There was an article on NBC Sports today that said you need to play a damn near perfect game to beat the Patriots. Check it out here.
It's the worth the read, and there are a lot of interesting quotes in there. Here's a sample that stood out to me.
"You've got to play a damn near perfect game against them." - Jaguars safety Jarrod Wilson
"You can never have a safe lead with (No.) 12 at the helm. That's Tom Brady, the greatest to ever lace up the cleats at the quarterback position." - Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson
"I think why the Patriots are so good is because they capitalize off people making those mistakes. They don't make mistakes, hardly. They're well-coached. You don't necessarily have to be the most talented team. You saw last year they weren't the most talented team. Yet, they're the best team because they function together well and they're coached well." - Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson
This isn't a new take. I feel like it comes up after every big game we play in. Other teams choke against the big, bad Patriots. And while I see their point, I'm not sure it's totally fair to the Pats.
It is undeniable that teams are terrified of us. I wouldn't have it any other way. When the Steelers come in to Gillette pmore worried about which Taylor Swift song is going to be coming through their headsets on the radio instead of what plays to call we've already won.
John Harbaugh literally goes to sleep at night thinking that Billy Cundiff only missed a 32 yard chip shot to tie the AFCCG because we lied about what down it was on the jumbotron. An NFL head coach, in the most important game of his season, with seconds left, is saying he wasn't sure what down it was. True story.
So I concede that teams play us in a weakened mental state. You could fill a bathtub with the amount of urine the Colts have peed down their legs when they look across the field against us. But if anything I think it affects teams more in the early stages of the game. If you get way behind against the Pats its pretty easy to give up. The Pats are unbeatable and you're down two scores. What's the point in even trying? But if you get up it's exciting. The luster wears off the Flying Elvis when your game plan is working and you're kicking our butts on the field. I didn't hear Sanu sound very scared when the Falcons were rolling early in Super Bowl LI.
The above article argues that teams get in trouble because they know you have to be perfect to beat us. We don't make mistakes, so if you're going to win you better not make any either. And trying to play a perfect game is the number one way to not play one. The pressure of being perfect causes teams to freak out and make mistakes they wouldn't normally make. It's how, according to Lane Johnson, we always win even when we aren't the most talented team. (By the way, I wanted to be insulted by that Lane comment, but I think it's a compliment, so thank you? All I know is Tom has more talent in his little finger than the rest of the league does combined, so it's hard for me to process how we wouldn't be the most talented team, but I digress.)
With all that being said, I want to explain what grinds my gears about this opinion that other teams simply outthink themselves against us. To win in the NFL is incredibly difficult. Winning consistently is almost impossible. The league is built to prevent exactly what the Pats have done for the last 17 years. I mean that would be like if I went through the school system in this country for 17 years and learned literally nothing. (Ok so that did happen but you see my point) To win, one has to do something special. Something above and beyond what they normally do, and they need to do it in an insanely high pressure situation. All good teams know this. All teams that win do this. In these big games, we are trying to do something special and so is our opponent. We pull it off because we have Tom Brady. They don't pull it off because they don't. We've lost two super bowls. In both games the Giants did something very special to win. If Eli doesn't complete that pass down the sideline to Manningham we win the bowl and people go "why the hell is he throwing to THAT guy on the biggest down of the game??? Classic Giants outthinking themselves trying to beat the Patriots!" WRONG. He was trying to make a special play because that's what it takes to win the bowl, and he pulled it off.
The Falcons get murdered for not burning more clock with the ground game last year. And their lead was soooo big that maybe that would have done it, maybe. But if the Falcons handed it off all second half, continued to go 3 and out, and we came back to win everyone goes "You have to step on the Patriots throat when you have them down! You let them hang around and you always lose! Classic Falcons outthinking themselves!" Instead people are saying "The Falcons tried to keep throwing when they should have run the clock. Classic Falcons outthinking themselves!"
It's revisionist history at it's finest. Whatever mistakes the opponent makes is them trying to be too clever for own good to beat the Pats. This is not correct. Teams are trying to make special plays to win the bowl. The Hawks game comes up a ton on this front too. "Hand the ball to beast mode! Classic Hawks outthinking themselves." Here's the thing. The Hawks already did something special. They made a circus catch down the sideline and were primed to win the game. The ran it on first down and had one timeout left. The clock was ticking down faster than Pete Carroll wanted. Logic says he should throw on second down. You either score or stop the clock on an incomplete. This leaves a run or pass open for third down. If you run and don't get in you stop the clock with your final timeout. Fourth down you can do anything. If you run and don't get in on second down and you call timeout you basically MUST throw on third down, tipping your hand presnap, which the Hawks didn't want. The throw wasn't a "bad" call. Now, I might have rolled out with Russ and thrown one toward the sideline to be safe, but that's another discussion for another day. The Hawks made a very reasonable call, trying to be smart and make a play. Malcolm made a MORE special play and won the game. That's what it takes.
Another quote in that article is how prepared and disciplined we are. That's part of it for sure. We don't make a lot of mental mistakes because Bill gets the team ready for every situation. That's because he is a special coach. Other teams make mistakes because they don't have Bill and they aren't thinking ahead like he is. This isn't a product of other teams trying too hard to be perfect. It's just a case of them being less prepared. You want to argue Bill puts us in the position to make more special plays that's fine, but we still have to make them. Luckily, we have Tom, and Malcolm, and Jules, and Ty Law, and Deion Branch, and Vrabel, and on and on it goes. Special plays have won bowls for us and special plays have lost bowls for us. Whoever wins on Sunday is definitely going to make a special play to get it done. The point is, stop telling me that Tom has a handful of rings because other teams screw up. It's insulting. Seven times he has walked onto that field on Super Bowl Sunday knowing that immortality was there waiting for him if he could take our team to another level. Five times he did it. And counting. That's special.