The Shot Heard ‘Round New England

If a football team is a body, the New England Patriots just lost their head. The face of their franchise is done. The captain of their dynasty is crippled. The immortal emperor of Foxborough is devastatingly mortal.

Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard fired the shot heard ’round New England, tearing the ACL and MCL in Tom Brady’s left knee, ending his season before it even started.

Visions of a perfect season are now an embarrassing afterthought. A return trip to the Super Bowl instantly became a seemingly insurmountable goal. September 7, 2008 will go down as one of the darkest days in Boston sports history.

Witnessing Tom Brady collapse to the Gillette Stadium turf in agony felt like watching King Leonidas perish into the sand in “300.”

Brady was the lone part in an interchangeable system that simply could not be replaced. Compiling a legendary record of 100-27, Brady started 128 straight games for the Patriots, earning three Super Bowls, the 2007 MVP award and four Pro Bowl selections. Ever since that snowy night against the Raiders in 2002, Tom was the one thing a Patriots fan could always count on.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After two straight years of agonizing season-ending losses to the Colts and Giants, this was the year for redemption. At 31 years of age, Brady is in the prime of his career. This is no kind of encore to the greatest offensive season in quarterback history.

Ready or not, we find ourselves tuned in to the Matt Cassel show: the story of a career backup with the opportunity of a lifetime. Just like Brady, he is a late round draft choice forced to replace an injured icon. The one difference is that Cassel inherits a nearly perfect band of brothers with something to prove.

“It will all be OK. I’m excited to see what our team is made of,” Brady said recently in an email to NBCSports.com. “… I still like our chances.”

The shot heard round the world wasn’t from a musket in Lexington. It didn’t signal the start of a war for independence. The shot happened down the road in Foxborough. It was the sound of a champion’s cage being rattled.

History often repeats itself and after all, they are the New England Patriots. If the Super Bowl is the NFL’s annual revolutionary war, I’m going with Brady, I still like our chances.