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As The Ball Bounces: Post-Super Bowl

Stephen Gostkowski did not need to provide the winning margin in a Super Bowl like Adam Vinatieri did three times prior.  He kicked four extra points and several touchbacks on kickoffs.  It would be nice to see Gostkowski kick a walkoff game winner in the postseason, but a win is a win no matter how you do it.  Vinatieri’s replacement booms one out of the end zone, with lots of gusto as he relishes being a world champ for the first time in his life.

Dave Roberts, meet Malcolm Butler.

Roberts never needs to buy himself a drink in Boston.

After Sunday night, Malcolm, neither do you.

Pete Carroll did all right since leaving the Patriots.  He won national championships at USC and won a Super Bowl with Seattle.

But in listening to him try and justify The Call, you remember what kind of coach he was here.

And why you relish Bill Belichick even more.

But what would everyone be saying if Marshawn Lynch had scored a touchdown and the Patriots were left with almost no time to respond?

Geek of the week:  Rationalize it all you want.  Bad call, Darrell Bevell.  Bad call.  You may never live it down.  Fortunately you are based in Seattle and not Boston or New York.

Geek of the week II:  You are the head coach, Pete Carroll.  That means that everything is ultimately your fault.

Meanwhile, DeflateGate continues.  Do we still await the results with baited breath?

One person who does is Roger Goodell.  If this investigation comes up empty, his name is mud.  So are his reputation and his credibility.

The trophy presentation spoke volumes of Goodell’s stewardship.  Bob Kraft looked at him, took the trophy, and Goodell beat it the heck out of there.

One of these days, this writer will stop bagging on NBC.  That’s two titles now won on NBC since the early 1960s.

But it’s still different and the other networks do it better.  Dan Patrick, who is unlistenable to begin with, looked and sounded annoyed during the trophy presentation, as if he was either sorry Seattle didn’t win or disgusted the Patriots did.  There was an awkward moment during the postgame where Bob Costas was making a point, then suddenly was ordered to cut to a commercial.  They put on Carrie Underwood and never should have gotten rid of Faith Hill.

Give me Terry Bradshaw in a trophy presentation any day.

People are trying to rank Butler’s pick among the biggest plays in the history of Boston sports.  Vinatieri’s kicks in 2001 (Snow Bowl, Super Bowl XXXVI winner) rank higher.  But Butler has become instantly immortal.

He literally has no equal in Boston sports history.  Who else was as non-descript and made such a huge play in such a big situation?  Usually big stars make big plays.

Back to school:  UMass will leave the MAC after this coming season.  Then what?  If some conference won’t take UMass, what do they do?  Go back to the FCS?  No wonder John McCutcheon left UMass for UCSB.

So what do the Patriots do with Darrelle Revis?

Unfortunately, you will have to pick up his option and pay him $20 million.  If you don’t, he will be either a Jet or a Bill.  There will be no negotiating with this guy.  Lock him up before the stupid money comes in.

Not that $20 million is real intelligent.

Bill Belichick won his first Super Bowl since SpyGate.

And his first without Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis.

And his first without Steve Belichick.  When son wants to be just like Dad, sometimes it turns out perfect.

David Tyree.  Mario Manningham.  Now Jermaine Kearse.  Good grief.  What it is with these lucky catches?

The football Gods owed the Patriots one.

Remember him:  For a while, it was the quickest score in Super Bowl history.  Tony Franklin kicked a 36-yard field goal 1:14 into Super Bowl XX for the first score by any Patriot in Super Bowl history.  It came about thanks to an early fumble by Walter Payton.  Of course, it was the only lead of the game for the Patriots.  Franklin, a barefoot kicker from Texas A&M who could connect from beyond 60 yards now and then, kicked for four seasons with the Patriots after five seasons with Philadelphia.  He would also appear in Super Bowl XV with Philadelphia, which like Super Bowl XX was in New Orleans.

So, is this one the best?

No.  XXXVI still is.  The first one for a previously laughingstock franchise against a 17-point favorite.  Winning it the way they did.  To this day, still unbelievable.

XXXVIII was a great game and a brutal struggle with Carolina.  XXXIX featured arguably the best Patriot team ever and officially kicked off all this dynasty talk.

If you want to place XLIX in its proper perspective, let’s simply call it “richly satisfying”.  It was a great matchup, perhaps the best of all Patriot Super Bowls.  It was a seesaw battle, but so were all the previous five SBs.  It had a great finish, but so did XXXVI and XXXVIII.

Butler really sets this Super Bowl apart.  He is Da Man in New England right now.  Tom Brady gave Butler the truck he won as Super Bowl MVP.  That was a totally cool thing to do.

It’s the first title since anything –Gate broke out.  So call it “richly satisfying”.  Enjoy the parade, everyone, and dress warm.


The Fragile Difference Between Winning And Losing

Grady Little, you’re off the hook.

Actually, Little got off the hook the year after he left Pedro Martinez in too long which wound up costing the Red Sox a pennant.  The Red Sox have won three World Series since and shamed the Yankees far worse in 2004 than Little shamed the Red Sox in 2003.  But for many New Englanders, it remains one of the worst manager/coach decisions they have ever seen.

Until Sunday night’s Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is right now the biggest goat in the USA.  He might become to Seattle what Steve Bartman became to Chicago (can’t you just see Boston mayor Martin Walsh offering Bevell asylum in Boston?). There are mistakes in sports, and then there are mistakes in sports.  Bevell made one that cost his team a season, a championship, and a precious niche in the history books.

Patriot Nation, on the other hand, is giddy with joy and euphoria.  The duck boats will roll on Tuesday amidst another winter storm and freezing cold.  The Patriots further cemented their stunning NFL legacy, as men like Bob Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady could very well be on the Mount Rushmores of NFL owners, coaches and quarterbacks.

But let’s be real and honest for just a second.  Super Bowl XLIX was a game the Patriots could have, and perhaps should have, lost.  After taking a 28-24 lead with 2:02 left in the contest, Seattle needed to do about ten or so things right to win their second straight Super Bowl.  It turns out that they did nine things right, but the tenth thing they didn’t do right cost them their season and their legacy.

This is a very telling expose on winning in the NFL.  Just like the difference between the best and worst teams in the league is not that much, the difference between winning and losing is even smaller.

Here then is an abridged breakdown of the final 2:02 of Super Bowl XLIX, along with all the things that went Seattle’s way, and the one that didn’t.

