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20 Jan 2015

Conference Championship Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei

If you're reading this, you certainly know by now what happened in the conference championship games. You already know that Russell Wilson was very bad and LeGarrette Blount was very good. There's not much point in a long essay discussing what happened in those games, so instead we're going to look forward to the Super Bowl -- by looking backward. What were the worst games for the Seahawks and Patriots this year? What were the common threads in those bad games, and do those trends reveal weaknesses that could decide Super Bowl XLIX?

We'll cover Seattle this week, then New England in a special piece during the bye week between games. Why Seattle first? Because they played first on Sunday. I had to pick one of them, and that seems as good a reason as any.

By DVOA, these were Seattle's four worst games this year, in chronological order:

  • Week 2: San Diego 30, Seattle 21 (Seattle DVOA: -1.3%): Seattle had a very good day on offense, and their rush defense was solid. Their pass defense, though, was torn apart. Philip Rivers went 28-of-37 for 284 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions, and one sack. The Seahawks did get some pressure on him, but he was able to escape, with five runs for 23 yards, his highest rushing total in a game this year. Rivers' key receiver that day was Antonio Gates, who caught each of the seven passes thrown his way for 96 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Week 6: Dallas 30, Seattle 23 (Seattle DVOA: -37.5%): Russell Wilson had his worst day of the year (well, until the playoffs), going 14-of-28 for only 126 yards with no touchdowns, one interception, and two sacks. The Seahawks also struggled on the ground, gaining 80 yards on only 18 carries; it was one of two games this season where their offense had a negative DVOA on rushing plays. On defense, they played very well against DeMarco Murray, but struggled to slow down Tony Romo, who went 21-of-32 for 250 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and just one sack.
  • Week 7: St. Louis 28, Seattle 26 (Seattle DVOA: -18.7%): Seattle's special teams completely melted down, surrendering a 90-yard punt return touchdown to Stedman Bailey (which, if you haven't seen it, was one of the weirder trick plays of the year) and a 75-yard kickoff return to Benny Cunningham. It was Seattle's worst special teams DVOA of the year, and that's not even counting the fake punt, an 18-yard pass from Johnny Hekker to Cunningham for 18 yards and a first down that effectively iced the game. Technically, that play counts against Seattle's defense in DVOA, but that's OK -- it was their worst pass defense DVOA of the year as well. Austin Davis (you know, the undrafted third-year quarterback who had never entered a game before this year and was eventually benched for journeyman Shaun Hill) needled Seattle's defense all day, going 17-of-20 for 155 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks.
  • Week 11: Kansas City 24, Seattle 20 (Seattle DVOA: -31.3%): It wasn't the best day for Seattle's offense or special teams, but their real problems were found on defense. Jamaal Charles racked up 159 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Alex Smith went 11-of-16 for 108 yards, and though he didn't throw for any touchdowns, he had no sacks or interceptions either.

(It is a little unusual that Seattle's four worst games by DVOA were their four losses. Usually when we do this we find a "bad win" that has a lower DVOA than a "good loss." Not in Seattle's case. Counting the playoffs, when they had a positive DVOA, they went 14-0; when they had a negative DVOA, they went 0-4. I don't know if that means anything, but it is a little weird.)

There was a lot of variance in those games. Sometimes Wilson passed well, sometimes he didn't. Sometimes the Seahawks ran well, sometimes they were slowed down. And sometimes they decided they just flat-out forgot about the kicking game entirely. The one common thread in these four games: the pass defense, supposedly the strength of the team, let them down. These losses were four of the worst five games for Seattle's pass defense all year, according to DVOA. (The fifth was in Week 5 against Washington, when Kirk Cousins threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns with no picks.) Really, it's that simple. To beat Seattle, you must find a way to move the ball through the air.

And that, of course, is easier said than done. How did the quartet of Rivers, Romo, Hill, and Smith (10th, second, 36th, and 18th in passing DVOA, respectively) take Seattle down? Collectively, this group (let's call them the Hawkbusters) went 77-of-105 against the Seahawks, gaining 797 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions, with only two sacks. The last of those numbers aren't very useful (we're looking for ways to beat Seattle; "throw touchdowns while avoiding interceptions and sacks" is certainly a good strategy, but not a very specific one), but the others are intriguing. That's only 26.3 passes per game, much lower than the league average of 34.9. Obviously, that's partly because these teams were often ahead in the second half, but even early in the game they were very balanced. In the first half, they averaged 14.5 runs and 15.8 pass plays (the league-average rates were 12.8 runs and 18.7 passes). In short: part of putting together a good passing attack against Seattle is making sure you run the ball enough to keep the defense off-balance.

More to the point, look what happened when those teams did pass. Our Seahawks-busting quartet completed 73 percent of their passes, but averaged only 10.4 yards per completion, a rate that drops to single digits if we remove one 47-yard completion from Romo to Terrance Williams. So you can forget about hitting the home run against the Seahawks; if you're going to beat them, you're going to do it with walks and singles.

We can show this further by breaking those 105 passes down by distance. Official play-by-play breaks passes down into "short" (those thrown within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage) and "deep" (anything thrown 16 yards or more downfield). In our annual Almanacs, we break them down further into four categories:

  • Short (5 yards or less)
  • Mid (6 to 15 yards)
  • Deep (16 to 25 yards)
  • Bomb (26-plus yards)

With that in mind, here's how our quartet fared in each category, along with league-wide numbers for comparison. (These are NFL averages overall, not just averages against Seattle.)

Select Quarterbacks vs. Seattle by Pass Distance
Short 60 51 360 56.7% 6.0 7.0 53.6%
Mid 29 18 227 65.5% 7.8 2.6 25.9%
Deep 17 9 212 58.8% 12.5 2.6 15.2%
Bomb 6 3 100 50.0% 16.7 4.0 5.4%
NFL Totals
Short 8764 6437 46368 44.9% 5.3 6.3 48.4%
Mid 5786 3448 45692 56.8% 7.9 3.5 31.9%
Deep 2112 970 23681 48.0% 11.2 4.5 11.7%
Bomb 1456 414 18906 33.4% 13.0 7.1 8.0%
* Percentage of all passes thrown in this range.

By either Success Rate or yards per play, the Hawkbusters were by and large better against Seattle than the league average rate regardless of distance -- which shouldn't be surprising, considering they won those games. It's notable, though, that their YAC per reception was still generally lower than league average. Even in their bad games, the Legion of Boom make their tackles. Further, the Hawkbusters threw more Short passes than most teams, with fewer Bombs. (In fact, they only threw six bombs against Seattle in total, five of them by Romo.) That shouldn't be surprising either, considering their high completion rate and low yards per catch. But note also that while their frequency of Mid passes was lower than average, their frequency of Deep passes actually went up. This makes sense considering that Seattle is still largely a zone team; those Short passes were generally thrown to receivers running underneath coverage, while Deep passes went to guys running the seams behind the linebackers but in front of the safeties.

How does New England match up against a defense like that? We tend to think of the Patriots as a team that specializes in screens and slants. Tom Brady threw 291 passes within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, with a DVOA of 9.6%, eighth among starting quarterbacks in both categories. His top receivers on those routes were Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen; those will be the men running underneath routes in the Super Bowl, and the ability of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to cover (and tackle) them will be critical.

