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Super Blah…

…that’s how I felt about that game last night.  And the halftime show as well, for whatever that is worth.

As we all know, part of the reasoning for the lukewarm reaction toward the Big Game is that the New England Patriots were not there.  That is no secret.

But I was not all that impressed by the participants regardless.  Carolina did not look like a 17-1 team.  The Denver defense absolutely showed up to play.  But the offense?  Meh…although if you listened to Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, you would probably think that Peyton Manning threw for 800 yards and 10 TDs and was the reason they won the game.  Ugh…for those watching objectively, Peyton was not very good.  But I suppose he didn’t need to be with the way the defense played.

You know what else I didn’t like about the game?  Where do I start?  Per usual, let’s throw out a few bullet points, again, in no particular order:

*Manning.  I’m putting him here again, because that’s how much I didn’t like him.  Only one interception, but could have been more.  But that one was a beauty.  Threw it right to a defensive lineman.  Rarely threw deep, but I suppose he didn’t need to.  Yelled “Omaha” a few times, so that was nice to hear.  Anyway, I have belabored the point.

*Cam Newton.  Your NFL MVP everyone!!  Wow.  Putrid.  On and off the field.  Sure the Denver pass rush was relentless.  They took the run away from him.  The Carolina coaches didn’t seem to make adjustments to allow Cam to do what he did all year, as far as utilize his running skills.  That much is all true.  But he started off the game firing passes over his receivers heads.  Ok, his receivers are atrocious too.  But he didn’t give them a chance early on.

The play everyone is talking about, his fumble with about 4 minutes left?  I’m still speechless.  Ok, I’m really not.  What a joke.  Losing 16-10.  4 minutes left.  IT’S THE SUPER BOWL!  And he doesn’t dive for the ball?  Doesn’t make any effort whatsoever?  Actually peels off?  Embarrassing.  I can’t say I have ever seen anything like it, especially considering the circumstances.  We all know how I feel about Peyton.  But he is for damn sure diving for that ball…even with his prior neck injuries.  He understands the magnitude of the situation.

Did we ever get an explanation?  I don’t know, but I haven’t heard what he was thinking yet…from him anyway.  I’ve heard people say that he thought the ball was going to bounce backwards.  Ummmm…not so sure.  Maybe the media was going to ask him in the postgame interview…but of course he bailed on that.  Another ridiculous thing.  I’ve heard people defending him for cutting that short because Chris Harris Jr. can be heard in the background telling reporters that they had a great game plan to stop Cam…and Newton didn’t want to listen to it, blah, blah, blah.  That’s pure garbage.  You played awful, your team lost, you didn’t get to “dab”…face the music.  And he is supposed to be one of the “new faces of the league”?  Please…lost a lot of respect for him yesterday.

*Carolina offensive line.  Did the Patriots offensive line from two weeks ago actually take their place Sunday?  Yes, again, the Denver pass rush is stout.  But neither the Pats or the Panthers can come even close to even slowing them down at least a little?

*Jerricho Cotchery.  Yikes, he is still in the league?  And he’s like the Panthers #3 receiver?  And then he drops the first three passes thrown to him.  Including the one that was a catch, then wasn’t, but should’ve been (more on that later).  But he would’ve made it easier if he just caught the ball cleanly.

*Ted Ginn Jr.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Carolina’s #1 receiver!  If you listened to Nantz and Simms, you would’ve thought he actually finally became good this year after 8 years of mediocrity…less than that actually.  He caught 44 passes this year…yup, less than 3 a game.  On 96 targets.  So he caught less than half thrown his way.  Anyway, the things that bothered me most was on his 45 yard catch and run, it appeared that he could have maybe juked the safety, cut inside and then race to the end zone…you know, because his one skill is that he can fly.  Instead, he just cruised out of bounds.  Maybe it’s just me, since no one else is talking about it.  But it seemed that he kind of just gave up on the play.  I suppose a lot of receivers kind of do that as well.  But…IT’S THE SUPER BOWL!  Try it at least.  And take a hit if you have to.

*Greg Olsen.  Ok, he is the real top pass catcher on the team.  Where was he?  Sure, he was probably blanketed.  But so was Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship.  And he came up huge still.

*Demaryius Thomas.  Another disappearing act.  Blame Josh Norman if you want.  Or Manning.  But 1 catch for 8 yards?

