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Eight Thoughts on a Bizarre Super Bowl

| February 6th, 2017

I couldn’t believe what I was watching. The morning after, I still can’t believe it. Eight thoughts…

  • The better team won this game. A lot was made of the adjustments made by the Patriots coaching staff as this game progressed but the truth is the Patriots were simply playing an awful game for the better part of three quarters. Brady missed wide open receivers. Edelman had a drop that was an easy 30-35 yard gain. Josh McDaniels couldn’t get a handle on things. When those mistakes stopped, the Pats scored at will.
  • After the brilliant Julio Jones catch, the Falcons are three kneel downs away from taking an 11-point, two possession lead and essentially ending the game. But what did Kyle Shanahan do? He went pass heavy. He went pass heavy!?!?!! Sack. Hold. For the second consecutive Patriots Super Bowl, their opponent lost their mind when the moment got too big.
  • The difference between 4-3 in the Super Bowl and 5-2 is night and day. The Patriots were staring down the barrel of being remembered as a slightly above mediocre Super Bowl team, with many pointing to luck (Pete Carroll) as the only reason they weren’t 3-4 in the Fantastic Football Foray. Instead, the coach and quarterback have five championships and lay claim to the label of the greatest ever.
  • Julian Edelman’s catch (pictured above) was poetic justice. For Tyree. For Manningham down the sideline. For the Welker drop in the open field. No, it didn’t happen against the Giants but there were few eyes not thinking of Big Blue when Edelman scooped the ball off the field of a Falcons defensive back. When that catch happened I thought, “this game is over”.
  • This was not the greatest Super Bowl of all-time. This was the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all-time. It’s hard to call a game great when one team completely folds. The Falcons didn’t sleep last night. They won’t sleep tonight. They won’t sleep tomorrow night. This is the kind of loss franchises have a hard time getting over and Atlanta immediately becomes the most fascinating team in the NFL in 2017. History and the odds will tell you this group will more than likely be sitting home next January.
  • How is James White not the MVP? His versatility and production were the number one key to the Patriots comeback. It’s always somebody you don’t expect with the Pats. This year it was White.
  • Shea McClellin, Super Bowl Champion.
  • The word I’d use for the game: surreal. I was texting with four different people over the course of the game. Here is a text from each one of them:
    • “Wow. This is just…wow.”
    • “I can’t believe this is happening.”
    • “Are the Falcons serious?”
    • “I can’t watch this.” (Jets fan)

One of the most memorable Super Bowls in history. And now the offseason begins.

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Super Bowl LI Prediction

| February 2nd, 2017

Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking about this Super Bowl. The NFL starts to drift from my mind moments after the conference championship games are concluded. (At this point, golf begins to take the leaves the lounge and comes into the showroom.) But having seen a boatload of both teams over the course of the season, here are five thoughts:

  • I don’t think the Falcons have enough in their secondary to handle the Patriots spread game. But Dan Quinn’s defense will need to do two things to keep Brady & Co. from piling up the points: (1) avoid the deep hit and (2) tighten up against the run inside the red zone.
  • Brady has lost two Super Bowls and both of them were not solely because of Eli Manning’s heroics. He lost those games because both of those Giants teams got after Brady with their defensive lines. Both of those Giants teams did not require blitzing Brady – which is schematic suicide – to pressure him into quick throws. While Vic Beasley led the league in sacks, the next guy on the Falcons had 4.5. They’ll need more than Beasley.
  • Is it safe to assume the Patriots will take Julio Jones out of this game when the entirety of the football universe believes the Patriots will take Julio Jones out of this game? If we all assume that, doesn’t Kyle Shanahan also assume that? And wouldn’t that mean there’s probably a healthy helping of Sanu and Gabriel and the two backs coming? I think Atlanta is going to have an easy time moving the ball.
  • This has nothing to do with Sunday’s game but I wonder where the Bears would be today if Phil Emery had listened to me and brought in Kyle Shanahan five years ago. I believed then, as I believe now, that Shanahan is going to be an excellent head coach in the league.
  • This game comes down to one player: Matt Ryan. He’s got a checkered playoff past but he has an opportunity to cement his legacy in the league Sunday and don’t think that hasn’t weighed on him the last two weeks. A Super Bowl title gives a quarterback a blank check for the rest of his career. Joe Flacco could write an essay for the Baltimore Sun denouncing the use of Old Bay seasoning and he’s still not going to be replaced as the Ravens signal caller.

The “expert” analysis seems to be moving towards Atlanta every day. I’m not going there.

