Or Rolaids. Take your pick. You get the idea.
As everyone remotely connected with football has already pointed out, this game is huge for both teams involved. The Jaguars need to win their remaining two games to clinch a playoff berth, and the Patriots need to prove that they can beat a good team and keep momentum going from week to week if they have any hope of being anything other than a nominal contender in the postseason.
An interesting stat (along with a priceless segment of Rodney Harrison and Tully Banta-Cain playing Madden on the Jumbo-Tron) appeared on Patriots All-Access this morning: the Jaguars are the best in the NFL at stopping fourth down conversions, while the Patriots are the best in the NFL at making fourth-down conversions. In many ways, this clash today is of irresistible forces and immovable objects; both teams can be said to have "momentum" and "desire" and all the other immeasurables, and those in spades.
The only time the fourth-down question came into play, however, was early in the second quarter when an absolutely horseshit false start penalty was called on Tom Brady, rendering the question moot.
Once again, the officiating has been notably horrible in this game. I'm not sure if I've ever seen more games in a single season in which fans of both teams (and sometimes even the supposedly impartial TV announcers) could agree that officiating was a farce. In addition to the false start penalty on Brady (how, exactly, does a quarterback earn a false start penalty? Oh well, replays show he didn't even move first on the Patriots' side of the ball...), there was a rare doubly crappy call a little while later when the forward progress of Jabar Gaffney was stopped, the play was blown dead, and then a Jaguars defensive back swooped in to shove Gaffney to the ground. The Jaguars were called for unnecessary roughness...but on a ridiculous, tiny love-tap from one of the Jags linebackers on Brady. Brady hardly even took a step backwards, it was such a tiny bit of contact. And yet the ref was whipping out the flag like Brady was getting his block knocked off.
In fairness, the refs were playing out of position after the umpire (apologies, too early for news stories to be up yet and I don't recall his name) got drilled in the ear with a line-drive pass from David Garrard and was taken to the hospital.
You can't make a similar excuse for Tully Banta-Cain and Artrell Hawkins, each of whom completely let Maurice Jones-Drew go right before he ripped off a 74-yard touchdown run. I haven't been that mad at any members of the Patriots in...well, at least a couple weeks, but suffice to say I was fuming, ranting at my dad that a championship team does not make plays like that, that members of a championship defensive secondary do not just let a guy get up and run away, and then be all, "I thought you had him..."
My dad has a saying left over from his coaching days, that was invented for just this type of situation, since a player in Banta-Cain's and Hawkins' position usually comes off the field and their first excuse will be, "I thought he was down."
My dad's line is, "Let's not blame any of this on thinking."
I'm sure that's a play that will be shown over and over in excruciating detail, today and throughout the rest of the season, especially if things don't go well for the Pats. That kind of error is a terrible thing for a Patriots fan to see--we're not accustomed to it (well, except for this season) and we know it's a terrible symptom that the mental makeup of a championship team is missing. Mistakes will happen, but there are the "Tough luck" mistakes and the "Let's not blame any of this on thinking" mistakes, and that can make all the difference.
But, anyway, as I was ranting about this, my Dad was saying, "Last I checked there's still 12:59 left in the first half...relax, would you?"
And so we take our deep breaths and we head into the second half. Fingers crossed. Thinking caps on. And let's hope our kicker keeps that knuckleball, eh?
Back after the game.