When you're 15-0, you won the division easily and the top seed in the AFC is yours, there's little motivation to risk injury to your players for a meaningless game in Week 17.
That's the predicament the Patriots faced in 2007. They had nothing to play for against the Giants and their plan was to rest their starters after the first quarter. But as Matt Cassel explains in a great story he told on Patriots Pregame Live Sunday, that plan was abandoned as the game went on.
"I was supposed to go in in the first quarter," Cassel said. "The night before the game, I’m sitting there, I’m going through the game plan, the schedule. We go into that game, it started to become a dog fight, and not one of those starters came out."
The Giants gave the Patriots their toughest game of the 2007 season in Week 17. The Giants led 28-16 in the third quarter but the Patriots stormed back to win 38-35. Tom Brady finished the game with 356 yards and two touchdowns while Wes Welker and Randy Moss combined for 17 catches for 222 yards.
The Giants would go on to beat the Patriots in an epic Super Bowl showdown, so the perfect season was all for not. Giants players on that team even said their close loss in Week 17 gave them the confidence to beat the Patriots in the sport's game, so everything ended up backfiring on the Patriots in this scenario. However, Bill Belichick most likely doesn't regret any of it based on what Cassel said.
"If it was years past we probably would have not played all those guys, but that game had some meaning to (Belichick)," he said. "Bill takes a lot of pride in history and he’s a big history buff, and he’s a historian of the game. At the end of the day though, I really do think it’s all about winning the Super Bowl."
The Patriots have won three Super Bowls since then, so that also probably makes it a bit easier to swallow the loss in 2007.
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