What was supposed to be the culmination in one of the greatest single-season efforts in sports history ended in one of the great upsets Sunday night in Glendale as the Giants ended New England's perfect year with a 17-14 shocker in Super Bowl XLII at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Patriots' supposed high-powered offense never got much going on the evening as New York's defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage and beat up on Tom Brady to hold New England to its fewest points of the season.
Shock is the only way to describe the action in the Big Game. It will take some time for magnitude of the upset the Giants pulled off to sink in, but the bottom line is the Patriots finished the year 18-1 and the previous undefeated efforts went out the door with the devastating loss in the final game. Getting to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven seasons is an accomplishment, but that's certainly not how things will resonate in New England. Perfection was all the Patriots had worked for and the Giants took it away in a physical 60 minutes of somewhat ugly but effective action.
What Went Right:
Prior to Sunday night's upset loss to the Giants, just about everything had gone right for the Patriots in 2007. New England's re-tooled roster came together perfectly from almost day one to produce one of the most dominant teams the NFL has ever seen.
Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte' Stallworth and Adalius Thomas led the team's offseason shopping spree. Moss went on to break Jerry Rice's league record with 23 touchdown receptions. Welker tied for tops in the NFL with 112 receptions. Together they helped transform the Patriots' offense allowing Tom Brady to break Peyton Manning's record with 50 touchdown passes on the way to NFL MVP honors.
The Patriots blew opponents out early in the year with little compassion and then pulled out nail-bitter wins down the stretch in the tough cold and wind of the Northeast. After cruising to wins early on thanks to the dominant passing attack, red zone defense and a resurgent running game turned things on down the stretch and through most of the postseason.
Even if it ended in disappointment, coming together for the first 16-0 perfect regular season in NFL history, returning to the Super Bowl after two-year hiatus and getting there for the fourth time in seven years are all impressive accomplishments.
What Went Wrong:
Clearly at the top of the list of things that went wrong would be the lackluster effort and upset loss in Super Bowl XLII. After a perfect regular season, losing was not an option in the postseason if the Patriots were to avoid being labeled as one of the greatest upsets in playoff history. But that's exactly the territory the team finds itself in right now.
Before Sunday's devastating loss in the desert, the only thing that went wrong in 2007 for New England could be summed up in one media-created word -- "Spygate." The controversy rocked the team following the season opener in New York, costing Bill Belichick and the organization a combined $750,000 in fines and New England's first-round pick (which would now have been the 31st pick in the round) in April's draft.
The controversy shot back into the forefront on Super Bowl weekend. A New York Times story appearing in Friday morning's editions indicated that Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, a long-time Eagles fan, wishes to bring NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain why he had the tapes from the September Spygate scandal destroyed following the league's investigation.
While the issue of the government getting involved certainly could be considered curious, the Times report had a different twist that hasn't received much attention. Matt Walsh, a member of the organization from 1996-2003 and a member of the video crew in 2001, told the Times it's an issue he'd like to see resolved.
"If I ever got brought in for a deposition or something, then I would just face the whole gauntlet of questions," Walsh told the Times. "There would be things I'd be forced to answer that some people haven't taken responsibility for."
One day later the Boston Herald ran a report citing a single, unnamed source saying that a member of the Patriots video department taped the Rams final walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.
Spygate won't go away. It has been a black cloud hovering over New England's 2007 perfect season and still threatens to further tarnish the entire dynasty Belichick has built with the Patriots since 2001.
--DT Santonio Thomas was signed from the New England practice squad to the 53-man active roster for Super Bowl XLII. Thomas played in four games for the Patriots earlier this season, but has been on the team's practice squad since Oct. 29.
--LB Andre Tippett finally got the call for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Super Bowl weekend in Phoenix. After 10 years of eligibility Tippett, who played his entire career in New England and finished with exactly 100 sacks, will be inducted in Canton this summer.
Despite a roller coaster Super Bowl weekend, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was ecstatic for Tippett, who currently serves as the team's executive director of community affairs.
"I couldn't be happier for Andre and his family. He was a dominant defender who wreaked havoc on opposing offenses throughout his Patriots career. I was a huge fan of his during his playing career for his work on the field and have become an even bigger fan of his since his retirement for his work off of it," Kraft said. "I think all of New England was rooting for Andre when we left Boston earlier this week, knowing that it could be a very special week for a very special person. Today's selection for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame validates what New England Patriots fans have known for a long time -- that Andre Tippett was quite simply one of the greatest players in NFL history."
--WR Randy Moss was one of a number of Patriots playing in their first Super Bowl. Fellow first-year New England receivers Wes Welker, Donte' Stallworth and Kelley Washington were also making their Big Game debut as well as young Patriots playmakers like Laurence Maroney, Ellis Hobbs, Logan Mankins, Nick Kaczur and James Sanders.
--LB Junior Seau was among a group of Patriots who may have taken part in their final game in Glendale's University of Phoenix Stadium. That list includes other possible retirees such as Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown and maybe even Rodney Harrison.
--WR Troy Brown was the most notable name among New England's Super Bowl XLII game inactives. The rest of the list included emergency QB Matt Gutierrez, WR Chad Jackson, DB Antwain Spann, OL Billy Yates, OL Wesley Britt, TE Stephen Spach and newly-signed DL Santonio Thomas.
Official Game Thread: Patriots vs Giants (Pats site)