Thursday, January 29, 2015

To beat the Patriots, Seahawks can't wait until the second half

For the Seahawks to beat the Patriots on Sunday, they're either going to have to build a solid lead in the first half, or do something that no team has done since October: outscore the Patriots in the second half.

For 10 straight games the Patriots have dominated the second half. And most of those games were against good teams: Denver, Green Bay, Indy (twice), Detroit, Baltimore. The Pats scored 160 second half points in those games, allowing 46. If you're not good at math, that's an average of 16 to 4.6. In the last 6 games the Pats have allowed 2.7 points per game in the second half

Multiple choice question: Why have the Patriots been so strong in the final 30 minutes?

A) Offense
B) Defense
C) Special teams
D) Coaching
E) All of the above

I think the answer is E, but the numbers suggest that the defense is the biggest reason this team has improved so much in the second half. In other words, the offense plays very good in both halves, the defense plays okay in the first half, then dramatically improves in the second.

In the last 10 games the Patriots have put up 174 points in the first half, 160 in the second, a decrease of 1.4 points per game. The defense has allowed 114 points in the first half, only 46 in the second, a difference of 6.8 per game. So the offense actually gets slightly less productive in the second half, while the defense plays significantly better.

In fact, in 4 of the last 10 games, the defense has held opponents to 0 second half points. And they haven't allowed a second half touchdown in 7 of the last 10.

Those are just numbers, though. The eye-test is more convincing to me. And in the second half my eyes have seen this team make plays in all phases of the game. That's why I still say the reason they do so well in the second half is E, all of the above.

Against the Ravens it was coaching and offense that put up 21 points in the second half, and defense that held Baltimore to 10. In Week 16 against the Jets it was Vince Wilfork's blocked field goal and then the offense killing the clock that secured the victory. Against the Chargers, the defense won the game while the offense struggled.

What's been encouraging about this team since Week 5 is that they've been able to win different kinds of games in different ways. They're versatile. They improvise and they improve.

If the Patriots continue to play great in the second half, the Super Bowl might be decided by the time Katy Perry takes the stage.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blizzard of 2015 might cost Gillette Stadium a future Super Bowl

While the Patriots went through the circus of Super Bowl Media Day, Winter Storm Juno dropped 22 inches of snow on their home in Foxboro. Other areas of Boston were covered by more than 30 inches. There were travel bans, the T shut down, schools closed, offices were closed, and events were cancelled.

Last year the success of the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey gave added hope to the prospect of Gillette Stadium hosting the big game someday. But if such a proposal is made in future hosting bids, people might point to Juno as a reason to avoid hosting the game in New England.

As much as I'd love for the Super Bowl to be played on Route 1 in Foxboro, you can't ignore the potential for severe weather to impact the event. And not just the game. The week leading up to the Super Bowl is a massive event in and of itself. Media Day, all the corporate hospitality parties, it's a circus. Moreover, teams need practice facilities, and they need to be able to travel to practice.

A Boston/Foxboro would, similar to the Super Bowl in NY/NJ, would be spread out. This means it would be reliant on people being moved from one place to another. Something that snow can make difficult, or even impossible.

The plan for a Boston/Foxboro Super Bowl would require people to stay in hotels in Boston, Providence, maybe even Hartford. One strong snowstorm could bring the whole show to a standstill. The corporate sponsors would have to cancel or reduce their events. The media could find themselves stranded in Connecticut on media day. Teams could find their practice facilities under 18 inches of snow.

Snow paralyzes transportation. And a Boston/Foxboro Super Bowl would be more dependent on transportation than any Super Bowl in history.

Now imagine the worst-case scenario: the storm hits on the weekend and impacts the game. Traffic getting into and out of Gillette Stadium is bad enough. Playing football in snowy conditions can be fantastic drama. But that's assuming that the team buses can even make the trip from whatever hotel in Quincy the teams stay at to the Stadium.

The Super Bowl is a monster with many moving parts. A snowstorm could paralyze that monster. All those moving parts generate money, which makes the monster attractive. But movement can be very difficult in New England in late January and early February.

So Juno might cost Boston/Foxboro a future Super Bowl. Then again, money has the power to shorten memories.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: John Wilcox

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I Love The Snow

I absolutely love the snow. I hope it doesn't stop until Friday afternoon.

However in Southie we have kind of ridiculous rules especially when it comes to parking. Our parking spaces are like gold here and after you spend 3 hours digging out your car, you have to save it with objects in hope nobody takes them. And since I'm not a born and bread southie guy if someone takes my spot I count it as a loss and not fuck with them.... least manly thing I can do. I also refuse to take someone spot incase it is someones spot I don't want to take. At least 2 people a year get stabbed over those spots. This is the only reason I miss suburb living. Burb living otherwise makes me want to kill myself, being in a situation where I can't walk to a grocery store, liquor store and bar.

Either way, this snow is awesome. In 3 weeks when it's slush I'm going to want to kill myself.

These are the shows you should get into during these snow days:

Sons of Liberty is pretty awesome so far
Black Sails

If you guys have more let me know

Also the Rihanna, Kanye, Paul McCartney song 4,5 seconds is incredible

this post is because im bored.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Take On Deflating Balls

I think we can all say we are pretty sick of all deflating balls here are my thoughts.

1. That Belichick presser meant absolutely nothing. He can come out and play science teacher all he wants but it's dumb. I respect the hell he is going after the league and sticking up for his team... but for all he said, there is endless amounts of evidence saying the weather excuse is bullshit. It is. It's completely bullshit.. the weather excuse isn't really a valid excuse.

2. I think there are so many rumors out there, that it's tough for anyone to have a straight story. The refs used gauges, it was a sting operation, the Ravens or Colts tipped off the NFl, who fucking knows. Time will tell.

3. The main thing from this is, were the balls tampered with. They were properly gauged before the game, at halftime they were down and the Colts weren't. How did that happen. Did the Patriots tamper with it? If the Patriots tampered with it (which will be almost impossible to prove), then I do think something big should happen to them. If they can't find evidence they should get the fined the ball fine times 11.

4. As for reputation/ legacy. I hear a lot of Patriots fans saying, "This is only a big deal because of the Patriots". True, but I believe they deserve the extra speculation. I defend Ben Roethlisberger and think that he never raped a chick, however, if tomorrow we found he was accused of misconduct, I probably would side with the "haters" and most likely want him off the team... simple as that. The Legacy of Bill Belichick and Brady will always be marred with the tuck rule, spygate, deflate gate and whatever anyone wants to say, but the fact of the matter is... Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are probably the best coach, best quarterback and obviously the best duo ever. You don't need to like them, but you have to respect them.... but there will always be questions of the validity of their achievements. Since the Patriots have extremely sensitive fans when it comes to these matters they need to just accept that.

5. Shame on the NFL. The NFL tarnished this incredible match up. They can't set up a "sting" or whatever, make a big deal of it and then say, we will deal with this after the game. They can't have it both ways. If the Patriots win, they already lost in the court of public opinion. There will be so many what ifs, where it isn't fair to the Patriots. However, if the Patriots are found innocent in this, I would totally go after Goodell and the NFL if I were them. How dare they stir up this mess before the Superbowl to create a potential distraction... actually it's not potential... it's a distraction.

6. The game itself is going to be great. Mike touched upon it with a great analysis of what we should expect, but there are some awesome storylines we are missing. This game could put Brady/ Belichick as no questions asked best at their positions and this could also put the Seahawks Defense up there with a modern day Bears/ Steel Curtain D.

Either way we can chalk this up to another black eye on the NFL and Roger Goodell.

Super Bowl XLIX Preview

The Patriots are leaving for Arizona today with less than a week to go until the biggest game of their lives. The Seahawks present an intimidating challenge. They have the best defense in the NFL, the best running game in the NFL and a passing game that is good enough to provide an impressive dual threat in Russell Wilson. Beyond just the numbers and the ratings, this team has the heart of a champion. They proved it last year in the Super Bowl when they embarrassed the Broncos. They proved it last week when the Packers had the game in the bag and they managed to rally. There's no tricks, no gimmicks, just an incredibly tough and talented football team.

