A Retro Super Bowl, Putting Defense and Running First

Passing gets the attention, but when offense meets defense in a football title game, defense holds the high card.

Comments: 52

  1. In football happy states like mine, the high school 7 on 7 will prove to be a boon for Nike and Marriott. The high school coaches will be complicit in this activity as well seeing it as an opportunity to line their own pockets while feeding false hopes to both the student and parent. I know of one parent who was suckered into spending tons of money in his son's baseball activities only to be told by several colleges that his son wasn't that good. Of course the University Interscholastic League, which governs high school sports in Texas, will trumpet this as a good thing.

  2. Perhaps all that happened was youthful foolishness, which many, including George W. Bush, received a pass on.
    Just couldn't help yourself could you Easterbrook?

  3. Greg was being kind. W failed to show for a flight physical. Having reported in for a few of those myself, it is more than just an appointment with the doctor. You're there because you received orders to report and a no show renders you AWOL. That's more than just youthful indiscretion.

  4. Maybe I'm just a Manning fanboy Colts fan but when he overthrew the receiver in the endzone by about 1 foot, Costas cranked up the faux drama looking for answers on how such a thing could happen? Perhaps Peyton no longer has what it takes? Then Brady threw a similar miss, and no deep analysis was sought. It was kind of interesting when they showed the ground speed of both QBs hitting 17 mph on their similar 1st down rushes.

    I do hope Denver wins the SB and Manning rides off into the sunset.

  5. Those throws were perfect. Both receivers hesitated, mid-route.

  6. Old fashioned, good.
    Deflating balls, bad.

  7. "...while making it hard for them to participate in the extracurricular activities that college admissions officers look for." More important than kissing-up to college admissions officers, the demands of year-round involvement in a single sport at the high school level prevent kids from having other extra-curricular experiences that they might find as, or even more fulfilling and enjoyable than sports, not to mention missing the chance to play a second or third sport and discovering that they like that more.

  8. At the risk of sounding like a homer...while Denver's defense is very impressive and has grounded a number of potent offense, Carolina's defense is stout as well. It is giving up an average of only 39 yards per game more than Denver's #1 ranked defense. The Panther's in the post-season have won against the #5 defense and #2 defense (beating the #2 in the regular season as well).

    A run and defense heavy Superbowl 50 (using the NFL sanctioned nomenclature) will turn on which team can grind out - and complete - long scoring drives and the turnovers that stop those long drives.

  9. On paper, the Panthers look like a running offense, but that's because they often jump out to big early leads and then run out the clock, so to speak. My guess is that Denver comes ready to stuff the run and Cam responds by passing for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns.

  10. Right on! And Cam can run, which means that plays start as passing plays and the powerful Cam adds to the running stats. Panthers are more balanced than the Broncos. Broncs are too weak on offense.

  11. I don't disagree. I think the run will be mostly negated and Newton will either throw four TD's or four picks. It will be one extreme or the other.

  12. Ho hum, I bet it rains and low ratings.... from a town closing streets for what, so the elites can go to a game 45 miles away ...what a waste

  13. No need to caution Denver fans about the 2-7 Super Bowl record of teams with orange jerseys. The Broncos are 2-5 in the Super Bowl, bearing the lion's share of responsibility for that record. Their two wins came during the period when their home jerseys were predominantly blue.

  14. Mr. Easterbrook places a high premium on "going for it" on fourth down. Fortune favors the bold!

    The Patriots passed up opportunities to kick field goals twice in the second half and "went for it" on fourth down. Both attempts failed. This had a much bigger impact on the score than Gostkowski's missed PAT in the first half.

    One would expect Mr. Easterbrook to at least have an opinion on this, but maybe he only wants to talk about incidents that support his theories.

