I’ll keep this short; since I haven’t been following football as closely as in the past. In the preseason, I predicted the Rams would lose the Super Bowl, albeit to the Steelers. I’m tempted to just say well, that was my pick going in, and leave it at that.
But no; you deserve better. In the conference title round, I predicted the Rams would somehow win despite the Saints being the better team, and sure enough, that’s what happened–the refs (and bone-headed Saints’ play-calling) handed the game to the Rams.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have been left for dead multiple times this season, only to rise again like the Terminator coming after Linda Hamilton. Can the Rams beat them, and avenge the loss of 17 years ago that started it all?
Ironically, the Rams’ main defensive strength–their linemen–would have been better equipped to beat the Patriots of past years, who were very pass-happy and almost entirely dependent on Brady. But this New England team relies more on the power running game than previous editions.
The Rams will still get pressure, but I suspect it won’t matter as much as it would have in the past. The Patriots will run the ball to slow down the rush. When the Rams are on offense, the Patriots will take away their running game and force Goff to beat them through the air. He may do OK, but I doubt he’ll be able to repeat the performance Foles put up last year against New England.
I would love an ugly, defensive slugfest that ended with a score like 9-6. Mostly just to spite the NFL executives and TV people who were hoping for a Rams/Chiefs rematch so they could have another ridiculous 54-51 game. There is beauty in well-played defense, I tell you!
This is a light-hearted novel about two imaginary expansion NFL teams, the Los Angeles Leopards and the Portland Pioneers. The two teams enter the league simultaneously—the Leopards led by coach Bobby Russell, who takes a methodical, conservative approach to slowly building a team.
After a few seasons, Leopards owner Cedric B. Medill (yes, he’s a movie producer) grows impatient, and fires Russell, replacing him with brash, loud-mouthed defensive coordinator Randy Dolbermeier. Russell gets picked up as defensive coordinator by the Pioneers and, after a car accident leaves Pioneers coach Denzel Jackson incapacitated, takes over as interim head coach. And—can you believe it?—finds himself coaching in the Super Bowl against his old team and Dolbermeier.
Interwoven with the on-field exploits of the Pioneers and the Leopards is a subplot with a sportswriter/poet and a few of his colorful friends, who have been gradually uncovering that Dolbermeier is more than just an arrogant jerk—he’s an outright cheater, using underhanded methods to gain an advantage over his opponents. There have been hints of this beginning with his time as defensive coordinator for the Leopards, and once he’s given full control of the team, it gets really out of hand. And of course, they finish building their case against Dolbermeier just as the Leopards/Pioneers Super Bowl is about to be played, setting up a denouement which I won’t give away here.
The book is written with a light touch—Levy tends to favor warm, sometimes downright corny humor over tension or drama. A good example is when the journalist and his friends are investigating the visitors’ locker room at the Leopards’ stadium, suspecting that Dolbermeier has bugged it. I figured it would be a thriller-like sequence, where they have to sneak in to Dolbermeier’s hidden room and avoid getting caught. But no, they just end one chapter by saying “let’s go check it out” and in the next chapter, they say, “Yep, sure enough, it’s bugged.”
Don’t get me wrong; Levy’s humor and good-nature are infectious. Some of the malapropisms uttered by the heavily-accented equipment manager made me chuckle. And then, of course, there are Levy’s countless references to the NFL’s heyday.
For those who didn’t recognize the name, Levy isn’t just a football fan. He is a Hall of Fame NFL coach who guided the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive AFC titles. (Alas, they went 0-4 in their Super Bowls.) His novel is filled with references to the football stars of the ‘80s and ‘90s. In particular, characters like Kelly James, Thomas Thurber and Deuce Smithers, among others, are clearly modeled on Bills greats who played for Levy. (The names that aren’t clear references to famous players or coaches are usually groaner puns—e.g. the front-office secretaries, sisters Nina and Ada Klock.)
