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February 04, 2008

The Last Drive


Here's Tyree's Hat Trick again:

We can't call this "The Drive" and we can't call the catch "The Catch" as those are taken.

Can we call this miracle third-down catch "The Conversion," though? Bit of a pun, too, as it seems to have converted a lot of people (not including myself) into Manning Believers. And maybe it converted Eli from a fair quarterback to a good one.

I don't know if he'll ever be a great quarterback, but maybe now he'll be a good one. And he can't become great without being good first.

Question: Did the Patriots' -- and maybe specifically Brady's -- greed for the glory of the single-season touchdown record doom them?

I don't blame the Patriots for going for a perfect season. If that prize is on the table, you go for it. It's not the Patriots' "fault" that no one could beat them. Heck, they even tried to give games away to the lowly Ravens and once-mediocre Giants.

But they always say that it hurts a defense to be on the field for a long time. I guess that's because it often takes the lapse or weariness of a single defender to allow a play to go for a pile of yards and a touchdown. So it's best to have the defense on the bench as much as possible, with the offense grinding out yards.

But the offense itself has a "defense" -- the linemen in passing situations become, more or less, the "defenders" of the quarterback, and the defensive line becomes the "offensive," going for the prize. In that situation -- which the pass-happy Patriots have seen a lot of -- it only takes one lapse by the "defensive" offensive linemen to let a single "offensive" defensive lineman through for the "score," the sack, the hit, the rushed pass, the forced fumble.

The Patriots kept their offensive linemen on the field throughout the season a lot more than they needed to. I don't blame them for playing with their starters to grab the perfect season. But in several games in which the outcome was more or less guaranteed, they kept their starters in -- Brady, Moss, and of course the offensive line needed to protect them -- until very late in the game. Sometimes they just seemed to be on the field to grab easy but unneeded touchdowns on the quest for the personal records for Brady and Moss.

Bill Bellichick claims he did this because he wanted the team ready to play "60 Minutes of Football" when needed. But they had plenty of times they had to play a full sixty minutes of football anyhow, so they had their training at that. Wouldn't it have been better to have only played fifty minutes of football (with the team's starters, and the team's starting offensive line) a few games along the way?

And, if they had done so, if they had rested the offensive line a bit more throughout the season, would they have had more strength and more speed for the only game that ultimately mattered?

Eli got the MVP, but of course the real MVPs were the Giants defensive linemen and blitzers. They got the win by keeping Brady from being the MVP. The Giants victimized them all day long -- and, as many people are noting, that Patriots offensive line includes three Pro Bowlers. So they're damned good.

But were they overtaxed?

If the offensive line just ran out of gas when it mattered most, is that Brady's fault? Did his demand for the record cost them the championship?

Brady A Bit Too Smug? I don't know if I'd have answered this any other way. Few figured the game would be this low-scoring. The Pats score a huge amount of points and the Giants aren't slouches in that department either.

Still... Brady seems pretty confident here he'll score a heap of points. He answers Plaxico Burress' guarantee of a Giants win with the predicted score Giants 23, Patriots 17.

Only 17 points?, Brady wonders.

I'm sure he'd gladly take those 17 points now.

From Ari Goes Down.

digg this
posted by Ace at 04:06 PM

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