What about Deep balls? (As a reminder, we're talking here about those that travel 16 to 25 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.) Brady threw 69 Deep balls (eighth), with a DVOA of 60.4%. That sounds very good, but the average DVOA on Deep balls is 51.5%, and though Brady was above that mark, he was just 18th among starters. His top targets there were Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell, and Edelman, so those are the men likely to score on seam routes in the Super Bowl.

(While we're talking about pass distance, we should mention that Brady was 26th among starters in DVOA on Bombs. Given his weaknesses and the strengths of the Seattle defense, big plays could be very hard to come by for New England.)

As for Gronkowski, it would be easy to look at Seattle's 18th-place ranking in coverage against tight ends and think that New England would be best-served by forcing the ball to the world's best tight end over and over again, but there's reason to think that's not the best plan. We covered Gates' big day in San Diego, but otherwise, the teams that beat Seattle did so without major contributions from their tight ends. In their other losses, the Seahawks did not allow a single tight end to gain more than 12 DYAR, and no team's tight ends to gain more than 31, despite playing against Jason Witten, Jared Cook, and Travis Kelce, each of whom finished first or second on his team in targets. It appears that Seattle gives up a small number of easy completions to tight ends in every game, but when they need to they can often take those options out of the passing game. Instead, the receivers who have done the most damage to Seattle in their losses have usually been either secondary wideouts (Terrance Williams, Brian Quick, and Chris Givens had a combined 85 DYAR against Seattle, catching six-of-six passes for 149 total yards) or running backs (Bennie Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, and Danny Woodhead totaled 86 DYAR, catching 13-of-14 balls for 122 yards). As for the top wideouts, even in their losses, Seattle largely kept those players in check. Keenan Allen, Dez Bryant, Kenny Britt, and Dwayne Bowe totaled 26 DYAR in wins over Seattle, catching 13-of-24 balls for 153 yards.

It's tricky to predict how that defense will fare against New England, though, because the Patriots' receiving corps is so unique. Their most dangerous receiver, of course, is Gronkowski, and just trying to find that guy can be a challenge. He spends most of his time as a traditional tight end, but often lines up in the slot or out wide, and splits his targets fairly evenly between the left, right, and middle areas of the field. And though Seattle has been able to mitigate the damage done by tight ends this year, there's a big gap between Gronk and any other tight end in the league. Given the status of New England's other receiving options, will we see Richard Sherman moving around to cover Gronkowski?

Meanwhile, Julian Edelman, despite missing two games, led the team in targets and receptions. On a per-target basis, though, he was exactly league-average in production (DVOA: 0.0%). Brandon LaFell could be something of a secret weapon for New England. He spends most of his time on the offense's left, which means he'll spend a lot of time facing Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane, and not much against Sherman. There's reason to think he could match Williams, Quick, or Givens with big results in a small number of plays. The Patriots use a ton of running backs, but Shane Vereen was virtually the only receiving threat out of the backfield, with 77 targets when no other back had more than six. For all that volume, though, he wasn't particularly dangerous, with a negative receiving DVOA. Seattle's attempts to cover Vereen in the passing game will be a rare example of weakness vs. weakness in a contest between the two teams who have been the best in the league for most of the season.

One-Play Wonders

Before we move on to the tables, we want to address the special days a few players had on trick plays this weekend. These players don't qualify for our tables, but we knew we would be asked about them, so here you go.

  • Seattle punter Jon Ryan was, by DYAR, the second-best passer of championship weekend. He gains 33 DYAR (and a 3,625.2% DVOA) for his one pass, a 19-yard touchdown on fourth-and-10 to backup lineman Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal.
  • Speaking of whom, Gilliam gains 22 DYAR for that touchdown catch.
  • Speaking of big guy touchdowns, New England lineman Nate Solder gets 15 DYAR for his 16-yard touchdown against the Colts.
  • And speaking of guys who scored against the Colts, fullback James Develin gets 15 DYAR for his 1-yard touchdown catch, the first receiving touchdown of his career.

Tom Brady NE
The Colts were almost completely incapable of getting Brady off the field. On third and fourth downs, he went 9-of-13 for 92 yards. All nine of those completions resulted in first downs, including two touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers GB
No, now that you mention it, championship weekend was not kind to quarterbacks. Rodgers was particularly impotent after Green Bay had crossed the Seattle 40. Between there and the goal line, he went 5-of-15 for 47 yards, with nearly as many interceptions (two) as first downs (three, including one touchdown).
Andrew Luck IND
Luck just couldn't get anything going downfield. On passes that went at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage (not 20 yards, not 15, ten), he went 1-of-12 for 36 yards.
Russell Wilson SEA
Where to begin? First of all, we can confim that this was one of the worst playoff games of all time. In fact, it is the worst DYAR by a winning quarterback in playoff history, by a sizable margin. Wilson breaks the record of Drew Bledsoe, who had -116 DYAR in New England's 1996 AFC Championship Game win over Jacksonville. Now, let's play a game of "what if." Let's pretend that Green Bay had recovered Seattle's fourth-quarter onside kick, and then gone on to run out the final 2:09 of the game. Not a huge stretch, is it? If that happens, the Seahawks never take the lead in the fourth quarter, and obviously don't go on to win in overtime. In our imaginary land of make-believe, Wilson finishes 10-of-25 for 121 yards, with four sacks, four interceptions, a fumbled snap, and only five first downs. He also has four carries for 11 yards and a touchdown. That all works out to -218 DYAR passing, 4 DYAR rushing, and -214 total, and that, dear friends, is one of the three worst playoff games of all time, behind only Kerry Collins' loss to the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV and Jake Delhomme's notorious meltdown in 2008 against Arizona. We're talking worse-than-Ryan-Lindley numbers here. Of course, in reality Seattle recovered the onside kick, and Green Bay took this sub-Lindley passer ... and let him beat them. After the onside kick recovery, Wilson went 4-of-4 for 88 yards and four first downs (including a touchdown), with one sack, and one run for 15 yards. That's 71 DYAR passing, 6 rushing, 76 total. In six plays! (No, 71 + 6 does not equal 76; the difference comes from rounding errors.) Of all the amazing stats about this game (and there are many), this might be my favorite: In the first 56 minutes of the game, Wilson had three first downs, rushing and passing. After that, he had eight.

Five most valuable running backs (Total)
LeGarrette Blount NE
Only four of Blount's carries failed to gain positive yards, and two of those came when the Patriots were up by at least 10 points in the second half. Meanwhile, he had first downs on gains of 22, 13, and 10 yards, and eight other first downs on the day. He had nine carries with 1 or 2 yards to go for a first down and converted seven of them, gaining 36 yards and two touchdowns in the process.
Marshawn Lynch SEA
It was hard to tell at the time, but Lynch had an amazingly consistent day against Green Bay. He was stuffed for no gain once, and lost yards once, but he gained 3 yards or more 20 times (!), with eight runs of 10 yards or more, and eight total first downs on the ground.
Dan Herron IND
All ten of Herron's carries gained positive yardage,including gains of 12 and 17.
James Starks GB
Starks' first carry went for 32 yards, but that was his only successful run of the day. Yes, this makes him the fourth most valuable running back of the weekend. We had two games. Pickin's are slim.
Zurlon Tipton IND
Tipton had a goal-line touchdown, and a 3-yard gain on third-and-2, and mostly I just can't believe that "Zurlon Tipton" is a real human being and not a Douglas Adams character.