Even if you don’t like football, it’s an amusing book. Football fans will get the most out of it though, with all the references to famous players, and the discussions of football philosophy—Russell’s conservative, defensive-minded approach versus the glitzy, high-scoring style is part of the conflict at the heart of the story.
It’s also interesting to speculate as to who Levy had in mind as the model for coach Dolbermeier. While most of the good characters are pretty thinly-veiled, Dolbermeier is a little harder to figure out. His “whatever it takes to win” philosophy and his contempt for rules will make most football fans think immediately of Bill Belichick, but his brash, loudmouth manner seems more Rex Ryan-ish.He might also be based on Chuck Dickerson, a defensive line coach for the Bills whom Levy fired for publicly trash-talking an opponent.
It’s remarkable to me that a Hall of Fame coach would write a book like this, with cheating in the Super Bowl as the heart of the plot. It almost makes me wonder if Levy was trying to hint that cheating really is occurring in the NFL. Or at least, suggesting that the league is employing too many dishonorable, Dolbermeier-like coaches, and not enough forthright, honest ones like Russell and Jackson.
As I warned in the preamble to my season-opening haiku, I haven’t watched much football this year. In fact, I wasn’t even going to do this post. But then I remembered how I met (well, virtually met) my friend Barb Knowles three years ago thanks to my title game predictions post. And through Barb, I met Carrie Rubin and a host of other wonderful people. So you never know what’s going to come from these things. And besides, I’m a big believer in maintaining traditions.
But if I haven’t watched football, you ask, how can I predict the games? Well, I have a colleague who keeps me informed about the season—every week we discuss our hatred of what the NFL has become, and he briefs me in detail on all the horrible, stupid things the players, coaches and organizations have done. It’s actually really helpful—saves me the time of watching. That, combined with checking a few stats, leaves me fully qualified to talk about this. Or at least, no less qualified than when I did watch football religiously.
The NFC game is easy. I picked the Rams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in my preseason picks. I’m not changing it now; even though New Orleans has homefield advantage and beat the Rams earlier in the season.
…And have the better quarterback. And are generally a more balanced team.
Ugh, it’s a big hill for the lads from Los Angeles to climb isn’t it? Nevertheless, I am steadfast! The Rams wore their beautiful throwback blue and yellow uniforms against Dallas. They should bring out the road version of that for the title game—it’s a gorgeous uniform, and the one they wore in their lone Super Bowl victory as well. It’s time once again to “Ram It, LA!”:
I know. Words fail.
Anyway, I’m actually not feeling great about LA’s chances. But they are healthier on defense than when the Saints trounced them earlier this year. I predict they manage to get it done.
Like death and taxes, the Patriots are. They were supposed to finally fall apart this season, and indeed they haven’t been as good as usual. But here they are, yet again. Honestly, I think the fact that they annihilated the Chargers tells you more about how hard it is to come from California to Massachusetts in January than about the quality of the Patriots. It was a chilly day in Foxboro, so much so that Tom Brady broke out the Napoleonic greatcoat he first wore as a rookie during the 1812 invasion of Russia:
It’s even better with the hat:
But enough fun! The Patriots hate fun. And no one embodies fun like the loose, energetic, youthful up-and-coming Patrick Mahomes and his high-flying, quick-scoring, no-look-passing, what-is-defense-anyway Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs are the sort of team the NFL loves—a pro version of a Big 12 team. A team that scores a ton of points, and gives up almost as many. I’m sure the league office is lighting candles and praying they get a rematch of that absurd Rams/Chiefs Monday night game for the Super Bowl. The old defensive coaches of yore are spinning in their graves.
The problem is, these kinds of all-offense, no-defense teams have historically fallen apart in the playoffs. Look at the Bills in 1990. The Rams in 2001. The Patriots in 2011. The Broncos in 2013. The Chiefs are the sort of team that sets records in the regular season, and collapses in the playoffs. And Belichick built his reputation beating these kinds of teams—he was responsible for the defenses that shut down the ’90 Bills and the ’01 Rams. (And the ’11 Patriots, come to think on it…)
Then you have Chiefs coach Andy Reid. There are two threads running through his career—one of them is going to be the storyline come Sunday night.
