Sunday night was a long one at the Pomeroy house.
There we were – myself, my three brothers, my parents, a hoard of my friends, and most of us couldn’t even bring ourselves to make eye contact with each other.
How did this happen . . . again?
That was the biggest question we all had to face in the immediate aftermath of the Patriots’ 21-17 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, the second loss in four years that the G-Men had handed the Patriots on the sport’s biggest stage.
The most shocking part was just how similar this year’s game – especially toward the end – was to the first time the two teams met in the Super Bowl, in Feb. 2008.
In that game, as we all know, the Giants snapped the Patriots’ undefeated season with a 17-14 win. The Patriots couldn’t hold on to a late, fourth-quarter lead and the Giants made one improbable play that swung the momentum and the game, the David Tyree helmet catch that we’ve all seen replayed ad nauseum.
Well on Sunday, it unfolded the very same way.
The Patriots held a 17-15 lead before giving the ball back to the Giants and seeing it slip away.
Eli Manning found Mario Manningham for an improbable 38-yard throw and catch along the left sideline, and then the Giants finished the drive with a go-ahead, game-winning touchdown.
As soon as the game ended, the same sinking feeling that I felt in 2008 started to set in again. It was all too familiar. I even watched this year’s game with the same exact people that I watched with in 2008. We ate the same food – my brother’s chili – before kickoff. It felt like a bad dream.
Well four days have now gone by, and I still haven’t woken up.
I just can’t shake the fact that, once again, the game was there for the taking. And, once again, the Patriots let a team that I have grown to dislike more than Bill Belichick dislikes smiling, take it away.
What it really comes down to is the legacy that the Patriots, with Belichick and Tom Brady at the helm, will leave behind. Patriots’ fans, including myself, want them to be untouchable.
We want fans of other teams to have no choice but to concede that they are the greatest coach and the greatest quarterback of all-time, and that the Patriots’ run over the last 11 years is second-to-none.
Instead, people are using the words “dynasty” and “New York Giants,” or “Tom Coughlin” and “Hall of Fame” in the same sentences, and they’re not joking.
When we could be celebrating a fourth – or even a fifth – Super Bowl title, instead the Giants are celebrating a second.
The pecking order doesn’t simply go Patriots first, everybody else second, anymore.
But at the end of the day, it hurts in the same way that it probably hurts when someone is named No. 2 on People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People List, or when somebody gets five numbers right on their Powerball ticket and not the sixth, so instead of winning millions they only win $200,000.
It hurts not because the Patriots did badly, but because there is another level out there that the Patriots fell short of this time – and in 2008.
Over the years, the goals of the team – and the fans – have evolved into, basically, Super Bowl title, or bust, due to the success of the last 11 seasons.
For instance, if the Patriots had lost to the Rams in the Super Bowl in 2002, the year the Pats ended up winning their first title, people would have been disappointed, but they would have talked about the ride. They would have been happy with the season as a whole.
They would have talked about the accomplishment of reaching the Big Game.
Now? With three Super Bowl wins under their belt, nothing else feels right. Every time the Patriots come up short from here on out, they’re denied their chance at a franchise-separating fourth ring.
They didn’t have a chance at that the first time they played in the Super Bowl. Now they do.
That, in a nutshell, is what hurts the most – not that they lost, but what it would have meant if they had won.
Twice, the Patriots have had a chance to distance themselves from every other great team in history, and separate their coach and quarterback from every other coach and quarterback in history.
And twice, the Patriots have come up a handful of plays short.
Realistically, I know the Giants were the better team, and I know they deserved to win. I know much of the Patriots’ success this season was nothing but smoke and mirrors.
But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a chance, again, to get a fourth Super Bowl win under the same regime.
They had a chance to restore the pecking order.
And once again, they let it slip away.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.