Written by Andrew Ottoson Wednesday, 07 November 2007 11:37Much has been made of the New England Patriots’ 9-0 start to the NFL season. Turn on a pre-game show, and a holographic representation of Terry Bradshaw’s cloned talking head will still be making a big deal out of the connection between the so-called Camera-Gate signals-stealing “scandal” earlier this year and the Patriots obvious inclination toward scoring more points than are minimally necessary to win.
What Bradshaw won’t say, and what I think is probably the most salient point to make about the Pats is this:
In last season’s AFC championship against the Colts, New England played the whole second half like they already had the game in the bag. They very plainly did not have the game in the bag, and ended up losing a game they should have won because they didn’t play with the same focus and determination in the second half as they did the first.
This seems (to this distant observer, anyway) the most likely cause of the Patriots’ drive to score early, score often and score late.
And call me crazy, but does the “someone insulted the legitimacy of our Super Bowl rings so we’re going to bully them” tit-for-tat that many commentators have been repeating ad nauseam for two months sound ridiculously childish to anyone else?
I don’t think they’re trying to run up the score. Running up the score is an unfortunate by-product of taking nothing for granted and throwing their best effort into the game on every play until the final bell, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
And to me, that makes them great.
* * *
This seems like as good of a place as any to mention the 72-point first quarter that Smith Center threw down on Tuesday. When I heard they followed it up with a 64-0 thrashing of St. John, I chalked it up to the usual causes: it was physically a mismatch, and football is an emotional game that gives the team that makes the biggest plays an even bigger invisible advantage that shows up more in body language than on stats sheets.
I’ll definitely be interested to see how Saturday’s game against second-ranked Oakley goes.
* * *
It’s one thing to run up the score at the high school level, where the steady progression of incoming freshmen and outgoing graduates makes colossal mismatches likely—to say nothing of those college schools that put sub-standard competition on their schedules specifically to make sure they run up the score.
But the NFL is a professional league where parity is king, and the players are skilled enough to make a big lead evaporate.
The Jets/Dolphins Monday night game in 2000 is the prototypical example—the Jets overcame a 23-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win that game. But there are plenty more.
* * *
Why do quarterbacks get all the credit for fourth-quarter comeback wins? Sometimes it makes sense, as in the case of Joe Montana’s and John Elway’s comeback resumes, because it adds to their already glowing auras of greatness.
But that comeback in 2000—the greatest in Monday Night Football history—was engineered by Vinny Testaverde! Of course, Testaverde was only 53 when that game was played, and his youth made all the difference.
* * *
To me, defenses deserve the greatest accolades for engineering late comebacks, because comebacks require stops and (usually) turnovers.
This is why my video-game teams always end up signing a created players/wunderkinds named Chuck Norris, Jack Bauer and/or Mike Friesen to provide a big boost of speed and skill along the defensive line.
* * *
My dad and I spend quite a bit of time talking about football. He puts lots and lots of effort into convincing me that the Broncos are not a lousy football team.
It looks like for the rest of this year, I’ll have the luxury of letting the Broncos do the talking for me.
Meanwhile, with four losses by a combined margin of 136-63 this week, the AFC West as a whole is looking pretty awful compared to the rest of the NFL.