After another Super Bowl loss to the Giants, the natives in Boston are getting restless.
Everywhere you look, there are people in New England expressing their disgust at the Patriots and, in particular, Tom Brady. The quarterback who could do no wrong for so long is now getting a reaction usually reserved for the Bill Buckners and Grady Littles of the world, a turn of events that, isn't surprising in the kneejerk world of sports.
Being predictable doesn't make it any less wrongheaded, though.
U.S. & World
The day's top national and international news.
That's not to say that Brady was perfect on Sunday night. The intentional grounding for a safety on the first offensive play was a tremendous blunder, albeit one Brady probably thought he could get away with given the inconsistent application of that rule, and he wasn't as accurate as usual over the course of the night. You could add his interception if you like, although the potential rewards of that play (long gain, pass interference, touchdown) outweighed the risk of giving up the ball deep in Giants territory.
While we're mostly sticking to actual football here, we will concede that the reaction to Brady's night is not helped in the least by the fact that his wife's comments have been interjected into the discussion. The Gisele issue is tied into the reaction, but her lack of tact has nothing to do with what actually happened on the field.
Above all else, Brady is catching hell because he missed on his biggest pass of the night. That would be the one that Wes Welker couldn't reel in while wide open on second down with under five minutes to play. Welker still should have made the catch, he said as much himself, but Brady didn't nail a pass that he has nailed hundreds of times in his career.
Eli Manning did nail his pass to Mario Manningham on the next drive and the rest is history. And, apparently, that is enough to convince some people that Brady is ready for the glue factory.
Believing that takes an incredibly short memory and narrow viewpoint of the game.
The Giants didn't just win because of that pass to Manningham. They won because the Patriots defense couldn't make a play after that catch. They won because two fumbles bounced back into their possession. They won because a Patriots recovery of a third fumble was wiped out because the defense couldn't see their way clear to playing with less than 12 players. They won because Deion Branch dropped a pass on the first play of the final drive with room to run and because Aaron Hernandez dropped a pass on the next play.
In short, it was a slim margin of defeat and any number of players could have turned things in the Patriots' favor. Brady was one of them and he could have played better, but he wasn't the only one guilty of coming up short. The same is true of 2008, a game that's now being tied to this one to diminish Brady's accomplishments. In that game, Asante Samuel's dropped interception and more good luck on fumbles helped the Giants block the Patriots' undefeated season.
The Patriots fell agonizingly short, but it shouldn't be forgotten that they wouldn't have been that close if not for Brady hitting 16 straight passes, a Super Bowl record, on two sizzling touchdown drives. And they wouldn't have sniffed the Super Bowl without Brady having one of his finest seasons and leading them to Indianapolis despite playing without a sturdy defense, a capable deep threat or much of a running game.
Yet the Patriots not only made it to the Super Bowl, they made it far enough to lose the Super Bowl in the final minute. That's two Super Bowl losses in the final minute in a sport where the line between winning and losing is often thinner than one of Mrs. Brady's modeling pals. Measure that against a decade of dizzying success, including three Super Bowl rings, and it is hard to understand the overwhelming negativity coming from Boston.
No one should weep too much for Brady. He almost certainly got too much credit for the Super Bowl wins so it is natural that he is going to get too much blame when the team loses. Such is life for quarterbacks in the NFL, and nothing will counteract that.
Results of games are black and white. The reasons for those results are usually gray. Super Bowl XLVI was full of gray, and that perspective shouldn't be lost in the rush to assign blame.