Five most valuable running backs (Rushing)
LeGarrette Blount NE
Marshawn Lynch SEA
Dan Herron IND
James Starks GB
Zurlon Tipton IND

Least valuable running back (Total)
Eddie Lacy GB
Lacy was stuffed for no gain or a loss four times, more often than he ran for a first down (three times) or gained 10 yards (once).

Least valuable running back (Rushing)
Eddie Lacy GB

Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Julian Edelman NE
That's 58 DYAR receiving, -10 rushing for his one carry that gained 12 yards -- and ended in a fumble. His first four targets resulted in two catches for 12 yards and no first downs; his last seven targets resulted in seven catches for 86 yards and seven first downs.
Doug Baldwin SEA
Three of Baldwin's catches gained at least 20 yards, including a 29-yard gain on third-and-19.
Jordy Nelson GB
Nelson's receiving numbers here do not include a 5-yard DPI, though that is accounted for in his DYAR. Seven of those targets were to the short left area of the field. Including the penalty, he gained five first downs on the day.
Ricardo Lockette SEA
Lockette's two catches gained 14 and 11 yards, both on third-and-7. He had 16 DYAR receiving, 4 rushing for his one 4-yard carry.
Randall Cobb GB
Cobb had three first downs, but failed to convert any of his three third-down targets. He had 15 DYAR receiving, 1 rushing for his one 3-yard carry.

Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Danny Amendola NE
Amendola's only catch was an 8-yard gain on second-and-10. Hey, that's a successful play. He had -14 DYAR receiving, -6 rushing for his one carry that lost 2 yards.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 20 Jan 2015

214 comments, Last at 22 Jan 2015, 3:25pm by Karl Cuba


by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:25pm

Obviously, you have failed to account for RISINGUP!CLUTCH! Wilson's WHENTITREALLYMATTERS Vulcan mind-meld Jedi mind trick with Bostick, resulting in him ignoring his assignment on the onside kick. Well, the Sith Lord and his apprentice are next on the schedule; perhaps you FO devoteees of The Dark Side will finally learn your lesson; there is no more wretched hive of scum and villainy that that of the videotaping, ball deflating, super model marrying, hoodie wearing, ineligible receiver reporting, lot that resides in Foxboro!

by nat :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:32pm

Anger is strong in this one. A grip this one needs to get.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:39pm

What anger? It leads to fear, fear leads to hate, then you're Skip Bayless!!

by nat :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:45pm

This one is better. Mocking Skip Bayless is always acceptable.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:02pm

Well, Skippy is an outspoken proponent of "The Clutch Gene" theory of athletic performance.

by mrt1212 :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:20pm

It's too bad his brother has all the talent and none of the publicity.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:29pm

Along with getting a great meal, it appears, at least from afar, that an evening spent in the company of the brother would actually entail interaction with a pleasant, or, at the very least, a non-insufferable human being. All families are weird in their own unique ways.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:39pm

By not being clutch, doesn't Bostick prove that clutch does exist? He knows what he should have done, he could tell people after the game. But when the pressure was on, he didn't do it.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:43pm

The argument isn't that clutch doesn't exist, it is that it exists in a pretty much unquantifiable and limited way.

Un-clutch players would generally be weeded out at some point, and even if not, there is no way to really currently measure it.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:12pm

Oh, I think a sport like golf allows one to establish empirically that choking is a real phenomena. If you simply define clutch as being someone less prone to choking, then I wouldn't mock the concept of clutch, but most people who use the term to mean that some Select Few can actually have their performance improve, compared to their normal performance, When it Really Matters.

By all accounts, however, Bostick is simply a dumb player who regularly does dumb things in practice, so what we saw Sunday wasn't a choke, but rather a normal performance.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:13pm

My difficulty with the argument about whether or not clutch exists, is that I've never seen an in-depth attempt to define what clutch is.

That needs to occur before it can be measured.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:16pm

It makes it easier to claim that it exists when you never get pinned down with a precise definition.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:28pm

I seem to recall Barnwell refuting it without ever declaring a definition, though, too. It goes both ways.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:30pm

It seems to me that the responsibility for defining a phenomena with precision lies with the person who makes the claim that a phenomena exists.

by ChrisS :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:59pm

It doesn't seem that hard to define, probably because I have not thought deeply about it. Clutch= statistically significantly (20% above nonnclutc) better performance in the last 10% of games when within one score of the opponent. I don't think clutch exists but I do believe in choke (personal experience).

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:08pm

Golf is a good game to look at because it generates such huge samples so quickly; the typical PGA golfer likely has about 8000-9000 shots in a single season, so in 5 years you're likely well over 40,000 shots. It'd be kind of interesting for someone to look at it ("Golf Outsiders"! How exciting!) to see what can be found. My guess would be that choking is definitely able to be established with a very, very, large degree of confidence, and that everybody, and I mean everybody, is a choker, to varying degrees. I would be astonished if anyone is clutch.

by Sixknots :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:13am

"Golf Outsiders" Ha! GVOP...green-adjusted value over par.

by PaddyPat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:00am

There actually are social psychology studies on this matter, more or less. Studies exist evaluating student performance on exams relative to pressure and expectation. For example, student A expects to do poorly and desperately wants to perform well. How does that student do compared to student B who expects to do well and desperately wants to perform well, vs. student C who expects to do well and feels no special pressure, etc. The trouble with studies like this is you need a lot of sample data to avoid comparing apples and oranges. If memory serves though, I think that people who feel pressure and expect to perform poorly generally perform more poorly than without the pressure, but people who feel pressure and expect to perform well show a scattershot performance relative to their normal performance without pressure. That would tend to suggest that there may be such a thing as "clutch", but it may be very unusual, even for an individual. In other words, there may be some people who are confident under pressure who reliably perform better than their norm a small percentage of the time under such conditions, whereas, most of the time, they still perform at about their normal level. These people would be considered "clutch" even though their improved performance only happens from time to time.

Hopefully this illustrates that even under study conditions, this concept is fairly stupid to study, and a statistically significant finding, however interesting, may tell us very little that fits into the context of a popular narrative.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:14am

I did actually read a 6 piece article online where someone had actually done "Golf Outsiders" a few years back. Can't remember what they called it and haven't been able to find it since. Perhaps I got taken in by an April Fools joke.

They were doing precisely what you'd expect, looking at all those shots and then finding players who are above/below average with certain shots. Can't remember how/whether they were adjusting for different courses.

The one thing I distinctly remember is that they concluded Tiger won his 2008 US Open (?) title because his shots from 180-200 yds were far above average while the traditional commentators were all saying the victory was down to his putting.

by Johnny Socko :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:02pm

Will is obviously being funny, but his point is legit. I actually heard an analyst on national radio say "Russel Wilson willed his team to victory".

by formido :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:47pm

Did you not watch the end of the game? A reasonable person can absolutely say Wilson willed the team to victory.

