2007 Patriots

So on ESPN.com they’re doing a series of the most compelling NFL teams in recent past and today they featured the 2007 Patriots.  As you all know, the 07 Patriots went through the regular season undefeated and won their first two playoff games and was 18-0 going into the super bowl, before losing to the Giants in one of the greatest upsets of all time Personally, I love when talking about that Patriots team because I still think that they were one of the greatest teams of all time, super bowl champion or not.

 The whole 2007 season began when the Patriots showed up for minicamp in June.  New England was just coming off a hard loss to the eventual super bowl champs Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. Quarterback Tom Brady was fresh off a year when he excelled and almost led his team to a super bowl, with receivers like Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney. However, in the offseason, coach Bill Belichick went out and got Brady some weapons.  The Patriots acquired receivers Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth. 

The first game of the 2007 season was in New York against the Jets, who had made it to the playoffs the year before under former Patriots coordinator Eric Mangini.  Brady and the offense came out firing and eventually won the game 38-14, with Brady throwing for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns. However, the victory was overshadowed by the incident now called Spygate. Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft were fined a combined $750,000 for years of cheating, and so their overall record and the records they set seem tainted in the eyes of some fans.  However, hearing criticism from the whole country, the Patriots kept playing their game.

Five straight victories ensued after the Jets game, including a showdown in Dallas against the previously unbeaten Cowboys. The Patriots were 6-0 heading into Miami to play the winless Dolphins.  Brady exploded, throwing six touchdowns in the game, two to both Moss and Welker.  Brady had thrown 27 touchdowns in the first seven games.  The next game, the Patriots embarrassed the Redskins in New England, 52-7.  Belichick started to take heat for running up the score on opponents.  He didn’t care though, with the whole Spygate incident, the Patriots had to over-satisfy. 

The talk of the perfect season started soon after that, and for good reason.  Not only were the Patriots undefeated, they were blowing teams out.  They did almost suffer their first loss of the season on a Monday night in Baltimore, where Brady threw touchdown with under a minute to go to lift the Patriots to a 27-24 win. 

The Patriots played the Giants the last week of the season. With the Giants up 28-23 in the fourth quarter, Brady dropped back and threw deep to Moss.  Moss caught the pass for a touchdown. It was Brady’s 50th touchdown pass of the year, breaking Peyton Manning’s record, and Moss’ 23rd touchdown catch of the year, breaking Jerry Rice’s record. The Patriots never trailed again and won to go 16-0.  A perfect regular season, only the second team in NFL history to do so.  Only three wins stood in front of New England and complete perfection.

In the divisional round, the Patriots hosted the Jaguars, who had upset the Steelers the week before.  Brady completed 92 percent of his passes, going 26 for 28, an NFL record. New England won 31-20 and got ready to play the Chargers the next week. They were 17-0.

Against the Chargers, Brady injured his leg and threw three interceptions. But New England’s defense kept the Chargers out of the end zone to lead the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl in six years. They were 18-0.  People said that they were barely hanging on, but not me.  I believed they were going to run the Giants right out of the stadium.

That day of the super bowl, I kind of got the feeling that what if the Giants won. The week before the game, during the bye week, I went to last event the Orange Bowl stadium would ever hold.  It was an autograph session and all of the old Hurricanes and Dolphins players were there.  The one thing I vividly remember is Mercury Morris, a member of the 72 Dolphins team, preaching to the thousands of fans that came out that day on how the Giants were going to win.  As kickoff came closer, I just thought that if the Patriots were to lose this game, it would be the greatest upset in NFL history.

Once the game started, you realized that the Patriots offense was not the same.  The offensive line played their worst game of the season and Brady was sacked five times.  The game was ruled by the defense as the Giants led by three in the final minutes.  However, Brady conducted a drive that ended with a Moss touchdown with just under three minutes to play that gave the Patriots a 14-10 lead.  I think that I was the only person in South Florida that wanted the Patriots to win and I was certain that the defense would hold the Giants and win the game.  I was wrong. A miraculous catch by David Tyree and a game winning touchdown by Plaxico Burress ended the perfect season.  Game over. Season over. 18-1.

College Football Preview

So recently while I was in Florida on vacation I walking through a store when the Sporting News College Football preview magazine caught my eye.  Eager to see how the 2013 season is looking I quickly bought it and immediately began reading it.  While many things intrigued me, there were three big story lines for me, and what I’m looking forward to most in the upcoming fall.

The first one was my team, the Miami Hurricanes.  Looking through the preseason top 25, I noticed the Canes ranked 22nd.  This made me ecstatic, as Miami hasn’t been ranked before the season started since 2010.  I have really high hopes for the Hurricanes this year, and apparently so do a lot of other people.  They are picked to finish first in the ACC-Coastal division, and play in their first conference championship game since joining the ACC in 2004.  On offense, Miami is returning many starters, including all five lineman.  However, I’m most excited to see how sophomore running back Duke Johnson will do after finishing last year as a Freshman All-American.  Quarterback Stephen Morris also returns for his senior year, after throwing for 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, including a 566 yard performance against NC State.  Phillip Dorsett, a speedy receiver who had 842 yards last year will definitely help Morris’ numbers.  Defensively, Miami hopes to have a better year than it did in 2012.  The defense gave up a total of 486.4 yards per game, including a whopping 217.9 yards on the ground.  However, they do return players like end Anthony Chickillo and linebacker Denzel Perryman.  Miami will have its first real test when they host in-state rival Florida, which will be the second game of the season.  They will have also have other home games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.  The entire outlook of Miami’s season will change if it gets good news from the NCAA later this month.  If eligible, Miami has an excellent chance of winning the Coastal and competing for a BCS berth. 

The second story lines concerns the school I will be attending in the fall, Utah State University.  After an 11-2 record last year, the Aggies moved from the WAC to the Mountain West conference.  However, coach Gary Andersen then decided to leave for Wisconsin.  Matt Wells, who was Andersen’s offensive coordinator, took over a program that has loads of talent and is anxious to begin play in its new conference.  With eight returning starters on offensive and seven on defense, the team has a bright future.  Junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton returns after a stellar sophomore season.  Keeton completed 68 percent of his passes and threw for over 3,000 yards with 27 touchdowns.  Keeton also ran for 619 yards and eight touchdowns.  On defense outside linebacker Zach Virgil, another junior returns after making 105 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2012.  The Aggies start out the season playing at Utah, a game in which they should squeak out.  Three weeks later, they travel to USC to meet the Trojans.  If they can win at least five of their first six games, including a Friday night showdown at home against BYU on Oct.4, they will have a lot of confidence going into the next week, a matchup against conference favorite Boise State in Logan.  That game will decide who wins the Mountain West.  After the Boise State game, they play against five lowly teams, including three of those games at home.  If Keeton can perform the same way he did last year, the Aggies can definitely repeat another 11 win season.

The third and final story line for me is about the two time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.  Nick Saban is leading a team that since 2008 is 61-7 with three national championships into 2013 with no other expectations than to win a third straight championship.  Question is, how can you improve on near perfection? Even though the Tide lost to Texas A&M last year, that didn’t derail Bama from their appointment against Notre Dame in the championship game.  Since 1936, no program has won four national championships in five years, so yes, Alabama has a chance to make history.  There are some issues on the best team in the country, including on the offensive line and in the secondary, but does that make me think that those problems will stop the most dominant team of the last era? Absolutely not.  If they can win in College Station against the Aggies, a payback game on Sep.14, I don’t see them being stopped, and I believe they will take home a third straight championship.