Within a few hours of the Patriots winning, I got an e-mail from
friend of his bleeds Steeler colors. It seems that back when Pittsburgh
defeated New England during this year’s regular season, his friend
had called before the game. And, he told Dad that he wasn’t sure
who to cheer for.
Dad was floored. The answer seemed obvious to him.
until his friend said that every time these two teams play during
the regular season, the loser of that game goes on to win the
with the football sailing wide of the posts and New England headed
to Indianapolis, Dad was sending me the story with a hope that
his friend was right.
have to go back in the history books all the way to last year
to find that out. Pittsburgh lost in the regular season to New
England, and then they lost the Super Bowl to Green Bay. So… lose
– lose… not lose – win.
in a funny twist, everything except losing in the regular season
and winning the Super Bowl has happened since the last time the
Patriots and Giants met for the title. New England defeated Pittsburgh
in the undefeated regular season… and we know how that year ended.
Pittsburgh won the next season and then won the Super Bowl over
the year Pittsburgh defeated Seattle for the championship? That
year the idea actually worked. New England won the regular season
contest, and Pittsburgh won the championship. But the story itself
doesn’t hold water. The regular season loser does not always go
to the Super Bowl and win.
is no trend. It’s just an observational fluke being turned into
more than is really there… much the same as how conspiracy theorists
question why New England plays Indianapolis every year. (It’s
the rotation plus both of them repeatedly winning their divisions.
The NFL offices love it, but don’t go setting it up to happen.)
yet… flawed reasoning or no… that’s pretty much as good a theory
as any for this year. Because honestly, I think just about anyone
you talk to has as good a chance of being correct as my Dad’s
that tells you they know what is going to happen in this game
is mistaken. And, anyone that is proven right about their opinion
because of how the game plays out is exceptionally lucky.
we’ll start with an easy observation. Stupid stuff happens in
the Super Bowl. New York against Buffalo… New England against
St. Louis… New York against New England… just some examples of
how the way things played out differed from the expected.
then consider that often you get unlikely heroes. An unexpected
player makes an interception and we end up not seeing a quarterback
earn the MVP.
this year is different.
me… have you already seen plenty of stories about Brady and how
all you need to do is pressure him? Of course you have. How about
comparison pieces about Peyton and Eli? Sure thing.
all incredibly predictable. (And very safe, without being enlightening
in the least.)
been telling you for a month that Tom Brady finished the regular
season by playing in only the second half of games. And, that
if he failed to show up in the playoffs while an opponent there
went up by two scores, the Pats would be in trouble. Fortunately,
in a down game, the Ravens never led by much or for long. And
yet, in the days that followed the AFC Championship, all I saw
was story after story about the Pats hoping the right Brady shows
up on February 5th.
we want to explore things, we can make a case about offense… but
New England has been shut down by more than the New York Giants
in recent years. Tom Brady wasn’t electrifying against Baltimore
this year… or against New York (Jets) last year… Baltimore the
year before that… New York (Giants) in the game no Patriots player
will watch. Could the Patriots dominate this game from the start
and just outscore the Giants? Absolutely. No one would predict
that right now though.
can talk about defense… discuss special teams… evaluate coaches…
and the reality is always the same.
are so interestingly balanced here that even if you do predict
things correctly, it wasn’t talent or insight that did it. It
was luck that it played out that way.
give it a shot anyway… maybe I can find something worth noting…
(and in fact, I think I do have something…)
York (Giants) against New England (2½)
– I believe there are two truths to be found in this game.
one – If this game is going to be lopsided, it will be New England
destroying New York. (Not likely. But I don’t see any way New
York crushes New England. Lopsided favors New England.)
two – A close game favors New York. (More likely it is decided
by one score or less, and in considering a late-game scoring drive,
New York seems better positioned to carry it out when considering
the defense they’ll face. I think someone said the last three
times these teams have played regular season or playoff games,
each was decided by 4-points or less. Same quarterbacks in those
three games… New York went 2-1 in them. Close game… favors the
the reality is, truth or not, all of it is simply words.
Patriots have had a very obvious problem… as good as the defense
has looked in two playoff games (and they have been significantly
better here than in the regular season), they still don’t know
how to get off the damn field. And that folks, is my big observation
that people aren’t mentioning.
the second half against Denver, the Broncos ran consecutive drives
that lasted 14 and 13 plays.
you read that? Read it again…
up by a significant amount and allowing the Patriots a pass for
being lackadaisical… in the second half against of the playoff
game between New England and Denver, the Broncos ran consecutive
drives that lasted 14 and 13 plays.
was the last time you recall a 14 or 13 play drive? I mean… right?
So… back-to-back drives of 13-plus?
on to the second playoff game of this year. I made a quick count
of the number of times the Ravens faced third and 5 or longer.
The total I got was seven. They converted five of them. That’s
a success rate over 71% on third and long.
me… that right there is the biggest question of the game. Can
New England’s defense get off the field when they should?
noted, I’ve been asking all postseason about Tom Brady and slow
starts. Still worth asking.
let’s take this defense thing a bit deeper in the game with Baltimore.
Because Brady wasn’t particularly sharp… and yet New England led.
When the second half began, the Patriots came out and controlled
the ball for about six minutes before scoring a field goal. They
were up 16-10 at that time. And, if the defense could stop the
Ravens on that possession… force the aging Baltimore defense quickly
back onto the field… the Patriots might have a chance to finish
they do it?
The Ravens went on a touchdown drive that listed almost 6 minutes.
They faced three third downs… one of 11 yards and one of 6 yards,
which they converted with gains of 13 and 8 respectively. The
touchdown was on a third and 4.
arguably the biggest drive of the game for the defense, they failed
on three third downs… including two decently long third down conversions.
that is the biggest concern I have for New England. They have
to switch things over… get their defense off the field and give
Brady as many possessions as they can. Most importantly, on third
down, they have to close the door. And despite all the “looks
better” and “bend but don’t break” of Patriots defensive play
here in the playoffs, getting off the field is something they
haven’t done all that well.
the spread: New England
Without spread: New England
The beginning to end selection (have New Orleans against New
England): New Orleans
spread – 4-6 (0-2 in week three)
Without spread – 5-5 (1-1 in week three)
Beginning to end – 5-5 (1-1 in week three)