A Day unlike Any Other
The day has arrived. Today, the first part of the Patriots' quest will be decided, one way or the other. Today, they will determine on the field if they have what it takes to go undefeated through the regular season. Today, they will determine on the field if they have what it takes to pull down coveted personal records. The first season ends today, and these things get decided... one way or the other.
What's the Matter if it Matters?
Some folks are spending a lot of time talking about how it doesn't really matter, because the real goal is at the end of the second season. The real goal is victory in the post season. Maybe you are one of those folks. If you are, all you are really saying is that it doesn't matter to you. For the record (and for the records) it matters to a lot of us. Lots of us are hoping that the Patriots need to rent a moving van to haul all their new records home tonight. Lets face it... they are on the verge of eclipsing or extending a whole bunch of records. I would not go so far as to say these are a lock, but it certainly seems likely that they will. And many fans are pleased. This is part of the reward for a team that has done its very best to take care of business all through the long season, never giving up, never settling for defeat, never giving less than its best.
One Game at a Time
There is time enough tomorrow to worry about the postseason, and all the new challenges the Patriots will face with three potential bombshell games looming before them after the New Year. Tonight, the Patriots take care of business with the Giants... period. This one game at a time philosophy has been the cornerstone of the team's success all season long. It is the reason they have secured the top spot in the AFC playoffs. It is the very same reason that they are poised to set some new records tonight. For those who think that this game should matter less than any other game this season, think again. This is the way this team wins... one game at a time. To change that plan now would be to tell players that they have been lied to all season long... that it was just another motivational tool in the tinker box of the coach. This is a team that really believes that it needs to go out and take care of the business it has in the game it is in, each and every game. They don't glory in last week, they don't worry about next week; they simply square off against this opponent, right here, right now. And I don't expect them to do any less tonight.
What Will Be Different Tonight?
Tonight, they will be playing not only to win the game, but they will certainly be playing for individual records. There is no next week to fall back on for those. It's tonight, or not at all. I expect to see Tom Brady and Randy Moss trying to connect for a couple of touchdown passes. We saw a little of that last week, once they had the game in hand. And I am rather certain they will go after it again against the Giants. But the main thing they will be playing for tonight will be the win. They will be playing for the team records, and the offensive records. They will go after the undefeated regular season. They will go after the new consecutive regular season wins record. They will go after the total points scored record. They will try to extend the single season team TD record. All of these are aligned perfectly to each other, and are going to be the primary pursuit. But for Tom Brady and Randy Moss to both be poised to break individual records, you know that this will come into the game once the game is under control. It might happen in the course of the game if Moss gets open for a TD pass here or there. But sooner or later, it should be part of the game plan. To ignore that is to ignore the vast sea of Patriots fans who are each holding their breath waiting for this to happen. We are expecting success, and we will be disappointed if it doesn't happen. We will be upset if they never even try to reach for the records that are right in front of them like low hanging fruit after a season long march. Tonight is about tonight. Tonight is about victory and glory and records, and celebration. The postseason isn't here yet.
What about the Super Bowl?
That's where the second season comes in. If the Patriots win tonight, great! If they take home a boatload of records, great! Tomorrow, everyone who makes it into the postseason gets a fresh start. The Patriots are no exception. They have obtained some advantages going into the postseason, but no guarantees. Each team in the playoffs walks along the edge of a knife toward victory. A single misstep and their postseason is over. As it has been all season long, it will be one game at a time. And one game at a time suits these Patriots just fine.