Monday, November 24, 2014

Dull Can Be Beautiful

The producers of the approximately 1,827 Sunday night NFL highlight shows must've been frustrated by the Patriots' 34-9 throttling of the Lions yesterday. They had to avoid showing the most important plays of the game at all costs.

Incomplete passes are TERRIBLE television.

Football's single snooziest play was the core of New England's lethal efficiency against Detroit. Twenty-seven of Matthew Stafford's passes hit the ground out of 46 attempts. Granted, a good number of those did so after they first hit a Lions receiver, but the hallmark memory of this game was a ball sailing past a Detroit player wearing one or more Pats defensive backs as a sweater vest.

All of that nothing happening represented a uniquely outstanding performance by New England's defense. As the NFL evolves towards its Madden 2050 destiny, the incompletion has become almost as endangered a species as its more flamboyant cousin the interception. Quarterbacks just aren't harassed into completing less than 50 percent of their passes anymore even in blowout losses. The rules do their best to forbid it.

In the Denver-Miami game, Peyton Manning and Ryan Tannehill combined for only 16 incompletions in 71 attempts. OK, that was a 49-36 shootout. But Colin Kaerpernick and RGIII had only 16 incompletions between them in a game were the final was San Francisco 17-Washington 13.

The Pats pass rush was solid but not what one would call terrifying against Detroit. New England's defense has become an outfit working from back to front. In the era of pass first and also second, that's logical. It's also fiendishly difficult to do.

As of this morning, there are only three starting quarterbacks in the NFL with completion percentages under 60 percent, Brian Hoyer, Stafford and Cam Newton. There's also whoever's playing quarterback against the Patriots, an imaginary QB clocking in at 58.1 percent and an NFL passer rating of a soon-to-be-benched 82.

New England is one of six teams holding rival quarterbacks to lower than a 60 percent completion rate. The others are the Eagles, Bengals, Colts, Browns and 49ers. Not coincidentally, their combined record is 45-20-1. If there's a prop wager in Vegas allowing you to take those six as eventual Super Bowl champs, it's a value bet.

What's most difficult to do is inevitably also the most worthwhile to accomplish.


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