Coping with the death of the perfect season has led to all kinds of emotions for Patriots Nation, including to yours truly. There was the initial sadness. Not just any sadness. There had been some difficult and embarrassing losses in franchise history. For instance, the 46-10 mauling of the Patriots by the '85 Bears in Super Bowl XX and last year's AFC Championship game against the Colts, where the Patriots blew an 18 second half lead to lose 38-34.
The feeling of sadness following the loss in Super XLII and the perfect season was multiplied 100 times compared to all other franchise losses. This had to be the worst loss in the history of the franchise, if not the NFL. The sadness quickly turned to shock and led to my week long writer's block.
The thought of all the adversity the Patriots and their fans endured that led to this Super Bowl; tape-gate, the amazing come-from-behind victories against the Colts and the Ravens; the nationwide hatred from the media and the rest of the NFL; the obnoxious loudmouths of Mercury Morris and all the other has-been '72 Dolphins; and above all, the 18 straight victories. Everything they accomplished meant nothing and Patriots fans have a right to be shocked. It was a tough thing to swallow and it was a feeling the players and fans were unprepared for and it left Patriots Nation in a state of confusion.
"I probably need some time to reflect on the game and some time to reflect on the season," said a numb looking Tom Brady after the game. "It is extremely disappointing. This isn't something any of us prepare for but you go into a game and you know that some team is going to win and some team has to lose."
The confused feeling then quickly led to anger. The Patriots lack-luster performance cheated Patriots Nation out of history. These emotions led to a strong feeling of emptiness. It was a feeling never felt before following a football game. Even Patriots' coach Bill Belichick was hot tempered, which was reflected at the end of the game when he couldn't wait to the final gun to go off before he shook Giants' coach Tom Coughlin's hand and left the field.
"I mean look, they played well," said a short tempered Belichick after the game. "They made some plays. We made some plays. In the end, they made a couple more than we did," as he quickly left the post game press conference.
It's definitely a feeling of anger I've never experienced before following a Patriots loss. I found it difficult concentrating at work, I had trouble sleeping and eating just thinking about the several missed opportunities for the Patriots to intercept Eli Manning during the final drive, especially Asante Samuel, Brandon Meriweather, and Rodney Harrison all let Manning passed slip threw their fingers. There was also the near sack of Manning that led to the Hail Mary pass that Giants' receiver David Tyree caught on his helmet. I still haven't turned on ESPN or listened to sports radio, because the mere mention or site of the game retriggers the anger. Just writing this now is firing me up again with the feeling of what could have been.
The most poignant picture following the loss will always be a grief stricken Junior Seau lying face down flat on the field. This was supposed to be the crowning achievement of his Hall of Fame 18 year football career. This would have been the perfect way to head off into retirement with a Super Bowl ring and being part of a perfect season. Instead, he's got to live with what might have been.
With Belichick and Brady expected to be on the team for many years to come, the Patriots will be sure to challenge for more titles, but to expect another perfect season like the 2007 season is unrealistic. And that's what makes me so angry and disappointed.
It took me a while wrestling with what could have been and what might have been. The "ifs" only turned into the worse loss in Patriots history. I, much like Patriots Nation, just need to accept it.