Indy-New England postmortem
We got a ton of mail Monday (we'll be posting letters later this week) asking why the Cold, Hard Football Facts were so confident in a New England victory over Indianapolis.
It's easy. New England was, and is, the better team. They should have won. You can crunch passing stats and lament injury reports all day long, but they do not change the Cold, Hard Football Facts: one team was 14-2, the defending Super Bowl champs and playing at home in an arena where they've simply manhandled opponents over the past two-plus seasons. The other was 13-4 and playing out of their element against a team they've proven completely incapable of beating. Quite frankly, we would have been shocked had Indianapolis won.
The amazing thing is that so many "pundits" refused to acknowledge that the squad with the better record, the proven postseason performers, a historic homefield advantage and the championship rings was the better team.
For our last words on the topic, we send in a coroner of pigskin called the Cold, Hard Football Facts to conduct a little divisional round postmortem. Here are the winners and losers from a week in which Cold, Hard Football Fact once again trumped hype, opinion and "punditry."
The Kraft corporate machine – New England is 107-69 in the regular season, 10-4 in the playoffs and has made seven postseason appearances and won two Super Bowls during the Kraft era (since 1994). These people saved the New England franchise from moving, turned around the biggest laughingstock in sports, overcame a mountain of political roadblocks and built a state-of-the-art stadium with their own money, brought in a controversial coach who has turned out to be the best in football (despite the belief of some that Indy's Tony Dungy is just as good), hire people who at the very least seem like good citizens, manage the team with ruthless efficiency, have redefined the economics of the salary cap, have become the model sports franchise in America and put a grade-A product on the field. What else can the Krafts do? Well, Sunday their team plays for the right to go to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in 11 seasons under their guidance.
New England's (the region's) reputation – Yeah, New England's dominating victory may not have kept fans around the country glued to the tube but there are few things in TV sports more compelling than a frosty, snowy football game. New England has hosted four playoff games in the last four seasons. One was played in a blizzard, two were played in snow, and the other was the coldest game in franchise history. Football fans down south, whose only window on New England comes during Patriots postseason games, must think that the region is endlessly locked in snow, ice, deep freeze and darkness. There must be some begrudging admiration for the local citizenry who dutifully emerge from their igloos to drink beer and bang out Gillette each and every time the team rolls back into town. New England, quite frankly, has become the new "frozen tundra" of pro football. Thirty years from now, when people look back on this run, the iconic images will all involve the elements: Brady leading the team through the snow, fans cocooned in hunter orange and Thinsulate creating snowy fireworks in the stands, Manning digging mud from his helmet, Vinatieri kicking through a blinding blizzard. These images will become much like the defining memory of the 1960s Packers, who overcame the elements and the Cowboys in the 1967 "ice bowl."
New England's (the football team's) reputation – It's funny what throttling the fifth highest scoring team in NFL history, stifling a record-setting quarterback and churning out a smashmouth 20-3 victory will do for a team's reputation. Last week, the Patriots were an injury-riddled team with no hope of stopping the mighty Colts. This week, they're a prohibitive favorite to walk into the arena of a 16-1 opponent and walk away victors. But, as the Cold, Hard Football Facts proved last week, hype and reputation do not win games. And, as the Cold, Hard Football Facts will show this week, New England is not the clear favorite against Pittsburgh that it was against Indy.
Gillette Stadium – The three-year-old arena opened with the first championship banner-hanging ceremony in franchise history. Since then, the Patriots have posted a 24-3 record in the regular and postseasons and are in the midst of a 20-game home winning streak. When the Patriots step on their home turf again next season, it will have been some 1,000 days since fans in Gillette Stadium witnessed a loss by the home team (Dec. 22, 2002).
Mother Nature – Three years ago, southern New England was not hit by a single significant snowstorm until Jan. 19. It started snowing hours before New England's now legendary 16-13 overtime win over Oakland and stopped snowing soon after the game ended. It was not nearly as dramatic, but Mother Nature came through once again with a well-timed snowstorm that framed Sunday's Indy-New England matchup with just hours to spare. Midweek, your friendly weathermen were forecasting gametime conditions of clear and in the 20s. Day by day the forecast grew more ominous, but even Sunday morning it appeared that snow was only a remote threat late in the game. Of course, Mother Nature trumped modern science and started dropping snow on Foxboro an hour before kickoff.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts – Accused of yahooism by The Boston Globe, shunned by CBS Sportsline, and standing virtually alone in a sea of negativity surrounding New England's chances, the Cold, Hard Football Facts stuck to their guns and were proven correct. (Of course, the Cold, Hard Football Facts have no choice but to stick to their guns: facts don't change with the whims of public or "pundit" opinion.)
The Cold, Hard Football Facts quality wins quotient – The quality wins quotient is a sterling 8-0 in the postseason and is the only indicator we know of in all of football that called for three outright victories by road underdogs in the wildcard round. Never in postseason history had three road teams, let alone three road underdogs, won in a single weekend. But it happened this year. The quality wins quotient is also a nifty 7-1 against the spread. Every postseason winner has covered, except for Pittsburgh in its 20-17 win over the N.Y. Jets.
