Obviously, on the field of play, points spreads mean nothing (or, at the very least, should mean nothing). Just because you are favored by 14 points does not mean you are guaranteed to win. If anything, all the pressure is on you to deliver, because everyone who is paying to watch you play expects you to deliver, and when you don't you are called "chokers." As Colts fans, we know this all too well, not because our team ever "choked," but because our team was always held to that standard.
New England wasn't, until now.
It's funny how now New England is finally getting scrutinized, and this notion of "destiny" and all that can get flushed down the toilet, along with New England's "19-0" perfect season. We heard it all year long from readers like standingpat and horseofadifferentcolor. Hell, one actually tried to suggest that not winning the Super Bowl was ok because the Pats already made history and are immortalized.
Gee, wonder how that guy feels now.
The point here is the build up to the Super Bowl, and the campaigning by Patriots fans to crown their team even before they'd won the biggest game of the year, rivaled anything these presidential campaigns are doing in terms of spin. Even the Patriots themselves entered this game cocky and disrespectful of the opponent. Even during the game, guys like Richard Seymour were inviting Giants players to his Super Bowl celebration party after the game. During one of his final press conferences leading up to the game, Tom Brady laughed and shrugged off Plaxico Burress' comments that the Patriots would score only 17 points. He then took the field in Super Bowl 42 and managed to only put 14 on the scoreboard. I heard and read very little from the Patriots (and especially their fans) about how tough the Giants were; how they should not be taken lightly; how the Patriots are honored to play them, etc. As a favorite, it is very important to make those statements clear and not antagonize an underdog team.
Why? Simple, the Giants played like they had nothing to lose, and completely dominated the Patriots physically.
New England seemed shocked the Giants bothered to show up and even more shocked that NY was not intimidated by New England's "finesse" offense. If you are like me, you are laughing at the irony dripping from my sentences because, for years, this is what moronic Pats fans claimed made the Colts "chokers." They were a "soft" team that wasn't "physical" with their "choker" QB who can't make plays at the end to help his team win; "soft" defense that can't hold leads and isn't "physical" enough to win.
Even though Peter King is often a fat idiot, he did lead his post-Super Bowl 42 column with this quote from Mr. Congeniality himself, Mike Tyson:
"Humble pie?" My ass.
Why didn't 4 Pats defenders, one of them Richard Seymour, wrap up Eli Manning? Why was Ellis Hobbs one-on-one with Plaxico Burress near the goal line? What was Belichick thinking not punting, or kicking a FG, on 4th and 13? Mental and physical mistakes by a team not known for doing such things. Give NY credit for sticking it to a team that needed a good ass kicking, but the fact of the matter is the Patriots are, and have always been, an arrogant, cocky team that did not take the Giants seriously. That, in my book, is choking. Never, ever, under any circumstances, dismiss an opponent in the NFL. It's inexcusable. This is professional football, not friggin' college ball. Everyone in this league is good. Say whatever you want about the Colts disappointments in the playoffs, but they never, ever took a team lightly. They have always shown respect to the other side, even when the other side did not deserve or warrant respect.
That's why I think one can say the Patriots choked and, at the same time, the Giants should get credit for wrapping their hands around New England's collective throats, and "choking" the life out of their perfect season.