First down and ten at the Seattle 20.  Russell Wilson takes the snap and fires a left sideline pass to Marshawn Lynch, the team’s battering ram running back.  With Jamie Collins in near futile pursuit, Lynch takes it to the Patriot 49.  One play, 31 yards.  Lynch was lined up in a wideout left position and put a double move on Collins, then blew past him and made the catch. Collins should never have allowed this kind of long gainer on the first play of what had to be a lockdown drive.  Two minute warning.

Three plays later. First down and ten at the New England 38.  Wilson drops back and lofts a deep right sideline pass to Jermaine Kearse. Malcolm Butler was in coverage.  The ball is deflected up in the air, Kearse falls down, pass appears incomplete.  But the ball falls right on Kearse.  Before the ball hits the ground, Kearse covers the ball and holds on to it.  It was a lucky catch by Kearse, as Butler had good coverage on him.  Patriot Nation was having David Tyree flashbacks.  Duron Harmon was nearby and didn’t quite have the presence of mind to kick the ball away from Kearse before it fell on him. NBC’s Al Michaels could have said “He did what?!” again. It was an awful déjà vu for the Patriots.

First down and goal at the New England five.  Wilson hands off to Lynch, who runs off left tackle.  He is corralled and brought down at the one.  1:06 left in the game.

Belichick elects to let the clock run, instead of taking a timeout to preserve time in case Seattle scores.  Why not call time? Would Belichick consider letting Lynch score, like in Super Bowl XLVI when the Patriots allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to score in the final minute?  The clock ticked down to 25 seconds.  This was really do or die for the Patriots.  If Seattle scores, the game is lost for the Patriots.

Second down and goal at the New England one.  Wilson, lined up in the shotgun, takes the snap and fires a quick right slant pass towards Ricardo Lockette.  Butler jumps the route and makes a bang-bang interception at the goal line.  He is stopped at the three.  A celebration penalty on the Patriots backs the ball up to the one.

The big issue here is that Bevell opted for a pass instead of a Lynch run.  Pete Carroll took the bullet for Bevell, saying that his spread offense didn’t match up with the Patriots’ goal line defense.  Of course, one should say something like “Why in the Sam Hill was your spread offense out there instead of your power package?”  One or two Lynch runs should have done the trick.

Here is what is most fascinating about the interception.  Butler said after the game that he recognized Seattle’s receivers in a stack formation, and knew that a pick play was coming.  He knew just who to cover, where to go, and made a miracle play. In reality, “miracle” was the residue of terrific coaching, and terrific understanding and reaction by a bit player who had an otherwise nondescript season.  If ever there was a masterpiece of “situational football”, you saw it right there.  Butler made perhaps the biggest play by a Patriot in the last ten years.

Patriot ball, first down and ten, ball at the Patriot one.  20 seconds left, Seattle has one timeout.  The game is still not over. Brady cannot simply drop to a knee in a victory formation.  Doing so would result in a safety, a two-point lead instead of a four-point lead, and having to punt the ball back to Seattle with a chance to win the game on a field goal.  The play was tenuous.  Brady had to keep the ball and lunge forward.

Instead, Michael Bennett committed a neutral zone infraction by jumping early and bumping Dan Connally.  This penalty put the ball at the six and took away any chance at a calamitous moment for the Patriots.  On the next snap, a fight broke out, resulting in the ejection of Bruce Irvin and putting the ball at the 21.  Brady takes a victory formation kneel, and the celebration finally begins.

Seattle being the champions they are, did what they had to do to put themselves in a position to win.  The decision to throw at the one was tragic.  But Butler made a great play to bring the Patriots home.  The decision and the interception combined provide dramatic proof of the fine line between winning and losing in the NFL.  The Patriots celebrate while the Seahawks are left with feelings of agony and negative self-examination.

The Patriots now look forward to the conclusion of DeflateGate.  But that will come later.  Right now, it’s about legacy, celebration and duck boats.  Simply stated, they won.

Super Ending To Super Bowl Makes Super Patriots

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ten points down in the fourth quarter.  Another David Tyree play.  Second and goal at the one.  25 seconds left.  Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson in the backfield.

Pick any of these problematic situations for the Patriots, and you have a Seattle win.  They would be the ones celebrating an epic Super Bowl win, their second straight.  No team in Super Bowl history had ever squandered a ten-point lead.  And even though the Seahawks did just that, they were in prime position to snatch victory away from the Patriots.  They simply had to run Lynch from one yard out.  It was their best chance to win the game.

Instead, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called for a quick slant pass to Ricardo Lockette.  It was a bang-bang play, and rookie Malcolm Butler made the interception to shock the Seahawks and seal a richly satisfying Super Bowl win for the Patriots.  All sorts of history was made on Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium by the Patriots, but the most overwhelming and joyous fact is that the Patriots beat Seattle to win Super Bowl XLIX, 28-24.

When we say “history”, we aren’t kidding.  You can start and end with Tom Brady, but it goes way beyond that.

Brady won his third Super Bowl MVP, tying Joe Montana with the most in history.  Among the many reasons why Brady won the award over other worthy candidates are his setting records for most pass completions in a Super Bowl with 37, and his setting a record for most career Super Bowl touchdown passes with 13, breaking Montana’s record of 11.  Brady finished 37 of 50 passing for 328 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 101.1.  And his fourth Super Bowl win as starting quarterback ties Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most ever.

The fourth Super Bowl win by the Patriots ties Green Bay and the Giants for the third most in Super Bowl history.  The Patriots at one point trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter, making the ten-point rally the biggest fourth quarter deficit ever overcome in Super Bowl history.  Bill Belichick ties the late Steeler coach Chuck Noll for the most wins ever as head coach with four.

The Patriots and Seahawks battled all game long.  New England dominated the first half statistically, but a foolish interception by Brady at the goal line and the quick strike ability of the Seattle offense produced a 14-14 tie at the half.  Seattle won the coin toss, deferred, then pulled on the Patriots what they themselves usually do, scoring on the last drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half.  The Seahawks actually scored on three straight drives to build a 24-14 third quarter lead.  At the time, the Patriots looked tired, beaten, and out of answers as to how to deal with the now former Super Bowl champs.

Two key plays in the first half helped produce the tie game instead of a sizable Patriot lead.  On their second drive of the game, the Patriots drove 58 yards in 13 plays to the Seattle 10-yard line, chewing up 7:41 of the clock.  On third down and six, Michael Bennett induced a hurried throw by Brady into the end zone.  Jeremy (“Gronkowski isn’t that good!”) Lane picked off the pass at the goal line, but was injured on the play and had to leave the game for good.