And, oh by the way, Football Outsiders has not proved that clutch doesn't exist, no matter how many blow-hards spend time sarcastically mocking it:


by Tofino :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:19pm

You've completely ignored the ludicrous VOA advantage that Tarvaris Jackson has over anyone else in the league in overtime coin-flips. HeReallyWantsItMore(tm).

by Travis :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:35pm

So you're saying the 2009 Vikings should have put him out there for the coin toss instead of Hutchinson?

by Jerry :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:04am

It's a testament to the genius of Pete Carroll.

by Sixknots :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:15am

TJ is "coin-toss-clutch".

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:15am

TJack has a Madden Rating of 99 Coin Toss. It is known.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:22am

You're just upset that Wilson has broken yet another record. Worst QB in a playoff game who won. Yes, Wilson can do it all, especially vs Green Bay where he's already thrown an interception for the win and now played the worst ever for the win. Next year, no doubt, he'll probably get sacked for the win.

by intel_chris :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:29am

Wilson will be so clutch that he will get sacked for a safety to win.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:34am

A couple of years ago the Seahawks took an intentional safety in Carolina to guarantee the win.

by Dired :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:52pm

Pick-six for then win, then?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:31pm

OK, now that I've finished with the morning ether binge, it occurs to me that the most interesting aspect of the matchup is how far Darth Hoodie will go to shut down the Seahawks running, and force them to throw deep. It has the potential of being a high risk and reward approach that will be fun to watch.

by Behemoth :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:10pm

I actually expect that Darth Hoodie will tell his team, in a way, not to worry about Lynch so much. I expect that Belichick will happily concede a 100 yard game, while trying to get his team to respond to the ball, to tackle well, and to be very disciplined against the read option. I expect that they will play a single high safety look (although the Patriots always change things around to make the look different), while matching up with straight man coverage against Seattle's outside receivers. They might even go three corners, with perhaps Browner on Willson. I expect that they will use a 5-2 line (a 3-4 depending on how many hands are in the dirt) to try to give as much resistance to the run as possible with a 7 man box. Can Wilson pass successfully to his not-entirely overwhelming group of receivers against a disciplined secondary that has consistent safety help?

My admittedly untrained view is that Wilson kills teams with improvisation and deep balls against affectively a cover 0 as teams sell out to defend the run (and the read option when Seattle uses it). I suspect that is what Belichick and Patricia will seek to take away from Seattle, not Lynch's running.

by duh :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:23pm

Re the 5-2 line, I think this is right. What I expect is for the Patriots to run a set with 3 DTs Like Wilfork, Siliga and Branch in the middle flanked by Jones and Ninkovich.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:25pm

Oh, I agree. If you offered Belichik 100 yards on 20 carries from Lynch right now, in return for no huge Wilson runs or long passes after scrambles, he'd take it. The danger is that you get to a point where you can't allow another 5 yard run, and then Wilson burns you. The New England offense's job is to make a 5 yard run from Lynch irrelevant.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:29pm

I disagree. Belichick usually tries to take away the opponent's best weapon, and Lynch is the Seahawks' best weapon. The Pats cannot afford to let the Seahawks have a grinding running game that dominates the time of possession.

On the flip side, I'll take the passing defense of the Pats against the Seahawks' passing game as going to the Pats. (In fact, that advantage goes to both defenses against both passing games, at least on long passes). If Baldwin and Kearse can get consistently open against Revis and company, the Pats won't win.

The real issue with the Seahawks' passing game is Wilson's ability to scramble and be a dual threat while scrambling. Some QBs cannot scramble. Some can scramble, but once they start, they are not a threat to pass. Wilson is the rare QB who can split out and be a threat to either rush for 20 yards or throw it 40 yards downfield.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:36pm

Well, you get into a semantic discussion eventually. I don't think 100 yards for Lynch hurts the Patriots, if the Patriots have some efficiency on offense, as long as they aren't giving up big plays to Wilson. What was being proposed was a 5-2, which I think qualifies as doing something significant to account for Lynch.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:55pm

My comment was not so much about what would hurt the Pats more, but more about what I expect Belichick to do. I expect him to make stopping the running game his highest priority. Of course, I may well be wrong.

The problem with "letting Marshawn Lynch get 100 yards" is that it could quickly turn into 150 yards. 100 yards would be tolerable. 150 yards or more would likely mean a Seahawks victory.

This is a concern because, although the Colts could not run on the Pats, the Ravens were able to do so. And while the Pats scored 35 points on the Ravens, that's just not going to happen against the Seahawks.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:58pm

I think this all comes under the heading of "Being a good NFL head coach is kinda' hard".

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:22pm

Oh definitely. Of the six matchups the Pats have had in the Belichick era, I would say that the Seahawks of this season are the second toughest, behind the Rams (who really, really should have won that game and would have if Martz hadn't been so thoroughly outcoached by Belichick). So yeah, I'm putting the Seahawks ahead of either Giants squad, and that's troubling since the Pats lost both of those games.

The flip side is that this Pats team is clearly better than either the 2001 or 2011 teams. And they might be in a better "place" than the 2007 team, which peaked in the middle of the season and was ripe for an upset by the time the Super Bowl came along.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:31pm

Don't be too troubled. The variance and randomness in championship football is, to say the least, very substantial, even the results we look back at and say were utterly predictable may not really be nearly as much, if we had the benefit of replaying it 10,000 times.

This is a fun matchup for me, in there is literally no result in terms of winner, or gut or stomp, which would hugely surprise me. I don't the faintest damned idea of how this thing will turn out.

by Behemoth :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:23pm

We will see, of course. The difference between Seattle and Baltimore, however, is huge. Baltimore's use of zone blocking completely changes the dynamic. Wilfork et al seemed more worried about their knees on many plays than they were about making a tackle (I saw more than one un-called illegal chop block during the game, without resort to all-22). It's hard to defend against a zone running system, especially so when the offensive line running it doesn't have to worry about having penalties called against them. It seemed overwhelmingly clear that New England game-planned against Flacco, not Forsett. I was surprised at how few points the Ravens were able to score in the second half when New England became more disciplined in their lanes.

I think that the big question in this game will be; can New England contain the potential damage of Seattle's rushing with only seven men? 150 yards rushing from all sources would be successful, in my view. If they can't, then Seattle will win, I think, because Revis, Browner, and Arrington can't successfully cover one-on-one for an entire game against deep shots. Sooner or later, they'll be beaten. If McCourty is in the box consistently, I think New England loses for sure, as Seattle will be able to convert short third downs and hit the long ball eventually. If New England can contain the rushing damage, then I think that Seattle will find it hard to put up huge points, especially as New England can defend the run better when it gets closer to the goal line.

These are just my thoughts. Who the heck knows what Darth Hoodie will do? He's just a tad more knowledgeable about NFL defence than am I.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:24pm

"I think that the big question in this game will be; can New England contain the potential damage of Seattle's rushing with only seven men? 150 yards rushing from all sources would be successful, in my view. If they can't, then Seattle will win,"

Agree completely. You can't put eight men in the box with Russell Wilson at QB. He'll shred a secondary with that little coverage.

by Chris West :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:29pm

"We will see, of course. The difference between Seattle and Baltimore, however, is huge. Baltimore's use of zone blocking completely changes the dynamic."

