Mike Tomlin Trusts His Gut (Again), Fails (Again)

Bruce Arians is far from perfect. But since Mike Tomlin ran Arians out of Pittsburgh, Arians has proven he’s one of the better minds in the game. Last year, he offered this quote: “I quit trusting my gut a long time ago. That sumbitch has been lying to me forever.”

But who’s a famous gut-truster? Mike Tomlin, whose gut musta laid a few bucks on the Ravens to win outright last night. How to explain NOT giving the ball to Le’Veon Bell on two key plays? Nants and Simms are stupid, they were saying Tomlin should send his terrible kicker out to miss another FG. But Tomlin, with the game on the line, repeatedly ran plays without even a FAKE to Bell. On the last bad idea play, Bell wasn’t even in the backfield.

Mike Tomlin has been making idiotic decisions since his first year. I don’t care if he’s been the HC of a SB winning team, they’ve won what they won in spite of him, and he’s run two of the best minds of the past twenty years (Arians and LeBeau) out of town.

But, as Nantz and Simms explained on the broadcast, Tomlin goes with his gut.

His wallet is glad his gut seemingly can’t get him fired. I don’t know if the Rooneys are just asleep at the wheel while the money rolls in or if they are afraid of a race-based lawsuit. No other reasons can explain NOT firing Tomlin. The man who has challenged opening kickoffs, and gotten in the way of opposing players because he, ahem, lost track of where he was, gave a game away to a division rival. He lost to the Ravens the last time he played them, in Pittsburgh in January, and yet he didn’t seem to think they were capable of beating him.

Somehow, the QB being an accused rapist is the least offensive thing about the Steelers’s decision-making.

As for X’s and O’s, the Steelers DC Keith “Don’t Cover Gronk” Butler ran a great trap coverage that produced a Flacco INT. Flacco proved (as most QBs do) that somehow Tom Brady is a master of the QB sneak but Flacco can’t get out of his own way.

I’m not sure what the Ravens defense was doing, they didn’t do well against Bell but they convinced Tomlin to not give the ball to Bell with the game on the line, so maybe it was voodoo.

Who’s worse at understanding their own protection calls – Joe Flacco or Matthew Stafford? I’m not sure. But like Stafford, Flacco seems to often have no clue what’s happening. The Steelers ran CB blitzes on back-to-back 3rd and 4th downs with the game on the line, and Flacco didn’t see either one.

But Flacco’s team won, because Mike Tomlin was on the other sideline, busy screwing himself, gut-first.

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Season Preview Delayed

Don’t cry, I’m trying to add lots of pictures. But at least we have real football today.

Lots of ignorance in the pregame, plus Bob Costas. Hardly any football discussion.

Here’s a prediction. Belichick will outcoach Tomlin, it might rain some or a lot, and we won’t learn much, because it’s just the first game of the season.

I just hope Tomlin doesn’t challenge the opening kickoff. Baby steps to being a decent coach. He’s now run off BOTH Bruce Arians and Dick LeBeau. That Steeler job security is something special!

I’ll try to look at the X’s and O’s of the game tomorrow.

 

Dispatches on the Seahawks “Pick/Slant” Concept

The haters and doubters (most football fans and most football writers) still think Bill Belichick got lucky at the end of the Super Bowl after not calling a timeout. Part of their argument is “he couldn’t have known” the pick/slant play was coming. Here’s visual proof he could easily know it. The Seahawks ran the play many times thru the 2014 season.  The inside receiver (always aligned on the line of scrimmage) would adjust his route based on the DB depth and coverage, but the outside receiver (always aligned off the line of scrimmage) would always run a slant underneath it.

Like in the Super Bowl, it was almost always:

  • red zone and/or two-minute drill
  • 11 personnel
  • with Lynch offset to the opposite side of the field

Even when a RB or TE would replace one or both WR in the pick/slant (for instance the TE/RB combo in the Broncos game) it was still 11 personnel.

