Man, what a game yesterday between the Patriots and Jets! I don't know if it was the shockingly warm temperatures, the week of hype of Belichick vs. Mangini, Mad Genius vs. Mangenius, Master vs. Apprentice.... but it felt like a special game.
We got to our seats early and watched warm ups while many Patriots players chatted with former teammates now on the Jets like Matt Chatham, Bobby Hamilton and Hank Poteat. It was interesting to see the few brave souls - Kevin Faulk and Corey Dillon - who approached Jets Coach Eric Mangini and gave him a warm hello.
It wasn't just the Patriots towel giveaway (which thanks to the great weather and upbeat crowd were waving the whole game through) that proved this was a playoff game, the celebs were even in the house. Donald Trump was up above us in the owners box with Robert Kraft while Aerosmith's own Joe Perry was roaming the Patriots' sidelines.
It was all you could want in a Patriots win - competitive but in control and then the score is blown open in the fourth quarter. It was rare to see such competitive, noticeable coaching. This was a real chess match with moves and counter moves, dueling no-huddle offenses, both teams racing to make substitutions. Coach Belichick was much more emotional and demonstrative than his normal stoic self. He was one of the first to welcome Asante Samuel to the sidelines after his interception and he was going nuts to get Vince Wilfork's attention to run with the ball when he came up with it after Jets QB threw a backward pass the was tipped by Pats' linebacker Rosevelt Colvin. The ball hit the ground and most players stopped, believing the ball to be dead and the play over, not-so-gentle giant Wilfork scooped up the ball and after much prompting from Belichick chugged his 325+ pounds down the field.
At the end of the game, Belichick had to fight a media mob and shoved one dude aside to give a nice hug to his former disciple Mangini. He even swore in his press conference when describing all the photographers in his way. Classic.
Next stop, San Diego, where the Pats will face the league MVP LT. It won't be easy for the Patriots to upset the Chargers, but it is certainly doable. A month ago I thought Pats would be lucky to win one playoff game, now I'm dreaming of another Super Bowl.