IT'S THE MONDAY AFTER THE SUPER BOWL. THERE IS BUT ONE THING TO TALK ABOUT ...


Well, besides Janet's flash of bare skin, that is. But the Writers' Bloc is too dignified to worry about the impact of one boob on America's morality play. Thus, it's all about the game ...


David Schoenfield
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

Jake Delhomme
Sorry, Jake, but going for two was the wrong call.
Simple enough: John Fox blew this Super Bowl. His decision to go for two early in the fourth quarter should go down as one of the great coaching blunders of all time. Each team scored four touchdowns and a field goal. If Fox just plays the game out, it's a 31-31 tie. Instead, he cost the Panthers the game.

Too bad he didn't read the New York Times Sunday morning. There was an article on Bill Belichick's "sabermetric" tendencies (yes, Theo Epstein isn't the only one in New England studying statistical probability). One of the nuggets? The Patriots go for two less than any other team because ... well, because IT'S A BAD IDEA.

It's called playing the percentages. And Fox made the wrong move.


Melanie Jackson
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

Not every coach can be a genius. And not every kicker can pick the worst time of his career to kick the ball out of bounds. Could Brady and New England easily have made up another 20 yards on that last drive? Sure, that's a good possibility. But John Kasay sure as hell made it easier for them by booting the ball out of bounds to put the Pats on their 40. So much for the first overtime in Super Bowl history.


David Schoenfield
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

Kasay seems the popular pick for goat horns, but here's my deal: Players make physical mistakes. It happens. But Fox made an error in judgment, one that Belichick would never have made because he would have known not to do it. Fox is getting off too easy. To use a term New Englanders would understand, he pulled a Grady.


Dan Shanoff
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

If Fox is Grady, does that make Justin Timberlake our Steve Bartman, for fumbling around with the foul boob?

Speaking of goats, how about Carolina's defensive coordinator? For someone who managed such a vaunted group, his secondary couldn't have stopped the streaker, let alone -- say -- Deion Branch.


Ralph Wiley
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

David Swordsman:

David Givens
Great play from the offensive line helped receivers like David Givens get open.
While it is true that John "Swamp" Fox is more of a prep coach and maybe halftime adjuster than an on-the-fly devil-may-care seminal genius game coach, and while it is true that I too groaned when he went for two with that much time (and as it turned out, that many TDs) left, the fact is, on the first two-point try, if you look at it, Delhomme, who played wonderfully in the fourth quarter, threw ill-advisedly into the end zone when he had DeShaun Foster wide buck naked open in the right flat out of the backfield. Look at the replay. It's clear.

The reason both two-point conversion plays were bad for the Panthrax is that they were missed. Don't see it being the difference in the game. It's definitely not a Grady. It just meant that the Patriotics would've needed to go for two again later.

In baseball terms, it is somewhat akin to the Fallacy of the Predestined Hit.

As Mel says, kind of, it was Kasay's poor kickoff execution that did in the Panthrax in regulation. And no Mel, I'm not at all sure 20 yards would've been that easy to get against the Panthrax defense. Add to that the fact that Rodney Harrison was done, which suddenly turned the Patriotics' secondary into a collander/sieve. I mean, that final drive with 1:08 left, started on the Bradyos' 40, but coulda/shoulda/woulda started on the Bradyos' 20. That was the ballgame for New England. They don't score there, it's going to be a long night.

As it was, it was a hell of a ballgame, wasn't it?

Swordsman: Belly-Check a sabermath? Hmm. The play calls in the red zone for TDs and two-pointers were as creative as any I've seen from anybody anytime anywhere, including Walsh and Gibbs. But sabermetrics? Where? Maybe the Patriotics' second Super Bowl win causes feelings of loss, possibly even a pang of jealousy in long-time die-hard Sawx fans?

I mean, I don't know. I'm just saying for instance. Just asking.


Eric Neel
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

I take your point, Dave, but I have a hard time pinning the loss on the one decision. To my mind, Carolina ends up on the short end mostly because play after play they couldn't get close enough to Mr. Brady to muss up his hair. The guy was back there sipping tea and writing poetry.

And RW, was it a hell of a ballgame? Yes and no. For 42 minutes (most of the first half and all of the third quarter), it was the ugly yawner I figured it would be. For 18 minutes (starting with Carolina's where'd-that-come-from drive at the end of the first half and though all of the anything-you-can-do fourth quarter), it was as entertaining as any big game I can remember. All games are made up of highs and lows, but this was the Jekyll and Hyde Super Bowl par excellence.


David Schoenfield
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

RW -- Belichick probably knew that two-point rushing tries fail 72 percent of the time and two-point passing plays fail 61 percent of the time, but two-point direct snaps to the running back succeed 87 percent of the time.

