Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
05 Feb 2014
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Remember a couple weeks ago how we predicted things that would happen relating to the Super Bowl? Can we just forget we ever did that?
Tom: Let's just say it was a good idea neither of us actually bet money on our props. After mostly finishing around even-ish the past four seasons, we were both slaughtered. I came out slightly better, winning $20,320 on $24,505, a loss of only $4,185. You bet $22,855 and won $17,955, a loss of $4,900.
Mike: The result, and the way we arrived at that result, was certainly unexpected
Tom: There was a safety. Peyton Manning threw a pick-6. That was $1,600 of each of our losses right there between the two of those.
Mike: Yes, all of the odd things that we dismissed out of hand actually happened! Which is amazingly great for the concept of this column, if not the actual practice.
Tom: There was no score in the last two minutes of a half! Demaryius Thomas ended up the focal point of the Denver passing game! Heck, there were 11 goals in the Red Wings-Capitals game. I thought for sure we'd both win that. Nope, Thomas had 13 receptions.
Mike: The only thing that bet taught me is that I probably should've watched Wings-Caps instead.
Tom: Wes Welker even had more receptions than Alexander Ovechkin had shots! I should have, too, except I needed a more active distraction than that game provided.
Mike: Did that pass to Welker that was broken up count as a drop for the book?
Mike: So we didn't even get that!
Tom: I think that's the right call, but yes, that was another of our losers.
Mike: Well, Wes Welker does catch that pass 100 out of 100 times.
Tom: I did two radio hits on Monday, my regular one and one other one, and the thing about this Super Bowl is it was boring to talk about. Seattle just dominated Denver with their defensive line and their secondary, and Percy Harvin's kickoff return basically ended whatever slim hopes there were. The closest thing to a hidden storyline was Seattle going 5-for-7 on third downs in the first half, with both failures coming in field-goal range.
Mike: Yes. Seattle was very good. Denver, particularly Denver's offensive line, was very bad. On the other hand, it means a minimum of storyline fabrication, which is a plus, I suppose?
Tom: No, because every narrative in a game he plays ends up a Peyton Manning narrative, and this loss is all about how No. 18 needed to play well. When, really, it was the team with the best roster in the league proving that sometimes having the best roster in the league really is what being a championship team is about.
Mike: I think people are ready to ignore that narrative, however.
Tom: In some sense, it's a very natural question. He's older and this may well be his last Super Bowl. At the same time, give me a break, no quarterback makes the difference in that game.
Mike: I've been asked about the Super Bowl constantly the past few days, and nobody I've spoken with, professional or just a fan, blames Manning. It was so obvious that I think everyone except the people pushing copy recognize that.
Tom: I probably need to spend more time talking to the people you talk to.
Mike: I am certainly a collector of awesome people, it's true.
Tom: Yes, I do not need to give you the same advice I gave someone in college: to find better friends.
Mike: To be fair, my best friend's father once commented that his friends (myself included) were dragging him into the gutter. That list is now comprised of an IT specialist at Harvard, an attorney, and two separate corporate managers. Straight into the gutter, Tom.
Tom: Into the abyss and to the sewer don't you see, the man just told me, he told me on TV. Speaking of, let's talk commercials. Did you have a favorite commercial from this Super Bowl? For those of you who want or need a refresher, this is a relatively complete list of Super Bowl commercials.
Mike: That is an excellent list.
Mike: I will say, I am a fan of the Doberhuahua. This was a year, as the past few years, without much by the way of fanciful or absurd commercials. I wish the market in general would go back to that, because while the production quality and concepts were good for most of these commercials, only a handful of them were actually weird. Weird is exciting, and the Super Bowl is your chance to make people watch some really weird stuff.
Tom: I've been reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything lately, and what got to me is that the brain is such an energy hog. This is really, really idiosyncratic, but I can't get over suspension of disbelief for that commercial. Then again, heart failure pumping brain to the oversized head might be the actual cause of death. Do not get me wrong -- I appreciate weird ads, too, but it is difficult to find the fine line between a weird ad and one too unrealistic or completely disconnected from your product.
