Perfection, that was the word that the hype machine that is the NFL was pushing earlier today.
Setting the scene of a one game showdown that could vault the New England Patriots into the upper echelons of NFL lore, a team ready to claim the title from Don Shula's remarkable Miami Dolphins of 1972.
Heading into Saturday's game in New Jersey against the Giants, the coronation had all but been made, the Giants expected to be mere tackling dummies on the way to the accolades for Bill Belichick and his finely tuned football machine.
Normally Saturday night around the Podunkian tube is given over to Hockey Night in Canada (though a recently arrived Wii machine seems to be making its muscle felt of late), however with the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs on one channel and the Washington Capitals laying a surprising early waste to the Ottawa Senators (who at least fought back unlike the Leafs) on another, we decided to settle in and watch what many said would be NFL history Saturday night.
So while we tried to ignore Bryant Gumble as best we could (on three channels no less), we watched and must admit we shared a certain amount of contrarian glee as the New York Giants led by Eli Manning (little bro to Peyton) suddenly appeared to be more than ready to challenge the Pats for the right to steal away Shula's glory. (We should have known better!)
For three quarters, the Giants played some amazing football (well for them anyways), normally given to fumbles and interceptions during the year, they marched down the field numerous times to take a surprising twelve point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
And then the roof caved in as they say, Tom Brady, who will not doubt lay claim as one of the best ever quarterbacks in NFL history went to work. He turned a twelve point deficit into a twenty two point swing, as the Patriots solidly turned the game around in less than fifteen minutes.
With pinpoint passing, suddenly crushing defense and a will to win that you could almost taste through your television, they quieted what was once a boisterous crowd, trouncing the Giants in those final fifteen minutes and securing their place in the NFL archives for many years to come.
It was a most remarkable performance and the thing is, you could see it coming well before it actually began. Brady has become the master of the never say die drive, if there's a deficit on the board he'll erase, need a cushion he'll provide it. Desperate for a last minute drive, he's the guy to give the ball to.
If an upset was in the air at halftime, the result seemed never in doubt as the gun sounded to end the final game of the regular season for both teams. Despite a close looking score of 38-35, the fourth quarter comeback by the Patriots really is larger than the narrow margin of victory, by the games end it was pure domination by a team that has been in control for most of those 16 games.
16-0 a remarkable record by all accounts, made even more impressive by the fact that it is two more than Shula's team needed back in 72. And compiled in a completely different era of football.
It was a record that seemed only in peril twice this year, once with the Indianapolis Colts and then in a surprisingly close affair in Baltimore, in both cases, Brady was the genesis of the comeback, the win and continuation of the streak. The Giants made a game of it, but in the end they couldn't stop the genius that seems to be Brady's trademark, he sees the game on a different level than most and on Saturday he once again found the way to win, when it was needed the most.
The Patriots now will benefit from their hard work with a first week bye in the NFL playoffs, a chance to rest up, recover from nagging injuries and begin to work on the plan off attack for the playoff run. The three quarters of Giants success a warning sign that there is still much preparation to be made for the road to the Super Bowl.
However, they can take a day or so to enjoy their success, 16-0 is by far an amazing accomplishment, yet for some it will mean nothing really should they stumble in the playoffs. Somehow, you get the feeling that is not something that seems likely.
This could be the best assembled football team in NFL history, each part a compliment to the next, each player keenly aware of the mission at hand. They've conquered those ghosts of 1972 and made a record their own, with three more wins they'll be carving their own legacy in the NFL tablets.
Judging by the way they came back from near disaster on Saturday, it's probably time to make sure that the chisels are sharp and the stones are ready!