After taking a 14-7 lead, and with 31 seconds left in the first half, Robert Turbin broke off a 19-yard run thanks to Jamie Collins being caught out of position, setting the Seahawks off on a scoring drive that took only 29 seconds of game clock and covered 80 yards in five plays.

To come back from down ten points, the Patriot defense went into lockdown mode, inducing punts on three straight drives covering only 11 plays.  Brady then caught fire, using Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen to move the ball well.  Danny Amendola caught a five-yard pass to make it 24-21 with 7:55 left.  On the next drive, Vereen and Gronkowski led the way on a 10-play, 74-yard drive.  Edelman hauled in a three-yard scoring pass with 2:02 left to give the Patriots a 28-24 lead.

Keeping in mind what happened to the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago, and given the Patriots’ history for surrendering wacky catches in clutch moments (Tyree, Mario Manningham), the wacky catch happened still again.  Wilson drove Seattle from the 20 to the Patriot 38 in a two-minute drill.  On first and ten, Wilson lofted a deep pass along the right sideline to Jermaine Kearse.  With Butler in good coverage, the ball bounced off Kearse’s fingertips and he fell to the ground.  The ball fell right on Kearse, and with the ball never touching the ground, Kearse cradled the ball at the Patriot five.

Malcolm Butler makes the game-clinching interception at the goal line to seal a 28-24 win by the Patriots over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX.
(USA TODAY Images)

Lynch ran for four yards to the one-yard line.  The clock was running with less than 30 seconds left.  Patriot Nation was wondering if they should surrender a touchdown like in Super Bowl XLVI to Ahmad Bradshaw just to get the ball back.  Or the Patriots might want to call a timeout to save time.

Instead, perhaps the most ill-advised play call in Super Bowl history happened which will leave Bevell and Pete Carroll answering to for perhaps years to come.

The Seahawks had Lynch, nicknamed “Beast Mode”.  Wilson is the best running quarterback in the league.  But Bevell called for a pick play, wanting to hit Lockette on a quick slant from the right side.  Butler read the play perfectly and jumped the route, making the interception to seal the championship for the Patriots.  Either Lynch or Wilson could have run the ball in.  The Patriots escaped with the Super Bowl win but could have very easily lost it in much the same manner as they did their last Super Bowl loss.

The Patriots finally have their fourth Super Bowl win after a decade wait.  The duck boats will roll again after a year and a half celebrating the Red Sox and Boston Strong.  The amazing run of New England sports prosperity continues with the ninth title since Y2K.

This Super Bowl will go down as a great one, one of the best ever.  Skeptics can question the Patriots all they want about videotaping and game ball air pressure.  In the end, the Patriots rule the pro football world once again, and the beautiful veneer that envelops their franchise is looking very pretty and polished once again.

Seattle didn’t get their second in a row.  Carroll didn’t beat his old team in the big game.  The Patriots are Super Bowl champs.

Feels good.  Rest easy, New England, and get out and cheer those boats.

Patriots Finally Reach Immortal Status

After 10 years, Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots are World Champions once again. (USA TODAY Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – It won’t take you ten years to climb Mount Greylock, Mount Washington, or even Mount Everest.

Unless you’re the New England Patriots.

The Patriots have finally scaled the Mount Everest of the NFL. There is no more rarefied air in the world that at the summit of the world’s highest peak. The Patriots now stand at the top of pro football’s highest peak. Instead of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay waiting for them, men like Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh are there to shake Bill Belichick’s hand, congratulating him on his finally successful ascent.

These three gentlemen, of course, would appear in spiritual form. Belichick might be the same if he were to actually attempt to climb the real thing. Instead, we will speak metaphorically and extrapolate to the NFL this supreme and much anticipated ascension to the highest high of pro football.

The Patriots now belong there. Finally.

This was supposed to happen in 2007. But the New York Giants ruined the seemingly inevitable coronation, as well as a perfect season. This was supposed to happen again in 2011. See previous paragraph, minus the perfect season part.

The Patriots have finally won Super Bowl number four. This now pulls them even with Green Bay and the Giants for third all time. San Francisco and Dallas have five, Pittsburgh has six. Other than the Giants, all of these teams are considered to be among the finest dynasties in NFL history, or at least since the birth of the AFL in 1960. Belichick has now won four Super Bowls, pulling him even with Noll for most ever by a head coach.

When you look back on the 54-year history of the Patriots, you won’t immediately think of investigations, unscrupulous game plans and press conference arrogance. You’ll remember what the Patriots used to be perceived as, the many bad years with many bad players and mediocre coaches, and the unruly fans who used to get drunk and turn old Schaefer Stadium into Animal House.

You will instead think of the Patriots as the true gold standard. Everything they were not under Billy Sullivan, they are under Bob Kraft. Belichick will make you forget there was ever a Clive Rush. This 15-year run of excellence will be far more enduring than anything involving Monday Night Football in the 1970s, Lisa Olson or anything with the suffix –gate.

The Bruins were a fun topic earlier this decade, and their Cup win was nice. So was the Ceitlcs’ only title with Paul Pierce. Sorry, Paul and Patrice, but this is much more majestic and awe inspiring.

After a very long time where many thousands of Red Sox fans could have been born, lived and died, the Olde Towne Team has won three World Series since Y2K. What the Patriots have accomplished in the Kraft Era is far more impressive. The 2004 World Series was the biggest emotional heart tug, we all agree. Winning the whole thing at Fenway two years ago in the shadow of Boston Strong was timeless. This run by the Patriots is bigger.

All speculation and thinking to the contrary ended Sunday night. The Patriots are now, without any doubt or preponderance, one of the best teams in NFL history, if not the best.

The Lombardi Packers did win three in a row and five of seven. That was in a smaller league with no free agency and little, if any, player movement. Running the power sweep today would mean navigating your way through faster and bigger linebackers and more powerful safeties. And how would Lombardi deal with the NFL prima donna of today? Could you see what would happen if Lombardi ordered Pacman Jones to swim the Fox River as punishment?

The Steelers won four of six Super Bowls, then won two since Y2K. It’s the Noll Steelers that are the most enduring for that city, not the Roethlisberger Steelers. Yes, they were very good. For six years. Here, it’s been going on 15 years now.

The 49ers have always been Kraft’s role model. He wanted the Patriots to emulate that franchise. Their run of greatness from 1981 to 1994 is much like what the Patriots are doing now. They won five Super Bowls, four with Joe Montana, one with Steve Young, and never lost one. Otherwise, Kraft’s vision of Walsh East came true.