New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 31

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197 Comments

Super Bowl Preview Volume II: Why I Have No Problem With Greatness Prevailing

| January 31st, 2017

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, I hate more than fluke champions. It devalues everything I long for from the Chicago Bears; everything that brings me to the keyboard each and every day. I’m not arguing the Atlanta Falcons would be a fluke champion should they win the Fantastic Football Foray. Far, far from it. But the most definitive reason why I have no problem with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady winning their fifth championship together is simple: greatness.

The Patriots of this era are the most brilliantly run organization in the history of professional sports. Don’t give me the heyday Celtics or late 70s Steelers or late 90s Yankees or Jordan Bulls or one of those hockey franchises that wins a bunch. Every one of those aforementioned runs had a talent advantage on the opposition. Their guys were better than the other guys. They won because they should win.

The Patriots operate at a time where championship continuity is seemingly impossible. They let solid veterans walk out the door and turn castaways into household names. Rob Gronkowski done for the year and maybe longer. Who cares? They lose their Hall of Fame quarterback and still win. They lose his backup and, guess what, they don’t lose.

The Patriots have Tom Brady. And Tom Brady is great. But how many times have the Patriots had the most talented roster in the conference, let alone the entire NFL? Their current defensive roster, the league’s best scoring unit, is nowhere near as talented as the reigning champs in Denver. Their skill players on the offensive side pale in comparison to the group they demolished a week ago from Pittsburgh.

But they are great because of Brady. And Belichick. And Ernie Adams. They are great and if they win their fifth championship Sunday, I will applaud them. They deserve it. Theirs is the success of which all fans should dream.

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374 Comments

Get a Quarterback, or Why I Could Give a Shit About the 3rd Pick in the Draft

| January 25th, 2017

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan put the Falcons up 24 on the Packers and nobody thought the game was over. Why? Because the Packers had the best quarterback in the sport not named Brady.

The AFC Championship game was played by two quarterbacks with 6 Super Bowl rings and 9 Super Bowl appearances – more appearances in the Terrific Title than every other quarterback in the league combined.

Let me make something clear, Bears fans. “With the third pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Johnathan Allen, defensive end, Alabama” is not going to put the 2017 edition of the Bears into the postseason. The Jets have two of the best defensive ends in the game. Aaron Donald is a game-changing defensive lineman. Geno Atkins. Gerald McCoy. Ndamukong Suh. You know what those teams are all doing on Thursday April 27th? Picking shortly after the Bears. Sturdy defensive linemen are nice and all but they don’t move the needle. Pass rushers do. Playmakers on offense do. And, most importantly, quarterbacks do.

Before free agency, quarterbacks didn’t have to be great to win titles. They could be Jim McMahon or Mark Rypien or Doug Williams or Jeff Hostetler because the money was there to build a great team AROUND the position. Those days are a distant memory.

But Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have distorted the “franchise quarterback” conversation in the other direction because over the course of their careers, their divisions NEVER FEATURED ANOTHER GREAT QUARTERBACK. (Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is better than anything Brady and Manning ever consistently faced in the AFC East and South.) That’s why they are in the playoffs every year, with two of the three having limited success in the tournament. The other franchise-type guys: Eli, Flacco, Brees, Ryan, Rivers…etc. guarantee their teams nothing due to one primary factor: competition.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Around the League We Go!

| December 8th, 2015

AUDIBLESNEW

(1) Giants have lost 3 games this season (Cowboys, Falcons, Jets) due to egregious mismanagement. I love Tom Coughlin but barring a substantial run over the next two months he can’t be their head coach in 2016.

(2) Spend a few minutes and read some of the love poems the national writers wrote about Dan Quinn in September. Atlanta has fallen off a cliff. Peter King was the leader of the QuinnLove Movement.

(3) Carolina should put Charles Tillman on the shelf until the postseason. Let him get healthy. And then let me root harder for a non-Bears team than I ever have before.

(4) Atlanta was the first paper tiger to fall. The second? Minnesota. That team has feasted on poor opponents. They may still make the playoffs but they might be the 10th best team in the conference when they do.

(5) If I were running all of the franchises, these jobs would join Miami and Tennessee on the market this January:

  • Cleveland. Too much change can be a bad thing but I have no idea what Mike Pettine brings to an organization.
  • New York Giants. Have a press conference. Put Tom Coughlin in the ring of honor. And then get thirty years younger at the head coaching spot.
  • New Orleans. It’s over. Move on.
  • San Diego. And don’t be surprised if John Fox brings Mike McCoy to take over the Bears offense should Adam Gase find a head coaching gig.
  • Detroit. I’m not sure why Jim Cadwell is still the coach. Once he admitted to not playing for the Hail Mary, I wouldn’t have let him back into his office.
  • St. Louis. I’ve been a fan of Jeff Fisher for a long time but that team is far too talented to get blown out each and every week. Fisher doesn’t have it anymore.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Around the League, Three Bears Thoughts, Boomer on Catches, Cutler Update!

| November 16th, 2015

AUDIBLESNEW

Around the League We Go!