Mike: The great thing about the commercial format (yes, it's a format, Commercial Oscar '15!) is that you don't need to suspend disbelief. In fact, for something really wacky, being unable to do so should only heighten the experience.
Tom: The TurboTax commercial is a great example of what I'm talking about. What I also did not like about that commercial is it claims the only reason to watch a game is as a fan, in an associative manner. I watch the Super Bowl because I like football. Yes, I root for the Titans, but to root is not the only reason I like football.
Tom: Yes, but until the reveal :45 into the commercial, did you have any idea what they were advertising?
Mike: No, but that is purposeful.
Tom: Obviously it was purposeful. And one of the great ads in Super Bowl history did the same thing, but at least E*Trade's "We just wasted $2 million" had a tangible connection to their "service."
Mike: TurboTax baited the hook with relatable experience and then switched it out. I thought it was amusing.
Tom: TurboTax was just associating their product with fan disappointment.
Mike: I cannot think of any better connection than that between filing taxes and disappointment.
Tom: Maybe it's just because I like 1980's nostalgia, but I appreciated Radio Shack's commercial.
Mike: The Radio Shack commercial was great because it was amusing, true, and served a real purpose beyond just selling.
Mike: Like a funny version of the Domino's "We Listened" commercials, it gets the point across that Radio Shack might start doing something useful soon.
Tom: Exactly. And I've watched it a couple times tonight, trying to spot all the 1980's callouts. My favorite thing is still the font for the Twitter feed and Goodbye '80s tagline at the end. Very 1980's.
Mike: Man, I hate the 80's.
Tom: Yeah, well, you probably never had to do "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" in class like the California Raisins, did you?
Mike: Thank God, no.
Tom: What did you think of the Colbert pistachio ads? I'm not a Colbert guy, never made it through an entire show episode, but I appreciated it.
Mike: I appreciated the sequencing effect. I did not appreciate the pistachio head. Did not want. It made an otherwise great set of commercials extremely disturbing.
Tom: It made me think of maybe Being John Malkovich or, closer, Total Recall and Men in Black.
Tom: The purist in me now feels like noting that, technically, there should have been a pre-existing crack in Colbert's head to complete the pistachio look. Maybe showing his hair was covering it up. Pistachios, after all, are not completely closed up like peanuts.
Mike: It was just so out of place in the setting and with that actor that it was incredibly jarring.
Tom: Yeah, I can see that easily.
Mike: What we were missing this year was a good pre-game Old Spice commercial. This year had been a decidedly mixed bag from the House of Swagger, so I was hoping for something new and amusing to finish the season out on a high note. Alas, it was not to be.
Tom: The Wes Welker commercials were good, and I hope to see them rewarded in our annual awards. The Moms commercial felt like a bad Axe idea.
Mike: Precisely. I thought it was a terrible Axe commercial up until the logo flashed. And then I cried manly tears of sadness.
Mike: The pre-game did have some very amusing Muppets commercials, however. Including Tina Fey with a ridiculous, PARANOIA-style Russian accent.
Tom: I did appreciate the Budweiser Puppy Love spot, but as I sit here now it occurs to me that I would be very disturbed if I tried to adopt a puppy and was accosted by large horses.
Mike: I actually thought Budweiser was advocating some kind of twisted cross-species breeding program. Another disturbing commercial!
Mike: And then, of course, an actual in-game Muppets commercial featuring the extremely huggable Terry Crews.
Tom: The one with Tina Fey was a movie trailer. And The Muppets was basically "let's have fun with Muppet nostalgia," so this movie needs a real plot to succeed. That concerns me.
Mike: The last movie was even heavier on Muppet nostalgia, and was excellent.
Tom: The Toyota Highlander commercial is basically Muppets for a while. I like the Muppets, but what's different about this version of the Highlander? Is it actually bigger, or would the Muppets have fit just fine in an old Highlander?
Mike: Also, does a Muppets movie really need plot? I mean, really. It's all about the Muppets doing stupid and amusing things.
Tom: Sure, but it helps. That's what made The Great Muppet Caper the best Muppet movie.