Dallas won three of four Super Bowls in the 1990s. They won two with Roger Staubach and three with Troy Aikman. Owner Jerry Jones fired head coach Jimmy Johnson in a fit of pique, won one more with Barry Switzer, and have won none since. Jones broke up that machine, but it was a good machine when all the parts were in place.

Now you have the Patriots. Three of four Super Bowl wins. A fourth ten years later. Many division championships and AFC Championship Games in between. They now sit at the table.

Or rather, Belichick now stands at the NFL summit with the spirits of the three aforementioned head coaching greats. The Patriots, the same franchise who were called “Patsies”, are now where they have always wanted to be. At the top. The real top.

And for those of you who remember toilets not flushing, transformers blowing out, drunk fans harassing EMTs, female sportswriters being sexually harassed, and a division rival fleecing the Patriots for two stars in return for six draft busts, the climb was worth every minute and every ounce of energy. Sometimes the greatest memories are not in the end result but in the journey. The end result is sweet, but the journey makes the end result even sweeter.

John Madden had it right at the end of Super Bowl XXI: “This is as good as it gets. There is no better feeling!” Patriot Nation would have to agree.

The Evolution Of The Patriot Brand

GLENDALE, Ariz. – So, who exactly are the New England Patriots?

Patsies.  Vagabonds.  Underachievers.  Louts.  Champions.  Cheaters.  Wow, that’s some brand.

If you are alive to have seen all 54 years of the Patriots, when they were based in Boston as well as Foxborough, which of these terms stands out the most?  You young folk will immediately say “champions” and dismiss all the others, as well as “cheaters”.  But there are still many living, breathing New Englanders who do remember all the years, and who do remember both the good and the bad.

Right around now, on Super Bowl Eve, it’s always a good time to sit down and reflect on your team.  It’s still really something for the Patriots to come this far.  It’s especially wonderful for them to have come this far for the eighth time.  Here we are, twenty-four hours from the world championship game of professional football, and the winner could be your team.

In 2004, just after completing the historic comeback against the Yankees, Red Sox owner John Henry had to catch his breath as he said “Wow!  There’s going to be a World Series at Fenway this year!”  He was more overcome with that notion than the rally from down three games to none.  You could say that the Super Bowl feels the same way, even though this is the eighth time.

Wow.  The Patriots are in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Again, younger Patriot fans don’t pay much heed to the full impact of saying that.  All they know is the Belichick Patriots.  All they know is that Tom Brady needs to get back to winning these things instead of losing them.  All they know is that it’s about time for still another duck boat parade, it’s been a year and a half now since the last one.

Okay.  Here we go again.  Patriot Nation, this is a big deal.  Bigger than you think.  There are many of us still left who fully understand the real impact of this.  Go ahead and find anyone who saw Babe Parilli, Jim Nance, Jim Plunkett, Sam Cunningham, Mike Haynes, Russ Francis and Steve Grogan play that one day the Patriots would be tied with Dallas for the most Super Bowl appearances by any NFL team.

This writer turned one year old the day Billy Sullivan was granted a new AFL franchise.  He ran the team on a shoestring during his and his family’s ownership.  In his 28 years of owning the Patriots, they only had three seasons to really squawk about.  They won a divisional playoff game in 1963 but got blown out by San Diego in the AFL title game.  They should have won Super Bowl XI but got booted by Oakland in the Divisional Round thanks to a bad call by referee Ben Dreith.  They made it to Super Bowl XX but got blasted by the Chicago Bears.

During the Boston days, the team was marked by mediocre to good teams, a low overhead, no certain, reliable home venue, and allowing someone like Clive Rush to coach the team.  If you research the brief history of the old WFL (1974-75), their history mirrors the Boston Patriots in some ways.  The Bruins can play at Fenway Park, certainly not the Patriots.  But that’s where they spent most of their Boston existence.

Moving to Foxborough in 1971, the team cheaped out on a new stadium.  It was known mostly for toilets, power failures, traffic jams and drunken louts long before it became known for a Snow Bowl and the Tuck Rule.  The Patriots got Heisman Trophy winner Plunkett, but became a great team when they traded him to San Francisco for several draft picks.

Greatness finally came to the Patriots in 1976.  But that one year of glory, ruined by that bad call out at Oakland, begat several years of underachievement.  They won their first division title in 1978, but Chuck Fairbanks’ coaching exit strategy resulted in a home playoff loss to Houston (now Tennessee). The Patriots would spend the next seven seasons wasting some very good talent with non-playoff seasons.

Dante Scarnecchia recently retired after having coached the Patriots in all six previous Super Bowls. His long term perspective on the Patriots is perhaps better than most people.
(USA TODAY Images)

Their first Super Bowl was a nightmare.  They had the misfortune of playing perhaps the best one-season defense in NFL history.  Chicago won, 46-10, and totally overwhelmed the Patriots in doing so.  They made the playoffs the next year as division champs, but then went into a ten-year period of mostly lousy teams.

1990 was the worst season in team history.  A 1-15 record was overshadowed by the Lisa Olson scandal.  The sexual harassment of a very good reporter, who managed to resurrect her career in New York, portrayed the Patriots as bigger louts than their drunken, fight-happy fans.

Bill Parcells would come on in 1993, but his one big day in the sun was ruined by his zeal to leave the Patriots and defect to the Jets.  The Patriots lost Super Bowl XXXI to Green Bay, Parcells resigned five days later, and went to the Jets for four first round picks.  Pete Carroll would take over, preside over three lackluster seasons, then get fired in 1999.  The team that Parcells built in the 1990s underachieved much like several good teams from the 1970s and 1980s.

Belichick came in 2000 and brought three Super Bowl wins to the region.  He has been to six of them in all, won three, lost two, and we’ll see about the sixth on Sunday.  The Patriots are now thought of as dynastic.  This is 14 years now of making the playoffs almost every year, featuring nine AFC Championship Games and six Super Bowls.  The Patriots are now mentioned among the best teams in history.

But at what price?  SpyGate.  DeflateGate.  Bending rules.  The owner perceived as too close to the commissioner.  The Patriots are now as hated as the Yankees, called cheaters by everyone outside of this region.

So now, we come to Sunday and Super Bowl XLIX.  The Patriots will try and wrench the title back from the team that owns it at present, the Seattle Seahawks.  It is still another red-letter day for the franchise win or lose, but a major moment in NFL history if they win.

