It was a good win for the Colts on Sunday night. They did enough to win, and the Pats did just enough to lose.
There was plenty of blame to go around; Jabar Gaffney, Randy Moss, Dave Thomas, Bill Belichick.
Gaffney dropped a sure touchdown pass.
Moss ran a route half speed in the last offensive series when he had drawn one on one coverage, and then cut his route off early, as though he couldn't outrun the corner that was so far down on the Colts depth chart that the man was a player without a team earlier in the season.
Dave Thomas had possibly the biggest boneheaded play of all on a drive that might have ended up compensating for Belichick's earlier blunders, committing a personal foul after the play to turn a third and inches into a third and fifteen.
But some of the other things would never have played into it had Belichick not engaged in some brutally bad choices - the penalty challenge was poor because it really didn't take very long for me to establish with TiVo that not only there were only 11 players on the field, but the one that the Pats coaches mistook for the 12th guy running off the field was player 11. The coaches up in the box should have been able to determine that inside of ten to fifteen seconds.
Then with 11 minutes left Belichick second guessed himself on a fourth down sneak which worked, but the refs granted Bill the timeout and the play didn't count. Belichick eschewed four more chances at the end-zone for the tie. It somehow felt like the Ravens game last season with the Pats in the roll of the Ravens.
The difference in the game - the Colts didn't make the stupid choices - clock mismanagement, personal fouls, drops at key moments. That was all on the Patriots, and it was the difference in the game.
On the plus side, there are some bright spots to take from the game, some of which Peter King noted in his TMQB article where he talked to former Giants coach Jim Fassel -
And onto team dynamics...
• JIM FASSEL ON PATS-COLTS. Fassel did the 18-15 Indy win on Westwood One radio the other night, and he loved the game. "Great, great game,'' he said. "You think without [Tom] Brady the rivalry would really suffer, but you can't see a much better game than that one. New England has four 12-play-plus drives. Indianapolis has Manning playing for their season. Either team could have won.
"People thought the Patriots were dead with Matt Cassel playing, but I remember when Brady came in that first year , and he was scrambling and dinkin' and dunkin.' Same philosophy now. Same gameplan. And in this game, I saw stuff out of Cassel I didn't see when I did the Patriots against San Diego a couple of weeks ago. He drops back, and on his fifth step, bang, he hits a receiver right between the numbers with authority. New England will be a tough team to beat in the playoffs.''
Humans are instinctively pack animals. I have believed this for a long time. We have this need to belong to a group, to something larger than ourselves. I've always felt this was at the root of why we root for sports teams, and we even identify with them using pronouns such as "we," and "my." There is almost always an "us against them" mentality for the fan bases, and it definitely exists within the teams themselves.
It's an instinct that both brings people together and one that pits them against each other.
I bring this up because there's something about fan and team dynamics that's applicable to politics. Historically, political races are run less on the actual issues than they have been run with the philosophy of tearing down the opponent. The us against them mentality is pervasive -
Republicans are fascist pinheads and religious nut jobs.
Democrats are commie pinko socialists bent on the destruction of the American Way.
Republicans are book-banning Nazis.
Democrats can't keep the nation safe.
For my money, it's all boneheaded, but as boneheaded as it was, we saw something new work this election. McCain used the Karl Rove playbook and got badly burned. Hillary Clinton did everything in the primaries that she could to tear down Barack Obama, and it ended up burning her.
Obama, while not total innocent of the "look what they're doing/ they have done" mentality in his advertising campaigns, his general message was that we needed to come together as a nation. He actually avoided some of the issues that could have reflected negatively on McCain which included -
For all of McCain's bluster about Ayers, McCain accepted donations and public endorsements from Leonore Annenberg and Arnie Weber - two individuals who also have ties to Ayers. Both individuals donated the maximum allowable amount to McCain's campaign, and both were involved in the approval of the grant Ayers' foundation received from the Annenberg Foundation. Does this make McCain a terrorist? Certainly not.
Palin, while mayor in Wasilla, asked the librarian how she would go about banning books from the shelves of the public library. She tried to fire the librarian when the same librarian gave Palin the answer that she couldn't.
Little was made of McCain's links to the Iran-Contra affair by the campaign.
Nothing was made about McCain's comments that we supported freedom fighters in Afghanistan back in the 1980's. Considering they were called the Taliban then, were trained by the Republican regime then in place, and had a member of that "freedom fighter" group by the name of Osama bin Laden - it was a comment that Obama could have jumped all over.
This is just the short list.
And please, don't mistake - I'm registered as an independent, have voted for Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, and any number of other candidates. My issue isn't with Republicans, per se. I have issues with party politics and the politics of partisanship and I cast my vote based on what I feel is the competence of the candidate.
What I think is interesting to note here is that while McCain tried scare tactics in regards to executive experience (he has virtually none as well), past associates (he has some pretty shady associates as well - I didn't even mention the Keating Five), incorrectly linking his opponent to a political philosophy that Obama doesn't actually espouse, Obama stayed on message - stressing in stump speeches the need to come together as a nation. I'm not naive enough to believe that this heralds a new day in campaign strategy. I just think the variables just came together for a guy who organized an impressive campaign.
And that's really the bottom line in sports and in politics - the people who win are the ones who run the best campaigns - and from early on McCain stumbled, Obama didn't - and like with the Pats-Colts game, the guy who made the fewest mistakes won.