*Mike Tolbert.  I have a little soft spot for this fat guy.  I really haven’t watched him a ton over the years, either in San Diego or Carolina.  But he has always seemed to run well when I did.  Short, fat dude plowing through the line.  Interesting to watch anyway.  But the first two times he touched the ball he fumbled.  Disappointing.

*Graham Gano.  As Jim Nantz said early, along with Simms and sideline reporters Evan Washburn and Tracy Wolfson, they would also go to Jay Feely “if needed”.  Nice of Jim to include Jay.  Anyway, I feel that sideline reporters are generally useless.  But Feely inexplicably added something the one time they went to him.  After Gano missed his field goal, Feely said that Gano had “missed a couple in this direction in pregame in the same fashion and knew what to expect…”, or something along those lines.  So Gano KNEW the adjustment he had to make and STILL did not make it?  Hard to fathom.

*Carolina punt coverage.  On the Jordan Norwood return specifically.  You think he calls fair catch.  But you don’t bother looking to see if he did?  And then you bump him before he catches the ball anyway?  Then no one tackles him right at the spot?  I’m still shaking my head over that one.

*Mike Carey.  This one needs no explanation.  Didn’t everyone know that whatever he said, the call on the field was going to be the opposite?

I could probably find more, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately.  I won’t be watching the tape again, so I’ll leave it at those…

I’d love to blame the officials.  But like I have previously said, that job is tough enough.  Could the Cotchery “catch” actually have been ruled a catch?  Sure.  But then again, he should have caught it cleanly in the first place and we wouldn’t even be talking about it.  One unsportsmanlike penalty on Aqib Talib, when he was jawing on the sideline, was questionable.  As was one on a Carolina DB (forget exactly who) when he knocked the ball out of Emmanuel Sanders hand after a catch.  Then when Talib had that blatant face mask penalty…there was some chatter of possibly tossing him from the game.  But, all in all, I don’t think the refs had any bearing on the game either way.

I’ll tell you two things I did like and that no one is talking about.  Kony Ealy.  3 sacks, an interception, a couple of QB hits, fumble recovery…I don’t know much about the guy.  But he had a monster game.  Second thing?  Some dude named Mario Addison.  Never heard of him.  But here is some monster defensive end flying downfield after Norwood on his punt return.  And then I watched him also jet after a receiver downfield from the line later in the game.  He may completely suck, for all I know.  But loved watching the big dude speed down the field on those occasions.

Let’s now break down the halftime show.  Ummmmm, nope…but that Bruno Mars can dance, no?!

Super Bowl? I guess…

…because I’m still irritated about the Patriot’s AFC Championship game loss.  Will I watch the Big Game?  Well, it starts in about 20 minutes, so I better hurry with this post if I want to.

Neither team interests me.  I, of course, don’t have a lot of love for the Denver Broncos.  But I can’t say I really care about the Carolina Panthers either.

I respect the history of the game and can see the significance of Peyton Manning going out on top…should he choose to retire of course.  He SHOULD retire, but you never know if one of these QB-needy teams wants him for next year.  You know, to put fans in the seats, not because he can still play at a high level.  Plus I believe there are a few records for Manning to still break.  In any event, there is probably a job for him in the NFL next year if he wants one.  The same might not be true for Johnny Football.  But that’s a different story…

Manning is one of the all-time greats of course, HGH or no HGH, but let’s not forget he played like 80% of his games indoors in ideal conditions.  Ok, that may have been a cheap shot, but it’s something that is overlooked when he is compared to any other all-time great.  Anyway, if Denver won and he went out a champion, I can see how this would be relevant.

Do I WANT this to happen?  HELL NO!!  My rooting interest would have to lie with the Panthers in this game.  Carolina has rolled through the playoffs thus far and have the capability to do it again tonight.  Will they?

I am not sure about that.  Here are some quick thoughts, in no particular order:

*Carolina is 17-1.  Awesome.  But it’s not like they faced a murderous schedule this year.  Division was terrible.  They played 4 games each against the NFC East and AFC South, the worst two divisions in the league.  Sure they essentially romped in their playoff games.  But they got out to quick leads and cruised from there.  Carson Palmer was playing hurt, which totally torpedoes the Cardinals.  Etc.

*Denver had two weeks to prepare for the Panthers.