Still, you the Patriot fan need to remember everything about your team.  Yes, that means having to play a home game in Birmingham, Alabama.  Howard Cosell jumping ugly on your team on live national television thanks to the unruly fans.  The Ken Sims Bowl of 1981.  Irving Fryar and his wife settling an argument at knifepoint.  Zeke Mowatt’s utter disregard for female reporters.  Parcells and Curtis Martin for six of the worst draft picks in team history.

Now you can enjoy the game.  And please, if they win, celebrate, but don’t take it for granted and remember what a Super Bowl win really means to the Patriots.

Super Formula: Run The Ball, Stop The Run

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Patriots still have Tom Brady, thank goodness.

And still, if the Patriots want to win Super Bowl XLIX, it shouldn’t be because of Brady.

The Patriots will be locked in a death struggle with the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday evening at University of Phoenix Stadium.  It is a fine accomplishment for the Patriots just being here, as it represents the eighth Super Bowl in team history, tying Dallas for the most trips to The Show by one team.

But as Drew Bledsoe said after filling in for Brady just prior to Super Bowl XXXVI, “Gotta win it!”  The Patriots have lost their last two Super Bowls after winning three in a row.  They need to win this one.  It will be easier said than done, as they face a Seattle team much better and tougher than the two Giants teams they lost to in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.

There really is one way for the Patriots to ensure a win on Sunday night.  Old school coaches have been saying it for decades.  It is how John (thanks, Terrell Davis) Elway finally won the big one after three prior failures.

Run the ball.

Stop the run.

If both of those things happen, the Patriots most likely win their fourth Vince.

The passing game on both sides could turn out to be a push.  The Seahawks’ secondary could shut down the passing game, even Rob Gronkowski.  Brady could find himself under siege once again like he was in the two losses to the Giants.  If he has time to throw, who will be open?  Maybe if no Seattle defender thinks Sebastian Vollmer can catch a pass and they don’t pay him any attention.

On the other side, Seattle doesn’t have scary receivers.  Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are good, but not fantastic.  Tight end Luke Willson is the same.  Some experts think Darrelle Revis may be a complete non-factor in this game.  Russell Wilson could perhaps find these guys in certain situations, especially in the fourth quarter.  But overall, they don’t strike fear in you.

The one guy the Patriots have to stop?  Marshawn Lynch.

The one guy who has to have a great game for the Patriots?  LeGarrette Blount.  Or Jonas Gray.  Or Brandon Bolden.  Or a combination of two or three of them.

Not Shane Vereen.  He is a situational pass receiving running back who is more like what Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead were.  The Patriots need the power running game to work, and Vereen isn’t this type of runner.

A great game on Sunday night by LeGarrette Blount is perhaps the biggest key to a Patriot victory in Super Bowl XLIX.
(USA TODAY Images)

Let’s assume, to shorten this discussion, that it’s Blount that turns out to be the guy who gets fed the most.  Since being re-acquired from Pittsburgh (if DeflateGate isn’t enough, Steeler Nation is crying tampering by the Patriots), Blount has reinvigorated the Patriot running attack, despite being picked up just after Gray’s 201-yard bonanza at Indianapolis.

If Bryan Stork can stay healthy at the center position, then he, guards Dan Connally and Ryan Wendell, and fullback James Develin have to be supreme road graders.  The two worst games of Logan Mankins’ career were his two Super Bowls.  This cannot happen here.  These four guys have to open up holes and get Blount tough yards inside.  Tackles Nate Solder and Vollmer will have to handle outside pressure on Brady.  It is said that you can run up the gut on Seattle, and Josh McDaniels has to commit to the run and work it in accordingly.

As for Lynch, at least he has familiarity with New England.  He played for three full seasons in Buffalo, then was traded during his fourth season to Seattle for two middle round draft picks.  In four games against the Patriots as a Bill, he rushed for 224 yards on 55 carries for a 4.1 yards per carry average.  All four games were Patriot wins.  Lynch was held to less than four yards per carry in three of those games.

What skews these numbers is a September 26, 2010 game at Gillette Stadium, his last against the Patriots as a Bill.  He rushed for 79 yards on 13 carries, averaging just over six yards a carry.  But Brady was terrific, hitting on 21 of 27 passing for 252 yards and three touchdowns.  And the key to the win?  BenJarvus Green-Ellis outdid Lynch with 98 yards on 16 carries and an average just higher than Lynch’s.  The Patriots won, 38-30.

Super Bowl XLIX won’t be a 38-30 game.  It could be a one-score game.  The Patriots must win the running back battle to win the game.  Lynch must be controlled.  If Jamie Collins is used as a spy for Wilson, either Patrick Chung or Devin McCourty could come up and help with run stoppage if Revis and Brandon Browner can hold their own in man coverage.  The Patriots might be able to get away with not having to use cover two.  If this be the case, it will help the Patriots greatly.

The line on this Super Bowl is still pick ‘em.  The game promises to be a great one.  The reigning champs versus the dynasty.  The current coach versus the previous coach.  The 12th man versus the Patriot Way, or what’s left of it.

But in the end, it’s really Blount versus Lynch.  If Blount wins, as Bruins radio man Dave Goucher once said, “Get the duck boats ready!”

And that’s putting it rather Blount-ly.

As The Ball Bounces: Pre-Super Bowl

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Stephen Hauschka grew up in Needham, went to Needham High School, and will oppose the Patriots on Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX.  He has been the Seahawks’ kicker since 2011.  He has hit on 87.6% of his field goals in his tenure in Seattle, and is automatic inside the 40 (20 of 20 in 2014).  You have to wonder what goes through the minds of players when they get a chance to compete against the team they grew up watching.  Make it a Super Bowl, and Hauschka has to really be on edge this week.  He booms one out of the end zone, and forces Tom Brady to have to go 80 yards on that tough Seahawk defense.

LeGarrette Blount:  “The Seahawks have a great defense, but they can be beaten.”

Brandon Browner:  “I’m gonna tell my teammates to go after (Richard Sherman’s) shoulder…at the end of the day, we’re best friends, but on the field, he knows that we want the Super Bowl as much as they do!”

LeGarrette, shut up.

Brandon, shut up.

These guys gotta get with the program.  Let Sherman do the popping off and accuse Bob Kraft and Roger Goodell about having a conflict of interest.  All Patriots should just shut up.

Great.  We’re back at the place where 18-0 went to die.  Why couldn’t the Super Bowl be in Houston or Jacksonville?

If you fall asleep on Sunday afternoon and wake up just after the game is over, the last thing you want is the first thing you see being a sound byte from Gisele Bundchen.  That means that things didn’t go well for the Patriots.

The Super Bowl pregame show is four hours long.  I’ll take the Puppy Bowl.  Or the Kitten Bowl.

