Walt Disney couldn’t have written a more magical ending than what took place during the Redsox and Patriots games last night.
The odds were certainly against both teams, but they both came back to win big games just hours apart.
Game one: Patriots
The Patriots played a magnificent game, but by the very end it looked like they would surely lose. They had the lead almost the entire game, but the Saints came back in the final quarter, taking a 24-23 lead with three and a half minutes left on the clock.
This should have been more and enough time for Tom Brady and his offense to march down the field and at least get a field goal to win the game, but the Patriots, showed no backbone. They decided to throw on all four downs— one of those throws going for four yards and the other three throws ending with drops. The Patriots then turned the ball over on downs inside of their own territory, meaning no matter what happened, the Saints would kick a field goal and force the Patriots to have to score a touchdown to win the game.
The Defense did manage to force the Saints to not get a first down on this drive and kick the field goal, allowing the offense to get the ball back with 2.24 left on the clock with a timeout— again plenty of time to march down the field. But, on the first play of the drive, Tom Brady under threw Julian Edelman for an interception. Now the Saints had the ball, with just 2.16 left, and all they had to do was get a first down to run down the clock and eventually win the game. It looked for certain the Patriots would lose this game in an epic collapse.
The Defense did all they could to prevent this from happening. The Saints chose to run on all three downs and the Pats defense did their job to make sure they would get nowhere near the first down line. Their drive was just one minute and three seconds long. The Patriots would have one final try to win the game with just over a minute left, no time outs, and they had to score a touchdown—a nearly impossible feat.
The magic then began. On the first play, Brady threw a 23-yard pass to Edelman to cross into Saints territory. They then rushed to the line, wasting no time to get the next play off, which was a 15-yard completion to newly acquired free agent Austin Collie. They now had 32 yards to the end zone. The next play went to the rookie Dobson for six yards, who was (thankfully) tackled out of bounds to stop the clock. Brady then threw two straight passes down the middle of the field intended for Edelman, but both were barely incomplete.
It was now fourth and six and it looked like the Patriots luck would run out. If the Patriots did not convert this play, they would have officially lost—however, Brady threw a bullet to Austin Collie for nine yards up the middle. The team again rushed to the line and spiked the ball—ten seconds to go.
Emotions were high, the Patriots had two chances to get it into the end zone and they were just 17 yards away. The odds were stacked against them. They have been terrible in the red zone this year, and the Saints knew they were going to have to throw the ball.
The Patriots weren’t thinking about any of that. The only thing that was on their mind was winning. Thus, when Tom Brady snapped that ball with ten seconds left, magic happened. Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins managed to beat his defender and then get behind the prevent defense. Tom Brady, after dodging the oncoming pass rush then threw a perfectly thrown ball (the only way to get it by the safety) to get it to Thomkins for the game-winning touchdown. Everything went right—and the Patriots won the game, against all the odds.
All of the Patriots players and coaches did their job in those final two minutes. The defense held the Saints to two straight three and outs, Belichick did a great job managing the teams timeouts, and Tom Brady and the receivers did a great job marching down the field in only one minute to win the game. It could not have been dreamed any better than it was executed—Fiction came to life.
Game 2: The Redsox
Just a half hour after the Patriot’s historic victory, the Redsox were scheduled to play against sure Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers in game two of the ALCS. The previous night, the Redsox lost, collecting only one hit and striking out 17 times.
Last night’s game did not look much better. The Sox did not even collect a hit until the sixth inning. And in the span of two games up to that point, they were outscored 6-0, had only had one hit and struck out 28 times (in 14 innings). The Redsox couldn’t even hit the ball. Every time the Redsox even put the bat on the ball, the announcers would make a comment like “that was one of the best swings of the game for the Redsox” even though it produced no hits.
Then, magic happened.
