It’s 2015 (or 1864) all over again for Atlanta, the Patriots & the NFL

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It's 2015 (or 1864) all over again for Atlanta, the Patriots & the NFL

That’s why you play till the end

Tom Brady

Sun­day night I was watch­ing super­bowl with my wife before going to work. Each time Atlanta made a big play she was beside her­self and we were see­ing a lot of tweets like this:

which required this response

By the third quar­ter a lot of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly on the left were crow­ing as if the game was over.

and I felt com­pelled to edit my sched­uled post for Mon­day morn­ing before I left for work to say the fol­low­ing:

When I started this post in the Am on Sun­day the ques­tion was can the Atlanta Fal­cons and Roger Good­ell will be able to take sanc­tu­ary from Tom Brady but more impor­tantly for the NFL will be a sanc­tu­ary from the polit­i­cal con­flicts for those who love the game. As I update this in the 3rd quar­ter with Atlanta lead­ing by 25 so Roger Good­ell is likely danc­ing in the streets but more impor­tantly Lady Gaga decided her songs were lib­eral enough so she decided to shut up and sing mean­ing that the NFL was able to get sanc­tu­ary from the left mean­ing foot­ball fans won’t have to take sanc­tu­ary from the game.

Frankly if Brady & the pats were not play­ing I wouldn’t give a damn and if it wasn’t Brady on that field I’d con­sider this game over.

And to most fans watch­ing the game WAS already over:

then Atlanta came back in the third quar­ter to score again on Matt Ryan’s pass to Tevin Cole­man to make the Fal­cons’ lead 283 and, like every­body else watch­ing the Super Bowl, I said, “Well, that’s the game— Atlanta wins.”
Nobody has ever come back to win the Super Bowl after trail­ing by 25 points…
This is how stereo­types work, you see. It is entirely nat­ural to believe that the future will resem­ble the past, because that’s what usu­ally happens.

And to be fair assum­ing that the Fal­cons would hold on given the facts in evi­dence at the time was just as ratio­nal an excep­tion as was the expec­ta­tion by most foot­ball peo­ple before the game that the Patri­ots would win in.

How­ever there was more than a full quar­ter of time left on the Clock and the 2016 New Eng­land Patri­ots didn’t need a long mem­ory to recall what hap­pens when you think a game is not over until it is:

Bill Belichick is think­ing the oppo­site. His team already has taken the lead and if Seat­tle wants it they’ll have to take it back. He isn’t using a time out in the hopes of pre­serv­ing time for Tom Brady to take back the lead, he’s count­ing on his defense to hold it.

And when the snap is made Mal­colm But­ler, the same fel­low who stopped Kearse from scor­ing two plays ear­lier rec­og­nizes the play and mus­cles his way for­ward to inter­cept the ball and give the Patri­ots the ball on their own 1 yard line with 20 sec­onds to go.

But even then, no mat­ter what the high­light reels are show­ing, the game is NOT over and the Patri­ots under­stand this.

There is lit­tle or no space for Brady to take a knee and if he is brought down in the end zone not only is it a safety mak­ing the score 2826 but the same Seat­tle team that drove down the field at the end of the 2nd quar­ter would just have to get within field goal range for a chance to win.

Mean­while Seat­tle was in the same spot New Eng­land was in a mere 46 sec­onds ear­lier. They had been kicked in the chest by a stun­ning rever­sal. But unlike New Eng­land who put it behind them and got down to busi­ness Seat­tle did not.

The Patri­ots real­ized that there was plenty of time left on the clock but more impor­tantly despite the lead the Atlanta defense which had to this point, been play­ing far beyond their nor­mal level had been on the field a lot and was tired.

So rather than going through the motions as if the game was already over they played as if the game was on the line.

That the Atlanta defense was winded and were not able to hold on was not a sur­prise, but there are two sides to the ball and the Atlanta Offense took the wrong les­son from history.