Week 3 versus the Denver Broncos. Red zone. 11 personnel. A 3×2 formation with trips bunched to the left. Two minute drill in the red zone. Wilson in shotgun, 2 players away from the formation running a pick/slant route combo (bottom of the screen):

SEAvDENpickslant

and then, the slant wide open for the touchdown:

SEAvDENpickslant2

This, below, is the best one. Week 6 versus Dallas Cowboys. Just like the SB, it’s 1. Red zone;  2. 11 personnel;  3. Stacked WRs to the QB’s right;  4. RB offset left. The DBs are stacked like in the SB, but they don’t jam. Wilson in shotgun, 2 players away from the formation running a pick/slant route combo (top of the screen):

SEAvDALstackslant

route developing…

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unchallenged catch…

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at the moment of the catch, the receiver two yards past the LOS. This play against this coverage in the Super Bowl would have resulted in a catch one yard into the end zone.

SEAvDALstackslant4

The following game, Week 7 versus the St. Louis Rams. Red zone. 11 personnel. RB offset to opposite side. Wilson in shotgun, 2 players away from the formation running a pick/slant route combo (top of screen) :

SEAvSTLpickslant

route developing, outside corner not in position to stop the slant…

SEAvSTLpickslant2

The other DB is prepared, though, and Wilson can’t throw it.

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Wilson throws incomplete to the pick route receiver.

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Later in the game. Two-minute drill on the edge of red zone. 11 personnel. RB offset to the opposite side. Wilson in shotgun, 2 players away from the formation running a pick/slant route combo (top of screen):

SEAvSTLsecpickslant

Boom.

SEAvSTLsecpickslant2

Later in the same possession. Two-minute drill in the red zone. 11 personnel. 3×2 formation this time (maybe Bevell thought that was an unpredictable twist?). Wilson in shotgun, 2 players away from the formation running a pick/slant route combo (bottom of screen):

SEAvSTLthirdpickslant

Here it comes!

SEAvSTLthirdpickslant2

Wilson is pressured and can’t throw it.

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The following game, Week 8 versus the Carolina Panthers. Two-minute drill at the edge of the red zone. 11 personnel. RB offset to the opposite side. Wilson in shotgun, 2 players away from the formation running a pick/slant route combo (top of the screen):

SEAvCARpickslant

WIDE OPEN:

SEAvCARpickslant2

Week 11 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Two-minute drill. Red zone. 11 personnel. Wilson in shotgun, RB offset strong, 2 receivers to the weak side, pick slant on weak side of formation (top of screen):

SEAvKCpickslant2

With the Chiefs not jamming, Wilson throws it to the over route.

SEAvKCpickslant3

Week 16 versus the Arizona Cardinals. Two-minute drill. 11 personnel. RB offset to the opposite side. Wilson in shotgun, 2 players away from the formation running a pick/slant route combo (top of screen):

SEAvARIpickslant

Wilson looks only to the slant, then has to pull the ball down due to pressure.

SEAvARIpickslant2

I’m not claiming the pick/slant is the Seahawks only pass play. I’m not even ripping them for loving the pick/slant. It’s a popular concept for a reason. Every team has their favorite concepts in the running game and passing game. When Wilson isn’t under center the Seahawks run some trips open, some trips closed, even pistol. They’ll use motion, stacks, bunches. But the 2x side of a shotgun in 11 personnel in the red zone at the end of a game basically assured the defense of a pick/slant. Once the Seahawks lined up, the Patriots counted on defending the pick/slant to the point that any other pass play probably scores.

Hell, the Seahawks SHOULD have been predictable. They just should have been predictable at their strength: Beast Mode runs. I’d have lined up in 2-back personnel and run power. They’d done it 6 times for 28 yards in the Super Bowl. The gains had ranged from 1 yard to 14. And inside the 1, with a championship on the line, they didn’t seem to even consider it.

Thoughts on SB XLIX Coaching, Unabridged!

