Revenge for ’98

I expected an Atlanta-New England Super Bowl, and I expected the Patriots to win, but I did not expect them to do it like this. Atlanta’s defense ran out of energy, which is why the Patriots were able to come back, but it was a Denny Green-style coaching disaster that permitted them to do so. I was very, very happy to see the Falcons blow it late and lose.

The fumble on the missed blitz-pickup is just one of those things that happens. But as I was watching, I thought there were five crucial coaching mistakes made by Atlanta, and they made all the difference.

  1. Third-and-one on the 22. FFS, don’t get cute. Run the ball, screen, or even a QB sneak. It’s fine to pride yourself on being aggressive and all, but the field goal was the kill shot there; chasing the touchdown was going for style points. The one thing you can’t afford to do there is turn the ball over, but as the Falcons learned, a deep drop and a sack can be pretty costly too. This missed field goal opportunity was sweet for those of us who haven’t forgotten the 1998 championship game. The playcall was particularly inexcusable as New England had already shown they will blitz to try to knock you out of range like they did after the failing to recover the onside kick.
  2. Third-and-eleven on the 32. You’re still in field goal range. They’ve just demonstrated that they can get to your quarterback. This is the right time for a draw play, a screen, a quick hitter, or anything that doesn’t risk losing yards.
  3. Always save your timeouts. Even if you’re up by more than two touchdowns, you may need them for a late field goal. Tough lesson to learn in the Super Bowl. And who was managing the clock on that last drive, Andy Reid?
  4. The Patriots have the ball, they’ve got 3:30 to drive 91 yards, and your defense is gassed. You’ve got the league’s best offense and have moved the ball almost at will all game. On whom do you bet? After the incredible Edeleman catch on the final Patriots drive in regular time, they should have let the Patriots score, sold out to try stopping the two-point conversion, and bet on their offense having two minutes to get into field goal range.
  5. Challenging the Edelman catch. It wasn’t fourth down. It wasn’t worth their last timeout.

Belichick wouldn’t have made any of those mistakes. I thought he made a minor one by failing to burn 20 more seconds on the clock on the touchdown play at the end of the 4th quarter, but got away with it due to the fact that Atlanta was out of time outs and as I already mentioned, their clock management was atrocious. But Belichick’s rolling the dice early by calling the onside kick and going for it on 4th-and-3 on his own 46 in the third quarter demonstrate why he is the greatest coach of all time. He knows when to take the right risks.

And yes, Brady is officially the greatest quarterback of all time. This trumps the Joe Cool game.

On a side note, those were three amazing catches, two by Julius Jones and one by Edelman. Jones looks, and plays, like a scientist created a combination clone of Terrell Owens and Cris Carter.

But regardless, we should have known that the team on whom the God-Emperor smiled would come through in the end. There was a prescient moment on BBC, when the commentator read a tweet saying: “Better stay up this time, you guys said it was over and we could go to bed with Brexit and the US election too.”