After living through the latest Boston sports fan heartbreak this past weekend in Foxboro, Boston sports talk radio has been bombarded by callers who feel like they have to find a way to explain why their team lost. Seemingly, it’s as if the other team’s victory isn’t justified.
Most seem to be concentrating on figuring out what the Patriots did wrong, and neglecting what that other team — the Jets — did right.
Fans instinctively put the “expert” caps on and pinpoint exactly what needs to be done to improve the team for next year. Already, I?ve heard people mention the inexperienced defense, the lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback, the need for a receiver that can stretch the field and even unfathomable criticisms of Bill Belichick and even Tom Brady. The truth is that fans just can?t accept that their team just wasn’t good enough.
No, that?s impossible. The Jets somehow got lucky.
Well, maybe there is something to that “luck” thing.
Defeat is a tough pill to swallow, but the great thing about it is that everyone experiences it at some point. That’s the beauty of sports. Regardless of the level of competition, no one wins them all. The saying “the better team doesn’t always win” is true sometimes, and it’s especially true in a win-or-go-home elimination round.
Regardless, though, the Jets were the better team on Sunday. On Jan. 16, 2011, for 132 plays, the New York Jets were superior to the New England Patriots. The Jets hit harder, dug deeper, ran faster, executed more efficiently, and for 60 minutes, they were even the better-coached team. I hate feeling that way, but it was painfully evident. But you know what? Call me naive if you must, but I’d put everything on the Pats if they could play it over. The Jets wouldn?t get “lucky” again.
There’s that luck word again. Let me explain my theory on luck. I believe in luck, but I believe more so in making your own luck. That?s what the Jets did. There weren’t any fluke plays or crazy helmet catches, but the Jets worked for it. Luck is part of all sports, especially in the postseason, but it’s how hard you work for it that can make things work in your favor. It happens all the time.
Take the 2007-08 Celtics, for example. After they lost out on the top pick in the lottery draft, everyone was furious. In retrospect, however, losing out on Greg Oden was lucky for the Green. After some homework and maneuvering by Danny Ainge, “Voila!” Welcome the Big Three and banner 17.
It works the other way around too. In baseball, the National League’s Atlanta Braves know this well. Despite winning 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005, the Braves were only able to call themselves World Series champions once during that dominating stretch. If you ask me, though, dominating a division for that long is slightly more impressive than winning a single World Series (not that I’d prefer it).
The Braves likely would attest that in the playoffs, the team that heats up at the right time can do a lot of damage while the team that hits a cold spell can see itself packing its bags earlier than expected. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the defeated team wasn’t as good. Often times, good fortune just wasn’t on its side. An injury here, a slip-up there or even a bad night’s sleep can determine the outcome in an elimination round.
So when I say that the Jets beat the Patriots in part because they were lucky, I mean it as a compliment to them. Yes, they got Brady on a bad day, but they took full advantage of it and made his day worse. They never allowed him to get into a groove, and the Jets were a step ahead all day. They capitalized on an offensive line that looked as bad as its quarterback, leading to five sacks.
New York also made its own luck by exerting its skill, talent and desire to win. After starting the game looking seemingly unsure of himself, Mark Sanchez hit his stride by making great throws, throws that were rewarded with great catches from his receivers. And unlike the Pats and Brady, who never got over the quarterback’s early interception, the Jets didn’t let Nick Folk‘s early missed field goal dictate their tempo. They simply shook it off.
Give the Jets credit. They worked hard to not only be the luckier team that day, but the better team.
Sure, there are things that the Patriots will look to improve on for next year, but can they get much better than a 14-2 team? Doubtful. The fact of the matter is that the Patriots didn’t do anything to lose. The Jets just did more to win.
Lady Luck is a tough girl, but if you play your chips right, you can get her, and the Jets clearly wooed her best.
The only question left is: Will their lucky streak continue in Pittsburgh? Don’t count on it. I think their luck just ran out.