Wednesday, July 30, 2008

At the sports desk: whither the Patriots in 2008?

How do the New England Patriots get over their crushing, last-second Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants? Tom Curran of NBC Sports thinks they'll be just fine:

"The Patriots haven't gotten appreciably worse in this offseason. And none of the league's other 31 teams has gotten appreciably better. The edge the Patriots had over the rest of the league for 18 games, 58 minutes and 25 seconds hasn't been sufficiently diminished. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the perceived vulnerability of the Patriots will inevitably turn up as a kind of motivation for the always-looking-for-disrespect Pats. If he hasn't already, Belichick will eventually seize on the notion that people don't think his team is mentally tough enough to recover from one loss. This he will pass onto his team, a team led by players like Bruschi, Brady, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison who know how to turn small slights in blunt-force attacks. The resolve to shut people up will build."

Hmmm. Well, granted, Belichick is a good motivator, and so the Patriots should have ample desire. But still, one wonders. New England had injuries in 2007, like any NFL team. But not a huge number of them, and none that put much of a crimp on the offensive side of the ball. The Patriots had so many things going right for them in 2007, too--during the regular season, so many close games wound up going their way, officials' calls broke in their favor (remember the close Sunday night game vs the Eagles [only a .500 team, playing their backup quarterback]? the Monday nighter against the Ravens, a game almost everyone agreed they should have lost?), they were healthy for the playoffs, they had home field throughout, in the Super Bowl they played the Giants, a wild-card playoff entrant and a team they'd already beaten in the regular season...

And yet the Pats still didn't win it all.
The ball might just be bouncing a different way this year. Oh, New England will win far more games than they lose and be in the playoffs. But can they be the machine they were last year, and be in the position they were as they entered last season's playoffs? I doubt it. We'll see.