Now that football’s over, I’m about to enter my annual “What should I do with my weekends?” phase. Before that, I’d like to revisit my predictions under the cold light of morning (but not the blue light of mourning). If you’re not interested in the Super Bowl, here’s a video of a Superb Owl. More math posts are on the way.
On January 27th I wrote a six point list entitled “Reasons the Pats will win.” Let’s see how I did in hindsight.
1. Seattle can’t keep up if it turns into a shootout, especially if Revis takes away their WR1. The 3 receiving leaders for the Patriots logged 1124, 972 and 953 yards. The top 3 receiving leaders for the Seahawks logged 825, 537 and 367 yards. Seattle without Baldwin is a mediocre offense.
I’ll give myself half-credit here. I don’t know if that qualifies as a shootout, but under Wilson the Seahawks are now 1-8 in games where the opponent scores more than 24 points. Patriots cornerback Revis took Baldwin out the game. His only catch came when a ref scraped Revis out of coverage. What I didn’t predict was Seahawks receiver Chris “Please Don’t Nickname Him Hardball” Matthews making his first four NFL catches for 109 yards. Seattle has once again transmogrified an absolute no-name into a super star.
2. Brady’s strength comes from quick passes identified before the snap. The #LoB is neutralized by the mismatches Brady will find.
I expected Brady to successfully beat the vaunted Legion of Boom. I didn’t expect Seattle to completely stack the box and make it easy. Brady completed 37 of 50 passes for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was aided by the early injury to Lane, but Brady defeated the best secondary in the league to earn his third Super Bowl MVP.
3. Brady is beaten when his progressions are rattled by a strong pass rush, like he experienced in KC. Seattle doesn’t have a pass rush this year. In the NFC Championship, Aaron Rodgers playing on crutches was sacked once. Once!
I deserve to gloat on this one. On one of the first two series, I remember Seattle fielding a hilariously ineffective blitz before Brady casually completed a pass for a first down. High fives were exchanged, and I started counting my chickens. I can only remember the pass rush being effective on two occasions: On Brady’s first interception and on Seattle’s lone sack of the day. Everyone knows how to beat a healthy Patriots team, but few teams can successfully do it.
4. Seattle’s defense is historically great, but it can be beaten by strong TE play. Per ESPN, the Seahawks ranked 15th in fantasy points allowed against TE’s. Admittedly not the best measure ever, but it should give 12s pause. Mr. Fiesta is healthy.
Seattle deserves credit for covering Gronkowski well. On ten targets he was limited to 6 receptions for 68 yards. Unfortunately for Seattle, they were 68 very well-timed yards.
5. In hindsight, Seattle’s schedule doesn’t look as hard as it once did. A lot has been made of their recent winning streak. Since losing to KC, Seattle has beaten twice a headless Cardinals team, twice a 49ers team whose HC was having passive aggressive wars with management, an Eagles team starting a late-season slide, a 6-10 Rams team, the winner of the NFC South and an injured Aaron. Decidedly mediocre.
Nothing tangible to evaluate, so I’ll use this space to talk about the coaching breakdown, since Seattle’s final offensive play-call could be cast as hubris.
Most coaches in Belichick’s situation likely would have taken time outs to preserve as much time as possible for a comeback drive. Instead, BB let the clock run after Lynch put the Seahawks 1.5 yards away from winning the game. With one time out left on 2nd and glory, the Seahawks wanted to throw a pass. Assuming it falls incomplete and stops the clock, they still have time to run the ball, take a time out and then run the ball again. If the Patriots had used one of their two time-outs, they would likely have run the ball three times instead. BB deserves all the credit in the world for seeing how the decision tree laid out and taking the best path to victory. The Seahawks deserve to be blamed for being predictable. Patriots players claim they called the play based on the personnel, and they made a great play on the ball.
What a tremendous finish to an epic game. It’s not every day you get to see a team get thoroughly out-coached in a series of seconds.
6. The real world isn’t fair. Sometimes the villains wins. Despite the public outrage against spygate, psigate, BB’s grumpiness or whatever other rationalization the jealousy provokes.
The Patriots are the most successful franchise of the 21st century. It’s not even close. There’s a cost to winning, and it’s absolute hatred. As a fan of an NFC team, I have a bit more perspective to be objective.
Two weeks ago, after the Patriots demolished the Colts in the AFC Conference Championship, rumors arose the gameballs had been deflated. Outragists predictably tripped over themselves to be the most offended. There’s evidence the discrepancy could have occurred naturally. If the same scandal had occurred to a less hated franchise, it’s hard to imagine the same reaction. Let’s examine the glass house that accused the Patriots of cheating. This season, the Colts have been accused of pumping artificial crowd noise into their stadium. Assuming both clubs cheated in the alleged manner, this chicanery almost surely has a larger effect on the outcome of the game. It’s hard to not think the Patriots are hated out of jealousy.
Or, to turn the spotlight on that other team that played last night, why is their no public outrage over the fact that the Seahawks lead the league in Performance Enhancing Drug suspensions? Let’s leave aside head coach Pete Carroll’s history at USC and just focus on the facts. Best case scenario, the Seahawks players were taking adderrall to improve their film study. Worst case scenario? The drug test doesn’t distinguish between adderrall and other amphetamines. I’ve seen Breaking Bad. I imagine some variants of amphetamines in a game would improve your focus and competitiveness. I imagine they would also make you conduct very emotional media interviews or get into fights after games.
It’s wrong to irresponsibly speculate. I’m not saying Seahawks players definitely outperform their draft position through performance enhancing drugs. It’s not my place to jump to that conclusion.
And yet, no quarter is given to the Patriots who are tarred and feathered by an angry mob because a ball boy took a dozen footballs into a bathroom for 90 seconds. It’s hard to be a winner.
But it sure beats being a loser.