Monday, February 04, 2019

Offense Gets the Glory Even When It Doesn't Deserve Any

Tom Brady was voted the MVP of Super Bowl 49. Afterwards, he gave the car that comes with the award to Malcolm Butler, whose end zone interception made him the Patriots' Super Bowl hero if not its MVP.

Julian Edelman was voted MVP of Super Bowl 53 last night. If he's got any class at all, nobody but members of the New England defense will ever get behind the wheel of his car.

Edelman had a fine game, catching 10 passes for 140 yards. And the Pats scored 13 points. If yesterday morning you had asked anyone on earth aware of the NFL, Bill Belichick included, what would happen in the game if the Patriots only scored 13, and they'd have answered that the Rams win it going away.

Didn't happen, because LA only got three points, and barely made those at that. Ask the same anyones on Sunday morning what's the final score if the Rams have 3, and all of them would have responded, Pats win by like 42-3.

That didn't happen either. Two of the highest scoring teams in one of the highest scoring years in NFL history combined for the lowest point total in Super Bowl history in an astonishing display of defensive prowess. And after watching it, the NFL gave the MVP to a wide receiver.

No offense to Edelman meant, but the Pats would've won this game if he hadn't been on the field at all. They'd have won if Brian Hoyer had played quarterback instead of Tom Brady. New England's defense was that good, and it had to be, because the Rams defense was almost its equal. The Pats came about six inches from a goal post of pitching the first Super shutout.

Offense is timing, and defense is about destroying timing. Has their ever been an offense who watches were as unsynchronized as those of the Rams? By the end of most pass attempts, poor Jared Goff looked like an unprepared student thirty seconds away from the final bell of his final exam. Not until the Pats were trading space for time late in the fourth quarter did LA look like it had a passing chapter in its playbook.

(To be just, Goff and the Rams had a handicap. Can we dispose of the blatant lie that Todd Gurley's been in excellent health the last three weeks? Teams do not put their best offensive player on part-time duty in the Super Bowl unless said player is hurt.)

Stephon Gilmore was as dominant as a cornerback can be. He didn't get the car. Tre Flowers, Dant'a Hightower, Devin McCourty, they didn't get it either. It isn't so much that Edelman's award was an injustice, it was merely incorrect. It's the symbolism that counts, how the award shows the 21st century pro football mindset. Faced with a game where offenses did very little and defenses almost everything, the NFL reaction was to pretend an offensive player was its leading difference maker.

Worse yet, 90 percent of America's football fans did worse than hate the game, they ridiculed it. In my own little Super Bowl viewing groups there were jokes about the punters (both Ryan Allen and Johnny Hekker were excellent, and take my advice, never joke about punting to Belichick). Jim Nantz was making fun of the game in the third quarter. The immediate national consensus about Super Bowl 53 was, what a boring game.

I don't get this. If the seventh game of the World Series is 0-0 going into the eighth, nobody says that's boring. A 1-1 tie in the last five minutes of a Game Seven Stanley Cup Final would have fans throwing up with tension, not cracking wise about their ennui. Why should football be different? Why is excellence from 11 players on one side of the ball lionized, while equal excellence from the 11 guys on the other side derided?

Touchdowns are more exciting than punts, sure. But if the game develops to a place where your punter is the most important man on the team, why not celebrate him if he does well? Three and outs are not engrossing in and of themselves, but when they pile up, as they did to both teams last night, it means some people out there are playing great football.

The entire Patriots defense was the collective MVP of Super Bowl 53. They just have an average, no, just a good game and Aaron Donald's on his way to Disney World as I write this.  Oh, who am I kidding. Rams win 17-13 and Goff would be MVP. That's how Eli Manning won two.

As I have said before, I played defense in high school. I am prejudiced. But if there isn't SOME collective award for the New England defense, we ought to invent one. Best defensive performance in a Super Bowl. Ever.

My horrible suspicion is that the award for the Pats' Super Bowl D will come at an owners' meeting this offseason, when yet again the rules will be altered to give the offense still more advantages, to create more scoring for the NFL's increasingly jaded audience.

Forget the car. The reward for Super Bowl greatness on defense will be the league trying to make sure it never happens again?


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