Monday, February 2, 2015

Some thoughts on the Super Bowl and the events leading up to it

I was rooting for the Patriots to win this one. For some reason, I am not a big fan of the Seahawks and the reason was exemplified at the end of the game. No, not the interception, I’ll get to that later. I’m talking about the brawl that occurred when New England got the ball back and Seattle was flagged for unnecessary roughness resulting in one of their players being tossed. The Seahawks have always come across to me as the thugs of the NFL.

What I was really rooting for, however, was an exciting, well-played game and I got that in deluxe fashion. One of the best, most nail-biting Super Bowls ever.

Here’s an interesting statistic that hasn’t received the attention it deserved since the game ended. Five times this year, the Seahawks handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the opponent’s 1-yard line and only once did Lynch get into the end zone. One in five, not the greatest of odds, especially on second down. I’ve always thought the smart play in that situation — when everyone in the universe knows for a solid dead certain fact you’re going to run the ball — was to catch the defense completely off guard with a pass. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have done it several times this year and each time it has worked. This time, however, New England’s Malcolm Butler simply made a great, albeit improbable, interception, just as improbable as Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse’s catch that victimized otherwise excellent coverage by Butler just a couple of plays earlier. Instead of vilifying Carroll — and the numbers argue he doesn’t deserve the criticism he’s getting (especially when Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson could have checked out of the play when he saw how the defense was lining up) — the public should be heaping praise on Butler’s interception.

After this game, is it time to call Tom Brady the greatest NFL quarterback of all time? I will give the nod to the Brady-Bill Belichick as the single greatest coach-quarterback combo of all time, although the Cleveland Browns duo of Paul Brown and Otto Graham is second by only whisker. As far as the greatest NFL quarterback, I still have to go with Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts, not simply because he won three NFL championships, was the league MVP three times and held the record for the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass which was finally broken 52 years later by Drew Brees in 2012, but also because he called all his own plays — he was the team’s quarterback as well as its offensive coordinator.

The single greatest example of a non-story this NFL season has to be the one about the air pressure in the footballs during the first half of New England-Indianapolis playoff game. For one thing, it’s patently obvious that whatever conditions the footballs were in, it didn’t seem to measurably help the Patriots all that much. In that first half, when New England allegedly had this huge advantage because of the inflation of the football, the Patriots outscored Indianapolis 17-7. In the second half, when everything was even, New England whooped the Colts 28-0.

And if there was that much difference between the footballs Indianapolis used in the first half and the ones employed by the Patriots, why wasn’t that fact noticed by at least one of the referees, who touch the balls more than anyone else on the field? I haven’t heard one ref in that game come forward and say anything about the pounds-per-square-inch difference in the footballs used by the two teams.

So let’s just shut up about this entire non-event.

Now, about that Dez Bryant catch … and I do mean CATCH … is the NFL trying to get around explaining its inconsistency in the fact that "the ground can’t cause a fumble" but it can cause an incompletion? Get real! I’m not saying that catch, if it was ruled correctly, changes the outcome of the game. I’m just saying he caught the damn ball and that’s all there is to it. Quit trying to convince me with some arcane rule interpretation that he didn’t.

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