This week was supposed to be the triumphant return of the Patriots to the top of the NFL rankings. Heading into the fourth quarter of Sunday Night's game, you would've been declared certifiably insane to not regard New England as the league's #1 team. Even though the Saints remained undefeated, their recent narrow-escapes with teams like Miami, Carolina, and, of all teams, St. Louis, clearly hurt the "invicible" status they held during the season's first month. Yes, with the Patriots piling it on the Colts like Rex Ryan at the Sizzler buffet, it seemed like all was finally right in this fan's football world.
Then the unthinkable happened. I won't relive the horrific details which have been beaten to death on this blog already, but needless to say, what was once an easy ballot to fill, has left me racking my brain for three days. You see, I honestly believe that the Patriots are a better team than the Colts. Yet at the same time, that could easily just be my bias talking as the Colts have clearly had the better of the Pats during the second half of this decade. If the Patriots are so much better, then why have we dropped five of the last six to Indy? On the flip side, one could argue that had the Patriots' entire team not had the flu in the AFC title game, had Dave Thomas not killed Matt Cassel's game-winning drive with an egregious unncessary roughness penalty last season, and had Bill Belichick not coached this team like a complete ninny in the fourth quarter, then we're talking about how the Patriots have completely owned the Colts in the 00's. But then I start sounding like a Steelers fan, coming up with lame excuses for my teams short-comings in big games, and I just want to hurt myself.
So you see, either way I call this thing, I lose. I either rank a team that I believe with all my heart are beyond over-rated above my beloved Patriots, going against all my principles and actually over-rating them myself, or I come off as a complete homer, ranking a 6-3 team above a 9-0 team that just beat them this week. Dillemmas, dillemmas...
Today was supposed to be a power rankings day, but then I realized that I never truly analyzed Sunday's game. There were two posts on this site yesterday dissecting Bill Belichick's play calling, but the other storylines remained uncovered. There are so many additional items that have been glossed over and still need to be discussed. Pats/Colts 2009 was just too big of a game to be left unfinished.
As a side note, I'm still in turmoil deciding how to rank the Top 5-6 teams in this week's Top 12. What do you do when an undefeated, yet over-rated team gets urinated on for 45 minutes by a better team with a worse record, but then rallies thanks to indefensible clock management by the superior team's coach? It's an extremely tough call, and one upon which my credibility and loyalties hang in the balance. Tune in tomorrow to see how it plays out...
Game Ball: I'm actually handing out two game balls this week. I'm pretty sure that team don't hand out game balls after a loss, but what else do I call it? Anyway, the game balls go to the two players who shut down the Colts' most explosive weapons on their respective sides of the ball: Sebastian Vollmer and Brandon McGowan.
Three Super Bowl Championships, to a franchise as moribund as the New England Patriots had been when Bill Belichick took over, carry with them a cache of good will. Which, when accompanied by a little more than two bucks, will get you a large coffee regular at Dunkin' the morning after a tough loss against a hated rival on national television. Dems da breaks, Bill. I only interpret the rules, I don't write them. What's worse is that the criticism is in many ways unfounded. Belichick consistently through his tenure at the helm of the Patriots has gone for it on fourth down, no matter where he is on the field. This call was a case of being true to who Belichick is as a coach. But that fails to soothe the bruised egos of the fan base in Foxboro.
Time for a game of hypothetical roullette. Let's say the play is successful. The Patriot's get a first down and then run the ball at the Colts on first down. Indy calls timeout—their last. With a little more than a minute and a half, New England really needs to suck up as much time as possible to wind the clock down. Running play, nets anothe couple of yards, and the clock keeps ticking to the full forty. Under a minute now, another run up the gut another forty seconds tick away. And with fourth down arriving, another choice needs to be made, go for it again, kick it away. A successful execution of the fourth and two would not have clinched the game, but with a fresh set of downs, New England's probability of winning would have been enhanced. Had the play succeeded, and New England won, the response would have been, what a smart call by Belichick. Kicking it away is playing safe, largely because conventional wisdom says it is so. Going for it is a different animal. One that has prompted diverse sources in the blogosphere to rally to Belichick. The Sports Economist while quoting Advanced NFL Stats' examination of the actual probabilities involved, remarked:
Rather than "stupid," "dumb," or "insulting," this is is the kind of decision making that has made Belechick better than most NFL coaches. Risk aversion, media response (even if coaches deny it), or lack of analytical skill drives many coaches toward applications of "conventions" even when those conventions don't make sense. Belechick is willing to go with the analytics and live with it. After all, it's not how it turned out after the fact that makes it a good or bad decision, it's the likelihood going in.