  15. Waiting for the Manning advertisements for HGH! What an impressive validation of doping for high stakes.

  16. I believe with every piece of my being that Belichick would have gone for two if the score was 20-19.

  17. Strange the reference to AZ's aversion to 4th down gambles but none to NE's earlier 4th quarter failures to convert on 4th down instead of attempting field goals, for which Belichick is now being excoriated, given the final margin. In particular, it's mildly surprising there was no defense of Belichick, given the game circumstance (a field goal still left NE needing a touchdown with no assurance they'd even get the ball again). Even more curious is the absence of 4th Down Bot insight - perhaps it was trapped in the snow somewhere.

  18. Another difference between Carolina and previous high-octane Super bowl offenses is team balance. Carolina's defense is ranked 6th this year. While the Panthers score close to 10 more points a game on average than Denver, their D also only gives up 1 point more a game.

    And in the playoffs, they have been routing the opposition. The Seattle game might have ended fairly close, but the game was pretty much over by halftime when Carolina was up 31-0.

  19. "The big difference between Carolina and other high-scoring teams that have faltered in the end is that the Panthers are run-first."

    The other big difference is the quality of their defense--#6 overall in sacks, and #1 in both interceptions and fumbles recovered. Many of the 500 points the Panthers produced this year were a direct result of takeaways...

  20. Clete Blakeman will officiate the Super Bowl. Since becoming a referee in 2010, Clete has called four games for Carolina, five for Denver. Carolina is 2-2 with Clete as the ref. Denver? A perfect 5-0. Here is a breakdown of those games Clete has been referee for:

    Regular season games refereed against Carolina:
    20 penalties against Carolina opponents for a total of 166 yards
    29 penalties against Carolina for a total of 256 yards

    Games refereed against Denver:
    40 penalties against Denver opponents for a total of 374 yards
    21 penalties against Denver for a total of 195 yards

  21. What do you infer from the specific stats you cite?

  22. I came here to say exactly what Brian from Raleigh has already said. Gregg pounds the drum every year for going for it on 4th down and even has two "Buck-Buck-Brawkkkkkk" items in this week's column. I agree that going for it on 4th down is often the right decision and punting is a way for coaches to deflect blame, but I was looking forward to hearing Gregg's thoughts on NE twice passing on field goal attempts that in hindsight could have allowed them to win with a chip shot field goal at the end.

  23. Same here -- not a mention at all, although Gregg does state: "The Patriots had 19 fourth-quarter snaps in Denver territory, resulting in six points." This seems to belittle the Pats for having so few fourth quarter points, even though that was caused by doing just what Gregg always advocates, going for it on fourth and short / opposing territory, and going for two.

  24. Hindsight is 20/20. Bad results don't mean your decision was wrong. In hindsight I guess I shouldn't have driven through that green light because someone t-boned me. My decision was correct, my result was bad. New England had three drives, in the first 54 minutes, more than 22 yards, including the drive that put them on Denver's 15 and 4th and one - that was only their third drive over 22 yards. He had no reason to believe he'd get there two more times. If he misses, he still needs a touchdown. If he kicks a field goal, he still needs a touchdown. If he scores a touchdown, even if he misses the deuce, he only needs a field goal.

    Fourth and one you go for it every single time. What would have been a really interesting decision is if Edelman didn't break that tackle and get the extra yardage, if it was fourth and 6 on the 20, would Belichick have still gone for it. I still wouldn't fault him for going for it, but something tells me he would have kicked.

  25. Gregg never said a win would be guaranteed of you go for it. It's just playing the percentages, and it was. All day long, NE could not get close to Denver End Zone - you would not take any risk here by going for the figgy, as John already explained.

    Fortune favors the bold, sadly, does not mean "Fortune _always_ chooses the bold to win."

    What puzzled me more is that there was not mention of the whole contest being sold as the great "Manning vs. Brady" matchup. It was a matchup of great defenses. Some people I talked to over here in Europe expected a high-scoring offensive fireworks and were, well, a bit disappointed after watching...

  26. Disagree Belichick would have gone for the win, they could not get into the endzone all day

  27. Thank you for inspiring my new cheer during games.. When it's fourth down, I am now yelling "GO FOR IT" and then BOOING when the team punts..

