EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - With one mighty heave, Tom Brady
and Randy Moss took care of the record books. Now it's down to
business for the unbeaten New England Patriots: stamping themselves
as the greatest team in NFL history.
The Patriots completed a perfect if somewhat joyless journey
through the regular season Saturday night, finishing with a
remarkable 16-0 record following a thrilling 38-35 comeback victory
over the New York Giants.
New England became the first NFL team since the 1972 Dolphins to
win every game on the schedule, and that one was only 14-0. This
victory required a comeback from a 12-point deficit engineered by
the brilliant Brady, and smashed the Patriots' league mark for
Validation of their inexorable march through the season can only
come by adding a Super Bowl championship, their fourth of the
decade. Do that and there'll be no challenge to their spot at the
In gaining their 19th straight win over two seasons, the
Patriots also got record-setting performances from Brady and Moss,
including the winning score, a 65-yard bomb with 11:06 remaining.
Brady beat Peyton Manning's mark of 49 touchdown passes by throwing
two to Moss against the Giants (10-6), giving the star quarterback
50. Moss broke Jerry Rice's record of 22 TD receptions. And the
Patriots finished with an incredible 589 points for the season,
another single-season record.
Yet this was anything but a coronation. The Giants, with little
to play for except spoiling New England's perfect ride - New York
is guaranteed playing at Tampa Bay in the playoffs next weekend -
led 28-16 in the third quarter. It was the Patriots' largest
deficit all year as the Giants showed no fear and plenty of
versatility, scoring the most points New England allowed in a game
during this remarkable run.
An efficient Eli Manning, at times resembling his vaunted older
brother, threw for four touchdowns. Domenik Hixon, in his first
game as New York's primary kick returner, went 74 yards for a score
11 seconds after Brady and Moss tied their respective records.
Not to worry. These Patriots are unflappable, and they matched
their comebacks in wins over Indianapolis, Philadelphia and
Baltimore earlier in the season. A 73-yard drive ended with
Laurence Maroney's 6-yard run to make it 28-23 with 4:00 to go in
the third period.
Then came the most familiar of scenes: Brady dropping back,
winding up and hitting a wide-open Moss in stride for a touchdown.
The final go-ahead TD in their perfect year.
Although many are eager to hail these Patriots as the NFL's
all-time best, such acclaim won't come unless they win two playoff
games and their fourth Super Bowl this decade. And for those who
might deny such greatness considering the "Spygate" scandal from
early in the season, well, 19-0 would speak pretty loudly.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick hugged players and assistant
coaches on the sideline as the game ended.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)