Coming into the bottom of the sixths, the Redsox were down 5-0 and Max Scherzer was throwing a no-hitter. Victorino, with two outs in the inning, finally got the first hit. He ripped a single down the left field line. The next batter, Dustin Pedroia, who already struck out twice in the game, then ripped a double to left center to score the hustling Victorino. Even though the score was 5-1 at that point in favor of Detroit, everybody could feel a little hope in the air.
The next inning did not go well for the Redsox. Dubront and Workman did a great job pitching, but the Redsox offense went cold, grounding out once and striking out twice to go down 1-2-3 during the half inning.
The next inning is where things got good. Detroit pulled Scherzer despite him giving up just one run on two hits, putting the game in the hands of their bullpen. All they had to do was get six outs before they gave up four runs and they would have won the game. This turned out to be easier said than done.
Tigers coach Jim Leyland knew anything could happen with this Boston team, who has a knack for comeback wins. Even though he had a four run lead, he was not going to take any chances. He had his four best relievers statistically on the season in the bullpen ready to go. His first option was Veras, who he used against the lefty Drew. Drew grounded out. One down. Then he kept him in to pitch against the righty Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks had been 0-2 with two strikeouts at this point in the game. Nobody in Fenway Park, possible even Middlebrooks, believed he would do what he did next—pull an outside pitch down the line to get a double. That made for a runner on second, one out.
Leyland, understanding the significance of that hit, put in the lefty specialist Smyly to face Jacoby Ellsbury. He would go on to walk him after being up 1-2. He then sent in his righty specialist Alburquerque to face the righties Victorino and Pedroia. He also began to warm up closer Benoit to make a four-out save and face Ortiz just in case one of them got on base.
Victorino would later end up striking out to leave runners on first and second with two outs for Dustin Pedroia. All Detroit’s bullpen needed to do was get this out and avoid facing Ortiz and end the inning. Pedroia, however, managed to single to opposite field to load the bases for one of the best clutch hitters of all time, David Ortiz.
Ortiz, at that point in the game had gone 0-2 with two strikeouts and a walk, but Leyland knew he was still dangerous. With two outs and the bases loaded, he did not want to take any chances, so he put in his closer Benoit. Benoit had good numbers against Ortiz up until that point, and most importantly had never given up a homerun to him. This did not faze Ortiz a bit. On the first pitch he saw, he cranked the ball deep into the right field bullpen for a grand slam to tie the game. Fenway went ballistic.
The next batter for the Sox, Mike Napoli, struck out.
With the game tied, Sox coach John Farrell put in closer Uehara to make sure Detroit didn’t put any runs on the board in the top of the ninth inning. And like he has so many times before, Uehara delivered, getting the three batters he faced to go down.
Now all the Redsox had to do was get a run across the plate to complete the comeback of the ages—and that is exactly what they did. Johnny Gomes hustled down the line to get a broken bat infield single (and managed to advance to second on a error throw) and the very next batter, Saltalamacchia hit the game winning single to drive him in.
These two games, taking place just a half hour after one another, is the reason why sports is the greatest reality TV and entertainment people will come across. It is why a person has to watch the entire game—because it is impossible to predict the outcome. Statistics mean something, but they are not supreme. All numbers, odds and chances can be thrown out at the end of games. The game are put into the hands of the team to will their way to victory—and the team who believes and wants it more, will be the victor. It takes everybody to win. With a minute left in the Patriots game, with 70 yards to go, nobody expected them to score a touchdown. They haven’t marched down the field all season and have been horrible in the redzone—until the final drive of their game. Everybody stepped up, did their job, and willed their way to victory. Same thing happened to the Sox. Nobody expected them to win, after they got one hit and struck out 28 times in their last 14 innings to come back from a 5-0 deficit against Detroit’s best pitchers. Nobody can predict that.
It’s what makes sports special—it is a story. Each game and season has a beginning, middle and end. They all have a conflict and that conflict has an outcome. Sometimes, the audience is surprised, oftentimes they are not, but one can never know when they will be surprised or when they wont be. That’s what compels us to watch every game—because there can be surprises and upsets at anytime, and for Boston Sports fans, we had two last night.