Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl was the final "should have been" of a playoffs full of them

Monday morning after the Super Bowl, it is so dead around here that you can hear a pin drop after weeks of boisterous arrogance about an assumed conclusion. The only other sound is that of recriminations and “should have beens.” In fact, this past NFL playoff season was one of a great many “should haves.” The Detroit Lions “should have” beaten the Dallas Cowboys. The Baltimore Ravens “should have” beaten the New England Patriots. The Cowboys “should have” beaten the Green Bay Packers. Some may say that Denver “should have” beaten Indianapolis, but that was not displayed on the field. The Packers “should have” beaten the Seattle Seahawks. And the Seahawks “should have” beaten the Patriots in the Super Bowl. On the other hand, it “should have been" Green Bay and Baltimore in the Super Bowl.  

I have to admit that being a Packer fan, I was left extremely bitter following the NFC title game. Yes, Aaron Rodgers was virtually immobile, and the only way the Packers had a legitimate chance to win the game was if the Seahawks sunk themselves with a boatload of turnovers, which is exactly what happened. But Green Bay was unable to put the “dagger” into the Seahawks, failing to score a touchdown from the one-yard line twice. Rodgers deserves much of the blame with bad passes and bad decisions, but just as guilty was Coach Mike McCarthy, who once more infuriated Packer fans with his typical gutless and boneheaded calls. Ultimately, however, it was the Packer defense, which had turned Russell Wilson into the pedestrian quarterback he would be if teams can pressure him, that suddenly “quit.” Wilson’s fourth interception with five minutes left in the game, that “should have been" the finisher with the score 19-7, was just the prelude to a "miracle" overtime comeback. 

With the Seahawks undeservedly in the Super Bowl, I was obviously very much rooting for a New England blowout victory. When Jermaine Kearse made that miracle catch that put the ball on the six yard line with time running out, for a few moments I was enraged by the “luck” of this team. When Marshawn Lynch nearly ran it into the end zone, I calmed down and accepted the “inevitable,” ready to “congratulate” Seattle with Super Bowl wins against the AFC “class.” But unlike the national and local media, I did not “question” the final offensive call; I knew from observation ever since he came into the league there has been an effort to elevate Wilson to super-stud status. Save for his passer rating, his numbers have been among the least impressive in the NFL. My observation is that Wilson's passer rating has been artificially inflated by the occasional “lucky” long pass completions while he was running around the backfield and no one knew if he was going to run or throw. 

On the final play, instead of running the ball from the one-yard line with the seconds running away more from the Patriots than the Seahawks, the play call was a shallow slant pass, to elevate Wilson once more to “hero” status. I had seen this all year, Wilson throwing pointless passes at the end of won games to pad his stats—except the stakes were considerably higher this time.  And it was an easy pass play; all it required was a precise pass. But Wilson did not throw a precise pass. Why? Because of that little flaw in Wilson that the media tends to forget: He's the shortest quarterback in the league at 5-10, and mechanically it is difficult for him to throw over the line directly in front of him. In this case, he threw the ball too far ahead of Ricardo Lockette. With Wilson failing to observe rookie defensive back Malcolm Butler breaking on the ball, he laid it right into the defender's hands. After the game, the coaches were left taking the responsibility, while the players did not—particularly defensive players like Bruce Irvin. 

But the “Legion of Boom” deserves much of the responsibility for the loss; they were the ones that allowed Tom Brady to complete 13 of 15 passes for 124 yards on two touchdown drives to erase a 10-point fourth quarter lead. Afterwards, it was claimed that injuries in the secondary prevented the Seahawks from putting the “boom” in, but that didn’t excuse the fact that as New England was running out the final 18 seconds, the Seahawk players on the field suddenly found their “boom” by revealing their true “colors,” acting like loudmouthed thugs. I was surprised that no one has commented on the scrum that occurred at that point, after which Irvin was ejected from the game as the “instigator.” To add one mistake to another, the Seahawk defense jumped offside with Brady taking the snap in the end zone, then tacking on the additional 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, preventing another chance at a “miracle” finish.

Still, while I am “happy” that New England put a sock into some of those mouths, that “should have” tempers the pleasure in it.

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