I'll openly disagree with the final sentence. The result matters, a whole lot. If the result was irrelevant, there would be no risk. The failure of the play should call into question the decision making process. Fans feeling the stinging taste of bitter defeat clinging to their lips rarely find solace in analytical pieces documenting the rightness of decisions that don't work. They are and always will be results oriented. Did it work? No. Boooooooo. Bill Belichick, parodied as Darth Bill and dozens of other less pleasant monikers, has a thick skin. I'm sure he could care less that the NFL's chattering class thinks he cost his team the game. And by sitting on his lead and not doing a better job of managing the clock, (as documented below) he in many ways did not maximize their opportunities to win. Equally dismissed, I'm sure, are the comments supporting his decision. He knows he was right. He will do it again. The comments are like the buzzings of flies. And yeah, I'll take my coffee with extra sugar today, thanks.
Note: Joe Tetreault is a guest writer to Foxboro Blog. You'll be able to read more of his opinion and analysis on all-things sports, news, business, and culture on his blog, TetreautltVision, which is scheduled to launch on the Bloguin Network shortly.
"When the future's architectured by a carvival of idiots on show,
you'd better lie low" - Coldplay
When you go for it on 4th and 2 from your own 28 yard line, up by six points, with 2:08 left in the game, you'd better be able to accept the flood of criticism that will come from falling short. After the referees spotted the ball inches from the first down marker, the flood gates came soaring open for Bill Belichick. At the moment, there's no less than six articles on ESPN.com lambasting Belichick for his decision to boldly go for the win last night. I, however, have absolutely no problem with that call. Giving Peyton Manning more than two minutes to execute a game-winning drive with one time out and the two minute warning is a recipe for disaster. I don't care how good your defense is, Peyton Manning has built his career on situations like that. So if you give me the choice between converting a 4th and 2 or Peyton Manning lining up from his own 25 with plenty of time to execute, I'll take the 4th and 2. It's not conventional. It's beyond gutsy. But it's also probably the play that gives you the best odds of escaping from Indianapolis with a victory. Maybe the Patriots would have stopped Manning on that final drive. Maybe they wouldn't have, and the outcome would have been the same. There's absolutely no way to tell. The bottom line is that if you put that one decision in a vaccum - 4th and 2 or punt - Belichick made the call with the better odds.
That being said, Bill Belichick coached this team like a complete idiot in the 4th quarter.
As promised, we have a preview of this week's Patriots game, which just happens to be the biggest game of the 2009 NFL Season thus far. Yesterday we had a little bit of fun with the Brady vs. Mannning debate, but now it's time to get serious. And seriously, after taking a look at the photo above, how is there any debate?
Tom Brady = Three Super Bowl Titles, tons of NFL records, super model wife.
Peyton Manning = Fail.
First Down: Receivers vs. Secondaries
Tomorrow night, NBC will be cranking the Brady/Manning hype machine to full tilt, but in all likelihood both players are going to be their usual phenomenal selves, cancelling the effect of the other out. The fact of the matter is that this game will come down to the non-quarterbacks on the field and how they match up with each other, and so for our first down, I'd like to take a look at how the receivers for each team stack up against their opponents on defense.
When Indy's got the ball, Dallas Clark will obviously be New England's main point of concern. As much as I like to hate on the Colts, there's no denying that the man has torn it up this season. However, a man getting very little national accolades in New England's secondary, Brandon McGowan, just happens to be a tight end killer. He's already contained Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow this season. While Clark may be his biggest challenge yet, I think it's pretty safe to say that McGowan won't like him run wild like he did vs. Houston. If Dallas Clark doesn't have a big game, it's going to be very difficult for the Colts pull out a victory.
On the flip side, New England has Randy Moss and Wes Welker going up against... and....
Truth be told, I'm usually pretty confident in the Patriots when they're facing the Colts. However, it's generally a "nervous" optimism. I feel like I'm setting myself up to be blindsided like an overconfident Survivor contestant by saying this, but I'm not nervous at all about tomorrow's game. I just can't fathom how Indianapolis's injured secondary is going to contain New England's arial onslaught. You throw Bob Sanders back into the mix, and suddenly the butterflies return. But the fact remains that tomorrow night Randy Moss will be going up against a rookie and we all saw what he did to Miami's newbie Vontae Davis.
