I've lived in central New York state for nearly 4 years now, surrounded by Bills, Jets, Giants, Eagles, and Steelers fans. These people also think Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL. They are united only in their hatred of the New England Patriots.
A common word associated by these haters is "lucky." The Patriots were "lucky" to win such and such a game. An even more ludicrous statement is "the Patriots didn't win the game, the other team lost it." Of course, this makes no sense, because if someone loses a football game, then someone else wins it. Then there's also the "they didn't deserve to win" accusation. All of these things are just silly.
With the recent 24-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers, these words have been tossed around by many up here in CNY, and by some on the national sports media level. If you ever want to lose a few brain cells, listen to WEEI past midnight. WOW!
They all point to the Tuck Play a few seasons back in Oakland. They claim that this single play is what made Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots what they are today.
Just a few things about this particular play:
1. The officials called it correctly, as confirmed by the NFL after the game.
2. The NFL has kept the tuck rule in exactly the same language as it was written back then.
3. It may have been a freak thing, but it didn't exactly end the game. The play was called incomplete in our favor, not a touchdown or anything.
The Tuck Play occurred at the Oakland 47. There was only a little over 90 seconds on the clock in that game with us down by 3. We drove the ball 23 yards after that play to set up Vinatieri's game tying 45 yard kick.
We won the toss for overtime, which I guess is lucky. But then we drove to the Oakland 28, converted a 4th and 4, and kept driving until we set-up a Vinatieri 23 yard field goal. Yeah, Oakland let us get all the way down to the 6 yard line. I guess we were lucky to get down there.
The next week, we beat Pittsburgh straight up. Yeah, we had 2 special teams TDs, but we also held Jerome Bettis to 8 yards on 9 carries. And despite what Bill Cowher might still think, special teams are part of the game. You return a punt for a TD, or block a field goal, it is a good football play, not a lucky play.
We all know what happened to the Rams the next week. There wasn't much luck in that game, either. We outplayed St. Louis and we won.
We also won 21 straight games a few seaosns later, 6 more playoff games and 2 more Super Bowls. I guess we were still riding that luck. Remember when we dominated the Colts and Steelers in back to back weeks? Man, we were sooooooooo lucky!
After our win against the Chargers on Sunday, all the haters continued to call the Patriots lucky. But where the hell is this luck?
I'll say this much, the Chargers did make a few pivotal errors which gave the Patriots an opportunity to win the game. The muffed and re-muffed punt, a few dropped passes, and the interception fumble are a few of the most obvious. I don't see how this is luck, though. Nor do I see our being able to score after these plays was being lucky. Furthermore, we made plenty of mistakes, as well. We turned the ball over 3 times. San Diego had 0 points off our turnovers. We scored 14 off their turnovers. Luck? We had a few dropped balls, and a few misguided passes, but in the end, our offense was still able to score more points than the Chargers.
As glaring as some of the mistakes San Diego made were, they also played one hell of a football game. LT had 187 yards of total offense. As a team, they ran for nearly 3 times as many yards as we did. They pressured Brady a great deal, sacking him twice, hurrying and hitting him so often that he made big mistakes. Both of their lines did a great job at what they do. Most of them played a very good game. They controlled the line of scrimmage, the rushing game, the field position, 3rd down conversions, total first downs, time of possession, and were only -1 in the turnover ratio. But we still won. I guess we got lucky.
What exactly is luck? Here's what Dictionary.com defines luck as:
1. the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person's life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities: With my luck I'll probably get pneumonia.
2. good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance: He had no luck finding work.
3. a combination of circumstances, events, etc., operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person: She's had nothing but bad luck all year.
4. some object on which good fortune is supposed to depend: This rabbit's foot is my luck.
—Verb phrases Informal.
5. luck into or onto, to meet, acquire, become, etc., by good luck: She lucked into a great job.
6. luck out, to have an instance or run of exceptionally good luck: He lucked out when he made a hole in one during the tournament.
7. luck upon, to come across by chance: to luck upon a profitable investment.
8. down on one's luck, in unfortunate circumstances; unlucky: She hated to see her old friend so down on her luck.
9. in luck, lucky; fortunate: We were in luck, for the bakery was still open.
10. luck of the draw, the luck one has in or as if in drawing cards.
11. out of luck, unlucky; unfortunate: When it comes to getting World Series tickets, we're usually out of luck.
12. push one's luck, Informal. to try to make too much of an opportunity; go too far. Also, crowd one's luck.
A key word I'm seeing here is "chance." Now, a flip of a coin, that's luck. That's purely chance. Recovering a fumble, that isn't luck. There isn't much chance involved in that. The player fumbled for some reason. He could have been stripped, hit hard, just lost control of the ball, whatever. He still fumbled because he lost control over the ball. That isn't chance. Neither is a muffed punt, or a personal foul penalty. These things are not random events like being struck by lightning. These are mistakes.
The real test in any football game is how a team capitalizes on their opponent's mistakes and how they minimize the effect of their own miscues. You can throw 10 INTs and fumble the ball 5 times, but if the other team fails to score any points off these turnovers, and you score a touchdown somehow, you'll probably win.
The Pats are NOT lucky to still be in the playoffs. They outplayed the San Diego Chargers. They outcoached the San Diego Chargers. On Sunday, they were better than the Chargers.