25 Nov 2013
It finally happened. It took 34 games, but Bill Belichick obliged me.
As I've been writing all season in Clutch Encounters, I wanted to see a coach win the overtime coin toss and choose to kick the ball. As our own Aaron Schatz found out during the postgame press conference, Belichick's decision was purely about taking the wind.
Cursed by Marty Mornhinweg, maybe other coaches will see it's okay now. The new overtime system makes it very hard for the receiving team to win right away. While Belichick says it was all about the wind, I wonder if the strategy would have been different had Peyton Manning been playing better. At Insider we look at the myth of Manning in the cold.
Since many people seem to be getting these stats wrong, here's an updated table of every game Manning's played when the temperature was 40 degrees or less:
Some of these games I'm not familiar with at all, but I know the common trend in the 20-3 NE loss, last night's loss and the Baltimore playoff loss is Manning's receivers could not create separation, forcing tight throws into coverage with little-to-no YAC. The wind is a bigger issue than the cold itself, but small windows into the wind is the biggest problem of them all. We haven't seen the last of this with Denver's offense either.
As for New England, what the Patriots exhibited against Denver was their competitiveness. Most teams fail to make it interesting after 24-0, but the Patriots can. They had a similar game against San Francisco last year, tying the game after falling behind 31-3. It's comebacks like these that keep an incredible streak alive.
Including the playoffs, the Patriots have gone 57 consecutive games where they either had a lead/tie in the fourth quarter (or overtime) or trailed by one score (1-8 points) in the fourth quarter. Consider it the "no blowouts" streak, since they were technically one score away from their opponent late in the game.
That's one of the longest streaks in the Super Bowl era. The only longer documented streaks belong to Mike McCarthy's 2008-12 Green Bay Packers -- they went 69 games from 2008 until a 38-10 loss at the Giants last season -- and the 1988-92 San Francisco 49ers (63 games).
The last team to bury the Patriots was Cleveland in 2010. The Patriots could do no better than a 27-14 fourth-quarter deficit and lost 34-14. It's been all wins or close losses since then.
Sunday put the streak on life support, but we should know by now when Manning and Brady meet, conventional endings are not good enough. With two of the greatest competitors in NFL history, there has to be a comeback attempt. There has to be drama.
Maybe Manning-Brady XV will be the long-desired shootout, but eleven fumbles and one bold overtime decision are some of the defining moments worth remembering from XIV.
31 comments, Last at 28 Nov 2013, 6:31am by Guest789
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?