Perhaps the most instensely debated issue in football over the past decade is whether Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is the NFL's premiere quarterback. On Sunday night, the two QB's may meet for the last time in the 00's. It could be the last chance for either of them to prove why they should be considered the top quarterback of their era. There have been thousands upon thousands of words written on the subject. Brady supporters point to his three Super Bowl titles. Manning fans reply with Peyton's overal superior statistics. Tom's backers counter that when Brady had the recievers, he broke all of Manning's records. Peyton's camp retorts that when Manning had a supporting cast on par with Brady's he took the Colts to the Super Bowl. It's a debate that may seemingly never end...
Until now! It's pretty clear that when you compare the successing of Manning and Brady, you're left with a near tie. However, what few people consider are the duo's flaws. I mean, if you go 18-0 and then lose the Super Bowl, that's gotta detract a bit from your legacy. Likewise, if you set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season, only to watch your team get bounced out of the playoffs by only putting up three points, that's also pretty bad. Today, two of Indy and New England's biggest fans will attempt to put the Brady/Manning debate to rest once and for all. 18to88.com will be posting an article highlighting Tom Brady's flaws. FoxboroBlog.com will be countering with Peyton Manning's biggest downfall. When it's all said and done, Dave of MoneylineLoser.com will get his long-time friend Peter King to judge each each quarterback point by point and finally declare once and for all who the QB of the Decade truly is!
Foxboro Blog's Take on Peyton Manning:
1. Most annoying in-game habit
Flapping his arms like an albatross before every snap. This is football, not the New York Philharmonic. Just run the play already!
2. Worst press conference moment
Calling Mike Vanderjagt an "idiot kicker". Look, we all know that Vanderjerk needed to keep his mouth shut, but you don't throw your teammates under the bus like that - especially if you're the team leader.
3. Lamest Advertisement
Peyton Manning will clearly shill for whatever company or product will throw some money at him. I'm still waiting for him to show up in a Valtrex ad. "Hello, my name is Peyton Manning, and I have genital herpes." However, until that one hits the airwaves the Oreos Double Stuff Racing team has to take the cake.
I bet Archie Manning wished he had a vesectomy after watching that one.
4. Worst Player Backed Up in College
Todd Helton - the guy plays for the Colorado Rockies!
5. Lamest Photo
Finding a picture of Peyton Manning looking like a goober is like finding a three leaf clover. There are so many to chose from, but this one of Manning and Dungy about to french kiss may be my favorite.
You won't ever see a shot like that from Brady and Belichick. Those two celebrate using a secret handshake where they clang their eight combined Super Bowl rings together.
6. Worst facial feature
Peyton Manning's head is more dysmorphic than Stewie Griffin's. One of my favorite things in life is a Peyton Manning interception, followed by him angrily ripping of his helmet to reveal that gigantic forehead of his, all angry and red from being stuffed inside his helmet. It's a beauiful sight to behold.
At least he's found a way to put it to good use during those balmy summer nights in Indianapolis!
7. Wussiest Rule Change
After Peyton Manning pitched a hissy fit about the Patriots defense roughing up his receivers, the league changed the league cracked down to help the Colts out a bit. Notice how the Pats/Colts rivalry became decidedly less one-sided after that change was made...
8. Biggest scandal
Peyton Manning mooned a woman in college which ended in a lawsuit.
9. Lamest Celebrity fan Kenny Chesney and Peyton Manning have a recorded duet where they sing the following lyrics.
Whatever it takes to win your love I hire me an airplane, have it paint your name up in the sky above I tell the world I'm yours, put it on a billboard out on the interstate If it takes forever to get us together Honey I'll do whatever it takes
When Sir Elton and Tom Brady get together for a remake of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?", then maybe you'll win this point.
Now that you've seen Peyton Manning dissected, head over to 18to88.com to hear them rip Tom Brady Apart!
Then take a trip to MoneylineLoser.com, where Peter King will put together all the pieces and declare our winner!