*Denver has been here before.  Yes, they got walloped.  But a lot of the dudes are going to remember that.  And probably handled preparation and all very differently this time.

*Is Carolina just happy to be here?  Who knows?  But it could be a factor.

*No weather issues for Peyton Manning.

*The Broncos have a top D.  With the two weeks, they may have found a way to stop Cam Newton.

*The fact that everyone expected Carolina to be here all along and that there were some doubters on Denver’s ability to get here as the regular season progressed.  And then Denver not necessarily playing smooth games against Pittsburgh or New England.  And Denver being a significant underdog in the betting world for the Super Bowl.

*The whole “Manning going out a winner” thing and how it relates to history as described above.

The game is about to start.  All of the above leads me to believe…Denver, 23-17.  I know, disgusting.  But it’s just a feeling.  Hopefully it doesn’t mean jack…

Should Bill Belichick be fired?

Made you look!  The answer is…of course not!  That would be colossally stupid on the part of Robert Kraft and the New England Patriot organization.

I have to tell you though, some of the coaching decisions made since the team started out 10-0 this year have left me scratching my head.  Based on reactions from the general public discussed in print, talk radio, donut shops and everywhere else, I am not alone.

We all know Bill is an arrogant S.O.B. (my Steeler, Giant and Jet “friends”, among others, remind me of this often).  There are certainly times he acts as if he is smarter than everyone else.  I will allow for that.  The fact is, he IS often smarter than everyone else.  But the last 2 months or so, he may have just been outsmarting himself.

Look, the better team won this past Sunday.  Well, the Denver Broncos were/are not necessarily the better team overall, but they sure as hell were a few days ago.  There is no disputing that fact.  The Pats played about as poorly overall as I can remember them ever playing…in the Brady/Belichick era, that is.  They of course played much worse during the Rod Rust season and several other prior years as a whole.  We don’t need to be reminded of that.  Or actually, do we?  The Pats have been generally great for a couple of decades now.  Too many people have forgotten what a doormat this franchise was for its first 3-4 decades of its existence.  But I digress…

The Broncos were a big part of the reason the Pats played poorly.  Many locals are overlooking that fact.  The makeshift offensive line had absolutely no answer for their pass rush.  Even if they did provide Brady more time, would he have been able to find Julian Edelman more?  Not sure.  Chris Harris Jr. seemed to have Jules under wraps.  And the complete non-existence of a rushing game made it possible for the Broncos to just completely play the pass.  I’m not one of these guys that thinks it’s necessary to “ground and pound” and to have complete 50/50 pass/run balance.  But 70/30 maybe?  75/25?  Not 100/0 or 95/5, which is what the Patriots had Sunday.  Absolutely no one had any fear of Steven Jackson, Brandon Bolden or James White rushing the ball (I wouldn’t either).  So the Broncos could tee off on Brady.  Would LeGarrette Blount have made a difference?  Not necessarily, but more than the aforementioned three.  Dion Lewis may have.  Either way, it would have been nice to have SOMETHING back there.

Back to Bill and his decisions though.  As poorly as the Patriots played, my feeling is that if the game was in Foxborough, they would have won…by double digits at least.  As soon as they lost the last regular season to an inept Miami Dolphin team, I was lamenting the fact that they would have to go through Denver to get to the Super Bowl again.  Sorry, I was not buying the Steelers, Texans, Chiefs or Bengals (especially without Andy Dalton) as real competition.  It is well chronicled how the Patriots and Brady have struggled there historically.  It’s just a place that a lot of teams do not want to play at.  Knowing this as well as he surely knows it, why did Bill not fight harder for the #1 seed?

Let’s look back at specific decisions by Bill that still get under my skin.  And I can assure you, they did very much at the time too:

*Having a rookie (Chris Harper) who barely plays return punts in the hostile environment of Denver in the 4th quarter with a 2 TD lead.  Sure, no Edelman or Danny Amendola took away your first (and maybe only reliable) options.  But Keshawn Martin had plenty of experience (though not here…as of that point) returning punts.  Patrick Chung also had caught one previous punt in the game.  Harper had juggled a punt or two beforehand.  SOMEONE just catching the punt and then running a few plays taking some time off the clock…maybe ices the game.  A mistake may kill you.  It did…or helped immensely anyway.  Don’t put the kid in that position.

