The Best One-Loss Season Debate… Patriots Near Perfection Still Major

January 24, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

“Who the heck is Zenyatta!?” Those are the exact words I shared with my cohorts at The Sports Debates when I was chosen for this debate. Honestly, I’m still pondering that question today. After a few minutes of research on the old interwebs I learned that Zenyatta is a race horse – a really, really good race horse – but, a race horse. I mean, what is a horse anyways besides a larger, dumber hoofed dog? But I digress. This new knowledge of what Zenyatta – which for the record sounds like some sort of Buddhist meditating female Yeti – actually is prompted me to try to address another, perhaps more important question, who HONESTLY cares!?

Sure, someone out there has to care about horse racing, or else it would have gone the way of the XFL. But if it did, would normal Americans miss it? Aside from gamblers, weird horse people, and rich ladies who like to wear big hats, who would truly miss horse racing’s existence? I believe the answer to that question to be a resounding “NO ONE.”

That is why I feel that today’s debate, which asks me to compare the near perfect season of the 2007 New England Patriots to that of the racing record of a relatively obscure horse, is a slam dunk in my favor.

The 2007 Patriots displayed a level so rare that it has only been bested once before in the history of the NFL. The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team to have gone undefeated throughout the entire regular season and playoffs. It should be noted, however, that the Dolphins did it with a regular season that consisted of only 14 games. The ‘07 Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, and there is no guarantee that the ‘72 Miami team would have claimed perfection if they had to win two more games in the regular season.

New England eventually fell short of perfection in a nail biting 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, but they accomplished much along the way. Randy Moss made history that season, setting the single-season touchdown reception record with an amazing 23 touchdown catches. That was history in and of itself, considering that mark bested a record held by Jerry Rice since 1987. That record held for two decades for a reason – it was hard to accomplish. But nothing was too hard for perhaps the most dynamic passing duo in NFL history. That same season Tom Brady truly became “Touchdown Tom” when he broke another improbable plateau by setting the single-season passing touchdown record with 50. As an admitted Peyton Manning fanatic I thought Manning’s 49 touchdown season in 2004 would stand forever, but Brady one-upped him as he has often done in the two’s storied rivalry. The Patriots finished first in eight offensive categories and were among the best defensive teams in the league as well.

With that much scoring the team had a potent offense, but it was so powerful that no team stood a chance during the regular season. The Patriots were decimating teams by 46 and 45 point margins. The Pats 16-0 regular season record included hard fought wins over very tough teams, including the Eagles (31-28), Ravens (27-24), and the always dangerous Colts (24-20). The 1972 Dolphins certainly had to beat some serious competitors, but they never had to beat a motivated Peyton Manning (who was at the time the single season touchdown record holder). That really says a lot about the difficulty behind the Patriots’ 18-1 record, the likes of which horse racing simply cannot compete.

Even with the Super Bowl loss the Patriots are still in the conversation of the greatest team in football history. Although they didn’t go 19-0, they still outshine the 1972 Dolphins in the score differential against opponents. The 2007 Patriots outscored their opponents by a total of 315 points. That’s 101 points better than the ‘72 Dolphins, a team that outscored opponents by 214 points. As further proof of their achievement, the Patriots led the NFL in myriad statistical categories that serve as proof of a legacy of accomplishment.

Is that horse Zanadoo… or Zimbabwe or… whatever its name is… in the conversation of the greatest racing horse of all time? Maybe. But will its legacy hold up over time and compare with that of the 2007 Patriots? Highly doubtful. Americans love football, and the 2007 Patriots are among the greatest to ever play the game regardless of their record, that makes them the winner of this debate.

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