Just nudge me when it’s kickoff.

Geek of the week:  Media Day is stupid.  But come on, Marshawn Lynch.  We can do better than “The only reason I’m here is because I don’t want to get fined!”

Rob Gronkowski was asked who the best dancer on the Patriots is, and he answered “I’d have to say me!”  Lynch could have given answers like that.

Pete Carroll, who coached the Patriots from 1997 to 1999, opposes his former team on Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX.
(USA TODAY Images)

If you followed the Patriots closely in the late 1990s, it is still astounding to see Pete Carroll as current Super Bowl champion head coach, gunning for his second in a row.

By all rights, Seattle should be going for its third Super Bowl win.  The Seahawks lost Super Bowl XL thanks to some of the worst championship game officiating in recent memory.

It’s hard to believe that this is the first Super Bowl for Darrelle Revis.  You would think that Rex Ryan could have overcome the championship game hump at least once.

Here’s hoping that if Bill Belichick needs a 49-yard field goal, he will let Stephen Gostkowski kick it.

Russell Wilson makes Belichick’s “Stats are for losers!” dogma dead on.  If Wilson beats the Patriots on Sunday night, it won’t be with Tom Brady numbers.

Back to school:  You have about five or six rivalries around college football that are legendary.  Here in the Grand Canyon State, much can be said about Arizona versus Arizona State.  It’s not the Iron Bowl, it’s not Michigan-Ohio State, it’s not the Red River Rivalry, it’s not Harvard-Yale.  But try and trivialize the in-state rivalry to the people here in Arizona.  Right now, the edge is down in Tucson, with former West Virginia and Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez helping the UA Wildcats to bear down.

The Patriots head into Sunday with three strikes against them.

There is an ongoing scandal, like there was in 2007 with SpyGate.

The game is at Glendale, Arizona, where SpyGate met 18-0 and SpyGate won.  The Giants did, too.

And finally, the game will be on NBC.  The Patriots are 0-2 in Super Bowls on NBC.  They’ve been doing better on Sunday nights lately.  But only the Bruins have won a title on NBC since the early 1960s.

That is why when you see Bob Costas in the broadcasting mix, you quiver.  Costas was supposed to have presented the big trophy to Heywood Sullivan and Jean Yawkey in 1986.  He was there when the Patriots lost Super Bowls XX and XLVI.  He wasn’t there when the Bruins won the whole thing in Vancouver (Dan Patrick was).

Of course, the Patriot coaches and players could give a hoot over who is doing the game.

However, if the Patriots win, it will be fun watching Bob Kraft receive the Vince from Roger Goodell.  Thanks to DeflateGate, that will be almost tantamount to Al Davis receiving said trophy from Pete Rozelle in 1984 two years after moving the Raiders to Los Angeles on his own without league permission.

Best line from Felger and Mazz on Tuesday:  Commenting on Monday’s press conference, “Bob Kraft reminded Roger Goodell who he works for!”

Remember him:  Founding Seattle head coach Jack Patera led the team out of the expansion wilderness.  But it was former Rams head coach Chuck Knox who finally put the Seahawks on the NFL map.  Knox coached the Seahawks for nine seasons.  In his first season, 1983, the Seahawks went all the way to the AFC Championship Game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Raiders.  Beginning in 1983, the Seahawks made the playoffs in four of Knox’s first six seasons.  Led mostly by the combo of Dave Krieg and Steve Largent, Knox and the Seahawks had winning records in six of his nine seasons as head coach.  The 12 wins in 1984 were the most until the Super Bowl champs had 13 last season.

And now, our Super Bowl prediction in rhyme, and hopes that all New Englanders enjoy the game, and the result.

Pete is an Aunty no longer;

His day in the sun has finally come

From Route 1 to Exposition to Royal Brougham Way,

He’s proven himself and then some.

Bill took Pete’s place on Route 1;

He’s won three trophies named Vince

He was the last to win twice in a row

And after Sunday, still nobody since.

Patriots Back In Arizona, Looking For Good Times

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Super Bowl hype plus DeflateGate equals…well, someone needs to call Merriam and Webster and invent a new word.

Mary Poppins came up with “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.  Somewhat later, a new addition to said dictionary is the word “ginormous”.  Some lazy guys expend as little effort as possible in expressing themselves in an exclamatory factor by merely saying “dude”.

But it is Super Bowl week.  A new word is needed.

The Patriots arrived in the Valley of the Sun on Monday, following a rally at Boston City Hall and getting out of New England quickly to avoid a monster snowstorm which is expected Monday night and into Tuesday.  It is still an awesome sight to see the Patriots as one of the principals here amidst the greatest sports spectacle in this nation, even for the eighth time.  This arrival begins perhaps the most momentous week in Patriot history.  Exactly how momentous will be revealed at the end of Sunday night’s game with Seattle.

However, with the Patriots’ arrival Monday and the insipid tradition called Media Day on Tuesday, DeflateGate will not go away.  Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported on Monday that a ball boy is now a “person of interest” for the NFL.  Bill Belichick had to remind everyone that the issue had been addressed twice last week, and only wants to talk football and Seattle right now.

But the star of the show on arrival day for the Patriots was Bob Kraft.  Finally breaking his silence, Kraft stood at the podium at the Patriots headquarters out in Chandler, Arizona and delivered an unexpected speech, one which he did not take questions afterward.

Bob Kraft addressed the media at Patriot headquarters on Monday and adamantly defended his team and organization amidst the DeflateGate investigation.
(USA TODAY Images)

Kraft adamantly stood by his team and his organization.  In particular, he finally offered vocal support for both Belichick and Tom Brady (“They are my guys!”), insisting that the Patriots did nothing wrong.  The highlight of his speech was a call for the NFL to apologize to the Patriots, Belichick and Brady if they find nothing wrong as a result of their ongoing investigation.

Kraft might want to tread lightly where the league is involved, but it might turn out in the end that the league might be the tread lightly entity.  On Seattle’s arrival day on Sunday, Richard Sherman was asked about what might result from DeflateGate.  He said that nothing will likely happen to the Patriots, thanks in part to Kraft’s friendship with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who attended both Patriot home playoff games and has visited Kraft at his home recently.  Sherman used the term “conflict of interest” in describing Goodell’s relationship with Kraft.

For the Patriots, both the ongoing preparations for Super Bowl XLIX and the league investigation continue concurrently.  The players are trying to go about their game preparation, while the league looks into this ball boy and the media feeds the fans with every possible angle of coverage.  The popular radio show Felger and Mazz devoted maybe 30 minutes of their four-hour show to actual game analysis, the rest of the time to DeflateGate.