The Seahawks are a zone blocking team, too. Perhaps Tom Cable's zone blocking scheme differs significantly from Baltimore's in some way and this is still true? I wouldn't know because I'm by no means an expert on the subject. I just wanted to point out that Seattle does utilize a zone blocking scheme as well.

by Behemoth :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:31pm

Apologies - I should have been more clear. The Ravens use, if I am not mistaken, the zone blocking scheme popularized in Denver back in the day where the backside offensive lineman seek to cut block the defensive lineman to open up up cutback lanes for the runner. I don't believe that the Seahawks block that way at all. That said, the Patriots looked very poor against the Ravens, and I don't recall them being that bad in the past against Kubiak's offense when he was with the Texans.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:42pm

JR Sweezy broke a 9ers DT leg with a cut block in the 2013 NFC CG. They are pretty prolific with the cut blocks. Justin Britt loves to cut guys so much, he's drawn at least 2 clipping penalties.

by Behemoth :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:50pm

Yes, but do they cut block on virtually every run? I don't think that they do .... Admittedly, I don't get to see many Seahawk games where I live; I may be wrong.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 3:25pm

They cut a lot. I'm not sure how they'd stack up in terms of numbers to the Ravens but it's basically the same run scheme but the Seahawks add WR screens, fly sweeps and the read option on top.

They also broke Ian Williams' ankle in week two of the 2013 season.

by young curmudgeon :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 7:54pm

RickD, this is a discussion board on the Internet. You really aren't supposed to say things like "Of course, I may well be wrong." Proper etiquette demands chest-beating, unsupported assertions, fanboy ranting, name-calling, and umbrage-taking.

Urk! I thought this would appear after #72. Must learn to type faster.

by Behemoth :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 3:05pm

Sorry, effectively, not affectively. Darn typos ....

by JFP :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 3:23pm

I actually expect that Darth Hoodie will tell his team, in a way, not to worry about Lynch so much. I expect that Belichick will happily concede a 100 yard game,

Think you're spot on with this one. Reminds me of the Bills/Giants SB when they were willing to let Thurmond Thomas get his yards.

by Moridin :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 3:49pm

While true, that was also probably the idea with the Ravens. And that became less true after the 1st quarter where Forsett was gaining 8ypc. The danger with not caring too much about Lynch is letting him hit a similar pace.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:57pm

Exactly. And since Lynch and the Seahawks are far more dangerous than Forsett and the Ravens, this is not a good path to contemplate.

by Lance :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:12pm

Of course, the Bills were one makable FG away from winning that game...

Laces out????

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:18am

They sought to neutralize Lynch in their last match up and Wilson beat them. He saw Lynch have a good day yesterday and Wilson have a bad day and how that really affected the offense. I bet he tries to take Wilson out more than Lynch.

Or he could think, My God that Wilson kid sucks, stop Lynch.

Or he could send a ball boy over to over inflate the Seahawks balls.

by anotherpatsfan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:58pm

The ballboy may have a problem with Lynch since he will likely be holding them tightly.

by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:15pm

I'm not certain even The Hooded One can shut down Seattle's second half running if they come out like they did on Sunday.

I would like to see the Seahawks turn BB's own strategy from the past against him, and play keep away from the Pats like the Giants did in SB XXV, since I like symmetry. Then Mr. Automatic Gotskowski would have to miss a FG, though, and that's probably not going to happen.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:57pm

As I recall, the quote from that game was "if Thurman Thomas rushes for 100 yards, we win," meaning that they limited the damage in the passing game as the main priority.

Such a contrast from the Rams when they made Faulk the center of it all...

If they cover as well as they did against the Colts, which is certainly possible because having Revis effectively gives them an extra man and none of the Seattle receivers are really all that good, they will shut down the passing game. They won't even have to put too terribly much extra thought into that. That leaves Lynch and Wilson outside of the pocket to worry about.

I'm curious what role Collins will play. He always impresses me and very rarely gets credit.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:11pm

NE was giving Revis safety help over the top, though. SEA can exploit that by clearing two DBs out by having Revis' guy run go routes. It's not like Seattle is married to any one receiver, but they'll sure throw to that guy once you forget to cover him.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:12pm

Not really. Revis was largely left to himself with McCourty and Arrington doubling Hilton on most plays.

by Sakic :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:36pm

Seattle's rushing offense really started cooking when they started using the read option on almost every play and the Packers are still very poor against it (I'm still not sure why it took them so long to start using it.) I not an expert on NE's defense but from the few games I've watched this year it seems that they are better equipped to handle it.

by RoninX :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:54pm

I wonder, has this edition of the Pats haven't played a single team with a real read-option component to their offense (the Bengals sometimes run a play or two, did the Jets do it this year)?

Being equipped to handle it in terms of players with good pursuit speed etc. is a different animal from actually being able to fluidly react to it within the game.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:03pm

The Jets ran it a decent amount with Geno, especially in that first game with the Pats when they ground out 218 yards on the ground. Geno had 37 yards on 7 carries. He only had nine yards in the second game, where both offenses had problems.

by JFP :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:58pm

This may be the game where the loss of Mayo really shows. Collins & Hightower will need to play well.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:15pm

So the morale here is that you could have replaced Wilson w/ Lindley, and Seattle still would have beaten GB?

So if Belichick stops Seattle's passing offense entirely, they can still win. Fun.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:34pm

I mean, Green Bay was 3-14 on third down, threw two interceptions, and failed to recover an onsides kick.

Those aren't just failures, those are exceptional failures. So yeah, Ryan Lindley very well might've won this game.

by formido :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:56pm

Right, so Lindley would have thrown 2 straight 35 yard passes to end the game? Or? Or converted the 2 point conversion? Or ran for a TD? Have you seen Lindley play? I can't imagine a sequence of events where Lindley wins that game with that pass protection and those receivers.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:38pm

No, he's saying that Ryan Lindley, if he had played the whole game, still could have been the winning QB since GB played so poorly. He's not saying the game would have played out the same exact way.

And I think Russel Wilson deserves the absolute minimum possible credit a QB can get for that 2-point conversion. Lindley or any other QB could certainly have heaved a prayer and gotten extremely lucky like that.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:20am

I've seen plenty of QBs throw the ball into the dirt on 2 point conversions (not to mention 4th down attempts) that goes sideways. Wilson threw his up. That's a HUGE difference. A fact to which I'm sure the Packers can reliably attest.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:31pm

"So if Belichick stops Seattle's passing offense entirely, they can still win. Fun."
Sure, as long as Mike McCarthy takes over the play calling.

It's noteworthy that Zurlon Tipton (if that's really his name) had a DYAR as high as any Packer RB, and yet the Packers continued to hand off, hand off, most of the second half.