The History

The last two coaches hired by Robert Kraft will be on opposing sidelines in this game. Pete Carroll's run in New England wasn't a complete disaster. He inherited an AFC Championship winning team when Bill Parcells vacated the job and he had some big shoes to fill. The team regressed with a worse W-L record every season Pete Carroll was at the helm before missing the playoffs and getting fired in 1999 to make way for Bill Belichick. Bill went on to win some Super Bowls. Pete went on to win some National Championships at USC, some of which had to be vacated for recruiting violations. When it became clear that serious sanctions were going to come down on the program he took off for the NFL to coach the Seahawks.

There haven't been many matchups between these two teams. They only meet in the regular season every 4 seasons. The last matchup was back in 2012. The Patriots leaned heavily on Tom Brady as he aired it out 58 times in that game. Brady put up a lot of yards, but was intercepted twice by Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas; two faces that will be on the other side of the field next Sunday. The running game was a non-factor as Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead all struggled to make significant gains.

On the other side of the ball Seattle also had struggles. Russell Wilson was efficient with his passing, but took a strip sack from Chandler Jones. One of his receivers also put the ball on the ground for another Patriots fumble recovery. The Seahawks running game was stifled with Marshawn Lynch putting up just 41 yards on 15 carries. Russell Wilson was contained with just 17 rushing yards on the day.

The Patriots had a comfortable 13 point lead with just 9 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Usually the Patriots have a good ability to finish in these situations, but Wilson was able to hit two deep passes for two touchdowns for the late win. Many people saw this as a turning point for the Seahawks, building up to their Super Bowl win last season.

The Patriots have changed quite a bit since that game. The only player with a catch in that game that will be suited up Sunday is Rob Gronkowski. The only player with a run in that game that will be suited up on Sunday is Brandon Bolden. It will be interesting to see how guys like Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen, Brandon LaFell, LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray can bring to this matchup. The Patriots defense will also look very different. Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo won't be there, but Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Akeem Ayers will. Darrelle Revis has brought a strength and stability to the Patriots secondary that was sorely missing at this time. Brandon Browner will be on the field, but this time he'll be in a Patriots uniform.

Things have changed in Seattle as well. Sidney Rice and Golden Tate are gone, but Jermaine Kearse has since become a big part of the offense. Michael Bennett, who currently leads the team in sacks, was playing in Tampa Bay back in 2012 and has been an important contributor for the past two seasons. It seems as though the personnel for Seattle is largely the same, but many of the rookies and second year players have developed into play-making veterans.

It's hard to take much from that game and translate it to the game on Sunday. It's still Brady/Belichick v. Wilson/Carroll/Lynch, but the Patriots have had significant roster turnover since that game and the Seahawks have matured into a championship caliber team. This game will also happen in front of a mixed crowd in a neutral stadium in Arizona instead of the notorious home field advantage of CenturyLink Field where that game was held.

Looking At The Now

The Patriots have managed to stay surprisingly healthy this year. Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley were the only significant names to hit Injured Reserve this season. Their injuries have allowed guys like Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Akeem Ayers, Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount to flourish in their absence. The Patriots had full participation in practice with Center Bryon Stork being the only significant question mark headed into this game.

Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman got banged up in the NFC Championship Game. With the bye week to heal up before the Super Bowl I think both are a lock to play in this game, but the fact that they may be playing at less than 100% could open things up for Tom Brady against the best secondary in the NFL.

Seattle is coming off of a poor performance in the NFC Championship Game. Russell Wilson threw a career high 4 interceptions, fumbled the ball, got sacked 5 times and completed under 50% of his passes. Wilson threw 7 interceptions total in the regular season. On top of that, his leading receiver Doug Baldwin coughed up the ball for a turnover. Somehow, despite all this, Seattle still managed to push this game to overtime and came away with the win. Marshawn Lynch carried this team with 157 rushing yards on 25 carries, a rushing touchdown and a 25-yard catch to boot. The Seattle defense did it's part by limiting the NFL's highest scoring offense to just 22 points. They also intercepted Aaron Rodgers twice, who had only thrown 5 interceptions all season long. To put that into perspective, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger each threw 9 picks this year. Two quarterbacks that are notorious for ball security somehow managed to combine for 6 interceptions in that game. I wonder what sort of odds you could have gotten from Vegas on a prop bet on that before the game.

The Patriots steamrolled the Colts at Gillette Stadium. As impressive as their track record had been against Andrew Luck and the Colts they were even better in this game. The Colts were admittedly a soft draw for the AFC Championship Game compared to the participants in the NFC Championship Game, but the Patriots still handled the Colts with authority. The only snag came after the game was over with the deflated ball controversy. Regardless of your thoughts on this it's become a distraction for the players and staff at a time when preparation is crucial. Bill Belichick expressed in a press conference that he was embarrassed by the amount of time and thought he had put into this issue. The positive is that the Patriots have shown a strong ability to work past things like this. When SpyGate happened in 2007 the Patriots responded by destroying a good San Diego Chargers team the following week. They went undefeated all the way up to the Super Bowl. When Aaron Hernandez was arrested the Patriots responded by winning their first 4 games of the season and getting to the AFC Championship Game. When things hit rock bottom after the Chiefs game this season they responded by beating up on an undefeated Bengals team and going on a 7 game winning streak. If Belichick can turn this adversity into fuel for the players it could work to their advantage.

The Match Up

I feel the Patriots struggles continue to be in two key areas: protecting Tom Brady and stopping the run.

Brady's sack totals don't look exceptionally bad, but I think it doesn't emphasize how much he typically moves in the pocket to avoid the rush and how many balls he throws away to avoid a sack.The good news is that the Seahawks are not exceptionally good at pressuring the quarterback. Despite an impressive secondary, the Seahawks only managed 37 sacks this season, putting them at 20th in the NFL. If Brady has time and space to work with, he could have a big day even against that loaded Seattle secondary.

LeGarrette Blount has a little bit of experience against Pete Carroll's Seahawks. Back in 2010 Blount, still a rookie with the Buccaneers, ran for 164 yards on just 18 carries against them. Again, the other personnel involved has changed so much since that time that it is hard to put too much emphasis on these numbers, but at least LeGarrette has performed well against Pete Carroll's defensive schemes in the past. Along with being the best pass defense in the league, the Seahawks are strong against the run. They're third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and 2nd in yards per attempt. They successfully contained Eddie Lacy(over 1,100 yards rushing in both of his NFL seasons) to just 73 yards on 21 carries in the NFC Championship Game.

There is no soft spot to attack on the Seahawks defense, but I do feel the Patriots have the personnel to produce against them. I wouldn't expect a blowout, but they have the capability to put up enough points to win the game without the defense needing to do everything.

Russell Wilson is an efficient quarterback. I wouldn't call him "elite" yet. In some ways he reminds me of Tom Brady early in his career. He protects the football and doesn't try to do too much. He's got an elite defense and he doesn't shoot them in the foot with sloppy play and turnovers. Occasionally he can step up and do more when the situation calls for it, which is what separates him from your typical game manager quarterbacks.. There are some glaring differences in that Wilson is far more mobile than Tom Brady ever was and Brady is a more accomplished pocket passer, but I don't think the comparison is entirely unreasonable. The Seahawks passing game might be the weakest part of their team. Both of the Seahawks leading receivers (Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse) were undrafted out of college and neither of them went for over 1,000 yards this season. It's not that glaring of a weakness as they never have to lean on Wilson's arm to win them games. Belichick's game plan against the Seahawks in 2012 seemed to revolve around forcing Wilson to beat them with his arm. For 3 1/2 quarter it worked, but they got torched by some deep balls down the stretch. It will be interesting to see if he pushes that strategy again.

Marshawn Lynch scares me somewhat. I'm not sure why. We saw a lot of Marshawn from his time on the Bills and he's never had a "Beast Mode" game against us.