This investigation marks the second time the Patriots have come to Glendale for the Super Bowl with baggage in tow.  This is the second time University of Phoenix Stadium has hosted the Super Bowl, and the Patriots have been the AFC Champs in both of them.

In 2007, the Patriots finished the regular season 16-0, and won their two conference playoff games to set themselves up for the first 19-0 season in NFL history.  Standing in their way were the New York Giants, whom the Patriots defeated on the road on the final weekend to complete their perfect regular season.  The Patriots had the Giants on paper, and were favored to complete their perfect season and cement their stature in NFL history.  At this time, Belichick and Brady were 3-0 in Super Bowls.

But the weight of the 18-0 record proved too heavy for the Patriots.  They let the Giants be the more physical and inspired team, and a miracle catch by David Tyree was the linchpin in the Giants upsetting the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14.  If the Patriots had suffered at least one loss going into that game, the Patriots might have won.

If the Patriots are concerned about returning to a venue where they suffered perhaps the most devastating loss in team history, they can look to the 2001 Patriots for inspiration.  The Patriots played their first three Super Bowls in New Orleans, and lost the first two.  The 2001 team broke through despite being a 17-point underdog and beat the St. Louis Rams for their first of their three Super Bowl wins.  Perhaps things will go differently on their second visit to Glendale.

Right now, the Patriots at least made it here and didn’t get snowed in in Boston.  They need to laugh their way through Media Day on Tuesday, endure more questions about DeflateGate, then endure the usual stupid questions asked at this farce of an NFL tradition.  From then on, the team needs to focus and think about nothing other than defeating the current Super Bowl champs.

To a man, the Patriots will take dumb questions over DeflateGate in a heartbeat.  Super Bowl hype is on for real.

Time To Talk Football, And Not Deflated Ones

Does anybody out there have an opinion on whom Richard Sherman will cover, and how might it turn out a week from Sunday?

Right now, nobody has said word one on Super Bowl XLIX itself, which at present is still listed as pick ‘em in Las Vegas between the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.  All anyone can talk about is DeflateGate, made worse thanks to the NFL revealing that it has found that 11 of the 12 game balls used by the Patriots from Sunday’s AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts were two or more pounds per square inch below NFL standards.  It has become a national news story, way beyond any local spin or muse.

Both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady held press conferences on Thursday to address this issue.  Belichick said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing until he was informed of the situation on Monday morning.  He offered that quarterbacks and specialists like to have the ball a certain way, and that any questions should be directed to the proper affected individuals.  This would seem to throw Brady under the bus, and that may have been the Patriot game plan all along.  Brady denied any wrongdoing, spoke in very somber tones about the integrity and respect for the game, and also offered that “more people have more information on this than I do.”

Tom Brady has denied altering game footballs and has said he has no knowledge of such on Sunday during a press conference on Thursday.
(USA TODAY Images)

This subject has completely dominated the Boston sports scene.  It is all anyone can seem to talk about.  Entire talk shows deal with this one and only subject.  Opinions are flying all over the place, ranging from the national and local perception of the Patriots to the audacious and hyperbolic view that the Patriots should vacate their conference championship and not go to the Super Bowl.

Enough already.  Let’s just talk football.  To be more specific, how in the hell are the Patriots going to beat the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday night.

This column does not advocate cheating or subverting league rules.  If the Patriots did something wrong, let them be punished for it.  If you are a Gilbert and Sullivan aficionado, you might want to remember the famous line “Let the punishment fit the crime!” and work off it.  But even before considering what should happen to the Patriots if it is concluded that they did indeed doctor footballs for the AFC Championship Game, or other games as well, let’s analyze this whole situation and expose it for what it really is.

This has become a story.  A very juicy and seductive story.  A story with legs more beautiful than Betty Grable’s.  This Super Bowl promises to be one of the best matchups on paper in years, if not ever.  Add a story like this to the mix, and you have the makings of this Super Bowl being the biggest spectacle in the last 50 years.

The NFL has to be doing cartwheels and summersaults.  It is feeding the story-hungry media just right, and thanks to the interaction between the two of them, you are looking at a huge advertising bonanza for the league.  Both the league and media are getting what they crave:  money and copy.  To both entities, it is the equivalent of being alone with the object of your desires and you just got the green light.

The NFL will propagate this story to the maximum, let the media do their thing, raise the level of interest to the prospective viewers who will turn in to the broadcast, especially those outside of New England and Seattle, and then start lining their pockets when it’s time to set advertising rates.  The media will take this story and run with it like they have never run with a story before, generating more web hits, viewers and listeners to listen to and read every word they have to say.  Actual game analysis will have to be set aside.  This story is much more important to both the league and the media.

If you are paying close attention, all you are hearing is reaction from the media.  NFL players who are going on record are not condemning the Patriots or the practice of preparing game balls.  Aaron Rodgers has said on several occasions that he prefers harder balls.  Brad Johnson, the winning quarterback for Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII, said he had balls scuffed on a regular basis.  Former Arizona quarterback Matt Leinart dismissed all this as a non-story and said that it goes on all the time.

And how about the Colts?  An ABC News report said that D’Qwell Jackson, who intercepted a Brady pass on Sunday which more or less became the linchpin for this whole thing, said that he didn’t feel anything unusual about the ball he picked off.  “If anybody recognized anything, it definitely wouldn’t come from me,” said Jackson.  Tight end Dwayne Allen tweeted “(The initial report on Fox was) not a story.  They could have played with soap for balls and beat us.  Simply the better team.”  Nobody in the Colt organization has cried foul.

If the Patriots are indeed found guilty, fine them and take a way a draft pick.  Period.  Then get on with things as usual.  Quit this vacating the conference championship malarkey.  Quit this condemnation of the Patriot brand.  Quit this overblowing of some indiscretion which probably goes on all the time and which had no effect on any game.

If anyone needs scrutiny, it is the NFL itself.  Once the balls are inspected and marked by the referee (Sunday’s referee at Gillette Stadium was Walt Anderson), why give them back to the Patriots?  In MLB, the home team provides a gross of baseballs which go to the umpires to get rubbed up with Delaware River mud and retained by them for use during the game.  It is foolish for the referee to mark the balls and then give them back to the home team, leaving the possibility of skullduggery open.