  28. Perhaps the NFL should take a look at Kevin Kelley, the head football coach at Pulaski Academy in Arkansas, who almost never punts and almost always kicks onside after scores.

  29. TMQ has written about him for several years, even accounting his victories on his column. Although I am not sure he has done so since he started writing for the NYT.

  30. I doubt Belichick, what for all his hubris, would have gone for 2 there if he had needed just the extra point kick to tie. The reason is the game situation: by then the Patriots defense was totally dominating Denver. And Brady had finally broken through their defense. Yhey would have had a big advantage in overtime. Why risk the season on a 50-50 chance? That said, the Patriots definitely should have kicked the field goal with 6 minutes to go, for the reasons stated above.

  31. Mac is right on. That observation by Easterbrook was the only obvious absurdity in a long but interesting article.

  32. You take the 50/50 chance because OT is also a 50/50 chance. You can talk about how you are playing at the end of the game all you want - if you are tied after 60 minutes your chances in OT are 50/50. Historically, the home team even has a slight edge in OT. More importantly, you have a 6% chance of missing the single that will get you to OT. All that math pushes you to the "go for two" column. And if you do want to use how well you're playing at the end of the game as a factor - I'll take the QB that many people consider to be the GOAT, the QB that just drove your team to a last second touchdown and converted two fourth downs against the league's best defense, and put all my money on him to move the ball two yards for the win.

    Going for it on 4th and one with six minutes to go was also the correct decision. Bad results don't negate good decisions. In the first 54 minutes the Patriots had driven into field goal territory twice (keeping in mind they scored their TD on a drive that started on Denver's 22)...he had little reason to believe they would drive there two more times. If he gets the touchdown there, even if he misses the two, he only needs one trip to the red zone. If he scores a field goal there, he still needs to score a touchdown, and in the first 54 minutes his only touchdown came on a 22 yard drive. And to that point NE only had three drives over 22 yards, including the one he was on.

  33. Love this column. I look forward to Tuesdays because of it and will miss it (along with football). Thanks!

  34. I think NE had to go for it both times in the mid-4th when they could have kicked a FG. The first time there were about 6 mins left. They happened to get the ball back twice, but with 6 mins left there's a chance you might not get it back at all. Let's say you kick the FG. Then let's say Peyton takes 6 mins on a long drive. Game over. Or let's say he takes "only" 4 mins on a drive that ends up in a FG: you're right back where you started, down 8 -- except that now you're starting at your 20 with only two mins left. NE hadn't had many scoring chances; in that situation, who knows if you'll get another?

  35. Denver didn't get a first down in the last 6 minutes. Three 3 and outs. It turned out that kicking a field goal at the 6:03 mark was the correct play call. Hindsight is 20-20.

  36. No it was not. Hindsight doesn't change anything. That is called results-based thinking. A decision is right or wrong, and an action is right or wrong, regardless of the result. To put it in an extreme example, deciding to drive home from the bar after drinking 15 rye and cokes is wrong, even if you do make it home safely every time. Dying in a plane crash doesn't make your decision to fly "wrong". Belichick's decision to go for it was correct, even though it turned out he would have got the ball two more times...even in that case you don't know that for sure...having an eight point lead led to a set of play calls which would certainly have been different with a five point lead.

  37. The AAU-Nike-Adidas racket in basketball is the template for the new 7 on 7 offseason football. A high school basketball player who doesn't blow every weekend (and a fortune in team fees, hotel and restaurant bills, and gas mileage) playing AAU ball simply can't keep up with his year-round peers, which is the real cause of the decline in kids playing a second sport. They don't feel they can afford to fall behind, because they can't. I'm sorry to see football players falling into the same trap.

  38. This has bothered me for years. Footballs don't "clang" when they hit the ground. They aren't made of metal. They might "thump" or "thud," but they don't clang. GOSH.

