It has been a slightly odd week post the Conference Championship games, a mixture of the break in routine and the stories floating round has made things feel a little out of synch. I’m going to go through the games from the weekend and some of the other major stories floating round, but will look at the Super Bowl next week.
It feels like a slightly odd week to be trying to add value when there is such focused coverage, and the Pro Bowl is the only game of football this week. A game incidentally, that I have never watched before, although I may watch it back on rewind next week. The major story after the games has been the woefully monikered deflategate, but let’s look at the actual games first.
The first game of the day was a pretty one sided affair for fifty-five minutes, that exploded into an improbable comeback and eventual win for the Seahawks. The majority of the focus has been on the failed onside kick recovery, but there was more to this loss than that as some have been writing. The Packers were pretty dominant for the first fifty-five minutes, but the seeds of their downfall were sown as early as the first quarter. Twice in the first quarter the Packers drove down to the Seattle one yard line, but came away with only a field. I can understand kicking the first field goal, but you need to think about going for it on fourth down the second time you are down there as one of the key things in modern football is red-zone efficiency. More than that though, even if you fail you to convert, you pin the opposition against their own yard line so the down side is not that bad.
The real problem with the field goals, was it spoke of the conservative approach that Mike McCarthy and his team brought to this game, and when you add to the one touchdown scored out of the first three trips to the red-zone, an incredibly conservative approach to running the clock out, a defender who just gave himself up after the final interception, not testing Richard Sherman when he was playing cornerback with one arm, successfully disarming the Seattle offence for most of the game then going into a prevent defence, and meekly trotting up the field to kick a field goal rather than go for the touchdown when you have Aaron freaking Rodgers… well we know what happened.
You have to give the Seahawks credit for their part in the comeback, but even on their overtime touchdown the Packers were for some reason play zero safety so there was no one over the top to help. Their excellent secondary was nicked up with Earl Thomas dislocating his shoulder and only coming back in the second half once it had been strapped up, and Sherman’s injury in the fourth quarter. But what was worse for the Seahawks, was that their offence really didn’t get going until these last few moments. Apart from a few glimpses from Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks had done very little and Russell Wilson was having a nightmare, he threw four interceptions, fumbled the ball, and still came away with the win. He will need to play a lot better than that next week if he wants to win his second Super Bowl.
If the first game had amazing drama, then the second had an old fashioned thrashing. You have to give the Colts the credit they deserve for winning the two playoff games that they did, but just as they were making us question the distrust of their talent, they got battered by the Patriots. I wrote about the Patriots mutable nature when it comes to game planning, but in this one Belichick and his staff were definitely working on a plan of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The Patriots ran up over 170 yards of rushing in this game, with LeGarrette Blount repeatedly looking as if he had nowhere to go, but as Colts defenders over pursued he was able to get yards. The Colts clearly still have a lot of work to do if they are going to build a team capable of winning a Super Bowl around their clearly amazing quarterback, as they will need to compete with the NFL elite to have a chance of doing this and the roster is not ready for this yet.
If the game itself was a very one sided affair with not a huge amount to write about, the aftermath has seen a flurry of words and outrage when it was revealed on Monday that a number of the balls used by the Patriots’ offence were under the official designated pressure. This would make the ball easier to grip and therefore to throw and catch, but let’s be honest, this had no effect on the result of this game. The problem right now is perception as this is not the first time the Patriots have been embroiled in an issue of cheating, but the truth is we don’t know what happened and whilst the NFL doesn’t exactly have the best track record in investigation, we really don’t have much choice but to let the investigation run its course.
The Super Bowl is going to be a fascinating matchup between two teams that really divide opinion amongst fans, but I’ll look at that more next week.