Superbowl Will Go Down To The Wire

David Balkin
February 1, 2002 at 3:21 pm ET

Conventional wisdom tells us the Patriots don’t have much of a chance. Those two words barely belong in the same sentence, let alone next to each other. Wisdom is never conventional but sports geniuses reckon a team has to be incredibly lucky, and therefore not that good, even as they make killer spontaneous plays that win games week after week.

Meanwhile, bring on the Rams. They’re a great football team, with the game’s best player and have an excellent chance to win; just about the same as the invincible Steel Curtain, aka last week’s victims.

Saying the Patriots are lucky is not even close to the real truth. The Patriots win because they consistently extract a high level of play from everyone on the team. Each man has a quality enabling them to dig deep within on every play, but what’s even more impressive, is the ability to play inspired ball when the moment demands it. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Ironically, the turning point in the Patriot’s season was the 24-17 loss to St. Louis. When Antowain fumbled at the goal line Marshall Faulk proved why he’s the game’s best player. He was the difference in that backbreaking 97-yard drive. It’s the last game the Pats lost, they won’t lose another this season and while fairly beaten they proved they could not only hang with the league’s best, but play them tough.

How tough? The encore performance in the Super Bowl will go down to the wire. The Patriots will play winning football and if that’s not enough find something extra and prevail.

But no matter what, we are entering an era of a Patriot’s football dynasty. Players come and go but Bill Belichick, Bob Kraft, CMGI Stadium, and the fans are the backbone that’s going to be with us for a long while.

Seeing Belichick holding his son, who jumped in his arms when the victory was sealed, was sweet. It means Bill’s not going anywhere for a while. As a parent, he’s got nothing better to do than go to work at a job that’s as good as it gets and raise his children to have enough character to play on a team he coaches.

Also, there’s no better owner in pro football than Bob Kraft and I’ll bet those two figure out a way to keep Bill’s kids in the same school system until they’re grown up.

That’s really crucial because Belichick will soon be acknowledged as the best coach in the NFL for a lot of reasons other than his relentless work ethic. He is the real deal, a standup guy in a standup game at a standup time with a team that has a standup name. He uses all of that, and his genius, in assessing the wealth of wasted and under appreciated talent the NFL offers in abundance.

Veteran grunts that need to believe in something more than just themselves are ready to be led by example and welcome in Foxboro; sprinkle them liberally into a mix of young lions and that’s what builds the character to win in a league where the difference between winning and losing is always that misunderstood and mysteriously tangible intangible.

Forget Bill Parcells. He was a has-been before he left the Patriots. Before he’s through, Bill Belichick will rewrite the coaching record books and the Patriots will become America’s team. They already are. Just look in the stands and see how many fans are wearing our colors. Officially, the bandwagon starts rolling Sunday night.

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