DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday, center, blocked New England's Vince Wilfork, right, on a run by Jacksonville's Fred Taylor, front, at yesterday's AFC Pro Bowl practice.
Patriots still reeling from Sunday’s loss
The New England Patriots were playing for more than the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday. They were playing for history. They were playing to be the first team in NFL history to go 19-0.
They were attempting to continue a growing dynasty that was close to equaling the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s and the San Francisco 49ers of the 80s.
In the blink of an eye, the team -- undefeated in its previous three championship game appearances -- went from unbeatable to simply "18-1."
"It's a humbling experience if you put yourself in that situation," Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light said.
Most people can't fathom playing in a game with so much at stake. They obviously are captivated by it, as shown by the 97.5 million people who tuned in.
So Light, one of five Patriots on hand for the AFC's opening practice for Sunday's Pro Bowl, put it in terms they might understand.
"Let's say you were having a big Madden tournament with your buddies," he said of the video game. "You made it all the way to the end. I'm sure when you didn't finish that all the way you would be a little stunned yourself."
Maybe that would apply if all you did your whole life was play video games.
Yet, with the exception of quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss, who have been to 10 Pro Bowls combined, the New England contingent made the flight out to Hawaii to play with the game's elite.
They did it despite still feeling the effects from Sunday's shocker.
"It still hurts," Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. "That's the game you're supposed to win, the Super Bowl."
Mankins, who was easily identifiable in the Super Bowl by his mountain-man-style beard, nearly went unnoticed yesterday.
For the first time in months, the lower portion of his face was inundated with oxygen. He hadn't touched his beard since before the first of the Patriots' 18 consecutive wins. It had taken on a life of its own.
It didn't last long however after the final seconds of Super Bowl XLII ticked off.
"I had some beard trimmers in my bag, and we were sitting (on the bus) forever and everyone was not in a great mood, so I just got 'em out and started cuttin'," Mankins said. I was planning on cutting it off, but not on the bus. Spur of the moment."
Like everything for the Patriots, a season-long body of work disappeared in a matter of seconds. The undefeated regular season and single-season records that were so impressive suddenly were a distant memory.
The Patriots are proud of what they did, but it could have meant so much more.
"A lot of records have been set and a lot of things like that," Light said. "We didn't finish out the way we wanted, but we have a lot to be proud of."
Light, who previously had nothing but fond Super Bowl memories in his seven-year career, couldn't find the way to explain how different Sunday's experience was.
"I've been on the winning end of three of them and now I know what it's like to walk out of that stadium not completing the season like we wanted to," he said. "It's tough to put into words."