People can hate the Patriots for all the usual (and often, semi-valid reasons) but if that’s ALL you do, then you are missing the movie. This is an amazing franchise, and an amazing coach/QB combo that will likely never be replicated in my lifetime. Getting to the top is hard enough, staying there is twice as hard. And yet…. there they are. Again. Fucking, Patriots. Their gameplan against the Chiefs was absolutely first rate, in both design and execution. The efforts of guys like Gronk and Edelman, fighting through and coming back from serious injuries, is the mark of a team that has already drank your milkshake, and are still not remotely full. Edelman wound up playing 52 of 59 snaps just 7 weeks off a broken foot. Gronk 54 of 59 off a late week trip to the hospital. In a word: Holy, shit.
Did it help that Andy Reid is always going to be…. well… Andy Reid ? Of course not. You can shrink the man’s pants, but you can’t inflate his gonads when a big game is on the line. Clock management was a train wreck at the end, even if conceptually he had the right idea: keep all those timeouts high and dry. But with 1st and G at the 2, and 2:36 to play, the sequence is PASS-PASS-RUN (option) and nothing else. Instead, he went RUN, then watched the clock wind down to a 2:00 warning promo of “Murder, She Wrote.” Doh.
Reid is this generation’s Marty Schottenheimer. A coach of indisputable skills to organize rosters, and develop offenses that move the football. Maybe not explosively, but they work. Like Marty, though, the big moments elude his willingness to risk failure, or dance with any idea that might end up looking like an ugly girl in the morning. Take a chance, Andrew! The pundits will rip you either way! With a healthy Jamal Charles and a functional Jeremy Maclin, it might have been different. But this is the NFL, where everybody is hurt, and nobody cares.
One last note on Amendola’s personal foul on Jamell Fleming who was trying to down a punt inside the 5. Amendola says he’ll appeal, and maintained that such a hit is precisely how they are coached. Well, yes, and not really. Certainly you need to block the punt team’s gunners, but he launched with his head down and ended up bowling-ball to bowling-ball with Fleming. Some say it was as dirty as Vontaze Burfict’s, although I’d say that’s a stretch. Amendola doesn’t have the rap sheet, and there was no running blood fued as the backdrop. The sport is sufficiently violent, that any kind of launching hits with your face looking at the ground needs to be legislated out of the modern game. Blocks and tackles should be made with your face up, your feet mostly on the ground, and your arms out. The helmets of the 1960’s and 70’s weren’t solid enough to make guys feel comfortable with launch-hits. Now, the helmets are blast-proof warheads. Guys like John Madden said a few years ago we should think about getting rid of facemasks. No. Instead, they should make the crown of the helmet less lethal. And sorry, I don’t have any ideas on that, but I’m all ears.
“Oh Yeah, to Oh, Noooo! Pack Luck Runs Out in OT”
My favorite stat from this game is this: Aaron Rodgers was 2-3 on that final “drive” for 108 yards (work with me, I’m counting end zone yardage!). Two throws: the whole field. Must be nice. That said, what a bitter way for it to end for the Packers and McCarthy, who had a disoriented Carson Palmer dead to rights. Sam Shields is a great player. But man, that drop will haunt him for a long time. And the go-ahead ping-pong TD belongs in the “give me a fucking break” Hall of Fame. Should Green Bay have gone for two after the Hail Mary? You tell me. Unless you think you’ve got a killer, nearly unstoppable 2 pointer in your holster, that’s a hard Code Red to authorize. Palmer was probably as likely to screw up as the Pack was likely to lose track of Larry Fitzgerald like Delta with your suitcase. And if Rodgers had won the game in overtime on his first drive, would there be as many dummies now saying the overtime rules need to be changed…. again? For what, “fairness?” This thinking drives me completely nuts. While it would have been “fun” to see more of Rodgers v. Palmer, that’s not the point of football. It’s a TEAM game and the point is not to play for endless “fun”, but to produce a WINNER, in a reasonable period of time. There was 60 minutes of “fair.” Now, it’s time to go home. Sorry, folks. The OT rules don’t need to be changed, unless you are going back to the old true “Sudden Death.” Something I am dead serious in favor of, even if it makes me sound like the Ted Kaczynski yelling at kids to get off his lawn.
Which brings us to that coin FLOP by Clete Blakeman. In a year where the argument game sweeping the nation: “Is that a catch!?” became a stupid joke, told over and over and over again, of course we’d have a referee botch the coin flip. Of course. I say this makes it “more probable than not” that the NFL is “generally aware” of a consipracy by the referees to use loaded, magnetic “coins” that can be thrown in a way to ensure a certain outcome. “Audrey. Get me Ted Wells on line 2, stat!” The best part, was that Blakeman rushed to re-do the toss, without letting Rodgers re-assign his choice from heads to tails. Of course, there’s nothing in the rules YET for what happens the next time a coin fails to flip, but I can assure you the league will be putting their best blue-ribbon sub-committee on the issue this summer.
Pretty amazing that the Pack were down to their 5th, 6th and 7th receivers and still had every chance to win. At times you really thought that McCarthy had been playing the wrong guys all year. These guys Saturday night ran like arrows and snagged everything in sight. Additionally, there’s no longer any reason to keep Eddie Lacy as your tailback at his current weight. He’s fat and slow. He’s not even that much of a bruiser. It’s flatly embarrassing to watch a professional tailback, break into the clear on long runs, only to noticeably slow down before getting caught. You’ve got 6 months to lose 25 pounds, Edward. No excuses.
Lastly, I’ve always been a Larry Fitzgerald fan, so it was nice to see him play the hero, if the Pack had to lose to anybody. That said, his launching helmet-to-helmet crack back block was further proof that the people least concerned about the brains of football players, are the players themselves. If I ever see Will Smith blurt out “Tell da TRUTE!” in Concussion, I can assure you it will be with dry eyes.