  • Through nine games, Jeremy Langford has only 100 yards less from scrimmage than Melvin Gordon.
  • Someone in the Browns organization needs to walk down to the head coach’s office and tell him playing Josh McCown is no longer an option. I’ve never believed Johnny Manziel’s ability would translate to the pro game but losing down the stretch with McCown does the team zero good. (Manziel was quietly good in that Steelers game yesterday and Manziel isn’t quietly anything.)
  • Tom Brady is full of magic. That’s the only way I can explain it.
  • Giants should be 8-1. They’ve only played one poor game all season. I wouldn’t want to be walking into the Meadowlands in January once this group puts it together. (They are also +12 in turnovers this season. They are secretly good.)
  • The NFL got what they wanted by changing the extra point rule. They made kickers way too relevant on Sundays. (And they’ve delayed at least 7-10 of my piss breaks.)

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Everything We Learned About the NFL This Season.

| February 3rd, 2015

butler

Top NFL Teams Separated By Merely a Play

Look at the fates of the NFC’s best teams in the month of January.

  • Detroit loses to Dallas after a pass interference flag is announced and walked off by the game official and then ludicrously picked up. (Has anybody yet given an explanation of this?)
  • Dallas  loses to Green Bay after a Dez Bryant catch – a spectacular catch – is deemed a non-catch by one of the more ludicrous rules in the NFL rulebook. (And in my opinion a gross misinterpretation of that rule.)
  • Green Bay loses to Seattle with a ludicrous late-game collapse featuring a tight end dropping an onside kick that hit both of his hands and his face.
  • Seattle loses to New England with the worst play-call in the history of professional football, asking a non-pocket passer to pocket pass a tight-window slant route on the goal line, at the death. (And do so with the league’s most physical runner just, you know, standing around.)

In all four of these games a serious argument can be made for the losing team deserving victory. That’s how close the league has become at the top.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Making Scoreons Happen, Prestigious Jobs, Marshall & More!

| January 22nd, 2015

audibles

DBB Coins a New Term

From Twitter, yesterday:

Many like to use the phrase “meatball” to describe a certain kind of fan. In Chicago I am going to refer to those people as “Score-ons”.

It is on all of us to make this phrase happen.

BIGGS, BEARS, BAD JOB?

Because I tend not to forget and choose to hold others accountable, from the opening of a New Year’s Eve piece in the Tribune by Brad Biggs:

In announcing the massive housecleaning Monday at Halas Hall, President Ted Phillips called the Bears’ head coaching job prestigious.

He stands nearly alone in that opinion in light of a Tribune poll of NFL front-office employees and coaches who ranked the Bears barely above the Raiders in terms of attractiveness.

Quarterback concerns left the Jets at the bottom, but the Bears job wasn’t considered much better even with Jay Cutler, the passer in whom they have invested so much money and whom Chairman George McCaskey said he is a fan of personally and professionally. Elsewhere, Cutler is classified as a coach killer.

The Bears landed an in-demand (young) GM, a head coach who has been to two Super Bowls, the best defensive coach on the market and an offensive coordinator who interviewed for just about every head coaching vacancy. Rumors have it that if the Bears job were prestigious, Vince Lombardi would have climbed out of his grave and agreed to a five-year, $35 million contract.

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Bears at Patriots Game Preview Addendum

| October 24th, 2014

bilbo

FIVE FACTS ABOUT SUNDAY’S GAME

Fact #1

Jay Cutler will have a bounceback game.

Here’s a rather remarkable stat for Jay Cutler. In his season and a half under Marc Trestman, anytime his passer rating in a game has dipped below 90 he has a rebounded well.

  • Week 4 of 2013 he delivered a 65.5 against Detroit and followed with  128.1 against New Orleans.
  • Week 9 he dropped a 69.8 against Detroit. After injury he returned with a 102.2 against Cleveland.
  • Week 15 he joined the Bears humiliation and scored 73.8 on the passer test against the Eagles. He finished the season with a 103.8 against Green Bay.
  • Cutler opened 2014 with an 86.2 against Buffalo and followed with a 119.2 against San Francisco.
  • He followed his 82.5 against Green Bay this year with a 95.5 against Carolina – the first time under Trestman the sub-90 was not met by a plus-100.

Trust history. Cutler’s passer rating: 109.4

Fact #2

Matt Forte will have more carries than he’s had all season.

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