More than any touchdown pass or goal-line defensive stop, Ben Watson chasing down Champ Bailey in the 2005 AFC Championship game summed up exactly what the New England Patriots are all about. On plays when other teams might give up, the Patriots don’t stop playing.
The Bill Belichick–Tom Brady era has produced many thrilling victories, but it’s also brought painful losses. As admirable as Watson’s play was, the fact that it came in a loss puts a damper on its significance for many fans.
The team responsible for one of those defeats visits Gillette Stadium on Sunday. The New York Giants, architects of the historic upset of the previously undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, will face the Pats for the first time in the regular season since that unforgettable Sunday night.
Kevin Faulk claims he still has never watched a replay of that game. NBC commentator Rodney Harrison bristles whenever it gets brought up on TV. Now out of football, David Tyree continues to insist he’s a real football player thanks to his one lucky moment of immortality.
If body language counts for anything, that game may not be the one that rankled Brady the most. Brady was a man on a mission in 2006, and led the Patriots to the AFC Championship with a patchwork receiving corps. Their second half collapse against the Colts is almost as painful to rewatch as Reche Caldwell‘s route-running.
Brady and Belichick appeared to have finally shaken off the memories of recent failures last season, when they stormed into the playoffs with a 14-2 record and the AFC East title. But the rival Jets sent them home early in a defeat that was made all the more unbearable by the fact that it came against Rex Ryan.