Back in 1864 When William Tecum­seh Sher­man was march­ing toward Atlanta with the Union Army of the west Con­fed­er­ate Gen­eral Joe John­son know­ing that Sherman’s forces were his supe­rior in num­ber, resource and sup­ply took a con­ser­v­a­tive approach, par­ry­ing his thrusts and giv­ing ground when flanked, bend­ing but not break­ing. The rebel lead­er­ship in Rich­mond thought this approach too timid and replaced him with John Bell Hood who instead pro­ceeded to leave his entrench­ments and reck­lessly attack the supe­rior enemy army.

Atlanta could have decided to play a con­ser­v­a­tive ground game, run­ning down the clock, min­i­miz­ing the chances of penal­ties or sacks and forc­ing the Patri­ots to burn time out in the hope of keep­ing enough clock for a Brady come­back. Even late in the game when the Patri­ots had closed the gap to a mere 8 points Atlanta had the ball deep in Patri­ots ter­ri­tory and only needed to hand off the ball a few times to set up a field goal that would have required not just a Touch­down & a two point con­ver­sion by the pats but a suc­cess­ful onside kick and a sec­ond score to tie or win the game.

They did not, instead they gave the far supe­rior Patriot defense the chance to make plays and they did dri­ving the fal­cons out of field goal range and forc­ing a punt giv­ing Brady the ball with under 3 min­utes to go. As the Bleacher report put it:

This would prove to be a crit­i­cal series because the Fal­cons chose not to run the ball inside field-​goal range. Had they done so, they might have killed some clock and added three points to their lead. Instead, the Patri­ots got another chance with just over two min­utes remaining.

The Patri­ots, it turned out, only needed one more chance. Brady was mak­ing clutch throw after clutch throw at this point, and it only took 2 min­utes and 33 sec­onds to drive 91 yards, end­ing with a one-​yard touch­down run from White.

A pass from Brady to Amen­dola made for a suc­cess­ful two-​point play, and the game was now tied.

The rest is his­tory and while a few Fal­cons fans are tak­ing it well

Like other Fal­con fans, I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out how Rus­sians hacked Atlanta’s defense …

But the bot­tom line is the same thing that it was in 2014 and to para­phrase myself just after that game:

After 40 min­utes, after Tevin Cole­man caught a six yard TD pass from Matt Ryan, The Atlanta Fal­cons played as if the out­come of the game was already decided.

After 40 min­utes, both before and after Tevin Cole­man caught a six yard TD pass from Matt Ryan, the New Eng­land Patri­ots played as if the out­come of the game was in doubt.

I’ll give Brady the last word

That’s really all it takes, play­ing the game until it’s done.

That’s why you play till the end

Tom Brady

Sunday night I was watching superbowl with my wife before going to work. Each time Atlanta made a big play she was beside herself and we were seeing a lot of tweets like this:

which required this response

By the third quarter a lot of people, particularly on the left were crowing as if the game was over.

and I felt compelled to edit my scheduled post for Monday morning before I left for work to say the following:

When I started this post in the Am on Sunday the question was can the Atlanta Falcons and Roger Goodell will be able to take sanctuary from Tom Brady but more importantly for the NFL will be a sanctuary from the political conflicts for those who love the game. As I update this in the 3rd quarter with Atlanta leading by 25 so Roger Goodell is likely dancing in the streets but more importantly Lady Gaga decided her songs were liberal enough so she decided to shut up and sing meaning that the NFL was able to get sanctuary from the left meaning football fans won’t have to take sanctuary from the game.

Frankly if Brady & the pats were not playing I wouldn’t give a damn and if it wasn’t Brady on that field I’d consider this game over.

And to most fans watching the game WAS already over:

then Atlanta came back in the third quarter to score again on Matt Ryan’s pass to Tevin Coleman to make the Falcons’ lead 28–3 and, like everybody else watching the Super Bowl, I said, “Well, that’s the game— Atlanta wins.”
Nobody has ever come back to win the Super Bowl after trailing by 25 points…
This is how stereotypes work, you see. It is entirely natural to believe that the future will resemble the past, because that’s what usually happens.

