In full disclosure, I am writing this post a solid 15 hours after CJ Anderson’s overtime touchdown gave the Patriots their first loss of the season, so I have cooled off quite a bit and taken a decently objective look at the game. Also, the results from tests on Rob Gronkowski’s knee have been revealed and that makes me, and the rest of Patriots Nation, breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The Gronkowski Injury
The Gronkowski injury is where I want to begin. Clearly, at the end of the game this was the big story and, aside from the shady officiating, the Gronkowski injury remains the big story. Thankfully, the news is good for Gronkowski and the Patriots, but it was one of those moments where you checked your Twitter feed over and over and over and over and over again.
I was sitting in a dining room chair with a plate of pizza rolls as I watched the play unfold. After seeing Gronkowski react like that on the snow-covered turf at Sports Authority Field I immediately fell out of my chair and onto the floor of my apartment. This was it. We’d talked about it for weeks, months, years. The Patriots Super Bowl ship sinks if number 87 goes down with a season-endng injury and this, right here in front of our eyes, was that injury.
I forgot about the rest of the game for awhile and was 100% focused on my Twitter feed hoping for good news. Thankyfully, piece-by-piece the good news was delivered and ultimately reported he shouldn’t miss significant time.
Last point on the injury. I can’t keep doing this. Now, for five more games in the regular season plus the playoffs I need to hold my breath every time defensive backs go to tackle Gronkowski by the knees. It’ll all be worth it if he’s raising that Lombardi Trophy in a couple months, but this is going to be long and stressful journey.
Now for the officiating. Something needs to change. Roger Goodell needs to reassess each and every referee he has approved to officiate these games. We have retired school teachers and lawyers officiating games that are the backbone of a multi-billion dollar corporation. I have never studied business ethics, but that just seems like an unprecedented level of negligence. The NFL needs to increase the average salary of referees and make sure they are just as talented as the players the league is looking to file lawsuits against.
The holding call on Tre Jackson was suspect, the offensive pass interference on Gronkowski was non existent, and the holding call on Patrick Chung was straight up fabricated. Three phantom calls on the Patriots plus an interesting “you lose a timeout, but you don’t have a timeout” call on the Broncos makes you wonder how effective these officials really are. My take? They had the same state of mind I used to have gathering empty shopping carts outside the Market Basket in Salem, MA in the dead of winter. Just keep checking your watch, hoping time goes by faster, and fighting through the elements until you can be sitting in your warm living room with a hot snack. The game wasn’t rigged. The officials just had no interest in doing their job as the right went on.
The Rest of The Game
To use a corporate work place term, this loss was a great team-building exercise. In a hostile environment with arctic conditions, Tom Brady and his bottom of the barrel offensive weapons in Brandon Bolden, Brandon LaFell, and Scott Chandler were able to set up Stephen Gostkowski for a game tying 47-yard field goal to end regulation. That’s truly amazing.
Brady ended the game 280 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. It is borderline miraculous that the Patriots could procure a passing game with the reserves they had out there and with their leading rusher, LeGarrette Blount, literally walking the ball up to the line on every handoff. Find me another team in the NFL that can do that.
If we didn’t already know before, we really found out just how good Brady and Bill Belichick can be last night in Denver. I compare this game to the Green Bay game last year. A hard fought match that all players and coaches can learn from and point to for motivation.
The pressure of an undefeated season has been lifted. Look like its time to go win a Super Bowl.