*Rugby kicks against the Philadelphia Eagles.  Yup, that’s “kicks” in plural.  Up 2 TD’s against a team that was about to quit on not only the game, but the season.  No need to screw around.  Play it straight and all the other crap that happened in the game doesn’t happen.

*Deferring the kickoff in OT against the Jets.  Sometimes if the weather is a factor, this may actually be a good move.  It worked for Belichick in the past.  But no need to do it in this instance.  The weather wasn’t a factor.  And…IT’S THE FREAKIN’ JETS!!  I don’t care what their record was this year and that they almost made the playoffs.  They still suck.  And proved it by losing the last regular season game the following week to the Bills to eliminate themselves from the playoffs.  Take the ball.

*EVERYTHING against the Dolphins.  Terrible team, lame duck coach, cornerback’s wife ripping the QB, one foot on the bus for the winter, etc.  I don’t care if Miami has also been a difficult locale for the Pats historically.  This game should have been a cakewalk, especially considering the circumstances.  What the hell was the game plan?  It was like they were trying not to win.  Consistently running the ball into a brick wall?  I get giving Jackson some carries to see where he was at.  But only 5 passes in the first half?  A lot of injured players sat out.  Fine.  But if your goal was to protect injuries, why were Brady, Gronk, McCourty, Chung and other key or banged up guys out there for the whole game?  Granted you can’t sit everyone, someone has to play.  But in this case, absolutely not Brady or Gronk and maybe others.  This whole game plan was just mystifying to me.

*Last Sunday.  Winning the toss and NOT deferring surprised me, but I was ok with that actually.  Theoretically going down and scoring right off the bat would have been beneficial, no doubt.  But Malcolm Butler seemingly playing 20 yards off Emmanuel Sanders on an early third and long to prolong a drive?  Not kicking a field goal with about 6 minutes left to cut the lead to 5?  Seemingly not helping out the overwhelmed offensive line?  It’s not Bill’s fault Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point for the first time in 45 years, but a lot of the small decisions after that just added up.

Of course, coming up with second guesses after the fact is pretty easy.  But I think a lot of people were in the same boat as the plays/games were actually happening.  Like…what is Bill thinking?  I mean, if Bill gets a ton of credit for not taking a timeout before Butler’s interception in the Super Bowl last year…inexplicably letting the clock run down as people like myself were screaming at the TV to take the timeout…and then it works out and it looks like he is a genius, shouldn’t he take some heat for some of these decisions that didn’t work out and look even worse after the fact?  No, certainly not to fire him.  But make him a little more accountable?  Usually, as long as the Pats win, Bill can be as big an arsehole as he wants and generally owes no one any explanations.  That’s pretty much how I feel.  This time just feels different…

Especially since within the last couple of days a couple of assistant coaches got canned.  So they were the problem?  Dave Deguglielmo (yup, I just looked up the proper spelling) may have had tough shoes to fill after Dante Scarnecchia’s departure.  And maybe he does suck as a OL coach.  What do I know?  But here’s what I do know:  the OL was in shambles from Day One this year.  Last year’s Super Bowl winning line?  Nate Solder only played a handful of games.  Dan Connolly retired.  Bryan Stork played less than a half a season.  Ryan Wendell played 13 SNAPS.  Sebastian Vollmer played most of the year, but some at the opposite tackle, and some he was clearly banged up.  Throw in a few rookies in Shaq Mason, David Andrews and Tre’ Jackson getting tons of snaps.  Starters for most of the year, but better suited as backups in Josh Kline and Marcus Cannon (if EVEN a backup for Cannon).  Practice squad guys like Cameron Fleming playing key roles at times.  Centers playing tackle for the first time ever (Stork)…and on and on and on…yikes!!  How was the sieve that was the OL all “Gug’s” fault?  Bill gave him the players.  And then some of the better ones were hurt.

Maybe the injuries were too much?  We will never know.  We do know a great deal of the team was hurting.  But how bad?  This is where Bill could come clean a little more now.  There are no more games and he doesn’t have to be secretive anymore.  Yes, I know that if he/the team are honest, people will look at it as them making excuses.  Since every NFL team has many players playing hurt.  But we’d all love to know.  After all, Jerod Mayo’s “shoulder” injury apparently was a torn pectoral muscle.  Sssssssoooo…who else was that bad?

Regardless, the season is over.  All in all, I suppose it was a good one.  But…can both teams lose in the Super Bowl now?

 

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