THE APOTHEOSIS OF BELICHICK:

THE DEFINITIVE BREAKDOWN OF THE END OF SUPER BOWL X LIX 

Pay attention and we can get through this. It’s wordy, but it’s simple.

Let’s first focus on Marshawn Lynch’s short-yardage touchdown in the first half. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn something about the end of the game.

Situation: The Seahawks had a 2nd and 6 at the Patriots 7 yard line.

Personnel: The Seahawks used 21 personnel. 2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR

The Patriots countered with a base 34 with 2 corners and 2 safeties. The safeties were near the linebackers, giving a “9 in the box” look.

1sthalf2nd5

Result: The Seahawks ran for four yards, leading to the following play:

Situation: The Seahawks had a 3rd and 2 at the Patriots 3 yard line.

Personnel: The Seahawks went from 21 to 11 personnel. 1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR

The Patriots countered with a 4-2 nickel with 3 corners and 2 safeties, with 7 in the box:

1sthalf3rd2

Result: With Wilson in the gun and Lynch to his left, Seattle’s typical zone-read look… Lynch crossed in front of Wilson, got the handoff, ran around the right end AND SCORED A TOUCHDOWN.

Seattle won the matchup and Belichick paid attention. That will matter later!

There aren’t many good football writers, and some of the few (Bill Barnwell, Andy Benoit, Benjamin Morris) are writing that Belichick should have called a timeout before the Seahawks 2nd and 1. This is a case of smart people being too stubborn for real analysis and treating every game the same instead of evaluating the situation in THAT game. In most games, Belichick should call a timeout there, and he would have. But in THIS situation, Belichick knew to hold his water and NOT call it. Sure, there’d be more time on the clock. But that’s not the only thing that matters. A better chance of winning is what matters.

Remembering the first half Lynch TD sequence, appreciate the coaching adjustment:

Situation: The Seahawks had first and goal at the 5 with 1:06 remaining and one timeout.

Personnel: The Seahawks used 21 personnel. 2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR (same as first half)

The Patriots countered with the same base 3-4 with 2 corners and 2 safeties “9 in the box” look they used in the first half. Look at it, it’s not only the same personnel group in the same formation, it’s the same players!:

2ndhalf_1stGend2

The Seahawks are in a varation of the same formation, a Pro Set I. Same running gaps, with the tight end on the line tight to the left side.

Result: The Seahawks ran successfully, getting four yards (same as the last time).

In the screenshot below, you can see that the Patriots, while focusing on a Lynch power run, are prepared for Wilson to play-fake and either bootleg out or throw the slant. Even on this play, Seattle had 2 WRs stacked to the right. Ninkovich (50) has containment on Wilson, Revis (24) is prepared for the slant to Baldwin, with McCourty (32) underneath to help. Browner is jamming just as well as he did on the following play.

previousplay

Lynch was tackled at the 1, due mostly to an incredible block-shedding effort from Dont’a Hightower. The whistle blew with 1:01 on the clock, so let’s assume Belichick gets the timeout at 1:00. And hell, we’ve all seen enough football, let’s say he DID call the timeout. The Seahawks, realizing they have an abundance of time, would either:

  • run the read option (advantage Seahawks)
  • go Jumbo personnel and run power (advantage Seahawks)
  • go Jumbo personnel and run a bootleg (advantage Seahawks)
  • spread out and take advantage of the Patriots linebackers in coverage. On that very possession, Lynch had beaten Collins on a slant-and-go that Chris Collinsworth inexplicably called a wheel route (advantage Seahawks)

And remember, they get THREE CHANCES. Odds are, the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, convincing idiots everywhere that Belichick “did the right thing” by calling a timeout.

