Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Running the ball, stopping the run and playing all-caps FOOTBALL: RIP

The nice thing about the Super Bowl is that it wasn't a victory of some plodding prehistoric group of men who excel at running into other men. There were 37 runs called against 85 passes. More importantly, it was an exciting game tactically if not in the final outcome, not at least compared to the last two Super Bowls. Both teams went for it on fourth down when they could have kicked, and the Saints started the second half with an onside kick.

That the Saints won a Super Bowl this way likely has little influence on how teams will play, playing far too cautiously and couching this passivity as aggression because it means big men hit other big men. Still, it's a nice victory for aggressive, exciting, fast-paced football.

It's a good thing that the Saints won, because otherwise we would have heard endlessly about it from the old guard of analysts who serve up cliches-by-t he-minute on TV. The failed fourth-down conversion on the Colts' goal line, combined with an easy chance to score for the Colts on the failed onside kick, was a ten-point swing.

On the losers' side of the ball, I think the Colts have made themselves into the Braves of the last decade, or the Bills of the '90s, the Broncos of the '80s and the Vikings of the '70s. The Colts won more games this decade than any team in history, bearing in mind that this is the third decade of a 16-game season.

They have ten playoff appearances in eleven years, but a shocking six of them have been first-game exits, and just one Super Bowl. Compare that with the Braves and their 15-year run from 1991 to 2005. They had 14 playoff appearances, including 11 straight division titles from 1995 to 2005. They lost four World Series in that span, making them equal with the Bills of that era, who lost four straight Super Bowls. I'm not sure what's more impressive, making four straight Super Bowls, or losing all of them. The Colts, no matter how Peyton Manning finishes his career, have cemented their name in similar conversations.

By the way, I finished the playoffs 4-7 in predictions. I also predicted 4 of 11 games correctly a month ago without even knowing who would play most of them. I guess I can take solace in the fact that the team with the better record usually wins, so the Colts would have won this game 3 out of 5 times. That's not an argument to turn the NFL into the English Premier League, which has no playoffs, because I like the fact that the winner in the NFL is the person who plays best on a given day. It is what a lot of people argued two years ago, however, after the Patriots were upset.

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