BOSTON (CBS) – As a proud Syracuse alum, I’m a David Tyree fan. I had the pleasure of watching him regularly for his last two seasons calling the Carrier Dome home, before he departed after his junior year to turn pro with the New York Giants. His career was good, not exceptional. Tyree was a Pro Bowler in 2005, one of his six seasons in an NFL tenure ultimately shortened by injuries.
I’m also a native New Englander, and a life-long Patriots fan. I never cared much for the Giants entering the 2007 season, nor did I have any real issue with them. As a Pats fan, it’s in your blood to hate the Jets, not Big Blue.
Then February 3, 2008 happened. Super Bowl XLII in Arizona, and the scene of The Helmet Catch, as Bill Simmons so aptly dubbed it.
Suddenly, any fond collegiate memories I had of Tyree were gone, erased in one fell swoop just like the Pats’ would-be 19-0 season. I wasn’t bitter with the receiver, but I was loyal…and loyalty goes to the uniform more often than not. Since then, not unlike Tom Brady, probably several team personnel and certainly a disgruntled section of fans, I still can’t watch that play without cringing, and that’s if I can watch it at all.
On a side note, I regularly do TV down in New York these days and whenever I discuss that game – quite a lot lately – I beg my editors to cut those highlights for me. I’m not lazy or a bad guy, just still a little sour.
I can’t speak for the Pats – I’m not on that beat or a regular in that locker room – but I think I know enough fans of the team to know there was a certain cockiness and arrogance going into that game, at least from us supporters. Why wouldn’t there be? New England was 18-0 and had not only beaten everyone that year, it steamrolled most. After three championships in four years and a shot at the unthinkable, the never-been-done (over 19 games, anyhow), it was the Pats’ title to lose.
And they did.
In 2007, the Giants were average throughout the regular season. They lost to the Patriots 38-35 in Week 17 to cap New England’s pre-postseason perfection, then the G-Men simply got hot. They beat an inferior Tampa Bay club, rallied to upset Dallas and out-lasted Green Bay in overtime.
Does any of this sound familiar this year?
Then, thanks to 14 fourth-quarter points and a guy from New Jersey I used to scream at the top of my lungs for – oh, and a Manning we only referred to as Peyton’s brother at that point – there was 18-and-1. Pats lose, 17-14. In case you don’t remember, New England hadn’t scored fewer than 20 points that whole season, and finished with less than 30 points only five times. How ya feeling? Yup, still stings.
Read: More From Adam Kaufman
Fast-forward four years and, speaking for the fans, I think this is the match-up we were all rooting for when the postseason began. In fact, this is the road we wanted to see the Patriots travel – A) Shut up the Tebow lovers, B) Avenge a playoff loss to the Ravens and, C) Beat Eli in Peyton’s house after the 2008 heartbreak. To lose now isn’t even an option – but it’s also not merely some remote possibility.
The Pats are barely favorites for the February 5 game in Indy. More than a field goal, less than a touchdown. Would you bet your salary?
Midway through the season, if anyone told you the Pats would be in the big game, you wouldn’t know what to say, what to do, who to thank or how to act. It was beyond comprehension. They’ve got one of the worse defenses the NFL’s ever seen. During the season – and parts of the postseason – it was laughably bad…that awkward laughter some people display at funerals. But they’ve kept winning, even in spite of their offense against Baltimore. Yeah, their offense.
As I said, that game in 2008 was New England’s to lose, maybe from training camp. This year, it’s the Pats’ to win.
Favorites or not, the Giants may be the better team. They beat the Pats during the regular season to hand our lovable football-spiking bunch their last loss 11 games ago. They weren’t remarkable during the year, but Tom Coughlin’s fought his way off the hot seat again, they’ve won five of six and they’ve absolutely man-handled teams they weren’t supposed to beat in the playoffs.
So, here we are. Time for the sequel.
Rarely in the movies are sequels as good as the original but, like in cinema, you need many of the main characters to return, a few new engaging faces and a killer script. Looking back at 2007, the Pats return seven players while the Giants bring back 15…15 confident minds that have been there and completed the upset before.
Yet, more important than any in the group are a special four…each team’s coach and quarterback, with two primed for revenge and two for immortality. Ironically, if the revenge-seekers are successful, they’re immortal as well.
Listen: Gronkowski ‘Yo Soy Fiesta!’
I don’t know if this game will be The Godfather Part II or Basic Instinct 2, but my instinct is it will be pretty good, and it will come right down to the wire once again.
I’ll end things with a proclamation: If the Patriots win their fourth championship this year, a season when hoisting such a trophy took place mainly in our fan-loving dreams, I say all is forgiven from 2008. No, the team will never have that season back, but it’s time to get over that…and what better way to do so than with an upset? It may not really be an upset of New York with New England sitting as favorites, but it’s certainly an upset of our imaginations.
Plus, then I can like David Tyree again.
Adam Kaufman, a native of Massachusetts, joined the Sports Hub as an on-air personality in June 2011. He has worked as a television and radio anchor and broadcaster for various outlets since 2004, and his written views on sports and entertainment have appeared on NESN.com and in the New England Hockey Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamMKaufman.