than the rest of the field-goal unit. But this looked extreme. Cundiff was running pretty hard to get into position, and the ball was snapped as the play clock expired. You rarely see that on field goals. Then, unsurprisingly and definitely unconsciously, Cundiff rushed."
Blame Cundiff if you want, maybe blame the holder, but if you're lining up for a game winning kick, the whole team shouldn't be panicking and rushing to the line, especially if that team has a timeout. If you need to blame someone for that missed kick, John Harbaugh's as good a candidate as anyone.
6. The Craziest Thing That Never Happened.
Tom Brady diving headfirst on fourth and one for a go-ahead touchdown is about as badass as football gets. But it was also COMPLETELY F'ING INSANE. For a split second, after his legs flailed over his head and he was lying there motionless at the bottom of the pile, I couldn't help but imagine the insanity that'd ensue if he'd somehow fractured his spine or something. This makes me a horrible person, I think. But still. Think about it.
- The most decorated player in the NFL is paralyzed on a borderline cheap shot by .
- The game stops for an hour while they cart Brady off the field and a pall falls over Gillette Stadium.
- The mourning gives way to murderous rage about halfway through. Fans are arrested trying to rush the field. Riots break out in the stands. State troopers rush Ray Lewis off the field.
- The game continues, the Ravens win.
- Roger Goodell bans for Ray Lewis for life during the AFC Title celebration.
- Jim Nantz turns a post-game interview with
into a lecture about the lack of morality in modern-day sports, and where today's stars have gone wrong.
- Al Sharpton calls Roger Goodell racist in a letter to all 32 NFL owners.
- David Simon writes a screeching op-ed tying all this to the death of journalism.
- The Ravens boycott the Super Bowl.
- ESPN literally f***ing explodes.
- Congress launches a massive investigation into the morality of the NFL.
- Tom Brady miraculously recovers six weeks later, but it doesn't even matter. The NFL never looks the same again and ultimately loses its stranglehold on America's affection. Roger Goodell resigns. Ray Lewis gets indicted for murder (somehow). And a new, renegade pro football emerges when the SEC secedes from the NCAA and begins paying players. This ultimately sows the seeds for the second Civil War.
Of course it turned out Brady was fine, so none of that ever happened. The Patriots scored, the Ravens choked on the final possession (!), and now we're all getting ready for one of the best Super Bowl matchups we've seen in 20 years. And just think: how close we came to the end of the NFL, Congressional Intervention, and a second Civil War.
Even if you hate the Giants and Patriots... It could always be worse, right?