Hearts. Puppies. Kittens. Unicorns.
True, unadulterated happiness.
If a genie had popped out of a bottle before tonight and given me one wish on behalf of the New England Patriots, I would probably have said, "I would like for the Patriots to beat the everloving piss out of the New York Jets on national television in the biggest game of the regular season, after the Jets, their loudmouthed coach included, talk shit all damn week as usual."
That wish was tonight's command.
It may not exactly be healthy to be this emotionally affected by a sporting event. But tonight, at least it's in a positive direction.
There were so many memorable things about this game. Too many to make a full catalog, but it will be a pleasure to try. Feel free to add any I may forget, it being late and all...
- The early pressure by Wilfork on Mark Sanchez, setting the tone, squishing his face into the turf, and throwing him off course, where he'd stay for good. Also that Sanchez ended both the first half and an attempt at a hurry-up scoring drive "in the grasp and control of" Tully Banta-Cain for what I guess you'd call a technical sack (rather than the face-squishing kind, but it had the same effect).
- Alge Crumpler, Logan Mankins and Matt Light blocking like crazy, especially early in the game when the Pats came out and scored on their first four possessions. They wouldn't stay as crisp, and Brady, who was also sacked three times by game's end, had to scramble quite a bit. But the pass rush wasn't nearly the issue it had been in Week 2, and Brady was especially able to rely on his apparent psychic connection with Wes Welker for gains on those scrambling plays.
- Patriots kickers. Especially in the first half -- "Sugar" Shayne Graham nailed a field goal on the Patriots' first possession despite the fact that it bent like a soccer banana kick in the howling wind, and the wind didn't stop him from making booming kickoffs, either. Space Emperor (of Space) Zoltan Mesko stepped up to the plate as well with nary a shank, as the Jets field goal and punting units (like the rest of their team) fell apart.
- The stupidest use of the coach's challenge in the history of the concept: Rex Ryan challenging the spot of the ball on a 4th and 1 when he was going to go for it anyway, which meant he later didn't have a challenge to spare when Brandon Tate made a questionable catch in the end zone that was ruled a touchdown. When I think about Rex Ryan's glib, grinning face, and his hollering and fist-pumping on the sidelines in Week 2, this inexplicable flub is all the more delicious.
- Speaking of the schadenfreude aspect of this whole thing -- as I remember Braylon Edwards' alligator arms, which led to dropped passes at key points in this game (and admittedly did Kyle Arrington a world of favors), I also remember Edwards dancing in Darius Butler's face in Week 2, and my smile is nearly the size of Ryan's Cheshire-cat grimace.
- A huge PI call on the Jets in the end zone, leading to the Patriots' first touchdown in the first quarter. Beginning with the Great Challenge Folly of 2010 and continuing with that penalty, the Jets showed that at their core they remain their undisciplined selves, and that was great for us.(Have I mentioned I utterly despise everything about the Jets?)
- The Law Firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Woodhead. Especially Danny Woodhead, in this game. The slippery little bugger set a personal-best run length on a 35-yarder after a short pass from Brady in the second quarter, then topped it with a similar play for 50 yards in the third quarter. He also played the role of Wes Welker in the slot for a while during a third quarter that saw some creative offensive personnel moves, including a reverse starring Brandon Tate.
- This tweet from Sports Pickle.
- Tom Brady to Deion Branch on 4th and 3 at the Jets' 25 in the first quarter. Given the final score, this might not have been memorable if it hadn't gone the Patriots' way, and failure would've been less flagrant that deep in Jets territory to begin with. But rather than fail, or even settle for making the first down, Brady threaded the ball to Deion Branch in the midst of three Jets defenders, Branch shook them off with help from a Danny Woodhead block, and they scored.
- Brandon Spikes' interception. I would call this my Play of the Game. At that point in the third quarter, the Jets were continuing where they'd left off in possession of the ball at the end of the first half, and had reached the Patriots' red zone down by 21 with nearly 30 minutes left to play. 24-10 in that third quarter would've tightened sphincters across New England, the high-flying first half notwithstanding; instead, at quite literally the last moment, there was Spikes, in the center of the field just in front of the goal line, leaping to grab Sanchez's attempted touchdown pass. At that moment, even at the time quite obviously the official turning point to this game, all I can really say is that I lost control of my body. I became a spastic, fist-flailing mass of visceral triumph. It was as great a moment as any of the dynasty era...and the way this young defense is starting to gel reminds me of those years, too.
- Tom Brady and Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez isn't just the youngest player on the Patriots roster -- he's the youngest player in the league. After he dropped a catchable pass on third down during the second quarter, Tom Brady walked off the field right next to him, admonishing and gesturing. On their first drive of the third quarter, Brady went back to Hernandez again, and this time Hernandez caught it, juked the Jets corner out of his jock, and took it 35 yards downfield, setting up a touchdown to Welker. I love this about Brady, and the Patriots in general. When they screw up a play on offense, more often than not they'll run it again, sometimes right away, and get it right. If one of his receivers screws up like Hernandez did in the second quarter, Brady will go back to him again, and get him right back on the horse.
- Tom Brady and Wes Welker. As mentioned above, Brady and Welker have more of a telepathic connection than a verbal one, so far less "coaching" was seen happening between them. But after Welker caught the touchdown set up by Hernandez in the third quarter, Brady ran over to him, grabbed him by the helmet, and yelled excitedly into his facemask for what seemed like a full minute. And it filled my heart with joy.
- The return of the ruthless, impassioned Tom Brady we saw earlier this season against the Steelers. He did a little less hollering and a little more negotiating and encouraging toward his teammates tonight than in Pittsburgh, but in either case it was visible, palpable, how he is the beating heart of this team. And I'm obviously biased, but I love his fired-up antics at times like this. Fist-pumping in the direction of both the home and visitors' sideline after his fourth touchdown pass, and still taking snaps while up by 42 points with less than 2 minutes to play, he once again showed that near-pathological competitive drive, and the Patriots delivered a beatdown of the highest order. Coincidence? I think not. (Have I mentioned I utterly adore pretty much everything about Tom Brady?)
- Running up the score. You're damn right they did, and I would've preferred 72 points or so to the 45 they actually scored, because this was a 'statement game', and because there really is no on-field humiliation I wouldn't wish on the freaking Jets.
- Bill Belichick calling his whole team together on the sideline at the start of the fourth quarter to remind them to finish. And later, smiling (Yes! Really!) and clapping on the sideline after James Sanders made the third and final INT of the game.
- A full, loud Gillette Stadium, which stayed that way until the very end of the game -- just a few weeks after their own quarterback called them out for leaving early. Special bonus points for the chants of "J-E-T-S...SUCK! SUCK! SUCK!" and "OVER-RATED! *clap clap clapclapclap*.
- Tedy Bruschi Night. More on that tomorrow, once I've had the time to dig up the full video of his halftime ceremony, which ESPN didn't show due to the death of Don Meredith.
Now the question becomes, apparently, are the Jets really that bad or the Patriots really that good? The Jets certainly did plenty to beat themselves tonight...but the game also surely didn't win itself. So it's a little of both, and really, it doesn't matter. The Patriots slapped the Jets silly, are now at 10-2, and control their own destiny in the division heading into next week.
To quote a phrase from Red Sox lore, Nuf Ced.