I just saw Newman on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and it really lightened my night. So I'm prepared to discuss the epic (and annual) second-half collapse/choke job/cough-up/charity give-a-way in Indy.
Actually, I'm not. I still don't know how that happened. A 13-point lead with four minutes to go ... great teams don't lose that.
I don't feel like going over every play call, the horrific clock management and the embarrassing defense. They'll be beaten to death this week and deservedly so. Something else is nagging at me.
The Patriots are now what the Colts used to be. They score tons of points but can't pull out the big games. Their defense blows leads and the offense, when it needs just a yard or two, has no idea what to do. This isn't just fresh anger (though that's a part). It's a pattern.
The 2007 AFC title game. Big lead in Indy blown in the second half due to a gassed, ineffective defense and an offense incapable of converting a key 3rd- or 4th-and-short play late that would have iced the game. The next season, the Pats take the lead late in the Super Bowl after scuffling all day. Their defense proceeds to allow another Manning to promptly march down the field. Epic loss results.
Last year, there was no Tom Brady. Still didn't stop the Pats from losing a winnable game in Indy. And now we have this year. Is this what the Pats are now? A high-flying offense unable to tough out key yards and a front-running defense unable to protect leads in big games? I used to have an unshakable faith that New England would always find a way to win. After the absolutely crushing losses listed above, that faith is pretty much gone. Sure, this team should beat the Jets or Bills. But can they beat the Steelers or Colts on the road? The Saints? We're more than halfway through the season and we're still waiting for an impressive road victory.
My faith is so shaken now that if the Pats are in the Super Bowl and they're up 21 points in the fourth, I'll still be a nervous wreck. Melodramatic? Nope. Just a function of what I've seen the past three-to-four years.
Fortunately, this loss does not end the season. They can recover. They're still a solid bet for the playoffs. And maybe they'll make this whole entry look stupid in February. But I've just seen this stuff too many times the past few seasons. Does this team have what it takes to go on the road in the playoffs (which they'll have to do most likely) and win? I hope so. Back in the glory days, I knew so.
The glory days are slipping away. It's been almost five years since they won it all. I'm starting to sound like a Yankee fan here, but so be it. I'm pissed. The Patriots choke. That's what they do now. Just like those old Colts teams I used to love watch New England defeat all the time.
And I hope they make me look like complete moron in a few weeks. I hope they make me curse myself for ever doubting them. I'll be watching, for sure, and biting my nails, even if they lead Indy 34-0 at halftime in the AFC championship game. And no, that's not a knee-jerk reaction. It's purely rational.
What's past is prologue.