This is where Belichick took over, by doing something unexpected and by NOT doing something expected. As the Seahawks followed a 21 personnel I-formation 4 yard power run against a base 34 defense by subbing to 11 personnel – expecting Belichick to counter with his nickel that he used in the first half – Belichick instead sent out an overloaded goal line defense and DIDN’T call timeout. He sent 4 big defensive tackles (Wilfork, Siliga, Branch, Chris Jones), 4 DE/LB types (Chandler Jones, Ninkovich, Hightower, Collins), and 3 cornerbacks (Revis, Browner, Butler). Zero safeties. BTW this can’t be seen on the TV broadcast because NBC showed close-ups of Pete Carroll and then Bill Belichick, as if they were Johnny Unitas and Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday. SHOW THE FIELD! Fans can be forgiven for not understanding what happened because NBC DIDN’T SHOW IT.

Belichick knew:

  • the Seahawks had Marshawn Lynch, the best power runner in the NFL
  • the Patriots had the worst power run defense in the NFL
  • the Seahawks had three wide receivers (wrong for power running) on the field
  • the Patriots had three cornerbacks on the field to cover the WRs
  • the clock was running and the Seahawks had only one timeout

Which meant that on 2nd down against heavy defensive personnel, confused and seeing a ticking clock, the Seahawks might overthink. CHECK

And they might throw the ball. CHECK

Using a predictable pick/slant two-man route combination. CHECKMATE

The Patriots knew what was coming AND that calling a timeout would cause the Seahawks to change it. Why call a timeout to put the Seahawks in better position? The Patriots ran that same play in practice, because they’re prepared. Unprepared teams panic and call timeout there. Unprepared writers agree, but that’s their mistake, not Belichick’s.

Seeing the oversized defensive front, Bevell/Carroll send in the pass play (a play that according to Russell Wilson doesn’t give him the opportunity for checking out of).

The Seahawks break the huddle with :38 on the game clock, :17 on the play clock. The defense is fine, reading the formation, and at :15 on the play clock the quarterback’s headset automatically switches off.

huddle

The TV broadcast cuts to the wide view at :33 and :12. In the screenshot below you can see the stack forming. Belichick knows he’s got what he wants, it’s just up to Browner and Butler to make a play.

stackforming

With :31 on the game clock and :10 on the play clock, Wilson tells Lynch and Baldwin where to line up. By the snap, Lynch will be to Wilson’s left. Look at the stack at the bottom of the screen. The Patriots WANT it thrown there. The corners are ready and Baldwin hasn’t even lined up (in the below screenshot he’s behind the right tackle; at the snap, he was on the left side of the formation).

31and10left

Just after the snap (Browner already has his hands on Kearse)…

jam3

…and then (Browner still jamming, Lockette faking outside, Butler not biting)…

jam2

…and just before the throw (Butler already driving on the ball)

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The three defenders at the top of the screen (Chandler Jones on Lynch…Jaime Collins on the TE…Revis on WR Baldwin) are all playing pass. The two at the bottom are playing the pick/slant, without help. Hightower is also playing pass, without knowing the call it’s hard to say but it looks as if he’s got in-breaking routes; maybe Lynch if Lynch breaks inside on an angle route, maybe disrupting Baldwin on a crosser so the ref can’t pick Revis? Either way, at the snap he starts to the strong side, watches Wilson then steps towards the throw. Wilson decided pre-snap that he’d throw the slant. Brandon Browner gets his hands on Kearse by the time Wilson gets the snap. Wilson’s throw being a bit late (according to some) or Lockette’s route-running being a bit off (according to some) is irrelevant, as the play’s design depends mostly on Kearse cutting off Butler. Kearse fails and Butler breaks on the slant before it’s thrown, with a clear path to the ball. If Lockette is running a whirl or fade it’s an easy TD. But he’s not. He’s running what the Patriots want him to run, where they want him to run it, when they want him to run it. Thems the breaks!

If ANYONE should have called a timeout, it’s SEATTLE. “Oh no,” scream the ignorant masses, “they only had one left.” No matter. They were down by 4 so they didn’t need to save one for a FG. By calling the timeout at 1:00, they’d have plenty of time for three running plays, or two running plays and a wacky pass play. Three plays from the one yard line, with the best power running back in the NFL, against the worst power running defense in the NFL? The parade would be in Seattle instead of Boston.

