Sunday, September 7, 2008

Is the Patriots dynasty over?

Nothing has been confirmed yet, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday to determine the severity of the left knee injury he suffered during New England's season opener against the Chiefs in Foxborough on Sunday, but there is a rumor going around that the Golden Boy has a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.

Brady was hit in the left knee by Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard on a pass to Randy Moss in the first quarter, and it appears that New England's dreams of another shot at the Super Bowl have been shredded along with the ligament in their quarterback's knee.

Brady's injury is devastating to the Patriots; he is one of the best signal-callers to ever play the game, and along with Peyton Manning, the most indispensable player to his team in the NFL today.

He is the Patriots, basically.

But more than just dealing with what this particular injury means to this year's Patriots, I'm starting to seriously wonder what a defeat that happened two years meant (emblematically) to the New England dynasty as a whole.

The Patriots lost the 2006 AFC Championship game to the Colts, but it's starting to look like more than just a loss that happened in a big game.

Two weeks ago I wrote an article about the Pats. While the piece was positive ("Pats will be back in '08"), the whole time I had a much more negative thought in my head. I just needed more evidence before I would write about it.

Remember Buster Olney's book, "The Last Night of the Yankees Dynasty"? In it, Olney chronicles Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, or, as he calls it, the last night of the Yankees dynasty. I've always agreed with Olney's sentiment, albeit for totally different reasons (this isn't a book review, so if you want to know Olney's reasons, you need to go buy the book - or read a book review).

The D'backs got to Mariano Rivera that night, at a time when Rivera would be, at least theoretically, his most frightening; to face Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning, in the seventh game of the World Series, is like going to a hypnotist appointment and seeing Freddy Kruger sitting there waiting for you.

Well, they beat him, anyway, and while it wasn't the first time Rivera had blown a save in the postseason, it was the first time since 1997, when the Joe Torre Yanks had won only one World Series title and before Rivera had become "Sandman."

As it turns out, the Yankees haven't come that close to winning a World Series since. The loss was symbolic. Of what? Nothing concrete. Rivera didn't fall off the face of the earth after that, obviously; instead, he has gone on to further cement himself as the greatest relief pitcher in the history of baseball.

But the point is that something unusual happened that night, and ever since then, nothing has really gone the Yankees' way.

Well, in 2006, the Pats lost the AFC Championship Game to a player and a team that they had previously tormented in the playoffs, Peyton Manning and the Colts, after blowing a 21-3 lead. This was unusual. This was not supposed to happen.

Then, last year, after starting the season 18-0, standing on the doorstep of ultimate immortality, they lost again, this time to the Giants in the Super Bowl.

And now, after the falling of this most recent domino, I feel that the "Olney Theory" must now be considered in the case of these Patriots.

Because sometimes in sports, you lose a game and it's more than just a loss. It can never be proven that the Yankees dynasty ended that night, or that the Patriots dynasty ended the night that they lost that game to the Colts (if that proves to be true).

But if you give weight to this kind of symbolism, you have to give it contemplation. And I am giving it serious thought. I think there is a very good chance that the Patriots dynasty has been over for two years, and most people just don't realize it yet. Brady will have surgery and then rehab, and when he comes back, he will still be Tom Brady, or something like it. He threw 50 touchdowns last year, versus only 8 interceptions, on a team that went 16-0 during the regular season. Think about that for a second. He has three Super Bowl rings, and two Super Bowl MVP's. The man is an athletic God, so even if when he returns he's not quite as good as he was before, he'll still be better than everybody else.

And once Brady does return, the Patriots will likely compete at a very high level, like they always do.

But be the team that lifts the Lombardi? Something tells me those days are already done.

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