We are a country divided on everything. Politics. Avocado Toast. Whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. That all changed Sunday afternoon. The final play of the Patriots-Dolphins game brought a collective shriek to a country and united us for the first time since, wait when was this country unified again?
To recap: The Dolphins were trailing the Patriots by 5 points with :07 left from their own 31-yard line. Instead of Ryan Tannehill hurling it impossibly deep, he quickly hit Kenny Stills for 15 yards…time expires… Stills says on his feet… Stills then pitches the ball to a cascading DeVantae Parker who runs five yards and pitches it to Kenyan Drake powering up the edge…Drake avoids the first tackle, then cuts toward the center of the field before he circles back toward the outside, confusing all defenders except waiting “safety” Rob Gronkowski…but Gronk basically has molasses in his cleats at this point in career. Zero chance he was catching Drake. Gronk comically trips, Drake scores. The screams are deafening everywhere except the upper Northeast.
The Miami Miracle will live in the NFL zeitgeist forever. In the moment, Dolphins fans reveled in victory. Whiny Patriots fans blamed Gronk in unison. It elevated the Dolphins back to the edge of playoff contention. But the moment was even bigger.
Everyone else seemed to find a collective, unbridled joy; sure, celebrating the moment for artistry but mainly the fact that it is was New England who drew the short stick. Pats hatred is nothing new or surprising. But it is in the rare moment like Sunday’s miracle that you understand its intensity and ability to coalesce.
On our highly active TFG Facebook Page (which you should all join!), the play generated a mass of commentary largely rooted in sheer joy because, again, it was New England getting the treatment they’ve put on others for almost 20 years. Comments ranged from “Go anyone who plays the Pats” to “I’m a Packers fan but happy to see New England lose” to “I can’t wait to see all the Pats fans at work tomorrow. I won’t even have to say a word.” You could feel the digital high fives flying around the country. ESPN’s Mina Kimes encapsulated why we feel such fire toward the Pats in one tweet:
saving this highlight for when the patriots inevitably roll to the super bowl and I need mental nourishment, like a squirrel hoarding acorns in the winter https://t.co/bIcOYytpLC
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) December 9, 2018
Doesn’t matter if the Pats start 1-3 or suffer an injury to someone other than Tom Brady, they always manage to rise to the top. And they’ve burned almost everyone along the way. That breadth of their success is a huge reason Miami’s gorgeous play inspired so much postgame connectivity. And yes, the play itself was a big factor and should not be short-changed. But c’mon. Fans of the rest of the AFC East, the Colts, the Ravens, the Falcons, the Eagles, the Seahawks, the Rams, the Spygate people, the Deflategate people all love coalescing to hate the Pats. It’s the NFL’s only certified sub-sport.
We should never condone hatred but this is a weird and somewhat healthy kind. It’s less about visceral, dangerous “I must break you” hate and more about jealously, annoyance and a sense of hopelessness but with a side of awe. Which made Sunday feel like a victory for all, at least temporarily.
Even with the dramatic loss New England holds the no. 2 spot and by winning out will have the same first round bye they always have. They’ll probably wind up avenging last year’s Super Bowl loss. Maybe Tom Brady will gallop into the sunset with his perfect wife and perfect kids or maybe he’ll come back to haunt us all again. It’s probably going to be the latter. Let’s Goooooo.
A few quick Week 14 Musings
– The now 6-7 Eagles are unlikely to make the postseason. It looks like the depleted secondary narrative is finally an excuse of the past. Carson Wentz and the offense haven’t played well enough, are not showcasing the fire, and the coach-QB ahas gone missing. This is going to be a very interesting offseason in Philly.
– Patrick Mahomes has my vote for MVP. Mahomes and Drew Brees are neck and neck and both are worthy. The Chiefs and Saints are both 10-2 but the TD disparity – Mahomes (43) to Brees (31) – should give the young gunslinger the edge.
– The Rams really lollygagged in the late fourth quarter on Sunday night. Down two scores with 4:45, and there was no sense of a hurry-up. Very uncharacteristic coming from a high-powered, Sean McVay-run offense. Guess they really were stunned and maybe a little cold.
– I think Vic Fangio would be a great head coach fit in the right situations. Namely where he has a veteran QB who almost serve as a hybrid play caller or who embraces improvisation. The clear negative about Fangio is not his age (this isn’t a Supreme Court lifetime appointment), it’s that all the good OCs will get head coaching jobs leaving him with a second tier OC who will be temporary if he (or she) becomes a top flight coach. So yes, could see him with Green Bay but not in Cleveland.
– Writing was the wall for now fired Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie after the team brought in Jon Gruden. What a travesty to build up that roster and have the two best components stripped away because Mark Davis has long been infatuated with Gruden. I’d imagine McKenzie will be in very high demand.
– Across the Bay, 49ers GM John Lynch has been the subject of some job security questions after what looks like missing on Solomon Thomas and mishandling the Reuben Foster situation. I started to tiptoe into that camp in recent weeks but yesterday was a reminder of the masterful fifth-round draft pick of George Kittle, the second-most productive tight end in football right now. Kittle’s 210 yards Sunday were more than the entire Rams offense. Orchestrating the Jimmy Garoppolo trade wasn’t such a terrible move either.
– Washington deserves everything they got yesterday. Obviously the decision to not even consider Colin Kaepernick is completely rooted in politics. Even if it wasn’t, Gruden’s assertion that he’s more comfortable with a certified well below average who “intimately knows the system” than a potentially above average quarterback just exposes him as a weak coach. You adjust your system for the talent, especially at the most important position. I truly feel for Washington fans that are witnessing their team intentionally throw away its playoff chances.
– Obligatory shout-out for 35-year-old Frank Gore who passed LaDainian Tomlinson to become fifth all-time in yards from scrimmage. Gore is averaging a monster 4.7 yards per rush, tied for the most he’s had since 2009. No player in football gives me more chills than Gore.