Monday, October 22, 2012

Any Overtime You Can Walk Away From....

All Patriots personnel appearing on TV in the immediate aftermath of yesterday evening's 29-26 win over the Jets wore the half-dazed, half-giddy expressions of persons who have survived a potential catastrophe without a scratch and in defiance of the law of averages and their own expectations.

Why not? That's what they were. That's who the Patriots and their fans are this afternoon, too, people who survived what could well have been a fatal collision with the team's inherent weaknesses. Jimmie Johnson driving the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish after a wreck left it constructed from duct tape has nothing on them.

By next Sunday, Johnson will have a brand new No. 48 in the starting grid at Martinsville. NFL rules are harsher. Belichick can repair his current vehicle, but not replace it.

Anyone who uses yesterday's odd contest for the purpose of forecasting the rest of the 2012 season is daft. Who is to say if the Patriots true destiny is revealed by yet another blown fourth quarter lead, or by the immediate return to the form of yesteryear by Tom Brady and the offense and the defense in response to the extreme crisis they faced with two minutes to play in regulation? Not me. Not anybody's whose opinion I'd trust, either.

I will only say this. It is fair to say it's unlikely New England's pass defense will be anything but a cross to bear this year. It's even fairer to say yesterday won't be Brady's last fourth quarter comeback if the Pats are to meet their lofty expectations for themselves.

Fairest of all to say that avoided catastrophes rank very, very high in the Wire Service AND Coaches' Polls of Good Things in Life.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Contentment and Peace of Mind, I Know Fans Hate Them Both, But Why?

Fans of and commentators on the New England Patriots football team should spend this week with a pronounced absence of fret. In fact, they'd better, or everyone of worth in the football world should remorselessly ridicule them.

There are few enough occasions in life where the news is 100 percent pure untainted good, you'd think people would be happy to revel it. That's what the news is in Patriotland right now. Or at least, the good news is so good the bad news doesn't matter at all.

Let's put this simply. It appears pass defense will be an ongoing concern for the Pats in 2012, just as it was in 2011. However, this concern has, or should be rendered null and void by the overwhelming facts about the Pats' last two victories. NFL teams that rush for over 200 yards in a game seldom do. NFL teams that rush for over 250 yards do so about as often as comets strike this planet.

That's ALL NFL teams. That includes teams that start Tim Tebow at quarterback. For teams that start Tom Brady, we can move those percentages up to "never" and "less than never" respectively.

Running the ball remains, as it has since 1869, the best, safest and simplest way of winning football games, since it relies on the sport's primal imperative of beating the other guys up. In the NFL, it's also the hardest way to win games, since coaches, no dopes, make stopping the run the most obsessive of their infinite obsessions.

Too sophisticated for ya? Let me bring the above analysis down to the "XX From Mass location Y" caller level. Teams that are running the ball are kicking ass. The team that kicks the most ass is invariably the winner. Until the Pats are stopped from kicking ass, they won't be stopped from winning.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

It's a Second-Guesser's Universe, Part the 12 Billionth

U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Davis Love III is getting ripped (as much as the sympathetic-verging-on-sycophantic golf media ever rips anyone) for the team's collapse and Europe's final day rally for its 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory.  The theory goes that Love blew the Cup by having the team of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley sit out Saturday afternoon's four-ball session despite their undefeated 3-0 record.

If Mickelson and Bradley HAD played, we are told, the U.S. would have earned an extra point on Saturday, and it wouldn't have mattered that the team only won three of 12 singles matches on Sunday. Counterfactuals sure are fun for commentators, even if they're cosmologically impossible.

Love's captaincy is not beyond criticism. Selecting Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker as team members was, to be kind, a decision that didn't work as well as hoped. But the "he shoulda played Phil more" argument reminds me of the Ryder Cup comeback/collapse that's tied with 2012 in the record books.

In 1999 at the Country Club in Brookline, European captain Mark James rode his stud hosses until they dropped in the partners format matches, keeping weak sisters like Jormo Sandelin, Andrew Coltart and Jean Van de Velde off the course completely. This built a 10-6 lead going into the singles.

And after the U.S. won eight matches and tied one for a 14 1/2-13 1/2 comeback victory, do you know what the golf media said about James? Only one guess should be needed.

James was ripped for OVERUSING his best players and not giving his weaker ones a chance to get used to Ryder Cup pressure.

So future captains, you're on notice. Golf  "experts" agree. All your possible lineup choices are the wrong ones -- after the fact if the putts don't drop.