A 2008 Patriots Retrospective in the Hour Before Kickoff

Michael JCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2008

60 minutes.

This could all be over in 60 minutes. This roller-coaster season could come to an end in one mere hour of gameplay.

The scariest thing is that my beloved Patriots could (and should) win this game. And it still might not be enough.

I had Sunday, September 7th circled on my calendar ever since I got over the initial shock of the "Super Bowl Win that Never Happened." Every time I saw David Tyree come down with the football, I felt like I got punched in the stomach.

It was not supposed to end like that. I really thought all season that I was watching a team of destiny, akin to the 1998 Yankees. The fact that the Super Bowl loss came at the hands of the New York Giants, a team I have despised for longer than I have been a Pats fan, made the end result all the more heartbreaking.

Week One was supposed to be all about the beginning of vindication. I was certain that the Patriots would come out against the Chiefs and make a statement. That statement, for the first few drives, seemed to be "I wish we had Tom during the preseason". Fumbles and missed opportunities were killing the Pats. I thought the game could not have started off worse.

In an instant I was proved wrong.

Tom Brady has always been the toughest son of a gun on the football field. The guy is able to take a pounding and hop right back up. As I watched him writhing on the ground, I kept thinking the same thing.

Get up.

For the love of God, get up.

He did not.

Enter Matt Cassel. Cassel was so atrocious in the preseason that he just barely beat out Kevin O'Connell and Matt Gutierrez as QB No. 2. All of a sudden, the real-life equivalent of Matt Saracen was trotting onto the field.

The Pats held on to win the game, but it was a sad day for their fans. I recall sitting in church receiving a text message that brought back my David Tyree feelings. "Brady out for season. Torn ACL".

That night, I told anyone that would listen to me what New England brass needed to do to salvage the season. They needed to call Daunte Culpepper.

They did not. Thank God I do not have as much pull with the franchise as I believed myself to have. The Culpepper experiment was tried in Detroit. They are currently looking for their first victory.

My friend kept updating me throughout the season about how Cassel's 2008 stats were better than Brady's 2001 stats. I was not buying it though. The game is more than just stats. If Drew Brees breaks Dan Marino's record for yards thrown in a season today, would anyone argue that Drew Brees had the best season ever?

To say that it took me a while to warm to Matt Cassel would be a massive understatement. I was bitter about our MVP and unquestioned leader being reduced to a spectator. I famously told my roommate that watching Matt Cassel run the Patriot offense was comparable to watching a 16 year old girl who just got her permit driving an Aston Martin.

To be honest, I am still not sold on Cassel being good enough to lead the Pats to Super Bowl XLIII. And when I hear people that claim to be Pats fans say things like "trade Tom", it makes me want to scream. Matt Cassel will need to look elsewhere if he wants to start next year (assuming Tom is 100 percent).

The Pats were the most hated team ever last year. All hyperbole aside, no non-New England fans were rooting for the perfect season last February. This year, when forced to become the plucky underdogs, they have shown me something. Your team can have all the raw talent in the world, but if you do not have heart, it would not be worth a damn.

This Pats team has heart. And no matter how this season ends, playoffs or no playoffs, I am proud of the 2008 New England Patriots.

Now let's make the playoffs.