9/23/07: 20 carries for 74 rushing yards, 2 catches for 6 yards, TD
11/9/08: 14 carries for 46 rushing yards
12/20/09: 8 carries for 25 rushing yards
9/26/10: 13 carries for 79 rushing yards, 1 catch for 7 yards
10/14/12: 15 carries for 41 yards, 1 catch for 11 yards

Add it all up and you get 70 carries for  265 yards (3.79 YPC), 1 TD and 4 catches for 24 yards. He's never put up more than 80 yards in a game against the Patriots. One X-Factor could the loss of Jerod Mayo. Mayo's strength was run stuffing and he was in all of those games against Lynch, except for the game in 2007 before Mayo was drafted. Hightower and Collins have been great in his place and Big Vince is still plugging up the middle, but it's still enough to be of concern. They've struggled at times against good running backs like Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Lacy and Jamaal Charles/Knile Davis.


This one is a toss up. I think on paper both of these teams are evenly matched. Both teams have a good balance with multiple ways to attack and stop you. I expect one for the ages with the Patriots coming out on top 27-24.

The Patriots violated a rule that shouldn't be a rule

Rules are rules. And if the Patriots altered the air pressure of the ball after the refs inspected them, then they deserve to be disciplined for circumventing a rule.

But why is this rule even a rule? Why can't teams inflate or deflate the ball as much as they want? Why limit them to between 12.5 and 13.5 lbs/PSI? If Tom Brady prefers to throw a football at 11 lbs/PSI, and Aaron Rodgers wants to throw a ball with 14.5, why is there a rule preventing them from doing so?

What unfair edge would be gained? Teams use their own balls. How could one team gain an advantage over the other if both teams are using the footballs they prefer?

What's the worse that could happen? Passing offense might be more efficient and prolific? It wouldn't be the first time a rule change favored the offensive side of the ball.

The NFL allows players to select which cleats they'll use. They let quarterbacks and receivers decide to wear gloves or not. They let everyone decide the types of facemasks they want to wear. Why is this piece of equipment different?

Furthermore, the NFL allows the outside of balls to be rubbed up, broken in, scuffed, and so on. If changing the outside of the ball is fair game, why is the inside of the ball so rigidly restricted?

Again, I'm not saying that rule breaking should be excused. But I think this particular rule should be examined. It's a stupid rule.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: Maddie McGarvey, The New York Times

Friday, January 23, 2015

DeflateGate Losing Steam

Now almost a full 5 days since the AFC Championship game the DeflateGate story is starting to lose some steam and die out. Yesterday we had some press conferences from Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's press conference was moved up to that afternoon rather than this morning. Both press conferences were awkward and meandering, but both denied any wrong doing or having any knowledge of any wrongdoing. I was surprised to see ad-lib their press conferences rather than reading from a prepared statement with more definitive language. This is the reply I think that Bill should have given:
"I want to be explicitly clear. I have never tampered with a football after the official inspection nor have I ever instructed a player, coach or staff member to do so. I have spoken to my coaching staff, sideline staff and players and they also denied having ever done so. I have no explanation for why the balls passed the pregame inspection but did not pass the half time inspection nor will I speculate as to why this happened. We have been in full cooperation with the league and their investigation and we will continue to do so."
 He said most of this in the press conference, but he bumbled around a lot talking about ball conditions in practice, how he's learned more about the ball pressure checking process and how he thinks they should put more air in the ball to start off with. I would have liked to see a more proactive statement that he's discussed it with his coaching staff, sideline staff and players and also come up empty rather than just focusing on how he himself is not responsible. Brady said more of the same, but upon being questioned he said that he spoke to the sideline staff about it and that they also denied any wrongdoing.

Adam Schefter was reporting yesterday that the NFL was not finding any evidence of tampering in their investigation.
"The word that I was getting this morning was that the NFL is having a tough time coming up with actual evidence that this knowingly went on."
There has also been some discussion about how much the outside temperature could effect the pressure. Some articles think it could have a larger effect, others think it couldn't account for the difference, others point to unconfirmed reports that the Colts balls passed the half time inspection.

There have been other unconfirmed reports that the pregame testing process is not as rigorous as most would imagine. Some say that the referees give the ball a squeeze rather than using a pressure gauge as they did with the half time tests. NBC Interviewed a former ballboy for the Bears.

"I recall them having a pressure gauge in the locker room, but most often they just squeezed the balls, turned them over in their hands a few times each, and inspected the laces. I don't recall them ever rejecting one of our balls," he said.
"My thought process was, 'Let's get the balls exactly the way our quarterback wants them, and if the refs reject one or two before the game, no big deal. But there's no harm giving them our ideal balls and hoping they make it through inspection.'"

  MMQB dug up some footage they had from earlier in the year of the balls being tested for pressure. In the video you can see them using gauges to judge them rather than just squeezing, but they seem somewhat lax about the standards. You can hear them say at one point "close enough". Taking into account the broadcast discussion about Aaron Rodgers sneaking some overinflated balls past the check and I think there's some leeway on that pressure range. There's also some interesting information from this article that I did not realize.
"The balls would be in the officials’ possession until just minutes before the start of the game, at which point they would hand to ball boys on each side of the field. For balls to be tampered with, it would most likely have to take place on the field during the game."
This was consistent with the former Bears ballboy's description of events.
  After inspection — which was far more stringent for balls used for kickoffs and field goals — the game balls were taken right out to the field, he said.
"There was a window, maybe an hour or so, between inspection and game time," Kester said. "The balls were out on the field, and it would have been very difficult for me to secretly deflate balls while thousands of fans and media members moved about the stadium. It would also have been very difficult to sneak 12 balls back into the locker room without raising suspicion.
I think a lot of people, myself included, envisioned a scenario where they gave the balls right back to the team and they could take them somewhere deep in the bowels of Gillette stadium, possibly off camera, and deflate the balls below the range. This information drastically cuts down on the window of the time and place where the tampering would have to occur. A few minutes before the start of the game on the field there should be dozens of cameras scrutinizing the Patriots sideline. If there was any tampering with the balls it should show up on camera somewhere. If the NFL or the networks can't produce such a video I'm inclined to believe that no tampering took place. It should be a simple matter to follow the videos to create a chain of custody of the Patriots football and examine for tampering. My guess is that the balls were submitted a bit lighter than the range, the referees didn't catch it during the check and the cold weather accounted for the rest of the difference. That's what I'm going with until I see evidence otherwise and if it did happen the evidence should be out there.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bill Belichick Presser Summarized in 2 words, "Blame Brady"

I was shocked to learn of the footballs on Monday. I had no knowledge until Monday morning," "In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player or staff member about football air pressure," "No further comment on NFL investigation, and I've told you all I know from my perspective on the subject," he said, repeating several times, "I've told you everything I know."

He also said you have to ask Tom about air pressure, I couldn't find the quote.

Basically in a nutshell the presser went like this. Hey, in practice we do shit to the balls, but when it comes to game day I don't know anything about the process and you have to ask Brady about air pressure.

Now... Belichick's reputation is in play here because do I believe him about certain things? Yes, I believe he does what he does in practice is true, but when it comes not knowing the process, I refuse to believe that someone as detail focused as Bill wouldn't know about this. He is too good of a coach to let this slide, it would make no sense for him to ignore that part of a game. The more and more I think about this whole scandal the more and more I think it's ridiculous teams are in control of the balls in the first place. The NFL should and all this shit could go away.

But back to deflate gate, The Patriots are playing this very well, if Bill takes a step away from this and Brady falls on the sword, Brady will just be fined, or should be just fined and boom done..... Unless, Roger Goodell remembers when talking about Bountygate and referring to Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis saying "Ignorance is not an answer", because in this case Belichick was ignorant to this whole situation.

The real telling thing here is Brady's presser at 4. Then we will see if he bites the bullet or pleads ignorance.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Now That's It's Pretty Much Known As A Fact The Patriots Fucked With The Ball, What Happens To The Pats?

So this has come out since this morning:
First, per a league source, the NFL has reviewed the entire process and determined that the balls were properly checked by the officials before the game. Which means that, when the balls left the possession of the referee, the pressure was at least 12.5 PSI and no more than 13.5 PSI.

Second, as to the fact that the officials didn’t notice anything wrong with the balls while handling them after every play, the source explains that a pressure difference of one or two pounds would not be obvious, if the official is not specifically looking for it. More

Those sources said the Colts raised concerns to the league, which was aware of the issue going into this weekend's AFC title game.

and that
Gerry Austin, longtime referee, says halftime Pats-Colts footballs brought in, checked at half. Colts footballs still legal. Pats were not.