The first thread is a story of failure. As coach of the Eagles, Reid lost the NFC title game to the Rams in 2001, to the Buccaneers in 2002, to the Panthers in 2003, and then finally got over that hump only to lose to Belichick’s Patriots in 2004. For good measure, he lost a final NFC championship to the Cardinals in 2008. A few more early-round losses and he was run out of Philadelphia, taking his knack for regular season success and post-season disaster to Kansas City, where he has added a real dramatic flair to the heartbreak, blowing huge leads to the Colts in 2013 and the Titans—the Titans, for God’s sake!—in 2017. And in 2015, he even did a sort of reenactment of his Super Bowl defeat, by mismanaging the clock in a loss to the Patriots.
Ah, the Patriots. That’s where the second thread of Reid’s career comes in. With Philadelphia, he generally struggled against them. (Join the club!) But with Kansas City, he has had the distinction of administering two of the most lopsided beatings the Patriots have suffered during Belichick and Brady’s time. First in 2014, a 41-14 drubbing that made some people wonder if The Terror was over, and then in 2017, a shocking 42-27 bloodbath that saw the Patriots give up 537 yards of offense. And imagine how bad it would have been if Belichick weren’t a defensive genius!
And let’s not forget that Doug Pederson, whose Eagles defeated the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl while racking up 538 yards of offense, is a disciple of Reid who uses many of the same offensive concepts. In summary, it’s fair to say New England struggles against this offense.
It’s an interesting matchup: the Chiefs flying circus offense is exactly the kind that fails in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Patriots bend-and-then-break-and-then-hope-like-hell-Tom-Brady-bails-us-out defense also tends not to perform well in these games. It’s the very stoppable force vs. the eminently movable object.
As for that relying-on-Brady strategy? It’s not working like it used to in the past. And I think Belichick knows it—he’s calling more on the running game, because heknows old number 12 can’t make all the throws he used to. People keep waiting for Brady to decline, but I think he’s already started to—it’s just that the Patriots are great at hiding it. (And Brady, to his credit, is still a crafty veteran who knows lots of mind games to play with a defense to compensate for his declining arm strength.)
Yes, I know the Patriots managed to beat the Chiefs earlier this year—but it was in Foxboro, and the score was 43-40. Doesn’t sound to me like they really shut down the Chiefs offense like they did another team from Missouri, back in the old days.
The Patriots struggle on the road, and this game is being played in notoriously loud Arrowhead stadium. I predict Reid and Mahomes will field enough offense to win in frigid conditions, and that Napoletom Bradyparte will, if not meet his Waterloo, at least get exiled to a remote island until next season.
Pericles was an ancient Greek politician who presided over what is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Age of Athens”. During this period, the Athenians made many artistic and architectural achievements that are still admired in Western Civilization.
However, what sometimes gets neglected is that Pericles also presided over the end of the Golden Age, and the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. The Greek city-states turned against one another, and Athens collapsed into war and plague, the latter of which killed Pericles himself.
“Life”, as the commercials say, “comes at you fast.”
What’s this got to do with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell?
Well, he presided over the Golden Age of Football in the United States. The NFL drew huge viewership numbers and was easily the most lucrative of the major professional sports during his tenure. In his tenure, American football has gone global, and stadiums have become bigger and more ornate than ever. Even the NFL’s premier event has changed from being a predictable blowout that it used to be into, more often than not, a highly-competitive and exciting game.
But now, the end of that Golden Age is at hand. A lot of it is the self-inflicted hubris of all great powers: from making teams play awful games on Thursday nights (dressed in hideous uniforms to boot) despite the fact that players and fans alike hate it, to relocating beloved teams to richer, but less football-loving markets, the NFL’s own greed now works against it.
And then there are political divisions that turn the organization on itself. The National Anthem controversy has made the league a lightning rod for criticism, and it has reacted by trying to come up with a “compromise” that has angered people on both sides of the issue.