A lot of people are saying that pass play made sense. Sure, 100 or so passes had been thrown at the one yard line this season, with zero intercepted. But how many of those were by a great running team against the worst run defense and best coach ever? That number is far from 100. In fact, it’s ZERO. Marshawn Lynch [according to stats that should be ignored] is “not good” from the one yard line. Those stats aren’t against the worst run defense. If you’re crazy enough to throw it there, run read option play-action and throw it to the outside. If you (for some ridiculous reason) don’t want to play-fake, fine, Marshawn Lynch has his man beat. If you want to throw it, lob it to Lynch for a TD. It’s still stupid, an unnecessary risk, but it woulda worked.

Or just run it and win the Super Bowl. Dance with who brung ya, and all that jazz!

Some post-game quotes make it even worse for the Seahawks:

Pete Carroll said “One of those plays, you knew you were gonna have to throw it because you need to stop the clock so you can get the other two plays run.” THIS IS NONSENSE. You don’t “have to” or “need to” run the clock from 1:00 to :26! For instance, even without calling a timeout, you can run a play at :40 or so. If it’s a run, and it fails to get the ONE YARD, you can run again at :15 or so, and if you still fail (odds are by now you’d have a TD) you can call your final timeout and run or throw on 4th down. If the Eagles and Patriots can run a play ten to fifteen seconds after the previous play, the Seahawks can too. Instead they used 35 seconds! THIRTY-FIVE SECONDS.

Russell Wilson said, “On that play, there wasn’t really a check out of it…I thought it was going to be a touchdown.” WHAT?! On the 1 yard line with the Super Bowl hanging in the balance, Bevell and Carroll called a play that doesn’t allow the quarterback to make a check at the line?! Not even for a read option? I’m just gonna move on, because this is inexplicable. It’s the NFL – EVERY PLAY SHOULD HAVE A CHECK.

Another thing Carroll said, “That was a miraculous play [by Butler].” It was NOT miraculous, it was classic Belichick. A ballsy call based on film study. He’s been doing that since the 1980s. Westward the wagons! As Belichick said during the game, as aired on Inside the NFL, “There’s no new plays.” The Seahawks were running exactly what the Patriots expected all game. It was just a matter of execution.

If you’re a Seahawks fan or an idiot, Belichick shoulda called a timeout and hurt his team. If you understand football personnel and situations, Belichick did his job. Belichick wasn’t dumb enough to counter the Seahawks 11 personnel with another destined-to-fail nickel package, or call a timeout so the Seahawks could insert their jumbo personnel and win. He not only went bigger, he went way bigger. Not to stop a run, but to prevent a run call. Belichick isn’t banking on an interception. He’s simply hoping to face 1 or 2 or 3 pass plays, instead of watching Marshawn Lynch run for a touchdown. That’s why he’s the best head coach in football history. And to quote the best, “When you get wet, it usually means something good.”

bbgatoraded

Three more things Belichick knew:

1. Pete Carroll has a reputation for being “Big Balls Pete,” but most of the time he’s among the most conservative coaches, only breaking the pattern to make stupid mistakes. In the 2006 NCAA National Championship game, Pete went for a 4th and 2 at the end to ice the game. That part of the decision was correct. But in doing so, he kept his best player (Reggie Bush) on the sidelines, and ran a predictable running play up the middle with a less-talented player. He did exactly what the defense expected him to do. It was nuts, it failed, and Pete’s team lost. Contrary to what Split Enz told you, sometimes history does repeat.

2. Pete Carroll was scared of scoring too fast because of what happened in the 2012 playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons. He was overthinking instead of being prepared. He was trying to outsmart Belichick, when Belichick had already outsmarted Carroll.

3. Darrell Bevell has a tendency to call a pass play when a run would win. In that 2010 game, with 19 seconds left, needing only a FG, Bevell ran exactly what the Saints defense expected. It is hilarious that people forget these things so quickly, maybe even Bevell forgot. Belichick doesn’t forget. That’s why he’s renaming his boat again.