The season is half-way over and the New England Patriots stand 6-2. It's been a fairly turbulent ride - the opening night nail-biter, the Jets upset, two big wins against the black birds, a heart-breaking OT loss to Josh McDaniels' Broncos, two thrashing - one in October snow, the other in London, and finally a battle against the wildcat for AFC East supremacy. For somebody who envisioned smooth sailing early on, much like 2007, the first half of this season has been quite the surprise. I never thought the Patriots offense would struggle the way it did early on. I also never saw the defense being as dominant as it has been. Joey Galloway getting cut? No way! Brandon McGowan becoming a defensive star? Never! Yet even though things haven't gone quite as planned, one thing remains the same nine weeks later - I believe the New England Patriots are a Super Bowl team.
Before we break down the Patriots' performance, let's give take a moment to congratulate Joey Porter on his incredibly insignificant performance. Nothing like running your mouth non-stop leading up to a game and then posting a row of zeros in the stat column.
In order to not be a complete hater, I will give credit to the Dolphins' play callers for keeping the Patriots on their toes. I honestly thought there would be no way that Miami could unleash the wildcat successfully with Bill Belichick coming off a bye week. Early on, it seemed that New England would steam roll the Dolphins. However, the Fins got incredibly creative with their formations to the point where I was sweating a bit in the fourth quarter. There's certainly something to be said for keeping a defense guessing. It lead to some big plays for Miami today. In a must-win game against a superior opponent, it kept the Dolphins alive to the end.
As promised, I'll be doing a game preview for each weeks match-up. I'm calling this segment "3rd and Long", because I plan to go over three hot topics/things to watch for in each preview. It was also the first name that came to me during the approximately eight seconds I spent thinking about what I should call my game previews. So while the name is subject to change, it's what we're going with for this week at least.
1st Down: The Most Annoying Sound in the World
If you thought that was bad, try listening to the latest batch of Joey Porter sound bites. First there was talk of how he has a natural "hate" for the Patriots.
“My feeling towards New England goes back further. It goes back to my Pittsburgh days. I feel a certain way after some things came out, way back when. There was some AFC championships I lost to them a couple times. Come to figure out a couple months later why we lost. So, yeah, I have natural hate for them. Period. And that’s just going to be with me forever. That’s not going to change. You can fill in the blanks. You know exactly what I’m talking about. And they know exactly what I’m talking about. And that’s not gonna change from my thought process on that situation.’’
Joey, if blaming your lack of execution on a video camera helps you feel better about yourself, then hate away. Clearly a video camera is responsible for a punt return touchdown and a blocked field goal touchdown in 2002. Foxboro Blog would also like to thank the good folks at Sony who got us the latest model of the Handycam just in time for the 2005 AFC Title game. We would've never been able to pick off Rothlisberger three times en route to a 41-27 drubbing without it!
Bottom line, Joey Porter can continue to run his mouth and say asinine things like how Brady "influences" the refs. New England does their talking on the field. The only annoying sound Porter will be hearing tomorrow are the muskets firing after a slew of Patriots' touchdowns.
Welcome to Foxboro Blog, the official home of the New England Patriots on the Bloguin Network! I've been covering the Patriots on my personal website, DeROK.Net since 2002. During that time I've had the honor of chronicling two Super Bowl titles, a 21 game winning streak, a perfect regular season, and a host of other memorable moments. Now it's time to ramp up the coverage of my favorite team with a full-fledged blog of their own. The goal is to build this site from the ground up and become the internet's leading Patriots community. I managed to do something similar for my favorite NBA team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, but I only got there through a ton of help from our super-star staff. I believe that Foxboro Blog can repeat that success, but only with similar contributions from my fellow Pats fans. If you'd like to help contribute, feel free to drop me a line using the contact link on the main menu. At the moment, my plan is to have a weekly schedule that includes a game preview, a game recap, and power rankings. However, I've got a lot on my plate managing our 100+ sites on the Bloguin Network, as well as writing for DeROK.Net, TWolvesBlog.com, and my day job as a pediatric resident. Honestly, I have no idea how I'm going to run this site on my own, but I couldn't let Bloguin go without coverage of the Pats for any longer. Also, I'm a huge fan of that Kevin Costner guy and believe that if I build it, the writers and readers will come. So hopefully you'll keep coming back as we cover the Patriots each week, as well as hot topics like Rex Ryan's diabetes, Eric Mangina's epic failues in Clevland, and Nextel's recent attempt to purchase advertising space on Peyton Manning's massive forehead.