You didn’t go to bed early, did you? I’m sure plenty of people shut the TV off in disgust and went to get some shut-eye with the Patriots trailing the Broncos 24-0 at halftime Sunday night.
With the workweek looming and the holidays close at hand, it would’ve been understandable. Who knew Tom Brady would come out and school Peyton Manning in how to run a cold-weather offense? Who knew the Patriots would enjoy the biggest comeback in franchise history, culminating in a winning field goal for a 34-31 overtime triumph?
Well, students of Boston sports history should have remembered. Consider:
• A month earlier, David Ortiz woke up a moribund Red Sox lineup that had been handcuffed by Detroit in the American League Championship Series. Ortiz’s late-night grand slam led to a walk-off single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the way to a championship.
• In May the Bruins trailed the Maple Leafs by three goals in the third period and two goals with 1:30 remaining in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs. Patrice Bergeron scored the winner in the final minute of regulation, leading to his winning goal in overtime on the road to a return to the Stanley Cup finals.
Call 2013 the Year of the Comeback in Boston sports. Question is, which of these comebacks is most impressive?
You can always start with the Red Sox, since their win came in the postseason and was part of a championship run. The grand slam for Ortiz restored New England’s faith in this team – no easy task after they had been held hitless for the majority of the first two games against the Tigers. The homer also spawned legendary images – a head-over-heels Torii Hunter in right field and the hands-up celebration of Boston police officer Steve Horgan.
Then again, the Bruins staged their comeback without a safety net. A loss by the Sox would’ve put the Tigers up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series, but the Bruins were down by three goals with 11 minutes left in the season. Even after Nathan Horton’s goal cut it to two, the end still seemed at hand. Yes, Milan Lucic and Bergeron brought the TD Garden crowd to life – but the Bruins still needed to get it done in overtime.
There wasn’t any doubt they would. The Leafs looked shell-shocked when they came out of the dressing room after blowing a third-period lead.
For the Patriots, Sunday night’s overtime thriller was certainly not a done deal after regulation. Coach Bill Belichick reminded everyone he’s smarter than all of us when he opted to kick off to begin OT – choosing the wind over possession. And it worked, eventually. But the Pats needed help from a confused Denver punt return team that gave the ball back to New England.
It was one of the most improbable comebacks football fans have seen. But no more improbable than Boston’s hockey and baseball fans have seen.
It’s almost impossible to choose between such games. However, I’ll take the Bruins’ comeback – doing it in a Game 7 is the ultimate test of a team’s mettle. Of course, I’ll take any one of them. Any time.
And I’d strongly recommend you don’t go to sleep on any of these teams anytime soon.
You should’ve learned your lesson by now.
Tom Caron is studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.