So if you put everything together it seems as if the Patriots were doing this all the way since at least November, the Colts felt something fishy and told the league. The league was aware going into the AFC Championship game, the balls were inspected before the game and it checked out, the Patriots tampered with the balls sometime between then and halftime and got caught. Pretty simple. The Patriots cheated again and broke another rule that they were probably informed about it before, much like Spygate.

The main question now is, what's next?

Who falls on the sword, do they get fined, do they get draft picks taken away, does someone get suspended?

I would love nothing more for Belichick to get suspended for the Superbowl or next year. I personally don't believe he could be stupid enough to tell someone to deflate the balls, but he definitely turned a blind eye to it, much like Sean Payton did with Bountygate. Payton and Loomis had nothing to do with the specifics of Bountygate, but they knew about it and turned a blind eye and then late lied about it. I think that comparison to the Patriots and Belichick are fair, but let's be honest, it's the Patriots and they have Goodell in their pocket... they stood up for the commissioner through all the initial controversy and that among a long line of favoritism will shine through.

My guess would be that the Patriots will be fined some amount of money, Belichick will be fined half that and probably a 4th rounder will be taken away.... yet another slap on the wrist favor from Goodell.

If the league really wanted to take a stand against this, they would fine the Patriots a 1st and 2nd round prospect (which is probably a reward for the Patriots in all honesty because they normally waste those picks and it would take up cap space) and actually take away cap space ala Dallas and Washington. that would effect their roster and who they could sign.

But like I said, the Patriots have Goodell in their pocket and a boy can dream.

Why Not?

Let's throw it back to South Park

DeflateGate of the Union

The Patriots played with deflated footballs on Sunday. Reports are coming out that 11 of the 12 balls on the Pats' sideline were under-deflated, by about 2 pounds of pressure. Sidebar: people really need to know the difference between pounds per square inch, and pounds as a unit of mass/weight.

I don't respect these actions. Nor do I disrespect them. I don't like that the Patriots did this, but I don't dislike them for doing it. Bill Belichick is still my second favorite sports figure of all-time (behind Pedro Martinez). Although as much as I like him, if I were playing poker with him, I'd cut the deck when he dealt.

You know, on more than one occasion I've broken the speed limit. I've been caught doing it a few times too. I paid my fines and saw my insurance premiums go up. When I was 17 I even got my license suspended because I got 2 tickets before turning 18. I also drank alcohol before I turned 21. I've never cheated on a girl, but I have been with girls who were cheating on their boyfriends.

What's that? You don't care? I understand. I don't really care about the Patriots deflating their balls. They cheated, they got caught, they'll have to pay for it. It's similar to the fines I paid for speeding. Or when a player jumps offside, they pay for it with a 5 yard penalty. Or if a player tests positive for amphetamines, they get suspended.

What's the appropriate punishment here? The NFL's rules prescribe a minimum of a $25,000 fine. That's just the minimum punishment. What about draft picks or suspensions?

I think suspending Belichick or Brady would be absurd. And yes, Brady is part of this. You can't just blame Belichick here. I think a hefty fine, and a loss of draft picks would be suitable punishment, and act as a deterrent to other teams. Because other teams do this. Which doesn't justify doing this, and doesn't mean anyone caught doesn't deserve punishment. But the notion that the Patriots have committed a unique crime is preposterous.

Does this tarnish Bill Belichick's legacy, or the Patriots'? In the eyes of people who already see it as tarnished, it does. However, the asterisk crowd was always going to find a way to diminish what Belichick and the Patriots have done the last 15 years.

In my eyes there is no tarnish, at least not to any part of the coach or the team that matters to me. Belichick's adherence to the rules was never a factor in me liking him. He is the best coach of the era and one of the best of all time. He pushes the rules and sometimes breaks them. He does everything it takes to win, which is a respectable philosophy that sometimes results in behavior that isn't respectable.

His job is to win. And the Patriots better win this upcoming Super Bowl. Because nothing is sadder than cheating and still losing.

-The Captain

Hey Patriot Fans Embrace "Cheating"!!!!

Since about 11:30pm last night I have gone through a lot of emotions during this whole deflategate saying it. At first I was angry, then I thought the whole thing was silly and didn't matter, then I was angry that they would do something stupid especially when it wouldn't matter, then I went on about an hour rant to myself about how much I hate everyone throwing "gate" after any kind of minor controversy.


Now, I have come to fucking embrace it. Remember when the guy plowed the snow so the Patriots could make a field goal? Plowgate. Remember when the Celtics uses to turn it up to like 120 degrees in the opposing locker room? Sweatgate. Remember Buchholz putting gel in hair to grease the ball. Greasegate.

So fuck it. We're the bad guys. Aren't the bad guys always the coolest anyways? Wasn't the joker pretty damn cool? How about Hans Gruber? Darth Vader anyone?
I don't think "scandal" has made any difference in the outcome of the Colts game. I think lots of teams do stuff to their balls (haha balls, but seriously). Rodgers has admitted he over inflates balls for games. Yet, it really is the Patriots fault. They have pulled shit in the past, so now they are going to be under the microscope.

So embrace it Patriot fans. We're the bad guys and it's ok. Someone has to be.

The Only Reason Why DeflateGate Is A Story Is Because It's The Patriots

So the big news coming out now is that 11 of the 12 balls the Patriots used were underinflated. It's given new fervor to the Patriot haters like DP. The one and only reason why this is a big story is because it relates to the Patriots and every mid-western hack sports writer knows he can get his name into the national press by writing an overly sensationalized piece about it.

First off, I think the balls being deflated after the fact proves nothing. They were checked before the game and cleared. It's possible that the pre-game check was messed up. The cold weather causes pressure to decrease. Maybe lots of very large men falling on top of the ball in a pile can cause it to lose some pressure over the course of the game. We'll see if the investigation addresses any of those points. I'm sure the Captain can confirm that there are tons of cameras at Gillette Stadium. Security cameras, network cameras, team cameras, etc. Could you at least get me a video of a ball boy draining the air or something?

I think the most damning evidence that this is just pure Patriots hate is that something similar came up in late November this season. During a cold game both the Panthers and the Vikings used sideline heaters to heat up the football. There's no debate, it's on video. The rules forbid it. Surely there was a massive investigation and the press was demanding that fines be levied, draft picks be taken and coaches be suspended right? Nope, they got a warning and a reminder for next week.

Surely this was an isolated incident and no other talk of improperly inflated footballs is out there right? Not exactly. Aaron Rodgers was talking to the media about how he likes to overinflate his footballs and it came up during the broadcast.

Nantz: We talked to [Aaron] Rodgers about 'How do you like your footballs?' Because, you know, you can rub them up before the game. [Phil], you really kind of created that for everybody else in the league.  
Simms: I don’t know if I did, because the quarterbacks got tired of them complaining. But he said something [that] was unique: 'I like to push the limit to how much air we can put in the football, even go over what they allow you to do and see if the officials take air out of it.' Because he thinks it’s easier for him to grip. He likes them tight. Of course, he’s got very big hands and you can tell that by watching him play.  
Nantz: You’ve never heard of a guy really desiring a football to be fat and overinflated before, have you?  
Simms: Everybody wants it smaller and soft, so they can dig their fingers into. He’s such a feel thrower. You can tell. The one touchdown he threw down the field to the tight end is such feel; then he flicks it. That shows you he just has great control of it, with his fingers and hand.  
Nantz: He said, 'God gave me big hands and a strong grip.'  
Simms: You know, the officials do check those footballs and sometimes maybe even get lucky and put an extra half pound of air in there to help Aaron Rodgers out.
So surely Aaron Rodgers should be suspended and they should be investigating his balls from the NFC Championship game right? Maybe Mike McCarthy should be fired? Maybe dock the Packers some draft picks? Nope, nobody cares. It's not the Patriots so it's a non-story. That's how minor this is. Aaron Rodgers thought nothing of discussing it with media members, the media members thought nothing of discussing it during the broadcast and despite the Patriots loss in that game nobody filed a complaint or requested an investigation.

