The New England Patriots are cheaters. And I don’t care.
At some point I did, though not nearly as much as any of these people. For the most part, I tried to keep my distance from the “Deflategate” circus/scandal so as not to become more befouled by ignorance and stupidity than I already am simply by being me.
But I can tell you the precise moment when I ceased giving the slightest of shits about “Deflategate.” I’ve given said moment a name, too. I call it “BrainDeflategate.”
I refer, of course, to the single greatest play in NFL history:
That happened, and thank God it did.
The whole sandstorm that blew up after last season’s AFC Championship game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts finally has settled, or ought to have, anyway. For this is no vengeful rivalry anymore. Sure, the Colts hate Tom Brady and the Pats for letting air out of footballs as only truly monstrous human beings would do, and the Pats hate the Colts for being yentas about it even after getting destroyed 45-7 in that game. Those sores festered despite the utterly boring one-sidedness of this series: Andrew Luck’s Colts were 0-4 against New England entering Sunday night’s meeting in Indianapolis, with the Pats having won by a combined score of 189-73.
What is this, Baylor-Kansas?
But now? Now, the whole matter looks incredibly silly. And that’s thanks to the Colts, who this time lost to the unbeaten Pats only 34-27 – not bad – but did so with spectacular doofishness.
You can hate Brady, coach Bill Belichick, owner Robert Kraft and all they stand for. But you can’t beat them by lining up a center (OK, a wide receiver, Griff Whalen,) and a quarterback (well, a safety, Colt Anderson) for a fake punt – with the rest of the punt team jumbled roughly a million miles away toward one sideline – and snapping the ball despite the presence of a multitude of defenders standing right there, watching and, presumably, laughing their asses off.
If that was too X’s-and-O’s for you, I’m sorry.
Suffice it to say, the play resembled pro football about as much as a couple of nerds swinging light sabers at a Star Wars convention resembles MMA. And I thank the Colts for it, I really do.
We can move on to what really matters, which is good teams – not clown acts – trying to unseat the Patriots as Super Bowl champions.
On its opening possession, Indianapolis looked like it might be such a team. The Colts, who had won three straight following an 0-2 start, moved 89 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown, consuming 7:44 of the first quarter. Luck bordered on brilliant, completing all but one of his nine passes for 62 yards, capped by a fourth-down touchdown to Donte Moncrief.
Going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 5-yard line was a ballsy call by coach Chuck Pagano, but that would be the order of the evening. When New England receiver Julian Edelman bobbled a Brady pass in the second quarter and Mike Adams intercepted it and sashayed 14 yards to the end zone to put the Colts ahead 14-10, things looked pretty promising for the home team. Then the Colts onside-kicked, which was super cool even though it didn’t work. The message was sent: It was a kitchen-sink kind of night for a team that couldn’t bear the thought of losing to the Pats yet again.
Understandably, not everyone bought the possibility that it would work out for Indy.
But let’s go back to the first quarter. With the crowd lustily booing Brady, the most driven quarterback in the game’s history took his team right down the field for a touchdown, completing seven of nine passes for 69 yards and pin-pointing a throw to Edelman in double coverage for a 12-yard score. Message sent from the Pats: Go to hell, people.
A riveting first half ended with the Colts ahead 21-20, and it all led up to the play – what did I call it again? – oh, yes, BrainDeflategate. That’s where any notion of suspense ended. That’s where the kitchen sink broke and Pagano and his plumber’s ass-crack were bared to the world. By then, the fans had stopped booing Brady and begun to boo their own team. Thus endeth the controversy, really. The Colts are championship pretenders. The Pats, cheaters or not, aren’t going anywhere.
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After the game ended, the Patriots were careful not to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Their comments – which included none from Brady on the field for NBC, continuing his ongoing screw-you to the league and commissioner Roger Goodell – were as measured as one would expect. These are the Fighting Belichicks, after all. They’ll give you nothing, and you’ll like it.
“It’s just like any other win, you know?” running back LeGarrette Blount told NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya. “I feel like as long as you win the game, no matter who you’re playing, we’re on the right track.”
But aren’t they always? It drives people crazy – me, too, if I’m being honest – yet it never changes.