And to be fair, the Packers only stopped Seattle's passing game for 56 minutes. If they'd stopped it entirely, they would have won.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:57pm

New England allowed Seattle to come back from 2 touchdowns down just as Green Bay did. Stevan Ridley left end for 1 yard, Stevan Ridley right tackle for 1 yard, Tom Brady pass incomplete short left intended for Deion Branch, punt sounds awfully similar to what McCarthy chose to run. And while the drive before that had a lot more passes, a lot of them were incomplete to stop the clock.

by jds :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 3:36pm

and one coach will learn from that and adapt, and one coach is McCarthy.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:06pm

I don't know. If anything, Belichick has become more conservative as the years have gone on. He may not approach McCarthy in terms of clock mis-management, but he's definitely reduced his agressiveness.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:02pm

Learn from that? Like when Belichick knelt three times against Baltimore and gave them the ball back with enough time for a short pass followed by a medium-length Hail Mary had Jones not stupidly tried to run it back? Belichick is not flawless in end-of-game situations. But yes, his defense should be a lot more equipped to prevent a similar comeback.

by dryheat :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 9:11pm

Belichick is very good, but he can't make game clock disappear. He couldn't kneel out the clock. I thought at the time, and I suspect most of us did, that the Patriots should try to get a first down. In Bill's calculation matrix, running the maximum time off the clock and letting Flacco beat them with a Hail Mary had a more likely successful outcome than risking a turnover or incomplete passes trying to move the ball 10 yards. I suspect he is right.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:46pm

I can totally understand no handoffs. But why not have Brady wait a couple of seconds before kneeling (drop back a couple of yards). Or sprint right (or left) and drop as soon as anyone gets near him? If they could have burned 3 more sec per play there would only have been 5 seconds for the 4th down and they could have ran that to zero by an intentionally overthrown pass to the sideline, or the punter running around in the endzone before stepping out.

by duh :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:59am

Given that they were starting from the 20 I think they didn't want to get any closer to their end zone than they had to.

Regarding the wait a few seconds thing, The Ravens would have had every reason and right to try and blow Brady up to get him to drop the ball in that case. Those snaps wouldn't have been played a 1/2 speed like actual kneel downs.

On the other hand it is mighty hard to picture BB standing up in front of a bunch of reporters and saying 'yeah we made a mistake there we got to coach it better.'

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:59pm

Hopefully the addition of Revis and Browner will have improved the Pats' ability to stop late-game heroics achieved with the long passes. Back in 2012 the Pats' top corners were probably McCourty and Arrington. Revis and Browner are better.

by pablohoney :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:10pm

I think the lack of Sydney Rice and Golden Tate is even more damaging. Browner can definitely be beaten deep, but I'm sure he'll have safety help at all times.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:18pm

There's a belief (Mike Reiss) that Browner will be assigned to Willson. He's the best choice to take a TE totally out of a game.

Of course, Belichick tends to mix things around during the game. Right now the thinking seems to be Revis on Baldwin, Browner on Wilson, and two-man coverage on Kearse. But what do I know? This is all speculative.

by pablohoney :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 7:17pm

Sounds reasonable. I think Moeaki could be an X-factor. I'm a little surprised he didn't get any looks last week. He's quicker than Helfet and a more natural pass catcher than Willson.

by jacobk :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:16pm

I think those zones get easier to pick on when Kam Chancellor is hobbled and Byron Maxwell is out (and Simon, and Lane... at one point I think the Seahawks were down to starting Burley on the outside). If Thomas and Sherman are healthy the pass defense will be going into the Super Bowl at full strength.

It seems to me that the Patriots can bring a B+ quality to any aspect of offensive football that they want. They pick and choose in order to attack each opponent's weakness. But the best way to go after the Seahawks is to have an A+ area of your game that they can't deal with, whether that's the Dallas offensive line or Phillip Rivers or Jamaal Charles playing out of their minds. Brady has had that kind of game before. The question to me is if he can do it on demand this year with this team.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:05pm

If they can keep him upright, there's no reason at all to doubt that he will. Give him more than 2 seconds and the scheme will always get someone open, even if it's just for a small gain (after which Edelman or whoever will get walloped, just like last year's Denver guys did).

The difference, I think, will be that I expect the Patriots to be able to run at least somewhat effectively, making it so that short completions can be productive plays instead of useless on 3rd and long.

They know they're going to have to grind out long drives to score. I expect that they'll figure out a way to make the run game work. B+ will be fine. Not dominant, but fine.

by pablohoney :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:28pm

Yeah, of those 4 performances I would only say San Diego really "beat" the defense as we know it -- Rivers and Gates made some crazy good plays. Dallas and St. Louis played against a completely depleted CB crew (2nd, 3rd, 4th corners were injured for most of both games). Against KC the run defense (without Wagner) was completely trampled which set up some easy throws for Alex Smith.

by emalgha :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:18pm

Well if we're making excuses here the Chargers were in some sense facing a physically different defense also. The conditions for that game were insane. If there was any merit to the criticism of John Fox's preparations for the SB re: noise, they apply to Carroll re: heat.

Also another major factor in the KC loss was the failed adjustment to life without Mebane. The team didn't play particularly well in the games leading up to that loss but that seemed to be the last straw for whatever defensive approach they were using in the first half of the season.

by Bernie :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:30pm

I think the Patriots biggest advantage over the Seahawks is Gronk. The worst aspect of Seattle's D, is covering the tight end, and we all know what Gronk can do. I think that mathup will go a long way to showing us how effective the Pats O is going to be.

by RoninX :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:55pm

This statement about the Seahawks being awful at covering TEs has been circulating this year. Maybe it even started on FO (?) but an article earlier in the playoffs demonstrated that if you look at it in a more granular manner you'll see that a huge portion of the "Seahawks being bad vs. TEs" derives exclusively from the amazing performance Rivers/Gates put up. Several "name" TEs have had fairly quiet days (Witten and Davis to name two off the top of my head).

The seems are places to attack Seattle so you often see TE's get a couple of catches for 7-14ish yards over the course of a game - but they've really not been regularly getting killed by TEs and have some excellent coverage linebackers (and Kam). Gronk is a unique specimen though. I wouldn't be surprised to see him have an effective game vs. Seattle, but not because SEA is "bad vs. TEs" just because Gronk is a Beast.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:07pm

That's still only a relative weakness. In 2012, Gronk+Hernandez had 12 catches for 91 yards and a TD, on 17 targets.

Most of Gronkowski's yardage came on one drive spanning the 1st and 2nd quarters, when he was being guarded by LBs. Once Seattle cycled Chancellor or Thomas onto him, he disappears from the box score.

Using some inference, it looks like Seattle switched over to guarding Hernandez w/ a LB and Gronkowski with a safety. NE had some success with tackle eligible, but mostly in short yardage situations.

That was also generally the pattern against Graham. Deep, they were using Chancellor/Thomas a lot, but also Maxwell. In close, they seem to like using the DE to spy him. Graham has 4 catches for 50 yards on 15 targets in the last two games against SEA. Julius Thomas has 7 catches for 44 yards on 10 targets in the last two games. SEA has switched between Wagner and Chancellor for Thomas.

The only WR Seattle seems to really struggle with is Welker. Welker seemed to be guarded mostly by Hole in Zone. NE has two poor man's versions of him, they might make hay with that.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:33pm

At this point Welker himself is a poor man's version of Welker. Edelman is clearly better. He's not quite at peak Welker level, but he's damned good, as this column makes clear.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 3:02pm

0.0% DVOA is damn good? I think he's definitely better than league average, but this column doesn't praise him at all. Unless you mean his last game, which doesn't mean much.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:12pm

I referred to "this column" not the DVOA tables. Scroll up and look at who the most productive WR was last weekend.

"which doesn't mean much"

Well, whatever. If you want to throw away that data point as unimportant because it's only one data point, there's not a huge counter-argument.

Generally speaking, I think there's an agreement that DVOA is not a great way to measure the achievements of individual players. It has some relevance for QBs, less for RBs, and even less for receivers. Edelman lost 12% of DVOA because "he fumbled". Of course he fumbled in a way that nobody could recover the ball, as it quickly went out of bounds. But hey, DVOA doesn't examine data with that level of fine attention.