Then there are the concussions, which are causing fewer children to take up the sport in the first place. The NFL’s supply of gladiators to feed to the brutal sport is drying up, and so they are changing rules to try to compensate. In the process, they are destroying football in order to save it.
For all these reasons, I think the NFL is in sharp decline, and that it will soon cease to be the dominant sports league in America. And yet, it was only a few years ago that it appeared to be an invincible juggernaut.
OK, maybe this post is a little unfair to Pericles. Although he and Athens fell on hard times at the end of his career, he at least was by all accounts a charismatic orator, competent general, and left the world some marvelous ruins that still stand today. I doubt anyone will be looking at NFL stadiums a thousand years from now.
But the general point holds: when you’re at the height of your power, always remember that there’s nowhere to go but down. Or, in the words of another legendary statesman, Abraham Lincoln:
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.'”
I debated whether to even bother writing these this year. I probably won’t be following the NFL very closely any more for a while. But this is a tradition here at Ruined Chapel, and as Tevye would say, tradition is how we keep our balance. So I went ahead and did it.
As usual, the order in which they appear reflects my prediction for each team’s standing in the division at the end of the season.
Still can win the division.
But not playoff game.
But good enough for second
In AFC East.
Jets will be bad yet again
And fire their coach.
We ended the drought!
Then lost all our good players
And drafted a bust.
In Big Ben’s last year
They recapture the magic
Of Two thousand Five.
So much for Flacco
They struggle again, and start
Jackson by week five
Besides Death and Tax
Is only sure thing.
Hue doubles career wins (team)
In just one season!
Luck returns to form
And they win the division
But lose to Steelers.
Still a strong defense
But Blake Bortles regresses
And they miss playoffs.
Were lucky last year;
Won’t happen again this year.
Better unis, though.
Watson was a fluke;
This year, teams figure him out
And they go nowhere.
Gruden brings them back
To their old playoff glory
But not Super Bowl.
They should be better
But always underachieve.
This year is the same.
The “case” of the fluke
Quarterback in title game
Ends with the Broncos.
They’ll be missing Smith
When unproven gunslinger
Throws twenty-plus picks.
Is Wentz really good?
Yes, but they’re also lucky;
They will not repeat.
Who are they really?
Last year’s bad team or ’16’s?
I think it’s last year’s.
Still paying the price
For bad management’s past sins.
First round running backs
Seldom give good ROI–
Too bad for Saquon.
Back where they belong
Reigning over division–
But can’t beat the Rams.
The magic ran out
Won’t be recaptured.
Could surprise people
But Trubisky will flame out
In the second half.
Stafford’s getting old
Defense has never been good–
Into the cellar!
Behind strong runners
They win the division but
Lose out to the Rams.
Ryan ‘s MVP
But team itself ‘s lackluster–
It’s the old story.
Brees’s decline starts
And Kamara suffers slump;
They miss the playoffs.
Winston is a bust
Now they’ll have to start over
Should have known better.
Completely stacked team
Has best record in the league;
But loses S.B.
Jimmy G is good;
But they won’t overcome Rams.
But wait till next year.
How do you squander
A superstar like Wilson?
Just ask Pete Carroll.
Poor old Fitzgerald
Has played so long on bad teams.
And he will again.
Well, well, well, I went 0-for-2 in my conference championship predictions. I think that’s the first time that’s happened since I started doing these. The New England victory wasn’t really a surprise, although the Jaguars did pretty much everything they needed to in order to win. It reminded me of the last time the Jaguars were in the playoffs—they played a near-perfect game against the Patriots and lost that one, too.
More shocking to me was the Eagles beating Minnesota. The vaunted Vikings defense looked like they were playing with lead weights in their shoes as the Eagles blew them out.
So now the Eagles draw the most dangerous opponent in all of football—the team that can be down 28-3 with 18 minutes to go in the game and still win. The Eagles knew they had won the NFC championship at halftime when it was 24-7. Even if they have a lead like that at the halfway mark of this game, there will be no such assurance.