If the NFL investigation can prove the the Patriots did underinflate the balls, which I don't think they've done sufficiently thus far, a warning would seem appropriate. That's what the Panthers and Vikings got despite being caught red handed in a similar rules infraction. Anything more than that is just pandering to the Patriots haters.

Of Course The Patriots Deflated Their Footballs

Was their even a question that the Patriots cheated again? Of course the Patriots deflated their footballs to get an advantage, this is what the Patriots do.

The crazy thing about this is that the Patriots were going to win this game whether the balls were inflated or not, so why even risk it. If I were a Patriots fan, I would be getting really sick of my team willing to do these stupid and unnecessary risks for no reason at all. The Patriots love playing in the gray area, whether it be spygate, hiring McDaniels mid playoffs, Grabbing refs after the game, running ineligible receiver plays, and now taking air out of balls. Even though a majority of those things are legal, there will always be speculation on whether what they did was cheating or not. And what thin skinned Patriots fans don't want to hear, it's all rightfully so. This is how the Patriots carry themselves. They are a great franchise, run by the best coach and QB of all time and they will consistently marred in some type of unnecessary controversy because of ego. NE fans can go and point to records after spygate, SB appearances, etc. but the fact remains they will and forever be known as cheaters in one way or another.

I was actually thinking before they got found to deflate 11 of their 12 balls that this was just another wild goose chase because Bill Belichick is the coach and people like going after him, and what a stupid risk this would be to do. But boom, turns out I was wrong. They got caught during the Colts game, but who knows, I guess the question needs to be asked, do they do this during all home games, or all bad weathered home games? Did it happen against the Ravens last week? Who knows. But one thing is for sure, they will do anything to get a competitive advantage over someone even if it's against NFL rules.

As to the penalty? I have no idea what is going to happen. Anyone saying Belichick needs to be fired or forfeit the SB needs to shut up, because that is ridiculous, but it's probably going to be another slap on the wrist and Goodell will probably burn the balls.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Patriots Rout Colts in AFC Championship Game

I said before this game that I wasn't afraid of the Colts, I was afraid of the Patriots overconfidence against the Colts. I wasn't worried about the Colts beating the Patriots, I was worried about the Patriots beating the Patriots. It seems my fears were unfounded as the Patriots cruised to a 45-7 victory in the AFC Championship Game. Remember those embarrassing figures I listed for when the Colts play the Patriots?
Andrew Luck is 0-3 in his career against the Patriots including last year's playoffs. The Patriots won all 3 games by AT LEAST 3 touchdowns and the aggregate score of those games is 66-144. Andrew Luck has thrown 8 total interceptions in those 3 games.
The new tally puts him at 0-4 including 2 playoff elimination games. That aggregate score is now 73-189. That's 10 interceptions for Luck in 4 games. This was the Patriots largest margin of victory over Andrew Luck at 38 points. The Patriots were averaging a 26 point margin of victory coming into this game and they managed to bring that average up to 29 points. If you only watched Luck's games against the Patriots you might assume that he's the biggest draft bust since JaMarcus Russell instead of the most promising young quarterback in the NFL.

The Patriots defense was exceptional in this game. The Colts were averaging over 28 points per game in the regular season, sixth highest point total in the NFL, and the Patriots defense held them to one measly touchdown. That lone touchdown drive was twice extended by questionable penalties, without those they may have had to punt or settle for a long field goal. Andrew Luck was averaging just under 300 yards per game. The Colts had the most passing yards of any NFL team during the regular season. The Patriots held them to 126 passing yards in this game. Darrelle Revis and Jamie Collins both added crucial interceptions to help put the Colts away in the second half. We all know how great Revis is, but I feel like Jamie Collins is still underappreciated. It seems like every game he's involved in making a big, game changing play. The Colts running game was a complete non-starter and when the Patriots lead grew the Colts had to abandon the run completely.

On the other side of the ball the Patriots chewed them up. Outside of one off target ball to Gronkowski that was intercepted Brady looked to be on point all game. He tapped some unlikely targets with Fullback James Develin and OL Nate Solder for the first two touchdowns of the game. Gronk was the only receiver to have a relatively quiet day, but he still hauled in 3 catches including a touchdown grab. Julian Edelman had the most catches, yards and targets for the Patriots despite a hip injury that took him out for part of the game.

The Patriots aren't typically considered to be a prolific running team. They can do it when they need to, but it has always been second fiddle to the passing game. For some reason against the Colts the running games seems to really thrive. Jonas Gray rumbled for over 200 yards against the Colts back in week 11, easily the season high rushing total. LeGarrette Blount was able to put up 166 yards on them in the divisional round last year and he was able to put up 148 yards in this game. It makes sense that in a blow out you would want to lean more heavily on your running game to avoid clock stoppages, but the yards per carry were still quite healthy in all these games. You might think that the Colts have an exceptionally bad rushing defense, but that's not really the case either. They're below average (18th ranked), but certainly not the worst the Pats have seen. In any case, Blount performed well in this game. He picked up some good yardage, came through on some key 3rd and short situations and slammed in 3 touchdowns.

The Patriots Special Teams in this game performed well, but not exceptionally so. The big story of the Special Teams in this game was about the Colts failures in that phase of the game. A muffed catch by Josh Cribbs turned a disappointing 3 and out on the Patriots first possession into a 1st and 10 at the Colts 26 yard line that the Patriots quickly converted for a touchdown. Adam Vinatieri, the most accurate kicker in the NFL in terms of  % made coming into this game, missed a 51-yard kick. The miss set up the Patriots offense with decent starting field position and the Patriots marched down for another touchdown to set up an early 14 point lead. It was a tough kick, but if he made the kick it may have given the Colts a bit of momentum and changed the complexion of this game.

We're on to Seattle! To be the champs the Patriots will have to beat the champs. The Seahawks bring a well balanced team. Russell Wilson can beat you with his arm or his legs. Marshawn Lynch can go full beast mode and chew you up on the ground. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman make for an intimidating secondary that managed to stifle Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Patriots may be Super Bowl underdogs for the first time since 2001. Look for a more comprehensive Super Bowl preview in the near future.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Patriots would have crushed the Colts no matter what balls they used

Tom Brady holds the AFC Championship trophy after the Patriots beat the Colts 45 to 7
The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 to win their 6th AFC Championship in the Brady-Belichick era. The NFL is investigating whether the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs to be used by their offense, which could have made them easier to grip in wet conditions.

As far as DeflateGate goes, until I stop seeing words like "investigate" and "alleged," and see words like "found" and "confirmed," then I'm going not going to give weight to the story. Maybe I'll talk about the paranoid defensiveness of Patriots fans, or the eagerness of the media to find a juicy story, or the conclusion jumping of people who don't like the Pats.

I could formulate a joke about sour grapes, and include some wordplay with "wine" and "whine," but I'd rather talk about this game.

If the Patriots had used Nerf balls, this game would have still been a blowout. LeGarrette Blount would have run for 148 yards no matter how many PSI the air pressure in the ball was. And Julian Edelman would have still ran past Colts defenders like they were standing in mud.

Anyone who put money on James Develin and Nate Solder catching Brady's first TD passes of the game, you're filthy rich today.

The Pats defense blanketed the Colts receivers, forcing a horrible game from Andrew Luck (12 for 33, 126 yards, 2 INTs). They also pressured Luck, which can be dangerous because he's very good finding open guys when he's on the move. But the coverage held.

Some fun stats that illustrate how dominant this performance was:

First downs: Pats 28, Colts 17
First downs (non-penalty): Pats 27, Colts 13
Third down conversions: Pats 12 for 18 (plus 2 for 2 on 4th), Colts 3 for 11
Total plays: Pats 76, Colts 52
Total yards: Pats 397, Colts 209
Yards per drive: Pats 36.1, Colts 19.0
Time of possession: Pats 37:49, Colts 22:11

The only blemish was Brady's pick in the 2nd quarter, which turned into a penalty aided Colts scoring drive. And that one Red Zone trip (out of 7) that didn't result in a TD.

