Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
02 Feb 2004
by Aaron Schatz
Wow. Well, I am one tired Patriots fan. I've had more emotional ups and downs in the last few hours than perhaps any other time in my life. I screamed my head off when the Pats scored and hung my head when the Panthers scored. At the end, my team took the title.
For all of you who complained on your Football Outsiders awards ballot about the site's Patriots bias, that's not site bias. That's my bias, just me. Everyone else is a fan of another team -- Denver (Jason), Tampa (Russ and Ian), the Giants (Al), Bears (Pat), Lions (Mike), and Jets (Benjy).
Here are a few scattered random thoughts.
Remember the Two Carolinas? The first one showed up for the first 26 minutes of this game. The second one showed up for the final 34 minutes. The Panthers should have never, ever been in this game, but they hung around thanks to the two missed field goals and Troy Brown botched reverse that took the Pats out of field goal range. It should have been 16-0 at one point. Carolina had no yards on offense near the end of the first half. NO YARDS! But, once the Panthers put it in gear, that amazing Panther long passing from the last month really shined. What a performance by the Panthers in the second half, just incredible. I don't know whether I can stick with my theory that the Panthers will fade back to mediocrity next year, because Delhomme, Muhammad, and Smith have looked so marvelous over the past few weeks.
Did that game set a record for the most penalties in a Super Bowl, by both teams combined? Maybe in Super Bowls that didn't involve the Raiders. This not a complaint from a Pats fan, because the ticky-tack penalties were being called against both teams equally. I could not watch that game without wondering if this website and Michael David Smith's research were responsible for the officials going completely insane. Did the commish call up Ed Hochuli and say, "I don't want Easterbrook complaining again... call everything." I mean, they were making up penalties. What the hell is "delay of game on defense?" That's sounds like something that isn't even in the rule book, it gets shipped with the rule book on a small slip of paper tucked into the front cover and marked "Errata."
I have to credit to my friend Daniel Small for this comment, but the MVP of this game should have been the first down chain.
I thought they had closed the roof for this thing. Did they open it during one of the commercials when I wasn't looking so that the field could suddenly become slippery? I enjoyed the play where both Ty Law and Mushin Muhammad slipped and fell and missed the pass.
Not to excuse the Pats secondary for giving up so many yards in the second half, but on the last Panthers touchdown both starting safeties were on the sidelines with injuries and the Pats were stuck with safeties who had played almost exclusively on special teams during the season.
Raise your hand if you are a Patriots fan who turned to friends after the last Panthers touchdown and, in your best Madden impression, declared, "I think the Patriots need to sit on the ball here and play for overtime." Now raise your other hand if you are a fan of either team and at least three times yelled at the television, "Stop me before I blitz again!"
I hope nobody minds if a giddy Pats fan pats himself on the back, but I think my Super Bowl preview ended up pretty dang accurate. As I predicted, the Patriots running game had much more success against the Panthers than anyone anticipated, actually outgaining Carolina's running game. Stephen Davis was kept in check all game with the exception of one run, which unfortunately for the Patriots led to a field goal. Adam Vinatieri's slump proved to be a major problem. The biggest play of the game was made by Mushin Muhammad, not Steve Smith. Carolina's defensive line was neutralized by the Patriot offensive line, getting no sacks.
One place where I was clearly wrong: Ricky Proehl had a pretty good game. As for DeShaun Foster, I'd call that an incomplete... he had that great touchdown run, but that was one of only three carries. I was also surprised by how much Kevin Faulk we saw tonight.
It turns out that instead of "the chances of Davis and Foster being the dominant players in the Super Bowl are small enough to substitute for Christina Aguilera's undergarments," what I should have said was "the chances of Davis and Foster being the dominant players in the Super Bowl are small enough to substitute for Janet Jackson's nipple pasties."
So, where does this team stand among the greatest teams of all time? It's worth asking. The strike against them is that they won so many games close, so few games in blowouts. But they are one of only two teams in NFL history to win 15 straight games. 10 times they played teams that ended the season with 10 wins or more, and 10 times the Patriots won.
By the way, this team hates their coach. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I guess I'm just getting a brain freeze from those "Shards o' Glass" freeze pops.
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This has been an amazing ride for Football Outsiders. We launched this site in late July and were getting less than 200 visitors per day. We now get more visitors per day than we got in the entire month of August. I thank Gregg Easterbrook, King Kaufman, and Peter King, among others, for getting us attention, all the Outsiders for contributing, all of you for reading and telling friends, my wife for understanding, and my daughter for just being so amazingly adorable.
So, what happens to Football Outsiders now? We're still here. There will be Confessions of a Football Junkie and Scramble for the Ball this week and then every two or three weeks during the offseason. We'll publish the results of the First Annual Football Outsiders Awards later this week. We'll still update the blog of articles from around the Web, and hopefully you'll all come discuss all the cuts and free agent signings. We'll do a TMQ discussion thread this week and again when Gregg does his usual goofy pre-NFL draft column. Mike Smith is going to be writing about the draft and also has some research coming on coaching changes. We'll be publishing not just one but two guest columns addressing problems with the NFL's QB rating, and of course anyone can submit a guest column or idea to info-at-footballoutsiders.com. I'll publish an article or two as well, though I'll be spending most of my football time over the next couple months upgrading and refining the DVOA rating system and my other methods.
In addition, there is a major announcement coming about Football Outsiders and the 2004 pre-season, so you'll want to keep checking for that.
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It's been a great six months, but we think it is only the beginning. We'll keep writing it if you keep reading it. New England Patriots, 2003 NFL champions. Sounds good to me.