DENVER • The entire NFL is trying to duplicate the New England Patriots’ blueprint.
Nine Super Bowls in 17 years. Three straight trips there. A quarterback whose dimpled chin deserves its own national holiday.
One secret to all their winning? The Patriots know how to lose. They rarely put a loss on someone else. They own it. They analyze and improve from it.
The proper menu for this Super Bowl, No. 53, includes a platter of whine and sour grapes. Can anyone aside from the Nuggets’ next opponent at Pepsi Center take an ‘L’ around here? When the Broncos played in Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey, the host committee gave out handwarmers and a goofy beanie with blinky lights. This one, Sunday in Atlanta, should be sponsored by Kleenex.
Sports are now the blame game. If it’s not an attorney representing Saints fans threatening legal action over a whiffed no-call in the NFC championship game, it’s Lakers star LeBron James trying to get another coach fired as if the coach is the problem, or the city of St. Louis again blasting Stan Kroenke for doubling the value of his NFL team by moving an entertainment entity to the entertainment capital of the world.
Who needs an additional $1.5 billion in their pocket when there’s victimhood to be played?
These days logic is no match for hurt feelings. Except in New England. Say what you will about the “Cheatriots” and their deflated balls, one game Bill Belichick doesn’t play is the blame game.
“It just wasn’t quite enough against a good team like Philadelphia,” Belichick said after the Eagles beat the Patriots last year in Super Bowl XXXIX.
The Patriots instead lean on honest self-reflection. It’s a cutthroat approach, humbling, but apparently it can be a handy tool the next time around. Is it possible that football’s biggest winners are also its best losers?
“Certainly it wasn’t one play that was the reason we lost today,” Brady said after the New York Giants upset the 17-0 Patriots on David Tyree’s “Helmet Catch” in Super Bowl XLII.
The Saints got hosed by the whistle heard nowhere around the world. As gambling friends can attest, that’s a bad beat. (Speaking of, the over-under on Gladys Knight’s national anthem is 1 minute, 47 seconds. Performing in her hometown she definitely stretches it out. Right?)
The Saints also fudged a 13-point lead at home, called a passing play on first down with the clock as their friend and threw a terrible interception in overtime.
Remember how Brady was saying losing isn’t about one play?
In the age of alibis, Super Bowl organizers missed an opportunity for the halftime show. Instead of Maroon 5, Atlanta hip-hop legends Outkast would have been the correct choice. That, or Justin Timberlake with “Cry Me a River,” the anthem of a sports landscape that sounds way too much like the finger pointers in politics. Wouldn’t some of that self-reflection we were talking about be a more productive response?
There hasn’t been a lot of buzz about the big game around these hills, but there’s a silver lining to this Super Bowl. With a loss to the Rams on Sunday the Patriots would pass the Broncos for the most losses in Super Bowl history — as if Broncos Country needed another reason to root for Wade Phillips, C.J. Anderson and Aqib Talib’s Rams.
Colorado’s allegiances Sunday are clear. More than anything, this Super Bowl reminds of how much fun it was when the Patriots had to go through the Broncos to reach the Super Bowl. The Broncos are 3-1 in the postseason against the Pats in the Brady era, which is still going... and going... and going.
The Broncos and Patriots each own five defeats in the Super Bowl. (This is actually a good stat to call your own, since it means you’ve been there a lot. See, a silver lining.) In defense of the orange and blue, the Broncos rarely left room to blame somebody or something else: 27-10 (to the Cowboys in XII), 39-20 (Giants, XXI), 42-10 (Redskins, XXII), 55-10 (49ers, XXIV) and 43-8 (Seahawks, XLVIII). Denver’s margin of Super Bowl defeat is 29.6, New England’s is 13.
Stick with me here. It’s been a long NFL season in Colorado.
If it’s OK with all the sore losers who won’t concede defeat, let’s see if Coach Wade can pull another fast one on the Patriots. If anyone can turn an All-Star defense into Handsome Tom’s nightmare, it’s Phillips, as Broncos Country knows well. I keep hearing that Rams star defender Aaron Donald is better than Von Miller, anyway. Cool, so do it in the Super Bowl like Von did.
But make mine Patriots 32, Rams 26, please. The Pats offer the best chance of breaking this trend of athletes and fans playing the victim. Maybe the Pats are able to take that approach because if they lose, they’ll just be right back here again next year.
(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)