It starts in a huddle on or on the sideline or after a play. It's something bigger than one player, but they seem to be in control. It's something that grows, from one player, to one unit, to one team, then suddenly it's the whole building. It's that feeling when a team can do no wrong, when you're watching and you know what's coming, where victory seems imminent to the heart and the gut, but so far out of reach to the brain.
I got "the feeling" watching the last 3:42 of the Patriots-Colts game tonight. It's been the matchup of the decade with so much recent history and hype behind it, so much that you already know about that I don't need to go over here. It's something about these big games featuring legends in their prime that makes these games so special even before the opening kickoff. And then it gets historic.
As I said, "the feeling" came over the lat 3:42 of the 4th quarter, but the weird thing was, I hadn't seen any of the game up to that point. I had just gotten home from a dessert date and flipped on the TV to catch as much of what was left of the game as possible. I learned all I needed to know in seconds: the Colts had the ball in their own half, down by 13. A graphic came up pretty quickly comparing Brady's and Peyton's numbers. Brady was having the better night and the score showed it, 34-21. But right away, I knew, "Peyton's got way too much time and he's done it before, but can he score that many points with what's left? They've got a way to go." But on came "the feeling," and it got stronger with every completion Manning made. He willed his offense down the field and scored on an Addai touchdown run with seeming ease. Even though I hadn't seen the rest of the game, I knew this wasn't what was happening all evening, this was special. I knew that it was "the feeling," that these Colts had it behind them against such improbable odds, that Peyton was furthering his legend. And he still needed another touchdown to win.
Out come the Patriots, Brady's been playing well tonight, "but the Patriots seem to know too, they just look nervous." Sure enough, it wasn't just the Colt's offense with "the feeling," the defense had it too. 1st and 10, 2nd and 10, 3 and 2... what, 4 and 2! "What do the Patriots do here? Do they do the safe thing and punt, making Peyton go as far as possible? They're going for it!" Before the play even started, you knew, the stadium knew. Whatever the Patriots did, nothing can overcome "the feeling." Alas they couldn't convert. Suddenly Peyton had the ball only 29 yards to the end zone with 2:00 left, an eternity. Watching all of this you knew, you just knew the Colts were gonna have the magic and make it happen 4 plays and a perfect slant to Reggie Wayne later, the Colts did it. They did the impossible, 14 points in less than 4:00 to take a one point lead and snatch a victory.
I couldn't help but grin. I knew that this was big, I knew that this was history, a legend at work doing what he does best. All along knowing it was going to happen. It's just that little voice in your gut saying, "they're gonna do this. Peyton will find the only way to win this game." But your brain can't get behind it, it's skeptical. "But that's the only possible way to do it, and the Patriots know that. They're not just gonna let 'em do it." But when you have "the feeling" on your side, you do it. Everything clicks. Every play called is the right one. Every assignment is executed. Every decision made is the right one. Every play that needs to be made is made. And it just happens.
Such an incredible feeling.
Now, to get all analyst-y on you, Belichick is gonna get ripped apart for his decision to go for it on 4th and 2 with the game on the line like that. "He didn't trust his defense," "He's gotta play the percentages," blah blah blah... What's key in my mind was not the decision (I can easily justify either punting or going for it), but the play call. The play call was abhorable. The Patriots, in all their dominance and experience have to have a play or two in their pocket for just this sort of situation. A pass play to a sure-handed guy (in my mind Moss or Welker) that will get you 3-5 yards every single time you run it. A comeback. An in-and-out. A quick slant. Something for a situation where you need two yards but will surely get 5. Instead Tom throws off balance to Kevin Faulk on a little out and Faulk can't come up with the ball on the good side of the first down marker. Colts ball. Game (essentially) over.
But like I said, the Patriots just had that nervous look to them, like they weren't confident at all that they could hold onto their suddenly evaporating lead. You could tell they they knew that the Colts suddenly had that legendary stuff behind them, y'know, "the feeling." What made it so recognizable to them, was that they'd had "the feeling" before. That team of destiny air, that golden touch at the opportune moment. And when they realized that "the feeling" was suddenly on the other side of the ball, there was nothing they could do to stop it.