The NFL needs to revamp its handling of game balls before each game.  League officials, not home team officials, should take charge of all game balls two hours before game time.  The home team should furnish their mandated quota of a dozen footballs, then relinquish all control of them two hours before kickoff, and let league appointed officials take complete control from that moment on.  That way there will be no chance of any irregularities taking place, in the name of gamesmanship, cheating, or otherwise.

Until this happens, this affair will continue to be more than what it really is.  The NFL wants more notoriety added to this game, and the media needs stuff like this to keep themselves busy and relevant.  Unless you take the time to listen critically, you will be sucked into this maelstrom of shock journalism.

Meanwhile, one has to wonder how much more time will Belichick and Brady be taken away from what is really important, that being how in the hell they are going to beat the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.

And would some reporter or sports talk show or commentator offer up some idea as to who Sherman will cover, how his left arm will hold up, and what Brady’s second and third options should be if Sherman blankets Julian Edelman.

At least we know that football inflation or deflation won’t be a problem.  Thank goodness.

As The Ball Bounces: Conference Championship

Norm Johnson is the all-time leading scorer in Seahawks history.  He kicked for them for nine seasons and amassed 810 points, 138 more than second place Shaun Alexander.  He was the kicker for Seattle during its previous great run in the mid-1980s, with the best coming in 1983 when they lost the AFC Championship to the Raiders.  He lofts one deep into the end zone, and Danny Amendola has to think about bringing it out before taking a knee.

Deflate-gate.  Ugh.  Someone please explain how it is easier to throw an under-inflated football.

Meanwhile, let’s hope that discovering a possible soft football isn’t the high water mark of D’Quell Jackson’s career.

The good people of Green Bay now know what it was like to be a Red Sox fan in October of 1986.

Simply stated, this loss will eat at Packer Nation until they win their next Super Bowl.

If that ever happens.

Richard Sherman might be a big mouth who loves to run smack with the best of them.  But he is a gamer.  He is tough.  When Bill Parcells says “In the fall, football players play football”, he’s talking about guys like Sherman.

Bill Belichick used to take Peyton Manning to school.  What would you call his handling of Andrew Luck?  Out to the woodshed?

Geek of the week:  I am not copying you, Peter King, but I decided on this long before you wrote your outstanding MMQB article.  Brandon Bostick learned a very tough lesson on Sunday.  Do your job.  At least he’s not alone.

Geek of the week II:  How in the world does Luke Willson catch that two-point conversion?  Talk about a play that negates two picks earlier in the game.  Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix perhaps did more to lose that game by jumping up without raising his arms to bat down the pass, a play even I could have made.  The Alabama rookie will also do some brooding over the spring and summer.

Marshawn Lynch is a man-child of the highest order.  But he can run.  He looks nothing like he did in Buffalo.

Right up there among the more enduring memories of Sunday night’s blowout was Adam Vinatieri’s missed 51-yard field goal.  You had to feel a little bit for a guy who is still immortal in the eyes of many fans in these parts.

It is gratifying to see Davante Adams make the transition from a super wideout with Derek Carr in Fresno the last three seasons to a budding NFL star in Green Bay.

That said, who is a more potent receiver corps, Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb or Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola?

Nate Solder used to be a tight end in grade school.  Why has it taken so long for him to become the next Mike Vrabel?  All he does is catch touchdowns, you know, that sort of thing.

We all now know that 58 minutes of solid football against Seattle won’t get it done.

The 12th man is awesome.  It won’t be there in Glendale, Arizona.  Thank goodness, sighs Patriot Nation.

Back to school:  The people of Fort Worth, Texas and Waco, Texas can complain all they want about TCU and Baylor not getting into the first ever college football playoff tournament.  They need to shut up.  Ohio State proved that they got it right.

Now, next year, get it even more right and make it eight teams.  Bring in the Cotton, Orange, Fiesta and Peach Bowls as the quarterfinals.  Teams nine and ten will be the new complainers, but team 69 will complain at March Madness.  Someone always gets stiffed.  Oh well.

Can’t you just picture Pete Carroll trying to game plan for all sorts of exotic offensive line packages the Patriots might throw at them?  He’d better get pumped and jacked for that job.

You love it when guys like Darrelle Revis, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon LaFell are going to their first show, and it’s with the Patriots that they’re going.

Even more fun is Brandon Browner going up against the team he won the whole thing with last year.

Let’s get fanciful for a second.  Instead of Mike McCarthy, it’s The Old Man.

The Packers go for it both times inside the Seattle five-yard line in the first quarter.

Morgan Burnett takes the punt and scampers about 20-25 yards, and doesn’t fall down.

Eddie Lacy rushes for 183 yards thanks to the power sweep.

Clinton-Dix doesn’t make a play on that two-pointer because Bostick makes his block and Nelson covers the onside kick.

Yes, folks, there was only one Vince Lombardi.  But so many fundamental errors by Green Bay on Sunday would have been absent if he were there.

Remember him:  Any of you remember what a big choice Bill Parcells had in 1993 when he took over the Patriots and had the top pick in the draft?  The choice was Drew Bledsoe from Washington State or Rick Mirer of Notre Dame, the top two quarterbacks and players available.  Parcells took Bledsoe, and Seattle took Mirer with picks one and two.  Back then, there was actually a large faction of experts who thought Mirer was the better choice.  You all know how Bledsoe did.  Mirer lasted only four seasons in Seattle, compiling a 20-31 record and a passer rating of 65.2.  He would last four more seasons with four different teams and had a 4-13 record.  Parcells got it right.  True, more prosperity was in the offing with Tom Brady, but in 1993 Bledsoe was the man and Mirer most certainly was not.

Glendale, Arizona.  In Boise, Idaho, University of Phoenix Stadium is known for the watershed victory in Boise State football history, when the Broncos beat Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime, winning the game on a Statue of Liberty two-point conversion.

In Chicago, it is known as the place where the Bears made a terrific comeback against the Cardinals in 2006, prompting the famous Dennis Green “They are who we thought they were!” rant after the game.

In Gainesville, Florida, it is known as the place where Florida beat Ohio State in the 2007 BCS Championship Game, 41-14.

But in New England, it is known as the place where the perfect season died.  Several players are still here who played on the 18-1 2007 team that lost Super Bowl XLII to the Giants, 17-14.

The 2014 Patriots will have to draw inspiration from the 2001 Patriots, who won Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans after having lost two Super Bowls in the Superdome prior (XX, XXXI).  The loss in XLII was the most painful in team history.  Coming back to this stadium for those who remember that game will be re-living a bad memory.

Brady was one of the guys who played in XLII.  But he also was one of the guys who played in XXXVI.  Make of it what you will.