The last time the Patriots and Eagles played, back in 2015, was one of the strangest games I can remember. Philadelphia was just playing out the string of the failed Chip Kelly experiment, and New England was, as usual, gunning for the number one seed in the AFC.
The Patriots took an early 14-0 lead, and then some bizarre spell came over everyone at Gillette Stadium and one crazy thing after another transpired. First Belichick made a shocking mistake, punting instead of running out the clock, and Philly blocked it for a touchdown right before halftime. Then in the 3rd quarter, Brady made a rare red-zone mistake and threw an interception that the Eagles returned for a touchdown.
The weirdness wasn’t over. Later on, New England ran a trick play where Amendola threw a pass to Brady. The play gained 36 yards, and then on the next snap Brady was intercepted again.
The Eagles had a 35-14 lead early in the 4th, and then New England rallied with two quick scores to close it to 35-28. The Eagles promptly fumbled the ball back to New England with a minute to go, and at this point, we all knew where this was going: another patented Touchdown Tom Terrific All-American Miracle Clutch Ageless Boy Wonder Comeback was in the offing, right?
And then… nothing happened. The Patriots got one first down and then threw four incomplete passes. Ballgame.
It was one of the weirdest games I’ve seen, and may have cost the Patriots a shot at Super Bowl 50, by causing them to lose homefield advantage to Denver, where they would ultimately lose the AFC championship.
A lot has changed since that game, especially for the Eagles, who have a new coaching staff, and a completely overhauled offense. The Patriots, while still the Brady/Belichick show, are famous for evolving considerably from one game to the next, let alone from season to season. So it might be that there isn’t much to be learned from that 2015 game.
There are still a few veterans from that Philly defense, however–maybe most importantly, defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Graham had two sacks in that 2015 game, and everybody knows the key to beating New England is for the line to get pressure on their signal-caller.
The NFL’s final four this year came down to the Patriots and three teams seemingly designed to beat the Patriots: the Jaguars, Vikings, and Eagles all feature the strong defensive lines needed to bring pressure without blitzing. This probably isn’t a coincidence; at this point, everyone knows that if you want to win the Super Bowl, odds are you’ll have to go through the Patriots to do it.
If there’s a ray of hope for the Eagles; it’s this: they match up with New England far better than last year’s Falcons did, and that team managed to get a 28-3 lead. And though the Patriots probably won’t play as badly as they did in the first half of last year’s game, one of the oddities of the New England dynasty is that for all their football expertise and unmatched playoff experience, they never seem to bring their “A” game in the Super Bowl. The only ones where they really seemed to be giving it their best shot against an evenly-matched opponent were the one against the Seattle team that embarrassed Denver the year before, and their very first one, against the mighty St. Louis Rams and their high-powered “Greatest Show on Turf”.
All the other Super Bowls of the Brady/Belichick era (or Reign of Terror, if you prefer) have been weirdly sloppy and played down to the level of their opponent—from the defensive struggle-turned-shootout against an underdog Carolina team in 2004, to their offense’s bumbling first half against Andy Reid’s badly beat-up Eagles in 2005, to their two upset defeats at the hands of mediocre Giants squads, to last year’s furious comeback to beat a prolific but one-dimensional Atlanta team. Throughout all their Super Bowls, these Patriots have never mustered any points in the first quarter—unless you want to count Brady scoring two points for the Giants on an intentional grounding penalty in 2012.
Maybe the Patriots will notice this, come out guns blazing, and score 28 points in the first quarter. At this point, though, an underwhelming first half is starting to look like a pretty consistent habit.
As for the Eagles, while the story line this week is “what chance does unlucky backup Nick Foles have against a Belichick defense”, I’d argue that it’s actually an advantage to the Eagles to have him playing quarterback. There’s not an entire season’s worth of film of how he runs the offense for Belichick to study and learn his weaknesses.
