Well, folks, here we are at the end of the line, and like a great team heading towards championship glory, I’ve gained strength as the playoffs have progressed. I was 2-2 in the first week, 3-1 in the second, and a spotless 2-0 on Championship Sunday, boldly predicting that both two-seeds would advance. Now all that’s left is to make one more pick.
Before I do that, I just have some leftover thoughts after the two conference championship games, now that everyone has mostly moved on to obsessing about the most miniscule minutiae of anything and everything relating to the two teams in this year’s ultimate contest.
A lot has been said about the controversial ending to the LA/NO game. It absolutely was pass interference, it should have been called, and had it been called, the game most likely would have ended differently. The official blew it. Now, having said that, let me add that this was one of the worst-officiated games I’ve seen all season. Further, I would argue that the majority of the bad calls/no-calls went against LA, including a couple that extended New Orleans scoring drives (play clock!!!). Part of the reason that the horrendous call at the end of the game received so much attention is the timing. If you’re being realistic, though, a bad call is a bad call, and any officiating mistake that results in points scored or points prevented is a seriously game-altering call, no matter when it occurs. I don’t want to hear anyone talking about the illegitimacy of this year’s big game because of one blown call. If you want to be that nitpicky, then follow this chain of events:
- Chicago should have beaten Philadelphia, but double-doink
- Philadelphia could have beaten New Orleans, if Alshon Jeffrey makes a catch he’s probably made hundreds of times before
- New Orleans would have beaten LA, but…
New Orleans still had a chance to win the game. They just didn’t. Just like Philadelphia didn’t beat them, and just like Chicago didn’t beat Philadelphia. We might as well call the NFC the Conference of Illegitimacy. Should'a, could'a, would'a.
Bye, bye for this season, Patrick Mahomes. Your play, attitude, and perseverance will be missed. The KC fans, not so much. What a bunch of losers. I’ve already talked about their charming racist chants and chops, which I and every other decent person should abhor. During the playoffs, though, the KC faithful really outdid themselves. Not only did the boorish, choreographed, bigotry continue unabated, but some of these useless, racist-cosplaying losers decided to up the ante by interfering in the games, first by throwing snow at Indianapolis players, then by trying to blind New England players with laser pointers. Crap like this has no place at a sporting event or anywhere else in civilized society.
(And as an aside, my wife is glad that Andy Reid is out of the playoffs because she said she couldn’t stop thinking about the poor baby oysters.)
Sunday, February 3rd, 2019
The Big Game (Version LIII.0)
New England at Los Angeles (in Atlanta)
There’s not much left that I could say about New England that I haven’t already said. Everyone knows how their offense works, and the way Tom Brady and Co. have been playing lately, it’s pretty tough to stop. Whatever a defence might do well isn’t particularly effective against the Pats’ offence because everything happens so quickly and precisely. New England’s defence has been effective because its deep, experienced, and talented secondary has excelled (especially Stephon Gilmore), its LBs have played well (Kyle Van Noy has been a standout), and they consistently sub in fresh bodies on the DL. Also, New England has shown a lot of creativity in getting pressure on opposing QBs, employing DBs and LBs to great effect.
Of course, I’m not saying that LA doesn’t have a chance; that would be ludicrous. Their OL is tremendous, they have two excellent RBs, and plenty of receiving talent (especially Brandin Cooks, a premier route-runner and dangerous field-stretcher). LA has plenty of offence to compete with anyone. My biggest concern would be Jared Goff, who is talented, but has shown a tendency to fold under extreme pressure. Where the game will be won or lost for LA is on defence. We all know what Aaron Donald can do; his combination of strength and technique is incredibly difficult to handle. I believe that if LA is willing to commit its LBs and DBs to a consistent plan of taking away Brady’s short and intermediate passing lanes, and if Donald and the rest of the DL can consistently penetrate the Pats’ backfield, they have a real shot. Sure, there’s a risk of giving up some big plays, but the New England doesn’t beat you with big plays; they beat you with long drives, tiring out your defence, keeping your offence off the field, and keeping their defence fresher.
When it comes right down to it, it’s hard to go against the precision and execution that Belichick and his exemplary coaching staff consistently get from the team in big games, with clutch guys like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Don’t’a Hightower, James White, Julian Edelman, and old man Brady leading the way. Winner: New England
We have the makings of a really good game here. Whatever happens, I hope it’s competitive, clean, and that the officiating is good. Nothing takes me out of a game more that bad officiating.
So, have fun, and enjoy the game.
And thanks for reading.