My biggest issue with using DVOA to rank WRs is that it greatly overrates the importance of catching touchdowns. Look, if you think Eddie Royal is a better WR than Edelman because he had a significantly higher DVOA, there's not much that I can say. Edelman is a short-yardage possession receiver. IMO, he's the best at that aspect of receiving right now. He was 8th in the NFL in number of receptions this year, and in last place in terms of yards per catch among WRs in the top 10 (thus ignoring Matt Forte). He was in the top 20 in terms of yards per game. He's not a deep threat like most of the WRs considered to be "elite". But I didn't call him elite. I said he's damned good, and I'll use that description for anybody in the top 10-20 in his position.

If you look at postseason yards this year, he's only behind Randall Cobb and TY Hilton.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:38am

That's fine.

But you didn't say "Edelman was better than Welker last week" or even "Edelman was better than Welker" in the playoffs.

If we're going small sample size, the best QBs in these playoffs aren't QBs.

As far as receiver DVOA, I think RBs have it worse. DVOA and DYAR are so skewed towards passing that it has some legitimacy for receivers, but almost none at all for RBs.

Tipton had 5 carries for 14 yards with a DYAR of 10! Which implies the expected performance would have been a Richardsonian 5 carries for 4 yards.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:23pm

I said "as this column makes clear". This column lists Edelman as the top WR for this week.
I thought that the connection was obvious. I didn't think I needed to say "as this week's column makes clear because he was the best WR on Sunday".

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 3:34pm

He has a DVOA of zero and a DYAR one point higher than Baldwin. Although he was slightly better than Welker last year. His peak is about 80% of 2012 Welker, though.

by dreessen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:33pm

It does bear mentioning that DVOA doesn't know that three of Seattle corners, Lane, Maxwell and Simon, missed significant time in the early/middle of the season when the "Hawkbusters" were finding success. KC's Charles was running with the Hawks adjusting to the loss of Mebane with Wagner still out from being injured during the Dallas game.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:47pm

It's weird comparing the box score from the 2012 Seattle-NE game to today.

NE bottled Lynch up. Most of the primary receivers for both teams are gone -- Welker, Tate, Rice, Lloyd, Woodhead. Hernandez hadn't killed a guy yet. The only guy with a TD still on either roster is Baldwin.

by RoninX :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:58pm

That game also predates Seattle/Russell Wilson beginning to regularly implement the read-option.

by Travis :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:04pm

Hernandez hadn't killed a guy yet.

He'd killed two!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:09pm

Three actually, in two separate incidents.

He killed Loyd after the Seattle game, but apparently killed Abreau and Furtado before it. So he was only a double murderer during the last SEA-NE game.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:11pm

Now, now, let's not have a big argument about when who killed whom, and how many!

by Led :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:27pm

Ha! This comment is especially funny if you picture Michael Palin saying it.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:35pm


by young curmudgeon :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 7:59pm

Or just about any character on Game of Thrones.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:27pm

I'm trying to figure out if anyone has played with Rae Carruth, Ray Lewis, and Aaron Hernandez in their career, but can't figure out how to search for that on PFR.

by Travis :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:35pm

As far as I can tell, no one did.

John Kasay played with Carruth, Brian Blades, and Tommy Kane. He may hold the record.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:38pm

I think they had their term life policy cancelled.

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:08pm

Would be interested to know how many from each team in that 2012 game are still on each roster. IIRC, the turnover from the 2007 to 2011 Superbowls was IMO startling, as both teams had less than a dozen guys play both games.

by pablohoney :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:50pm

Not sure about NE, but I looked up the game on profootballfocus and of the 34 players on Seattle who saw snaps that game, 11 of 18 offensive players and 9 of 16 defensive players are no longer actively on the team (that includes a few guys on IR like Zach Miller and Brandon Mebane), although 2 of Seattle's defensive starters on that day are now on New England (Brandon Browner and Alan Branch).

by ChrisS :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:10pm

These numbers prove it is no longer a passing league. Top two RBs have a DYAR of 118, blowing away the top two QBs' total DYAr of 74. Rushing rulz!!!

by Moridin :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:17pm

What was Kearse's DYAR? Given that he was the target on those 4 INTs. Was his overtime contribution worth that much?

by Nevic :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:34pm

I'm pretty sure the least valuabe receiver or tight end Sunday was Brandon Bostick. DYAR, of course, doesn't know this.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:51pm

How was Kearse not the worst receiver!? One TD, OK, but four interceptions!

by RoninX :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:59pm

I didn't think receivers get penalized INT thrown while targeting them (beyond of course being targetted w/o a catch).

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 3:05pm

Huh, I had never realized this.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:04pm

I didn't think receivers get penalized INT thrown while targeting them (beyond of course being targetted w/o a catch).

This is correct. For receivers, they go down as any other incompletion.

"Targets on interceptions" can go a long way in explaining why a team lost a game, but for long-term predictive value, they're problematic. Given the enormous negative value of interceptions, and the small sample sizes you're dealing with for most receivers, one or two plays can completely skew a season's worth of numbers.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:04pm

Yeah, not counting interceptions for receivers is definitely the better option.

by Paul R :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 3:51pm

Two out of the top five rushers were Colts players. What a crazy wekend.


by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:29pm

All I'm saying is if the NFL Network wants to create a new show where Zurlon Tipton and Zoltan Mesko drive around the country in a van solving mysteries, I would totally watch that.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:39pm

"And it would have worked too, if it weren't for you darned undrafted free agents and 5th round draft picks!!!"

by Chris West :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:57pm

Am I wrong for envisioning this being Belichick talking to Baldwin, Kearse, Bennett, Chancellor, Sherman, and Willson?

Come to think of it, Willson looks suspiciously like Shaggy...

by Paul R :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:00am

"The tiger trap worked! We captured him! Now we can take his mask off and find out who the Phantom of Foxboro really is!"
"Commissioner Goodell?!? You're the Phantom of Foxboro? But, why?"
"I had to keep you kids from finding the lost concussion data. Otherwise, you would have sued the pants off me! I did it for the love of the game."
"Awww. We love the game, too, sir. You didn't have to worry. By the way, could we have a look at that concuss--"
"--No! You'll never find it. And luckily for me, thanks to your short-term memory loss, you kids will soon forget all about this!"
"I don't think we'll forget about...what were we talking about?"
"Nothing. You kids showed up just in the nick of time! Untie me, will you?"
"Uh, sure, Commissioner. But, why are you wearing that costume?"
"I was on my way to a Halloween party."
"It's October? Golly, we've got to get back to the practice facility or coach will be mad!"
"That's right, kids. Run along now. Only eighteen more weeks until the playoffs!"

by TomKelso :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:28pm

So, on passes of LESS than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, Luck was 11/21 for 90 yards. Barely 50 percent on dump-offs, with a DYAR nearly the same as "all-time worst playoff" QB.

The Luck comes from having his putrid performance on the one day someone was worse, and yet still won.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:14pm

Where to begin?

