The Foxboro Blog staff was well-represented at Thursday night's game, with Rick, Raj, and myself all in attandance. I don't go to games all that frequently (this was my fifth live Pats game ever, but second this season) and so I'm not used to observing from a fixed angle that's very different than what we get on TV. As a result, I'm going to refrain from touching on the nitty-gritty aspects of the game and just comment on the experience as a whole and the atmosphere inside of Metlife Stadium last night.
Heading into the game, there was a lot of talk in the media questioning how the Patriots would fare without Gronkowski, given how close the last game was with the Jets and the fact that New York looked fairly decent in their win over the Rams. However, I felt supremely confident in my team last night. In the Rex Ryan era, the Patriots first game against the Jets is always a close contest that the Pats either lose or win closely. The second game is the annual fireworks display where New England does its best steamroller impression. As I was walking into the stadium, there seemed to be an air of cautious optimism amongst the Jet fans, but deep inside, I knew the truth. We were all walking into a Thanksgiving Day funeral. We were about to watch the Patriots bury the Jets season.
The Jets won the toss and opted to let the Patriots take the opening kick-off. I'll give Jets fans credit in that they managed to create a deafening roar on the Pats first drive. It was so loud that you wouldn't have been able to hear the person next to you shouting. You hear announcers talk about crowd noise all the time, but it doesn't quite hit home until you're actually there in an environment like that.
What was really interesting to me was how effective Fireman Ed was in creating the deafening roar on that opening drive. On TV, and even in past Jets games that I've attended, he comes off as a semi-pathetic 60-year old wannabe cheerleader. Last night to start the game, though, he got everyone screaming. While Ed was doing his thing, I told my wife that I had heard rumors that Ed takes himself a little too seriously and doesn't take kindly to friendly barbs from Patriots fans. She sort of blew me off like I was a hater simply because he's the Jets unofficial mascot. Well, I think my argument was validated last night, as Ed hightalied it out of the stadium before halftime. Turns out the fireman isn't so tough when the heat gets turned up.
During the first quarter, it seemed as if we might have the makings of a classic game. Gostkowski missed a field goal, and the Jets drove the ball all the way down the field. Then Sanchez threw one of his classic red zone INT's. This prompted the first "Tebow Time!" cheer from me. By far, the best part of the game for me, other than those mind-blowing 52 seconds, was yelling out Tebow cheers and watching the reaction of the hapless Jets fans. Eventually, the game spiraled out of control to the point where they didn't even care that a Patriots fan was leading the Tebow chants and they just joined in. At that moment, we were all on the same page. They wanted Tebow because he couldn't possibly be worse than Mark Sanchez, and Patriots fans wanted Tebow because it would have meant that we had officially broken the Jets. And to be honest, I thought it would have been cool to watch Tebow live in person as well.
Then the second quarter began. Sitting in the lower endzone seats is really cool depending on which direction the action is heading. If the ball is on the other side of the field, then you're better off just watching the Jumbotron. But when they're marching towards you, it's just about the best seat in the house. Last night, I happened to be sitting front and center for the highest-scoring quarter in New England Patriots history. I saw Brady hit Welker in the end zone for the first score clear as day. I got to see Shane Vereen careen towards me for 84 yards en route to New England's second score. I saw Mark Sanchez run into his lineman's rear end and cough up one of the lamest fumbles in NFL history. I saw the fumble on the ensuing kickoff fly through the air and land right in the hands of Julian Edelman, who took it to the house. And I saw Brady hit Edelman for 56 yards for yet another TD. In the end, the Patriots racked up 35 points in the span of about 12 minutes, including those miraculous 52 seconds in which they scored an offensive, defensive, and special teams touchdown. All in all, that quarter was complete Patriots euphoria, and I was fortunte enough to be able to take it in live and up close.
On Thanksgiving your suppoed to be thankful for important things like your family and your health. I don't want to discount the importance of those things one bit, but last night, I was also thankful for my team and the incredible experience they allowed me to have. You didn't have to look much further than the seat in front of you to realize how good you have it as a Patriots fan. So thanks to the Patriots, to Coach Belichick, and to the Kraft family for giving us a team to be proud of and to believe in year in and year out.