I'll stick to my guns. It was too early to go for two. Phil Simms called it when it happened, and Phil is one to know percentages (you know, like highest completion percentage, QB, Super Bowl).


Melanie Jackson
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

"To my mind, Carolina ends up on the short end mostly because play after play they couldn't get close enough to Mr. Brady to muss up his hair. The guy was back there sipping tea and writing poetry." This is a good point. Maybe we shouldn't be assigning blame so much as patting the Patriots' offensive line on the back.


Patrick Hruby
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

Yep, it's easy to blame a kicker -- and usually good fun, too -- but in this case I have to agree with Eric: Carolina's vaunted D-line deserves the $49.95 commemerative goat horn ballcap.

For two insufferable weeks, we were subjected to paean after paean to the Panthers' front four, including a particularly sloppy kiss in the pages of an unnamed magazine that offers a free fleece with every subscription. And what did this latter-day Fearsome Foursome produce in the Game to End Them All? Zero sacks, limited pressure and 83 rushing yards by Antowain Smith. It took a risky corner blitz to level Tom Brady; otherwise, even the halftime streaker absorbed more Panthers punishment than the Patriots QB.

Brady isn't Marc Bulger. The Pats aren't the toothless Cowboys or smoke-and-mirrors Eagles. In retrospect, perhaps Carolina's D-line was a tad bit overrated. They knew New England's dink-and-dunk attack was coming. They insisted on rushing four. They couldn't get it done. One sack on that final drive -- just one inseey-weensy sack -- and Kasay's flub is forgotten. Instead, Brady's the MVP. And probably not particularly sore this morning.


Chuck Hirshberg
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

I can't believe you guys are bustin' Kasay!

Have you forgotten that he nailed a 50-yarder as time expired at halftime? Have you forgotten that the "hero", Vinatieri, missed two far easier kicks in the same half? In other words, Carolina was only in a position to win it at the end because of Kasay's superior kicking!

OK, he muffed the kickoff. But let's try a little tenderness here. Kasay didn't "choose the worst moment in his life" to make a mistake; he made that mistake in one of the most high-pressure situations of his life.

Where does it come from, anyway, this obsession to pour out the Wrath of the Media upon some poor "goat"? Two teams played a close game, hard. One won, another lost. It's a beautiful thing, and no one should be made to feel ashamed. Least of all John Kasay. Sheesh.


Patrick Hruby
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

Chuck,

The goat thing is primal, stone altars and warm blood, Abraham and the Aztecs. A chosen one dies so that others may live -- or, in this case, a kicker takes the blame so that guys who actually hit people for a living emerge with their reputations intact.

Besides, take away unfair finger-pointing and what would we be left with? A WB encounter group where we get in a happy circle and tell stories about our gruff-yet-loving dads watching the Super Bowl with us.

The blame train's a chuggin'. Get on board.


Alan Grant
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Did you watch the game? Of course you did!

You're right, Eric. It was Jekyll and Hyde. But I like Jekyll and Hyde, particularly when such dual personalities are a reflection of the winning team's season. The Patriots' season opened with Lawyer Milloy getting the axe from the suits -- a numbers thing, as they say. The Patriots were angered by this. So was Milloy. He took it out on his old team when his new team, the Buffalo Bills, whipped his old one by a total of 31 points. But a funny thing happened after that. Milloy's replacement -- not his strategic replacement, mind you, but his "spiritual" replacement, asserted himself in an especially violent way.

A "spiritual" leader is one whose attention to detail gets his teammates lined up correctly, one whose words get them excited, or one who delivers the kind of blow that keeps them focused when focus is lacking. (I believe that one chokehold Rodney Harrison applied to Ricky Proehl surely merited a wicked grin not just from the departed Milloy, but from another infamously deposed enforcer -- LA police chief Darryl Gates.) But like RW points out, in Harrison's absence, the Pats defense had no spirit of violence. Where they had once delivered blows, they began to absorb them. And this was particularly costly in the final moments.

But the Pats' victory was ensured by a coaching move from a coach who is said to have no personality, let alone two. It was the offensive portion of Belichick's defensive mind that led him to attack the strength of the Panthers' D-line. Instead of running away from Julius Peppers, and allowing him to use his speed to run down plays from behind, they ran right at him. And they wore him down. This was an unexpected plan. And an unexpectedly great Super Bowl.





ALSO SEE:


The Sports Guy: Twice is nice, but not enough

Hruby: A bust of a Lingerie Bowl

Sportoon: A Super recap

Page 2's 100 Greatest Super Bowl Moments

Writers' Bloc: Super Bowl memories

Writers' Bloc: A spectacle gone too far





ESPN TOOLS
 
Email story
 
Most sent
 
Print story
 





espn Page 2 index