And to be fair assuming that the Falcons would hold on given the facts in evidence at the time was just as rational an exception as was the expectation by most football people before the game that the Patriots would win in.

However there was more than a full quarter of time left on the Clock and the 2016 New England Patriots didn’t need a long memory to recall what happens when you think a game is not over until it is:

Bill Belichick is thinking the opposite. His team already has taken the lead and if Seattle wants it they’ll have to take it back. He isn’t using a time out in the hopes of preserving time for Tom Brady to take back the lead, he’s counting on his defense to hold it.

And when the snap is made Malcolm Butler, the same fellow who stopped Kearse from scoring two plays earlier recognizes the play and muscles his way forward to intercept the ball and give the Patriots the ball on their own 1 yard line with 20 seconds to go.

But even then, no matter what the highlight reels are showing, the game is NOT over and the Patriots understand this.

There is little or no space for Brady to take a knee and if he is brought down in the end zone not only is it a safety making the score 28-26 but the same Seattle team that drove down the field at the end of the 2nd quarter would just have to get within field goal range for a chance to win.

Meanwhile Seattle was in the same spot New England was in a mere 46 seconds earlier. They had been kicked in the chest by a stunning reversal. But unlike New England who put it behind them and got down to business Seattle did not.

The Patriots realized that there was plenty of time left on the clock but more importantly despite the lead the Atlanta defense which had to this point, been playing far beyond their normal level had been on the field a lot and was tired.

So rather than going through the motions as if the game was already over they played as if the game was on the line.

That the Atlanta defense was winded and were not able to hold on was not a surprise, but there are two sides to the ball and the Atlanta Offense took the wrong lesson from history.

Back in 1864 When William Tecumseh Sherman was marching toward Atlanta with the Union Army of the west Confederate General Joe Johnson knowing that Sherman’s forces were his superior in number, resource and supply took a conservative approach, parrying his thrusts and giving ground when flanked, bending but not breaking. The rebel leadership in Richmond thought this approach too timid and replaced him with John Bell Hood who instead proceeded to leave his entrenchments and recklessly attack the superior enemy army.

Atlanta could have decided to play a conservative ground game, running down the clock, minimizing the chances of penalties or sacks and forcing the Patriots to burn time out in the hope of keeping enough clock for a Brady comeback. Even late in the game when the Patriots had closed the gap to a mere 8 points Atlanta had the ball deep in Patriots territory and only needed to hand off the ball a few times to set up a field goal that would have required not just a Touchdown & a two point conversion by the pats but a successful onside kick and a second score to tie or win the game.

They did not, instead they gave the far superior Patriot defense the chance to make plays and they did driving the falcons out of field goal range and forcing a punt giving Brady the ball with under 3 minutes to go. As the Bleacher report put it:

This would prove to be a critical series because the Falcons chose not to run the ball inside field-goal range. Had they done so, they might have killed some clock and added three points to their lead. Instead, the Patriots got another chance with just over two minutes remaining.

The Patriots, it turned out, only needed one more chance. Brady was making clutch throw after clutch throw at this point, and it only took 2 minutes and 33 seconds to drive 91 yards, ending with a one-yard touchdown run from White.

A pass from Brady to Amendola made for a successful two-point play, and the game was now tied.

The rest is history and while a few Falcons fans are taking it well

Like other Falcon fans, I’m still trying to figure out how Russians hacked Atlanta’s defense . . .

But the bottom line is the same thing that it was in 2014 and to paraphrase myself just after that game:

After 40 minutes, after Tevin Coleman caught a six yard TD pass from Matt Ryan, The Atlanta Falcons played as if the outcome of the game was already decided.

After 40 minutes, both before and after Tevin Coleman caught a six yard TD pass from Matt Ryan, the New England Patriots played as if the outcome of the game was in doubt.

I’ll give Brady the last word

That’s really all it takes, playing the game until it’s done.