Flawless victory.

On to the two slowest weeks in sports: waiting for your team to play the Super Bowl.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ray Lewis was right about NFL rules

Ray Lewis made a great point about the NFL and its over-reliance on rules. But his point was lost because he pissed Patriots fans off.

There are two topics that are guaranteed to piss off New England fans: SpyGate and the Tuck Rule. Start talking about these, even in passing, even as a joke, and Pats fans will flip out.

And I don't know why. I'm a Patriots fan, and I don't care about either topic. In 2001 the rules gave the Pats a break and bailed Brady out of a game-losing fumble. So what? The Raiders still allowed the game-tying and game-winning drives. The Patriots still beat the Steelers then the Rams. And yes, the Patriots filmed opposing signals from the sideline. So? If you're dumb enough to think doing so made any significant difference, then you should be mad at your own teams for either not noticing it and blowing the whistle on the Pats, or for not doing it themselves.

We in New England normally don't care what Ray Lewis says or thinks, it's just funny to hear him talk. Just imagine him dressed as Abraham Lincoln, with a beard and a stovepipe hat, giving the Gettysburg Address...

Four score, and SEVEN years ago, OUR fathers... Now we are engaged, in a GREAT Civil War... this nation UNDER GOD, shall have a new birth, of freedom. And that government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE, shall not perish, FROM THE EARTH!!!! WHO'S HOUSE IS THIS? OUR HOUSE!!! WHO'S HOUSE IS THIS? OUR HOUSE!!! 

This is Robert E. Lee we're talking about, it's a chess game!

We all have a good laugh when Ray gets going.

But when he mentioned the Tuck Rule earlier this week, people in New England lost their minds.

In his recent remarks about how overly litigious the NFL has become, Lewis made the mistake of dwelling on the Tuck Rule. He argued that Tom Brady and the Patriots would be unknowns without the obscure rule. And he chose to do it the week after his former team was eliminated by the Pats. So his message was lost. Obscured, or obstructed, if you will.

And that's unfortunate because it was a good point. Rules were once meant to govern and control the game, now they define them. Rules used to focus on the clock and on formations and on player conduct and safety. People have been throwing and catching footballs long before rules existed to define when throws begin and end, when catches begin and end. But now the elemental parts of the game are being defined by rules. The basic parts that come together to make a game - throws, catches, tackles - are becoming complicated sequences of events. Dissecting a catch is like dissecting the Magic Bullet Theory in JFK. (fun fact: Arlen Specter, a nemesis of the NFL, came up with the Magic Bullet Theory when he was a junior prosecutor)

Throwing and catching are intuitive things. The NFL has turned them into complex, difficult to understand, even more difficult to explain concepts.

Football is something you're supposed to enjoy while relaxed, maybe even while having a few beers. You shouldn't need a philosopher and a lawyer in order to explain what a catch is to fans.

The Tuck Rule was a bad rule. It tried (and failed) to define what a throw is. But we all know what a throw is. We don't need rules to define it.

We don't need rules to define catches either. Rules for in and out of bounds are fine. Rules about clocks and formations are fine (although, not to John Harbaugh). Rules to define basic things that human beings have been doing for thousands of years? No, we don't need those.

So Ray Lewis was right.

Bruins winning without Tyler Seguin

The Bruins were struggling 10 days ago, and I explained why. My explanation had nothing to do with Tyler Seguin. I made four main points:

1. Tuukka Rask wasn't playing well
2. Milan Lucic wasn't playing well
3. The Bruins weren't dropping the gloves
4. The team couldn't make moves to improve because they were imprisoned in a cap jail they'd constructed themselves.

The Bruins have won 5 straight since I wrote that post. Why? Well, their winning, just like their losing, has had nothing to do with Tyler Seguin.

Tuukka Rask is playing better. The saves he made early in Thursday night's 3-0 win over the Rangers were the types of saves you'd expect a $7 million goalie to make. He's doing his job.

Lucic has awoken from his slumber. He's skating, he's getting involved in the play, and the result is production: 3 goals and 6 points these last 5 games.

The B's have 4 fighting majors in the 5 game winning streak. That doesn't include the two times Zdeno Chara threw punches against Paquette and Tampa Bay. The Bruins had 15 fights in their first 40 games. They have 4 fights in their last 5, which is more than twice the pace. More fights and more wins. Coincidence?

And finally, while the Bruins still find themselves in cap jail, with Peter Chiarelli facing the death penalty, the emergence of David Pastrnak was like a call from the Governor, arriving the moment before the switch was flipped and the electric chair turned on. The 18-year old came back from the World Juniors red hot, and has scored 4 goals in the last 3 games.

During this streak, the B's have beaten teams like Tampa Bay (1st in the Eastern Conference), and Pittsburgh (3rd in the East). They've won their way into the playoff picture, leapfrogged the Rangers Thursday night by beating them, and now find themselves 7th in the East.

And somehow they've done this without Tyler Seguin. Speaking of whom, the B's host Columbus on Saturday, then travel to Dallas to play Seguin and the Stars on Tuesday.

Do Rajon Rondo and Tyler Seguin hang out in Dallas, and if so, why isn't a film crew documenting their shenanigans?

-The Captain

Photo Credit:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How the Patriots could lose to the Colts

I'm feeling confident that the Patriots will beat the Colts on Sunday. And why not? They demolished Indy 42-20 a few weeks ago. The Colts beat a soft Cincinnati team and the crippled Broncos to get here. The Patriots' biggest weakness is protecting against a pass rush, and Indy doesn't have much of one. I could go on and on.

It seems impossible for the Patriots to lose.

Which is one reason it is possible. This Patriots team seems to play its best when they're doubted, not exalted. When people were asking Belichick if he was going to evaluate the quarterback position, this team annihilated the Bengals. When they were underdogs on the road in Indy, they threw the Colts around like ragdolls.

Yet when everyone expected them to beat the Dolphins in Week 1, they were embarrassed. When everyone expected them to crush the Jets in October and December, they won by 2 points, then by 1.

Combine overconfidence with a quality opponent like the Colts, and you get a recipe for disappointment.

I'm also worried about Bryan Stork's potential absence. The commonly held belief around town is that he won't be sorely missed because Indy doesn't have a formidable pass rush. So Stork's absence is being ignored. It shouldn't be.

The Pats dominated Indy 42-20 because the offensive line dominated Indy. With the loss of Stork, that decisive advantage becomes less decisive. In other words, the Patriots won so convincingly in November because of 5 offensive linemen. Those guys were the reasons they won. And one of the most pivotal of them will probably be on the sidelines Sunday. It's never good to lose one of the reasons you win.

I'm also concerned that the Colts will be able to go to the outside against the Patriots' defense. The Ravens did that with success last week, stretching the Pats with both running and passing plays.

Finally, the biggest reason the Patriots could lose to the Colts is if they beat themselves. And that's not very far-fetched. We've seen this team shoot themselves in the foot in big playoff games before. Welker's drops, Brady's intentional grounding in the Super Bowl, Chung's fake punt, the interception before halftime last week.

Then there's Josh "that's just what they'll be expecting us to do" McDaniels. The Patriots started the Ravens game with Brady under center, and with some handoffs. When they should have been throwing the ball out of the gun. The Colts struggle against the run, so maybe McDaniels will start with Brady in the gun and 5 WRs.

The Patriots should win. I think they will win. But you have to play to win. You have to show up and do your job.

Prediction: Patriots 31, Colts 24

-The Captain

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Peyton Manning's Diary: ouch my leg, ouch my heart

Dear Diary,
It happened again. Me and my team were played off again (Coach Tony taught me to call it that instead of that E-word that kind of rhymes with laminated). It's the ninth time that the NFL hasn't let me play more than one playoff game. I don't think that's fair.

It's not my fault either. Everyone says so. From Coach Fox (haha, sorry, every time I think of Coach Fox, I think of that "What Does the Fox Say" song, ding ding ding da ding da ding da ding), to Mr. Elway, to Coach Tony. I don't think it's my fault. My leg hurts. Trainer Steve and Doctor Martin say my quad is torn. I asked them which of my quads, my first, my second, my third, or my fourth. They told me I had 2. That doesn't make sense. I learned in school that quad means 4. So not only do I have a torn quad, I only have half the quads I should have.

