By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots are pretty darn successful. Five Super Bowl victories in a span of 16 years, plus another three Super Bowl appearances to boot? That’s not bad. Not bad at all.

But even despite all of the success of the local football team, there remains a certain level of anger and unrest, a never-settled sense of rage and pain, and an unrelenting agony about one particular moment of Patriots history. That moment, of course, involves the events of Feb. 3, 2008, in Glendale, Arizona.

For many football fans in the region, it remains an unspeakable event. The mere mention of the words “Super Bowl” combined with the number “42” is often enough to immediately stifle any conversation. Referencing the words “helmet catch” may even get you kicked out of certain rooms.

Yes, even two Super Bowl victories later, the sting of losing out on the perfect season has not yet subsided. And it may never fully dissipate.

And now, according to a story from former Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo, we’ve learned that it all could have probably been avoided, and the Patriots could have rightfully claimed their title as being The Greatest Team Of All Time.

If only it weren’t for a crotch grab.

With Cordarrelle Patterson asking Henry Anderson “how’s your father?” during Sunday’s Patriots-Jets game being a big topic of discussion this week, Mayo shared a similar story with Tom E. Curran on “Quick Slants” on Tuesday night. This one, though, didn’t occur in a mostly forgettable Week 12 game in East Rutherford. This one took place in the Super Bowl, and it may have decided the game.

As Mayo told Curran:

“A funny thing about it — well, I guess it’s not that funny — I remember 2008, my rookie year, I was watching film of the 2007 Super Bowl. Pierre Woods had a fumble [recovery] at the bottom of the pile, and he lost it somehow. I don’t know, because back then, whoever came out with the ball, that’s who got possession.

“So I said, ‘Pierre, what happened on that play?’ And he said, ‘Man, somebody grabbed my [marbles]!’ I’m like, “Bro, you don’t need your [marbles]! You need a Super Bowl ring! That’s what you need.'”

For those who either don’t remember or who went full Eternal Sunshine and forcefully removed any and all memories about this game from their brains, the fumble in question came midway through the second quarter. Ahmad Bradshaw mishandled a handoff from Eli Manning, and the ball fell to the turf, directly at the feet of Woods. The linebacker fell on top of the football, and, already leading 7-3 in the game, the Patriots appeared to have possession at the Giants’ 30-yard line.

Alas, Woods lost the football. Mayo’s story now at least provides some explanation.

The Giants ended up punting. And the Patriots punted on their next possession. Then the Giants punted again. Then the Patriots turned it over on a strip sack. The Giants didn’t score before halftime. The 7-3 lead held for the remainder of the quarter, so the Patriots adding three or seven points off that potential turnover would have been massive. (The Giants went on to win 17-14, lest you forget. Plax was indeed playing defense that day.)

But does the story hold up? It’s hard to say. You can rewatch the entire game on YouTube (if you dare!) to catch a glimpse of the play in question. There wasn’t really much of a pile to speak of. Nobody was near him. The ball was in Woods’ bread basket. He was down on the ground, with nobody on top of him.

That’s when Bradshaw, fueled by immediate regret and guilt, hopped on top of Woods and very quickly got a hold of the football before rolling on top of the linebacker. And despite defensive end/massive human being Richard Seymour clawing and fighting at Bradshaw to get the ball for the Patriots, Bradshaw kept his grip on the pigskin.

If any Giant was guilty of such a maneuver, it would have had to have been Bradshaw. Alas, the running back was pretty focused on getting his hand on the football, that it seems unlikely for him to be able to also reach for … something else.

Nevertheless, a good story is a good story. And if you want to believe that a crotch grab cost the Patriots a shot for easy points in the most crushing loss in their history, then you now have reason to do so.

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