  39. Seems to be a dearth of Grey Lady references to the Fourth-Down simulation model results... and simply going for it.
    Guess that happens when the real world catches up to and surpasses the simulation.

  40. Seems Easterbrook was expecting the Denver player to fall right away on the intercepted 2 point play. That was my 1st thought, but running it back would have been very smart. It would have given Denver a 4 point lead. If NE recovers the onside kick and then a 15 yard penalty on the ensuing play could have resulted in a field goal for the win.

  41. Yup - you could even see Manning on the sidelines yelling for him to run all the way - the only risk is if he fumbles and then New England recovers and carries it into the end zone.

  42. Godfrey Daniel...

    You're either exceptionally erudite or showing your age, Mr. Easterbrook.

    Ok, I suppose you could be both...

  43. "in a pass-wacky league, they compiled a 15-1 regular season record by running more than throwing. League-wide this season, 58 percent of snaps were pass attempts; the Panthers threw but 49 percent of the time. In the postseason they’ve doubled down, with 78 rushes versus 50 pass attempts, just 39 percent passing."

    What a lazy stat... The Panthers run more because by the 2nd quarter their win probability has been almost 100%. This holds true for most of the regular season as well.

  44. Belichick gracious in defeat? Yes, by taking the loss on himself for eschewing a FG that would have brought the Pats to within 5, leaving them in position to win with a TD -- an FG that would have been under less pressure than the later missed PAT. Like Gronk also said, it was no one play that beat them.

  45. Had the Bronco/Patriot game gone into overtime, Denver's home field was not its only advantage: altitude. Patriots were looking winded in the 4th. Happens all the time. It might not always lead to a victory, of course, but it is a factor.

  46. Altitude is one of the main ingredients of Denver's home field advantage.

  47. Hey TMQ, et. al.: I know you don't look favorably on the Pro Bowl, but I had a question based on your premise of modern NFL prima donnas not caring about their fans: I was just looking at the Pro Bowl rosters, and I noticed that all 32 teams had players selected, which when you subtract the two Super Bowl combatants, means 30 teams should be represented in Hawai'i. However, only 28 are. WAS only had one player selected (Trent Williams), who elected to sit out due to injury, and then 7 players were selected from N.E, and all 7 have elected not to go. We already knew Brady wouldn't, since he's said in the past he would never go, but all 7 sitting out? Thoughts on that?

  48. So the top 10 best point-scoring NFL teams of all times have almost all failed to win the Super Bowl. That statistic has little meaning by itself, because most teams fail to win the Super Bowl period.

    What about the top 10 best point-preventing defenses of all time? How many Super Bowls have they won? That's the additional statistic that we need before we can even begin to determine if offense or defense wins Super Bowls.

  49. Where is the hysteria we had last year?

    HGH was delivered to the home of Manning to his wife when she wasn't planning on a pregnancy or pregnant, a fact that Manning does not deny.

    Where's the front page stories?

    Where's the Julie Macur articles?

    Where's the calls by Pennington, et al, to have him barred from the Super Bowl?

  50. These two teams have the two best QBS and defenses, I have to say I'm going to root for Denver, but I'm not saying that Cam isn't going to pull in the most points. I'm thinking this game is going to be tight with 10 points or less

  51. Omaha!

  52. The elephant in the room and a serious issue will be if the Colts win the Super Bowl: According to the Mayo Clinic Website, studies have revealed HGH does have a potent effect on muscle and bone tissue and encourages faster healing in cases of sprains, injuries, and fractures. Additionally, HGH provides athletes with greater stamina, better staying power and endurance, enhanced performance, augmented levels of energy and attaining optimum lean muscle mass. Does it sound like a logical argument that his wife was ordering the HGH substance for her personal use? I am skeptical of the explanation initially given by Manning: Where in the United States will you find the wife of a professional football player who wants to bulk-up on HGH? I don't think the Colts will win, but consider the hullabaloo if they do win.