I hurt it a few weeks ago. But we wanted to keep it a secret. When I saw Aaron Rodgers getting carted around like a cripple a few weeks ago, I called Mr. Elway and asked him why we didn't do that. He sighed, and said something about Aaron Rodgers and the Packers being drama queens and attention horses. I didn't get it. Our mascot is a horse, Green Bay's isn't. Their mascot is... well, I don't know what. And drama queens are actresses who play queens in movies and plays. Mr. Elway says lots of things I don't understand.

When I played with Coach Tony and the Colts, whenever I got hurt, we'd go out and get extra pizza after our normal post-game pizza party. It would be just me and Coach Tony. And if I hurt my leg, Jeff Saturday would carry me to the pizza place. The Broncos promised in my contract to do the same thing. But Mr. Elway and Coach Fox (lol, ding ding ding...) said that we should keep it a secret. "Chuck E. Cheese won't tell anyone," I told them. But they didn't want anybody to know I was hurt.

I decided to keep my hurt leg a secret from myself. So when we decided what plays to try, I chose plays we'd run if my leg was healthy. That way I wouldn't know I was hurt. And it would stay a secret.

Something was wrong though. I'd throw long passes to Emmanuel, and miss him. I couldn't figure out why, since I was still keeping my leg a secret from myself. So I threw long passes to Wes, to the two Tommies, to Emmanuel. If I had told my secret to myself, I would have been able to figure out why I wasn't able to throw to my teammates. Since I didn't, I wasn't.

Secrets can be bad. But you should always keep a secret. I kept the secret, even from myself. So I did the right thing, and that's why it wasn't my fault that we don't get to play anymore. Coach Tony always said that losing right is always better than winning wrong.

I asked Coach Tony the other day about all the secrets that mean Coach Belichick keeps. I asked if that makes Coach Belichick a good person. Coach Tony said not to worry, and that I would understand when I grow up.

I'm looking forward to playing football when it's warmer again. Summer football and football in fall is the best, because even if you lose, you get to play next week. I only wish I didn't have to go to cold places like Foxborough (this "fox" doesn't make me laugh) or loud places like Kansas City, where the people running the scoreboard make the people in the stands make noise.

I hate noise.

Next year should be fun with Coach Fox again. I think we will have a fun group of guys who will...

Oh my gosh, Diary! I was just watching a tape of people on ESPN talking about how great I am, and the ESPN people just said that Coach Fox is leaving!!!!

I don't know what to do. I need to call Coach Tony. Sorry, Diary. I hate to write and run, but this is just too much. I need to do something. What if they hire a mean coach. What if he's like mean Mr. Belichick?

Oh no, oh no, oh no!!!!!!

Hugs and kisses always, Diary. I'll miss you.

Your pal always,

The Colts Don't Scare Me..And That Kind Of Scares Me

In my preview of the Baltimore game I talked a bit about the Colts. I thought that the Broncos got the soft draw and figured that they would handle them with ease.
Andrew Luck is 0-3 in his career against the Patriots including last year's playoffs. The Patriots won all 3 games by AT LEAST 3 touchdowns and the aggregate score of those games is 66-144. Andrew Luck has thrown 8 total interceptions in those 3 games. I think it's fair to say that we've got Luck figured out so far and we can score points on their defense.
 A tough opponent that gives you all you can handle keeps you humble, keeps you sharp and keeps you on your toes. A cream puff opponent makes you soft, lazy and overconfident. This is the tougher path to the AFC Championship Game, but I think if they can survive this they will be stronger for it. I don't think I could say the same if the Colts or the Bengals rolled into Foxboro for another butt whipping.
 Instead, Peyton Manning looked washed up and Andrew Luck and the Colts rolled past them with relative ease. You would think that this road win against a competitive team like the Broncos would put some fear into Patriots fans, but it doesn't.

In a game like this, I think that overconfidence can be a team's worst enemy. I don't think that Bill Belichick is calling off practices or the players are consciously half-assing it in practice, but it can still lead to a dangerous mentality. Mistakes become excusable. Maybe Tom Brady doesn't stay late after practice to work out the timing with Julian Edelman. Fear can be a great motivator.

Let me tell you about scared. Your heart is beating so hard I can feel it through your hands. There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain it’s like rocket fuel. Right now you could run faster and you can fight harder. You can jump higher than ever in your life and you are so alert it’s like you can slow down time.
Much of Tom Brady's career has been about fear. His fear of failure has driven him to be better. It's why back-to-back losses have been so incredibly rare in his career. This week everybody outside of Indianapolis is going to be picking the Patriots to win this game. Everything points to a Patriots win. The history of the matchup. The venue is in frosty Foxboro against a coddled dome team. Time-tested experience vs. inconsistent youth. The Patriots superior record despite throwing the final game. The Colts having the easiest schedule in football while the Patriots had one of the toughest. Where is that fear supposed to come from? The Colts will have no trouble finding theirs. If they can channel that fear into their preparation they'll become a very dangerous team at a very bad time for the New England Patriots.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Patriots got the big score and the big stop when they needed to

When was the last time we saw a Patriots team score when they needed to score at the end of a playoff game, AND get a stop when they needed a stop? Actually, let's give the Patriots' defense credit for 1.5 stops, holding the Ravens to a field goal the drive before Brady and the offense drove for the game-winning touchdown.

In the first Super Bowl against the Giants, the Pats got the score, but not the stop at the end.

In the 2006 AFC Championship game against Indy, the Pats couldn't score touchdowns in the 4th quarter to win the game. They couldn't get stops either.

So as frightening as this game started, both sides of the ball ultimately did their job.

The game-winning drive was vintage Brady. He distributed the ball to 6 different receivers. He ran for a first down. And he threw a beautiful pass to Brandon LaFell for the touchdown. Danny Amendola made the biggest play of the series on 3rd and 6, breaking a tackle, and extending the ball forward to secure the first down.

The previous drive, the defense made a goal-to-go stand to hold Baltimore to 3 points. Cris Collinsworth correctly said "The difference between a field goal and touchdown here may be the game." It was.

On Baltimore's next drive, the Ravens moved the ball, but not in the big chunks they wanted to. Time was ticking away. And a Joe Flacco jump ball was finally hauled in by a Pats DB. Live by the chuck, die by the chuck.

It's unfortunate that the Patriots were in a position where they needed both a score and 1.5 stops to win. The Ravens dominated the game for the first 10 minutes, and I was getting flashbacks of past playoff embarrassments at the hands of the Ravens and Jets.

But this time the Pats had Rob Gronkowski. He made 2 big plays on the Patriots' first scoring drive: a 16 yard reception on 3rd and 8, and that big 46 yard gain. Gronk finished with 7 catches for 108 yards and a TD. And who knows how much his presence on the field, and the attention he drew from the defense, helped other receivers get open.

I've often criticized the Patriots for trying to be too clever on offense. In the 3rd quarter they had just the right amount of cleverness. The Ravens couldn't keep up with who was an eligible receiver and who was ineligible. Vereen was ineligible when Brady threw to Hoomanawanui. But the play before, Hoomanawanui was the ineligible one. You didn't hear it on TV, but the ref announced "Number 47 is ineligible, don't cover 47." Then Hooman was eligible on the next play, and Vereen was announced ineligible. The Ravens got confused, and John Harbaugh threw a hissy fit. Harbaugh called it deception, but it was lack of attention. To quote Robert the Bruce's diseased father in Braveheart "You let yourself be deceived."

That drive ended in a touchdown. And we all remember the trick play a few minutes later, Brady to Edelman to Amendola. It was the whitest touchdown in the NFL since the color barrier was broken in 1946 by Kenny Washington and Woody Strode. It probably aggravated Harbaugh too, since it was another example of deceptive play. Harbaugh is probably lobbying the NFL to outlaw play-action as well.

The Patriots won the second half 21-10. They've been an excellent second half team this season. Since the Chiefs debacle, the Patriots have outscored opponents 204-104 in the second half, allowing an average of 8 points, and scoring an average of 15.7. Going forward, it would be nice if the Patriots didn't NEED an amazing second half in order to win.

