Note: I got confused while writing the original column and used italics for no reason whatsoever. I have de-italicized all erroneously italicized paragraphs from Monday’s column. I will keep italics correctly used in context to add emphasis to a word or phrase, and, in parentheses, I will add (Italics Mine from the past). Got it?
NEW YORK — So many thoughts after the Patriots beat the Eagles 31-28. It’s good for the NFL, first of all. A week ago, after a 46-point win on the road against a team with a winning record, all hope for a suspenseful January was lost. The Patriots were untouchable. Now they’re not.
Remember last week when I surmised that maybe the ’27 Yankees could give the Patriots a game? Well, you can add the 2007 Eagles to that list. Current list of the five greatest teams of all-time: 2007 Patriots, 1927 Yankees, 2007 Eagles, 1967-73 UCLA Men’s Basketball, Lance Armstrong.
And it was one heck of a football game, a terrific example of what sports is capable of when it’s done right. Bill Belichick couldn’t have read his team the riot act after the game — at least I hope he didn’t. The Patriots did not play poorly. The Eagles played a tremendous football game, with a bad decision at the end leading to their demise. New England didn’t turn the ball over once, gained 410 total yards, and turned the tide of the game with three interceptions by a beat-up secondary.
Pretty much what I’m saying is, the entire game was won or lost by the following decision, which lead to their demise! I love using the word demise when talking about football. Makes me feel like Sue Grafton.
Re: the bad decision: You can’t kill A.J. Feeley for one terrible throw, because in the midst of a 60-minute ball game against the Team of the Decade, on the road and in your first start in 35 months, bad things will happen. They’re bound to. But there were still so many things wrong with the interception that sealed the deal for New England with four minutes left. The Eagles, trailing 31-28, moved 63 yards in seven plays to the New England 29, where Philadelphia had a second-and-4 and one timeout left. The Patriots had three timeouts left. The goal for Philly here should have been to milk as much of the clock as possible, because if the Eagles scored either a field goal or touchdown quickly, New England would have four stoppages of the clock and three-plus minutes to tie or win the game. Tom Brady could bake four loaves of bread in that time.
I watched these tense last few minutes in the green room outside the Football Night in America studios at NBC. Cris Collinsworth sat to my right. As the time ticked down, Collinsworth, maybe 15 seconds before the ball was snapped, said, “I don’t know why, but I just have a Jason Campbell feeling about this one.” Campbell, the Washington quarterback, threw three bad interceptions in the previous two fourth quarters, at Dallas and Tampa Bay. Now Feeley faded back, felt some pressure, and threw down the right side, deep into the end zone for Kevin Curtis — and the ball was picked off by Asante Samuel, his second interception of the day. True story about Collinsworth, and he didn’t even gloat. The Eagles could probably have run the next three plays (assuming one of the first two resulted in a first down) and gotten the clock down close to the two-minute warning.
Man. How cool is it that I get to hang out with Cris Collinsworth every day? Scale of 1-10, its a 9. Seriously. Hanging out with Tiki is like a 4. Costas, who I have the utmost respect for, is like a 5. Hanging out with Jerome has gotta be a 7. You can;t tell me its not a 7. Olbermann is a 1. That’s not a knock on Keith, though. It’s a strong crew we have at Football Night in America.
Impatience was mistake number one. Two: Why on God’s green earth was Feeley throwing at Samuel, who got ahead of Curtis and outran him to the end-zone pick? In the game, at the time, because of injuries to other Pats’ defensive backs was Eddie Jackson, a special-teams maven. Why not go after Jackson if you’re determined to throw the ball? Two very big mistakes.
I know, I know. It’s far easier to dissect a play with 20/20 hindsight. And I know, Feeley, who the smart money had selling Title Insurance by now, played the game of his life. Heck, he probably even did more good than bad this game. But, I gotta call it like I see it, and AJ Feeley blew this game for the Eagles that they wouldn’t have been in had it not been for AJ Feeley. Shame on you, AJ.
That’s football. In my view, New England survived because of Wes Welker. When the Patriots traded second- and seventh-round picks (60th and 238th overall) in the draft last April for Welker, it was clear they were buying Tom Brady a security blanket for five years. A quick receiver who runs route precisely and gets open in space near the middle of the field consistently is what Brady needed at the end of last year.
The fact Brady also got Randy Moss was an unexpected bonus when the Raiders and Green Bay Packers couldn’t reach agreement on a deal on the first day of the draft, and Al Davis was forced to send Moss to New England. Moss has been spectacular. Welker has been steady and hugely valuable, often times acting as a kind of extended handoff for Brady, increasing Brady’s completion percentage with the running game stopping and starting as it has all season.
I’ve given a lot of consideration to voting for Welker for MVP. Can’t do it…yet.
In the fourth quarter Sunday, with the Patriots’ unbeaten season on the line, Brady threw 16 passes. The breakdown of where they went and how successful each was:
• Welker was thrown seven balls and caught five, for 54 yards.
• Tight end Ben Watson caught two of the three balls thrown his way, for 12 yards.
• Donte’ Stallworth caught both balls thrown to him, for 15 yards.
• Randy Moss caught neither of the two passes thrown his way.
• Kevin Faulk and Jabar Gaffney each caught the only pass thrown to him — Faulk for 12 yards, Gaffney for 16.
I just reread what I wrote about where these passes went, with the Patriots’ unbeaten season on the line. Forget league MVP for a sec, guys. I have to seriously rethink who the most valuable Patriot receiver is. My internal monologue: “Moss caught NEITHER of the two passes thrown his way? How can he seriously be considered the MVPR over Welker??” I’m not saying that Welker is the MVPR. I’m also not saying he’s not.