Now, having said that there are reasons for hope if you’re rooting for the Eagles—and pretty much all of America outside of a corner in the northeast is—I don’t want to understate the magnitude of their challenge. They are facing the greatest quarterback and coach in the history of the sport. The Patriots are impossible to rattle, even if they face adversity early in the game. Beating them requires playing perfectly, and sometimes even that isn’t enough.
The Eagles will have to be very bold and aggressive if they want to shock the Pats. I’m reminded of what Sean Payton said about facing the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and wanting to “steal a possession”. Payton’s way of doing that was a surprise onside kick to start the second half. It will take a similar level of guts to pull off the win against New England.
Do the Eagles have it in them?
Well, if I’m wrong, I’ll just go down as one more football fan who wanted to see somebody outfox Goliath. But if I’m right, I’ll look like a genius. Why the heck not?
Call me crazy, but I never understood why the Eagles were an underdog against Atlanta. The Falcons were a shadow of what they were last year, and Nick Foles is not a bad quarterback. He was the last guy who led the Eagles to the playoffs prior to this year, I believe. Yet the press treated him like he’d never seen a football before. So I wasn’t shocked that they managed to pull out the narrow win.
The Vikings meanwhile were the beneficiaries of a coverage screw-up the likes of which had not been seen since the 2012 Baltimore/Denver divisional game. But that’s not to say they were lucky rather than good—their defense had New Orleans on the ropes until late in the 3rd quarter, but eventually they started to bend before the powerful Saints attack.
I’ll be honest—my opinion beforehand was that Saints/Vikings was the real NFC championship, and everything that happened in the game reinforced that impression. The Vikings have a brutal defense, one that could only be tested by a Hall-of-Fame quarterback in command of a high-powered and balanced offense. Foles, while better than the press has given him credit for, is not in Brees’s class, and I think he’s going to be in for a rough game Sunday. Minnesota will stifle the Eagles and punch their ticket to… Minnesota, where they can become the first team ever to host the Super Bowl.
Oh, look, it’s the New England Patriots again. They’ve been conference title game fixtures for years now, and I think everyone is getting sick of it. I don’t even dislike the Patriots as a rule, but at some point you get tired of seeing the same uniform over and over again. (Although even the Patriots’ ridiculous “Flying Elvis” looks like a design masterpiece next to the abominations that their opponents will wear.)
The Patriots are of course heavily favored to beat the upstart Jaguars, and why not? They’re the defending champs, they’re playing at home in chilly Foxborough, and Jacksonville’s quarterback is a wildly inconsistent gunslinger who only completed 53% of his passes against Pittsburgh.
But I’m having flashbacks to another AFC Championship game—specifically, the one two years ago in which the Pats were road favorites against a Denver team that had a strong pass rush and a quarterback who was highly suspect.
I know, I know. You’re saying: “Did you really just compare Bortles to Peyton Manning? The Peyton Manning, one of the best to ever play the game?”
Well, not exactly. I’m comparing Bortles to 2015 Peyton Manning, who was merely a ghost of his former all-star self. Manning was long past his prime by then. I have no doubt that he could (and can) read a defense better than Bortles, but Bortles can scramble and throw the ball with more power than 2015 Manning could. So it’s pretty much a wash.
The Jaguars chances look even better when you remember that their team vice president, Tom Coughlin, was the coach of the New York Giants teams that twice upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Those teams also fielded a strong defensive line and an inconsistent quarterback whose play was rarely pretty, but who had a knack for getting things done when it mattered most.
The Jaguars, in short, are the very model of a Patriots-beating team.
To be sure, it’s not going to be easy—the 2015 AFC Championship, Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI were all extremely close affairs. You can bet your bottom dollar that Belichick’s defense is going to take away Jacksonville’s favorite offensive weapon, running back Leonard Fournette, and force Bortles to throw the ball. But I think he’s got enough arm strength and sheer guts to get it done against New England’s bend-but-don’t-break secondary. And the Jaguars’ defense will give Brady all kinds of problems—he doesn’t have the ability to heave the ball like Roethlisberger did in a valiant failed comeback last week, and he’s going to get hit a lot. And New England doesn’t have the kind of bruising running back that they need to take the pressure off Brady.