The Patriots outscored the Colts 28-10 in the second half of their Week 11 meeting. And that's who they'll play in the AFC Championship game on Sunday.

-The Captain

Photo Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images

BMack's NFL Thoughts

What a weekend huh? Honestly one of the best Patriots game I have watched in a long time. Not that they played great, because they didn't at all, but in terms of drama it played out better then any sports movie I have seen. That Edelmen play alone will be a life time memory for me.

Moving on, the Colts are coming to town. I am not scared of them in the least. They took apart a Denver Team that had a QB that couldn't throw more then 10 yards. Not his fault, he is hurt, and old, but that game was basically on Manning. Luck is very good, and could give the Patriots some trouble, but their lack of run game is going to be the difference. Baltimore dismantled the Patriots on the ground, the Colts don't have that. It's going to be a huge difference. 

In the NFC, Newton did everything he could. Carolina has some nice young talent, but they need to get him a lot more, because it's basically just him. The Seahawks are the best team in the NFL. I don't want to hear an argument.  Their defense is terrifying, Wilson can do it with his legs or his arm, and Lynch has been (in my opinion) the best running back in the NFL for awhile now, because he straight brings it every year. Packers got by the Cowboys because of a shitty rule. It wasn't the officials fault, that's the rule, but it's a shitty rule. Anyways, Rodgers can't move, the Seahawks are going to be all over him, and they have 100X better defensive backfield then the Cowboys. On top of that the Packers didn't show at all that they can stop the run, and the Seahawks are going to punish them all game if they don't figure out how to. Oh yea, the games in Seattle too, and I hear they are pretty good there.

Some other things, Brady broke all kinds of records in the Ravens game. Did you know that he now is tied for the most rushing TDs in the postseason for the Patriots? Yup, him and Curtis "My Favorite" Martin are tied with 5 (cool stat to throw around the bar room this weekend). Anyways, we are done with the Brady vs Manning debate right? Manning is a great regular season QB, but he has an under .500 record in the post season, has more 1 and outs then anyone, and really is known for choking. Game. Set. Match. 

Lucky the Leprechaun on the Trading Block

With the way that the Celtics fire sale has kicked into overdrive, I think Lucky might be the most recognizable employee of the Celtics organization at this point. I can't keep track of the comings and goings anymore.

Brandan Wright came here from Dallas in the Rajon Rondo trade. He got to enjoy his cup of coffee here before being shipped to Phoenix for a 1st round pick. Not Phoenix's first round pick, but Minnesota's 1st round pick, which is top 12 protected for the next two years before turning into multiple second rounders. They made another trade exception in the swap. I don't know if that replaces the trade exception created in the initial trade with Rondo or what. It's all VERY confusing.

Then we pulled off a 3-team trade with the Pelicans and the Grizzlies for Jeff Green. So, for Jeff Green we got Doc Rivers' son Austin Rivers, Tayshaun Prince and his expiring $7.7 Million contract and the Grizzlies first round pick with some conditions attached to it that apparently make it unlikely to happen until the 2019 draft.

Apparently, when that deal goes through the next step is to flip Austin Rivers over to the Clippers so he and Doc can work together. So we should get a second round pick for that or something.

The bottom line: More picks, more cap room and the tank job is going into overdrive again. There will be a lot of pressure on Danny Ainge to use all these assets to bring in some legitimate stars. He's stockpiled to the point where he can start making stupid offers to bring in some top tier talent. It's going to be really ugly for the remainder of this season. If he doesn't set off some fireworks in the offseason it's going to stay that way and the fan base will lose patience.

Patriots Rally Against the Ravens, Advance to AFC Title Game

I said a lot of things about this game when I learned that Baltimore would coming to Foxboro for the divisional round. The Captain and I saw this matchup immediately for what it was going to be, a dogfight between two bitter rivals to advance. The Ravens were rightfully the underdogs, but they wouldn't be intimidated by the Rings, the Vegas line and the bright lights of Gillette Stadium. They came to win and they gave us their best haymaker, twice. An early two touchdown deficit would make most teams break mentally. We saw it happen to the Broncos last year in the Super Bowl. To come back from being down 2 touchdowns twice and win the game shows the incredible mental toughness of this team.

The Patriots leaned heavily on Tom Brady in this game. The Captain mentioned one of his concerns was that Josh McDaniels was going to push the running game, a strength of the Ravens defense, in order to do something unexpected. Instead, McDaniels only called about 7 running plays all night. Tom Brady had the most "carries" with 6. After the few attempts they made to run the ball were ineffective, they completely abandoned the running game in the second half. Not even a few "gotta keep them honest" runs. All in all, you have to be content with how Brady rose to this challenge: 33/50, 367 yards, 3 Pass TD, 1 rushing TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 99.3 QB Rating. His protection struggled in this game. Bryan Stork went out early and Josh Kline had to fill in. He moved around in the pocket well to buy himself some time and avoid sacks. He distributed the ball well and the Patriots took advantage of a lackluster Ravens secondary. His one glaring mistake was an underthrown ball to Gronkowski up the middle that MAYBE would have nailed Gronk in the feet if Daryl Smith hadn't gotten in the way for the interception. It wasn't one of his all-time great performances, but it was good enough to put his team in a position to win the game against a good defense in a high pressure situation.

With the running game a no-show the receiver corps had to step up to fill the gap. One of the main topics of discussion going into this game was Rob Gronkowski. He had been injured for the last two games against the Ravens. Having the unanimous All-Pro tight end back on the field seemed like it would give the Patriots an important boost. The big guy didn't disappoint. He had the most yards of any Patriot receiver and a touchdown. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola were the talk of the town after this game. They pulled a trick play with Brady passing to former Kent State Flashes QB Julian Edelman when the defense started pushing forward to defend against the run from Edelman he aired it out to the uncovered Danny Amendola running down the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown pass. That was one of Amendola's 2 TD catches on the day. His perfect passer rating aside, Edelman lead the Patriots in targets and catches this game. Brandon LaFell, Michael Hoomanawanui and Shane Vereen all had at least 4 catches. LaFell hauled in a beautifully thrown ball from Brady for the game winner.

The defense was more of a mixed bag in this game. Justin Forsett racked up 129 yards on 24 carries against the Patriots run defense. The pass rush produced zero sacks on Joe Flacco in this game and he seemed to consistently have time and space to work with in the pocket. This allowed him to complete over 62% of his passes. Still, there were some good points. The Devin McCourty interception snapped an impressive streak of not throwing an interception for Flacco. Flacco passed Joe Montana for 2nd-best all-time in consecutive postseason passes without throwing an interception in this game, but fell short of Drew Brees' record at 226. Duron Harmon's pick late in the 4th quarter all but sealed the game for the Patriots. After a few kneel downs and a punt a desperation Hail Mary pass from midfield was all the Ravens had time for. It's worth noting that both of these interceptions came against deep passes from Joe Flacco. These picks showed the ugly side of "Jump Ball Joe" Flacco's deep game.

I think the Patriots defense caught some bad breaks in this game from the officials. Chandler Jones seemed to be consistently being held by the Ravens linemen with no flags. Revis was flagged twice in this game, he had been flagged 4 times total in the 16 regular season games this season. The first one was a very questionable Pass Interference call to set up the Ravens touchdown before halftime to give them a 21-14 lead. The second Revis penalty was a ticky-tack defensive holding call to wipe out a Jamie Collins strip sack and recovery deep in Ravens territory on a 3rd and 2. Both calls resulted in massive swings in favor of the Ravens. I understand that ticky-tack calls are part of the game right now with regards to defensive backs, but when the defender was holding Rob Gronkowski's arm back on 3rd and 6 while he was trying to make a catch, there were no flags and the Patriots punted.

We're on to Indianapolis! The Colts upset the Broncos at Mile High and brought out the Manning face. Peyton looked bad and his future in the NFL looks uncertain. He looked bad down the stretch and I wouldn't be surprised if he was contemplating retirement. Look for a more detailed matchup analysis against the Colts soon.