In short, Carroll and Bevell not only failed to learn from the past, they failed to learn from their past(s).

BRIEFLY, ON COACHING UNRELATED TO THE FINAL SEAHAWKS PLAY

Patriots Offense versus Seahawks Defense:

Failure to adjust the defensive game plan backfired on the Seahawks. Brady was 13 for 15 in the 4th; he was 21 of 23 for 170 yards and 3 TD when his first read was open. Make him go to his second read! Get him off his spot! It’s like nobody told Tharold “Not Harold” Simon to watch out for Edelman on the whirl route. The Patriots missed the first one, but not the second. The zone blitz late in the fourth with Dobbs dropping into coverage? Probably the easiest crossing route Brady threw all year. The pass rush was largely a one-man show, and once Michael Bennett was gassed, Brady got comfortable. A lot of people think it’s an excuse that Cliff Avril left the game injured, but football players always get injured. If the Seahawks hadn’t overpaid Sherman, they could have had the same great pass rush as last year, with Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. Instead, it was a one man show all year. It finally caught up to them, facing 52 pass plays (50 attempts plus 1 sack and 1 penalty) after the Seahawks only faced an average of 31 pass plays per game during the season. Most of the pass rushes were stunts, which take longer to develop. Against a quarterback who gets rid of the ball quickly, this makes no sense. It’s a bad game plan AND terrible lack of adjustment. One great call: Brady’s first interception, a great stunt by Bennett and a rare quarters coverage by the Seahawks.

Patriots Defense versus Seahawks Offense:

The Seahawks disappointing offensive game plan featured the same plays they ran all year, power runs for Lynch combined with isolation routes out of spread formations. The Patriots were one of the worst teams at defending tight ends; the Seahawks threw ZERO passes to their tight end. The Patriots mostly played man, altering their pass rushes, with Hightower spying in early downs and McCourty spying on 3rd downs, usually in a Cover 1 Robber. The Patriots used base 3-4, different nickels, and a heavy dime package. They usually put their defensive tackles in the B gaps, but other times they’d rush a defensive tackle wide. Even Vince Wilfork! They had, at various times, 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 players in the box. When faced with a read option look, the Patriots simply kept a defensive end out wide so that Wilson would hand it off. The Seahawks only ran a few, and didn’t seem to consider it at the end.

Carroll gets points for aggressiveness and smarts at the end of the first half, but that’s about it. Most teams would have kicked the FG with :06 on the clock. Knowing he had time for two snaps, Carroll got a touchdown on a quick pass. Congrats, bro! (EDITOR: Oops! On Wednesday it was revealed that Pete DIDN’T know he had time, that Russell Wilson convinced him to throw with :06 left. Just shows we should never give Carroll the benefit of the doubt.)

Overall:

Most of the game was dictated by gameplans and injuries, with no crucial coaching decisions to be evaluated. The Patriots dinked and dunked like they have since Randy Moss left, with no success in the running game but none required, while the Seahawks did what the Seahawks do. I’d have liked to see Carroll show a 6 man blitz to Brady, to force Vereen and/or Gronk to stay in and block, put Sherman on Edelman, with four defenders to cover the other two receivers. That wasn’t done even once. That’s a high school caliber adjustment. Maybe even junior varsity. Many people say the Seahawks had no more defensive backs. But when Belichick faces that problem, he makes adjustments anyway, like a coach is supposed to. An Edelman in coverage here, a Troy Brown in coverage there. Maybe a double A gap blitz, also not seen from the Seahawks. The Patriots mixed personnel and formations as always, with the only real adjustment being Brandon Browner replacing Kyle Arrington in covering Chris Matthews.

If Russell Wilson doesn’t burn the Seahawks first timeout with 1:50 remaining and the clock already stopped, the Seahawks have TWO left at the end, and have no need to throw. The biggest timeout debate should center around that, not Belichick’s decision, which is obvious to anyone with enough football knowledge. Wilson took that timeout to avoid a 5 yard penalty. On a drive in which he had plays of 31 yards and 33 yards, 5 extra yards is nothing to fear, and certainly nothing to waste a valuable time out on.