Mike: Plot is just a formality so they have locations in which stupid things happen.
Tom: Right, The Muppets was all Muppet nostalgia, just like the original The Muppet Movie was just showing all the Muppets doing things. Subsequent movies needed to move beyond that.
Mike: I disagree that it was all nostalgia. If the same plot with the same jokes were performed by live actors, it would still have made an amusing if less funny movie. And really, "x doing things" is basically the definition of plot. In any case, it has two of the funniest real people actors on the planet and the Muppets. I can't see any scenario where this movie is bad.
Tom: I hope you're right.
Mike: Aren't I always?*
*-(Please ignore the first section of this column.)
As expected, Aaron triumphed in playoff fantasy. The only surprise was his margin. Even with Russell Wilson more than doubling his total point total with a 20 in the Super Bowl, he only topped Rivers by 7 points as Steven Hauschka had his third consecutive double-digit scoring game and Seahawks Defense turned in the highest point total of the postseason thanks to four turnovers and two non-offensive scores.
|FO Playoff Fantasy Update|
|Pos.||Sean||Mike R.||Mike K.||Rivers||Tom||Aaron|
|QB||Peyton Manning||Aaron Rodgers||Tom Brady||Nick Foles||Drew Brees||Russell Wilson|
|RB||Stevan Ridley||Jamaal Charles||Marshawn Lynch||LeSean McCoy||Frank Gore||Knowshon Moreno|
|RB||Donald Brown||Danny Woodhead||Eddie Lacy||Gio Bernard||DeAngelo Williams||LeGarrette Blount|
|WR||Eric Decker||Wes Welker||Demaryius Thomas||DeSean Jackson||Julian Edelman||Anquan Boldin|
|WR||A.J. Green||Marvin Jones||Randall Cobb||Jordy Nelson||Steve Smith||Golden Tate|
|WR||Riley Cooper||James Jones||Doug Baldwin||T.Y. Hilton||Michael Crabtree||Keenan Allen|
|TE||Vernon Davis||Jimmy Graham||Brent Celek||Coby Fleener||Julius Thomas||Gregg Olsen|
|K||Alex Henery||Phil Dawson||Stephen Gostkowski||Steven Hauschka||Graham Gano||Matt Prater|
As expected, it was a quiet Super Bowl for Best of the Rest contenders. Andre Caldwell, the only man who could have made things interesting, actually played 11 snaps on offense but did not appear on the scoresheet. With Montee Ball going scoreless, none of the teams in competition for the title actually gained points this week. That makes bledderag your winner with 140 points, followed by BlueStarDude with 139. Unless I missed somebody, an ideal fantasy team would have had 187 points. For at least the second time in the five years your Scramble writer has been keeping track of scores, the top Best of the Rest running back was not selected by any actual Best of the Rest teams. If somebody ever asks you what Knile Davis and Shonn Greene (in 2009) have in common, now you know. Full, final Best of the Rest teams, including the "Ideal" team can be viewed here.
The winner of our other game, the FO Playoff Challenge, will be announced in an XP post later on Wednesday.
Keep Chopping Wood: Your Scramble writers were tempted to just leave it at all the Broncos, but ultimately decided to make it just the Denver offensive line. It was a strong collective effort, staring with the bad snap by Manny Ramirez on the first play from scrimmage and continuing in particular with the trouble left tackle Chris Clark and right tackle Orlando Franklin had with the Seahawks defensive ends.
Mike Martz Award: John Fox is not very good at challenges, as shown by his poor regular season record, but even for him his challenge of a clearly forward pass in the first quarter was bad. Nothing in particular he did during the game could have changed the result, but maybe if he has all three of his timeouts remaining, he does not let Seattle just run out the clock at the end of the first half. Your Scramble writers did not appreciate the punt from inside the Seattle 40, either, but at least one of your Scramble writers has a policy not to get overly exercised about decisions down four scores. Also, what was up with practicing in pads?
Send your questions, thoughts and concerns to Scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com and we will respond to them in the next Scramble! In, oh, six months or so.
26 comments, Last at 07 Feb 2014, 7:25pm by tuluse