A Patriotic Win in Patriots’ Country

I realize the majority of the football world hates the Patriots. And I’m still primarily an Eagles fan, but I’ve been willing to adopt the Patriots as a secondary team. (This isn’t the Cowboys, people.) For one thing, I’m already a Yankee fan in Red Sox nation. I’m not giving an inch on that ground, but this is an NFC/AFC split. I can afford to show some love for the home team. (Plus, I think Tomas will have an easier time loving the home team if his dad is pro-Patriot. I’m raising him as a Yankee fan in Red Sox nation. It’s good to make some concessions now and then so he doesn’t have an impossible time with his friends at school.)

(And yes, I find it amusing that the universe has contrived to make it possible for me to be a fan of both the Yankees and the Patriots. What can I say? Maybe I just tend to have a soft spot for the teams that are generally hated. But I’m not becoming a Lakers fan. Period.)

Anyway. So last night the fam and I went to a Superbowl party. These were serious Patriots fans. There were Patriots hats. Shirts. Pants. Socks. For all I know, Patriots underwear was in there somewhere. I didn’t check. But this was a 100%, unapologetic bastion of Patriots’ strength.

The feelings of my family kind of ranged the spectrum. I was looking forward to the game, as always. Denisa loves a few sports, but mainly just the Olympics. Tomas was excited for the game, the food, and the commercials. DC was . . . less than enthused, but looking forward to the food. MC was just happy to be going someplace new.

When I showed up, I asked everyone what they wanted out of the game. It was pretty much universal: a blowout. I said I wanted a close game where the Patriots won. “Ideally,” I said, “I’d like another game like the Seahawks/Patriots game a few years ago. Something we can remember for years to come.” They agreed that was a great game, but they said that game had shaved years off their lives. They’d rather be happy throughout the whole game.

I stuck to my guns. Close games are just so much more fun to win.

The game begins, and the food flows like queso. We consumed so many calories, I think I could have hooked the house generator up to my arteries and run the place for a few hours. (Seriously. I felt so sick when I went to bed. When you go from a pretty tight diet with little sugar and then ambush your body with muddy buddies, queso, chips, guacamole, root beer, pulled pork, coleslaw, baked beans, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter balls, ice cream, and chocolate sauce in mass quantities . . . you’re yearning for a burning. I skipped breakfast this morning. Just too stuffed. Gained 2.2 pounds yesterday.)

But those of you who watched the game can guess what the spirit in the party was like after that first half. Lady Gaga’s show had plenty of energy, but the mood in the room was broody. Worried. “Come on guys,” I said. “They just need a good stop. They’re only down by 3 scores. They have a whole half to come back.”

I have plenty of experience with these self pep talks. I’m a BYU fan, remember?

But then the third quarter happened, and things looked even worse. 28-3? 25 points down?!? The biggest Superbowl comeback ever was 10 points. Even when the Patriots managed to score a touchdown, they couldn’t make the extra point. It just seemed like One of Those Nights. They had been doomed from the beginning. Out played. Out coached. Out executed. They try for an onside kick. They fail. Ugh.

That fourth quarter is going to stay with me for a long time to come. Even as an adoptive fan, it was exciting. In a situation like that, you want to believe it’s possible, but you’re still in containment mode. You don’t want to let yourself get your hopes up. The Patriots score another field goal. Whoopity doo. They’re still down 16 points with 9:44 to go. Sure, they’re technically within 2 touchdowns, if they managed to get the 2 point conversion both times. The way they’ve been playing, that’s just not going to happen.

And then they stop the Falcons and manage to get a touchdown. Better yet, they get the 2 points. Down 8 points with 5:56 to go. And still you’re fighting to keep your head on your shoulders. A single field goal puts this game away. Matt Ryan makes a 39 yard pass on the first play of the Falcons’ drive. 2 plays later, it’s a 27 yard completion. They’re on the Patriot’s 22 yard line, for crying out loud! They could just kick a field goal right this second and end the game!

We interrupt this game recap for a quick life lesson. If you’re ever in a situation where you can win a game outright, do it. Don’t try to win style points. Get the W and move on. Yes I suppose they could have missed the field goal. It would have been a 39 yard attempt. Matt Bryant is their place kicker. He makes 85.6% of the field goals he attempts. At 30-39 yards, he makes 90.7% of them. Sure, I guess you could argue that if you go for it right that second, and he misses, then the world will think you were a bonehead, especially when you’d just had such success with long passes. But they didn’t go for it. Instead, Ryan got sacked for a 12 yard loss, followed the next play by a holding penalty on Atlanta. Suddenly they’re out of field goal range completely. Remember: minutes before, when they’d started the drive on their 10 yard line, they’d had one goal: get into field goal range and kick it through the uprights. They’d checked off the first item on that list. If it had been 4th and 3 on the Patriots’ 22 yard line, the game would have been over with a Falcons’ win. But it wasn’t. It was 1st and 10 on the Patriots’ 22 yard line, and that ended up making a huge difference. They went for a touchdown instead of simple victory.

Anyway. At that point, it felt like a totally different game. The Patriots were in it to win it. They were moving the ball at will. But they still needed the touchdown and the 2 point conversion, and you still couldn’t help but doubt. The whole room erupted when they got the touchdown, and we went crazy with that conversion.

You can only imagine what happened when the Patriots scored the winning touchdown in overtime. MC was running around the room yelling “Did we get a touch? Did we get a touch? We wonned! We wonned! Go BYU!” (I’ve trained her well.) There was a resounding roar from the entire room. High fives. Chest bumps. Tears. Tomas declaring himself to be a Patriots fan from now on. It was everything you’d want a victory to be. We even set off fireworks after it all.

And so I ask you. Which would you rather watch? A complete blow out where your team dominates from start to finish, or a game where your team makes the biggest comeback in Superbowl history, in the only Superbowl game to go to overtime?

I’ll take the nail biter, every time.

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