But I digress…before you claim “hater,” understand that I like Pete Carroll. Compared to most NFL coaches, he is – to use the parlance of our times – fucking brilliant. But not brilliant enough. Not for nothing did Robert Kraft fire Pete Carroll so he could hire Bill Belichick.

note: all screenshots are from NFL Game Rewind, as per usual…

Happy Superb Owl Weekend, Everyone!

“We just want the truth.”

-Roger Goodell, today, with a haughty expression on his ginger face

Why would anyone care about the truth in a sport built on deception? Hell if I know. Two weeks into Ballgazi/Deflategate/The Ballocaust, with by my count THREE worthwhile football articles amid thousands of worthless ones, I’m despondent.

Now we’ve heard from the great and powerful Rog, and he basically had nothing to say other than things like “We have the best partners in media,” and “I’d like to thank, of course, [Arizona?] Governor Ducey, who I had the pleasure of having dinner with last night.” I realize it’s easy to think of yourself as a great commissioner when one sport is run by Bud Selig and the other by whomever replaced David F Stern, but seriously? I hate name-calling, but this guy’s a moron. Or at least he’s dumb enough to think everyone else is a moron. The least surprising thing about Goodell is that he once worked for the Jets.

“We are in a good place in knowing and learning and being more human.”

“More Human Than Human” reference? Rob Zombie would be proud.

The three articles, in case you’re wondering:

Matt Bowen’s Super Bowl Film Study here

Bill Barnwell’s Preview here

Chris Brown’s Bill Belichick piece here

That’s it. I was hoping Greg Cosell would write a piece, and maybe he did, but I haven’t seen it. I saw a good piece on Vince Wilfork and a good one on Marshawn, but neither of those got into the real x’s and o’s of it. The state of football writing is so pitiful that THIS piece is one of the best for simply not bullshitting you into thinking less pressurized footballs matter or that the Seahawks players’ faith in God will help or hinder. If Jesus himself climbed down off that cross, he’d still have a bitch of a time dealing with Rob Gronkowski running the seam, am i rite?

So here’s my take, put online so I can be humiliated by friend and foe when I’m wrong, because football is nearly impossible to predict.

I think the Patriots will win because they can afford to put 8 in the box, while the Seahawks cannot. If the Seahawks put 8 in the box, Brady will audible, and it’ll be pitch and catch. How good was Tom Brady against the Ravens when the defense showed him too much info and he could just check to a quick pass? 22 for 22 for 209 yards and 3 touchdowns. THAT’S INSANE. I think the Patriots will find a way to get Shane Vereen or Julian Edelman or Tim Wright or god knows who open in space against linebackers. On D, if someone can spy Wilson while another guy covers the wheel route, Revis and McCourty should be taking away the other threats.

This game has some of the best players we’ll ever see, from Brady to Gronk, centerfielder Earl Thomas to soul-eating Kam Chancellor, stiff-arming Beast Mode to two-gapping mofo Vince Wilfork. Hopefully they’ll all shine. You want a score? Fine. Patriots 33, Seahawks 24.

But hey, it’s football. Barring an injury to a key player, it’ll probably come down to:

1. turnovers

2. red zone TDs

3. drops (dropped conversion for the offense or dropped INT for the defense)

That’s what makes it so maddening. All of those things are both the product of hard work, and yet random. And that’s why coaches and players search for any edge they can get. And that is why, whatever is going on with the footballs (about which there should be few rules other than the general prolate spheroid shape), Roger Goodell should stop looking for the goddamn truth and let us enjoy what’s left of the sport he’s trying to destroy. That sport that’s built on violence and gambling, with strategy to make the violence and gambling both more fun and more difficult. The greatest sport in the greatest country on the greatest planet. Or something like that.

AMERICAN TACKLE FOOTBALL.

Just fucking enjoy it, the last of the roman numeral Superb Owls.