Tedy Bruschi – We didn't include Tedy Bruschi on our list of players who deserved to make the Pro Bowl this season. Quite frankly, it's an argument we could not make. The numbers on his stat sheet simply don't equate with those of the inside linebackers from the AFC who did make it. With that said, is there any other player you want on your team? No. Bruschi was the single most dominant player on the field in New England's win over Indy. He made seven tackles, was Tedy-on-the-spot with one fumble recovery and, in one of the great defensive plays in New England postseason history, ripped the ball from the hands of Indy running back Dominic Rhodes as the two fell to the ground. Pro Bowl voting is based largely on reputation. Bruschi will be in the Pro Bowl next year, even if he has a season that's sub-par by his standards.
Mark Schlereth – The offensive lineman turned ESPN "pundit" owns three Super Bowl rings. In other words, he has far more credibility than most. But he went on sports radio WEEI 850AM in Boston last week and told hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan that he expected Brady to implode against the Colts. Hey, predictions are nice and everyone can make them. But on what evidence was this opinion based? None.
Brady, of course, is 7-0 in the playoffs and played four of those games in less-than-ideal conditions that would have inhibited (and that did inhibit) the performance of any quarterback. In fact, twice the conditions were downright disastrous. Still, his career postseason stat line looks like this:
* 153 for 250 (61.2 percent), 1,504 yards, 7 TD passes, 2 TD runs, 3 INTs, 82.5 rating
Buried somewhere in those numbers are four game-tying or game-winning scoring drives, a Super Bowl completions record and a pair of Super Bowl MVP awards. Nice try, Schlereth.
Ron Borges – The discredited Boston Globe "pundit" accused the Cold, Hard Football Facts of cooking the books, so to speak, to obtain favorable results when we wrote about the performance of New England's defense last week. That's probably how it works among agenda-ridden frauds like Borges. But here's what we did: Everyone – EVERYONE – was talking about how bad New England's defense was without Law. So, naturally, like good reporters, we looked at the performance of New England's defense with and without Law. The numbers showed little to no drop off. So we said, "Oh sh**! We should write a story about that!" And that's what we did. It's called the scientific method. Get the data first then draw conclusions. It's another lesson we've provided Borges free of charge.
Ron Borges – Yes, a two-time loser. Borges picked the Patriots to win in the print edition of the Globe but was all over the airwaves calling for the Colts to win. Turns out, the Globe has a long history of leaving its "expert" picks in the paper to interns and assistants. The mini-scandal is outlined nice and neatly on BostonSportsMedia.com (see the section "Interns running the asylum?" under the Jan. 17 headline). Scientists hope that Borges' credibility will someday walk again.
ESPN's panel of "pundits" – In a panel of eight "pundits" on ESPN.com, seven (yes, 7) picked a clearly inferior team in the Colts to top the clearly superior Patriots. The firm of Salisbury, Hoge, Jaworski, Schlereth, Allen, Mortensen and Golic fell for the hype and represented the Colts. Theissman looked at the Cold, Hard Football Facts and was the only one on ESPN's panel of eight "pundits" who sided with the better of the two teams.
The betting public – Misled by the "pundits" and blinded by Peyton Manning's 49 regular-season touchdown passes, the betting public poured so much money out on the Colts that it drove the line down from New England -3 to a pick 'em in some circles by game time. In fact, according to sportsinsights.com, some 75 percent of the betting public sided with the Colts heading into the weekend. Some money came back in on the Patriots over the weekend, but only after the game had dropped close to a toss up.
Pete Prisco – We've beat this to death. But here's the short version. We challenged Prisco to debate the merits of Manning vs. Brady early in the season. Prisco was afraid to debate us and hid his fear behind condescension. Even as Manning set the single-season record for touchdown passes we kept the challenge open. We issued it. We had to keep it. Needless to say, after another Manning postseason debacle, we don't expect Prisco to finally step to the plate. Dennis and Callahan of WEEI in Boston tossed around the idea of having the Cold, Hard Football Facts on the air to debate Prisco. Of course, Prisco wouldn't rattle his spurs even when he had a fully loaded .45 by his side. We certainly don't expect him to show his face in this dusty cowtown now that his pony pulled up lame and he's run out of ammunition.
- Aaron Hernandez Quizzed In Death Probe: Tough Week To Be Patriots Tight End
- Former Bears WR David Terrell Says He'd Cut Off His Balls To Play W Jay Cutler
- Roger Goodell Defends Redskins Name In Letter To Congress
- Video: Pat Imig's FN NFL Update June 09
- Chuck Norris: 'Clutch' Tim Tebow An 'Athletic Warrior'
- NFL Today: The Golden Age Of The Ground Game
- Wes Welker Excited About "Freedom" In Denver
- The 5.0 Club: Best Rushing Teams in NFL History
- Sieves: The Worst Run Defenses In NFL History
- 2013 NFL Schedule: The Year Of The Denver Broncos
- Monsters of the Midway: We Need The Chicago Bears More Than Ever
- The 100 Stingiest Defenses In Football History
- NFL Crown Rule: Will It Dethrone Rushing King Adrian Peterson?
- Big Tease: 2012 New England Patriots And NFL's History Of Offensive Failures
- Real Quarterback Rating Differential: A New Mother Of All Stats?