Sunday, December 30, 2007

Almost Perfect

In team sports, few things are as difficult as achieving the perfect season. In the National Football League, only the 1972 Miami Dolphins have ever done it. They went 17-0: Undefeated through 14 regular season games, the playoffs, and the Super Bowl.

Last night the New England Patriots completed the (now) 16 game regular season unbeaten. They achieved it last night by knocking off the New York Giants. But the game was by no means a cakewalk for the Patriots, and that's what made last night's contest so great.

Apparently the Giants never got the memo that this was supposed to be New England's coronation, and they put up one helluva a fight. At one point in the second half, they even led by 12 points. That's impressive, because no other team this year has led the Patriots by such a large margin. But in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots demonstrated why they're so awesome by retaking the lead and holding on to it.

Despite all the accolades, the Patriots aren't quite on par with those Dolphins. They still have to win two playoff games and the Super Bowl before they can truly claim the title of a perfect season. A loss in the next three games will only get them branded as chokers. Fair? No, probably not. But it's accurate.

A couple of side notes about the Dolphins' 1972 record: The team they defeated in the Super Bowl was none other than the Washington Redskins, and the final score was 14-7. I mention that because the 'Skins came close to spoiling the party.

At the time, the goal posts were still located at the beginning of the end zone, at what's essentially the zero yard line. That's significant, because one of Redskin quarterback Billy Kilmer's passes hit the crossbar. Had that not happened, would the play have ended with a touchdown? Hard to say, but one can always dream.

Also, the last game the Dolphins lost before embarking on their perfect season was a preseason exhibition game.... In DC's RFK stadium against none other than those same Redskins.

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