With surprising Patriots loss, the slot is open
Tom Brady on Sunday.(Elsa/Getty Images)
Tablet Magazine’s Washington Redskins washed out at 6-10 (although it should be noted they went 2-0 against the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, the two teams that will play Sunday in the NFC Championship Game). Tablet Magazine’s New York Giants, at 10-6, were the first team to miss the playoffs. And Tablet Magazine’s New England Patriots—the team with the best record (14-2), the best advanced stats, and (so everyone said) the best chance to win Super Bowl VL, is out, too, having, on Sunday, been upset at home, 28-21, by their division rival New York Jets.
I certainly don’t have an original take on all the off-field drama—which included obvious, gregarious sniping from the Jets and buttoned-up non-sniping (and occasional subtle sniping) from the Pats—except to comment that breaching unofficial rules of decorum is how underdogs succeed every day in pursuits far more consequential than sports. As for the game itself, much needed to go right for the Jets, and it basically all did: Solid, safe throws from quarterback Mark Sanchez; a couple big plays from their star wide receivers; exemplary special teams play that saw the Jets enjoy an outrageous field-position advantage; and, above all, a defense that forced Pats QB Tom Brady into only his fifth interception of the year, but, more importantly, was on the Pats’ normally elusive pass-catchers like yellow on yellow rice, frustrating New England’s vaunted aerial attack, leaving the relatively immobile Brady patting the ball in the pocket with nowhere to go with it. The Jets’ linemen accomplished five sacks, but these were uniformly coverage sacks, with credit going primarily to the Jets’ defensive backs, their cornerbacks and safetys, who comprised a truly stunning 11 of 45 active roster members Sunday. Which is to say, credit most of all Coach Rex Ryan, the normally blitz-happy big ball of personality who let the personality show (at one point costing his team 15 yards due to an excessive celebration penalty) but wisely kept the blitzes in check. The regular season was confirmation that Pats Coach Bill Belichick belongs in the pantheon with the greats. This playoff game was confirmation that, on any given Sunday, with the right tools, a great coach can be outcoached by a very good one. (more…)