All season long, the Patriots have just looked off to me. Sure, they’ve still been the most consistently good team in a weak AFC—they have the greatest coach and greatest quarterback of all time, after all—but the usual Patriots’ swagger has been absent ever since their shocking opening-day defeat. I think all the big games and the sky-high expectations and deep playoff runs year after year (Remember, they have to play 2-3 more games a season than the typical team) are finally starting to take their toll. Brady has so far defied the decline that comes with age, but the clock is bound to strike midnight eventually. My pick is that it will happen this Sunday, against a team seemingly designed to beat him.
Since the Cleveland Browns came back to the NFL in ’99 The quarterbacks who’ve played for them form a very long depressing line– There was a lot of optimism (I myself can vouch for it) When the Brownies first came back into town and got Tim Couch for it. Ty Detmer was a back-up that they had hired just to mentor him, And Doug Pederson and Spergon Wynn, they both sometimes went in for him. Kelly Holcomb got the job, then Garcia, Dilfer, and McCown And before you knew it, Akron’s Charlie Frye was the newest Cleveland Brown.
But Charlie Frye was out and in his stead was Derek Anderson Who briefly held off second-stringer Brady Quinn (Ohio’s native son.) Both Bruce Gradkowski and Ken Doresy brief QB careers did enjoy And then the job came down to either Jake Delhomme or Colt McCoy. Wallace, Weeden and Thaddeus Lewis, they all came and went as well, And then the starting job to veteran Jason Campbell fell. But Campbell might as well have left his luggage packed up in the foyer For soon, the Cleveland quarterback was a chap called Brian Hoyer.
Brian Hoyer didn’t last, and soon the Browns fans began to call For the gridiron magician who was known as “Johnny Football” But what worked at A&M doesn’t really work beside the lake– And after starting Connor Shaw, the Browns admitted their mistake. Josh McCown was signed, but he didn’t play for them for very long, And Davis, RG III and Kessler form the coda of this song. Kizer’s next to be the starter–a rookie out of Notre Dame, And now we’ll sit and wait to find out who’s in after next week’s game!
I often criticize the New England Patriots for their play-calling. I argue that they throw the ball too much, and the only reason they usually get away with it is that Brady is so good.
But, as a student of the game, it’s only fair I give them credit where it is due. And at the end of regulation in Super Bowl LI, with the score tied at 28, they ran one of the most brilliant plays I’ve ever seen.
They pretended like they were just going to take a knee to run out the clock and go to overtime. But instead, they either handed off or direct snapped (I couldn’t tell which) to the running back Dion Lewis, who was lined up close to Brady in standard kneeldown formation.
Brady acted like he took a knee, then rolled out and faked that he had the ball while the rest of the team ran to block for Lewis as he ran down the sideline.
The Falcons ultimately ran Lewis out of bounds, so nothing came of it. Some fans even criticized the play since Lewis seemingly got injured on the run.
Even though it didn’t work,the play was a stroke of genius for two reasons:
There are very few situations where a fake kneeldown makes any sense. Obviously, you usually take a knee when you are about to win,so faking in that case is a needless risk. And no one would ever take a knee when they are trailing. The only other time it would make sense to run such a fake would be at the end of the first half. The fact that the Patriots even bothered to think about and practice such a highly specific play shows why they are so dominant.
The logic is impeccable. It is a low-risk, high-reward play. The risk is a fumble, which would only be a problem if the other team ran it back for a touchdown, since there wasn’t time for any additional plays to be run. The odds of that were low, especially since Lewis was careful to stay near the sideline. On the other hand, the potential reward was winning the Super Bowl. It was very calculated.
So, well done, Patriots play-callers. Good decision. Now just learn not to throw the ball with the lead in the 4th quarter, and not to send Tom Brady to throw blocks on reverses, and you’ll really have this football thing mastered.