Considering also the quick read for Wilson in the link below, is Wilson the ALL-TIME LEADER in characters per Quick Read?


by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 8:27pm

I think you could argue that, from a purely statistical standpoint, he has been the league's most unique player since he was drafted. It's him or Peyton or Watt, really.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:40am

Can you be the most unique?

by ChrisS :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:29am

No. Only more uniquer.

by ChrisS :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:30am

Double post

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:40am

This was the best-timed use of a double post I have ever seen

by formido :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:51pm

The comments in this thread are a little hilarious for a site that prides itself on objective analytics. You realize one game in the rain doesn't define Seattle's offense, no? And that Seattle's offense is much higher rated by DVOA than Indy's? And that Wilson has played a lot of other games? And that Wilson has more to do with Seattle's offensive DVOA than Lynch? How did Seattle's offensive DVOA look the year before Wilson got there?

by formido :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:52pm

Um, also, it's fascinating how much FO and the commenters love to focus on Wilson's game, when Luck's was essentially identical. I mean look at that paragraph in the table up there!

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 6:05pm

Um, a qb playing very poorly and his team getting beat 45-7 is unremarkable. A qb playing even more poorly, being behind by 12 with 5 minutes left, then playing great for three drives, with his team winning in ot, while the qb is still left, after the 3 great drives, with having the worst of the two playoff performances, is a lot more remarkable. Hence, a lot more words written about it.

by Behemoth :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 6:05pm

Um, also, methinks thou dost protesteth too much.

by young curmudgeon :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 8:03pm

Dammit, formido, we've already had "Pen" doing his best to invoke the FOMB Curse, now you're at it, too! I'm rooting for the Seahawks again this year in the Super Bowl...don't spoil it for me now!

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 9:54pm

The FOMB Curse is invoked by making a series of Zlions template worthy criticisms of DVOA/DYAR but refusing to use the template as provided. So I think we're ok, but sometimes I get a little nervous, that could also be residual Behring era PTSD.

I don't believe clutch-ness is a thing, but Wilson does make me wonder.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 8:21pm

Jeez, for a bunch of people who only found out football was a sport 3 years ago, Seahawks fans can be pretty damn annoying (note to Perfundle: you're ok).

I mean, were there any Hawks fans on these boards in 2011? Any at all?

by jacobk :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:07pm

The Seahawks have been selling out games and inspiring new rules about crowd noise for a long time now. The Seattle internet fanbase actually jumped on DVOA hard as early as 2005. Partly I think the whole Moneyball thing resonated with the geek culture in the Northwest, but also DVOA was one of the few metrics giving the Hawks a chance against the Steelers.

If you're wondering why nobody was beating their chests when the team was terrible, well, it's not that much of a mystery.

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:21pm

You don't even remember the time before FO started having users register accounts.

Your earliest post dates back to December 4th, 2012. My registered account goes back over six years, but I've been reading an occasionally throwing in my two cents for nearly decade (can't believe FO has been around that long, amazing what FootballOutsiders has done).

Seahawks fans have been well represented at FO from very early on, unlike yourself.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:05pm

"Seahawks fans have been well represented at FO from very early on, unlike yourself."

I don't know where you got the info about post dates, but it's wrong because I've been posting here for about a decade myself.

Anyway, I apologise, my earlier post was needlessly inflammatory and was only really directed at a couple of people.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:39pm

To me, this is not only unfair to Seattle fans, but also unfair to the good work the Seahawks did from 2003-2007, which coincided with the birth of this very website.

Especially that 2005 team. It isn't like good football wasn't being played in Seattle before Russell Wilson was drafted. Had some officiating 'issues' been done differently, it is a good chance they already have a Super Bowl in hand before Wilson/Carroll come on board.

Kind of like how Aaron notes that the Pats bandwagon started not with BB and Brady, but with Tuna and Bledsoe.

by Chris West :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:11am

It's unfortunate that your cynicism can't remove my memories of having watched an offense led by Kelly Stouffer, Dan McGwire, and Stan Gelbaugh. It's those kinds of memories that leave a child scarred for life.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:47am

It's too bad you missed out on Jim Zorn, Efren Herrera, Kenny Easley and even the kid I used to play basketball with when I was little, Michael Jackson. (the black one who couldn't dance).

Sorry Michael, you played some mean hoops but it had to be said ;)

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:40am

One thing about the whole deflated balls thing that gets me, now that we know they found ll of 12 balls were deflated - all except the kicking ball: The refs had to notice.

The Colt player who finally got to hold the ball immediately noticed. He didn't take it to the refs, he made sure to bypass them. That's very troubling.

Brady had to know. He's quoted in 2011 as saying he prefers deflated balls. The RB's and WR's had to know. And each ball was deflated by the same amount.

It stands to reason the refs had to know. That's a very troubling thought.

by steveNC :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:09am

Is the average PSI of the balls in play factored into DYAR yet?

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:45am

Don't worry; a man with a reputation for towering integrity, like Roger Goodell, will calm all anxiety.

by Led :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:04am

If it turns out that was intentional is traced back to Belichick (and I emphasize that's still an "if" right now), how can the league let the guy continue to coach? I know the benefit here is only marginal, but still deliberate, calculated cheating on more than one occasion (and in more than one way) does more to undermine the game than somebody betting on their own team to win, no?

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:16am

It also brings up the question of for how long have the Patriots done this.

There is a chance this game was the first time the Patriots tried something like this, but if not, it could factor into their sudden improvement on offense after four weeks (though things like 'Gronkowski getting healthier' and 'O-Line stabilizing' made far more importance).

by Lyford :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:24am

If they were intentionally removing air from the balls after the official marked them, there's zero (0) chance that this was the first time. Nor is it remotely plausible that they started after game four. If that's what they do, they have certainly done it all along, for years. Brady's been the starter for 14 years now. The idea that they might have changed their ball preparation for the AFC Championship game this is year is ludicrous.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:12am

Yeah. I'm really hoping for the sake of the game (and I'm not a Pats fan) that it turns out that this was incompetence, not cheating, because I agree with you. While it's true that underinflated balls provided at most a minor advantage, the bigger issue is intentional cheating.

And I think Pen's point above about the refs is indeed the most troubling of all.

by Lyford :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:34am

"One thing about the whole deflated balls thing that gets me, now that we know they found ll of 12 balls were deflated - all except the kicking ball: The refs had to notice."

There were 24 game balls for each team on Sunday, not 12. There are six kicking balls, under the control of the officials for the entire time. We don't know if any balls were deflated, only that, allegedly, 11 of them were under-inflated.

In order to know the magnitude of the penalty which should be imposed, or even if any penalty is appropriate, we need to know the following things:

- Did someone let air out of the balls after the officials marked them? If not, then it's entirely the officials' fault/responsibility. We know, from comments that Aaron Rodgers has made, that the Packers over-inflate them, and the officials sometimes let air back out. The never-explicitly-stated-but-implied context there is that sometimes the Packers get away with playing with improperly inflated balls.

- If someone did let the air out of the balls, is this standard practice? Is this a Patriots-only thing, or is it a fairly common occurrence? Again, we know that Rodgers prefers a ball which is at an against-the-rules pressure. Does anyone else? Do they get and play with them?

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:37am

I believe the offense has 24 balls, 12 of which are backups and aren't used unless necessary.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:44am

Gerry Austin just said several things that you should be aware of (assuming he is telling truths)

Officials check balls pregame (2 hours prior) for psi, and adjust them if needed.
Officials keep balls until about 10 minutes before kickoff- they are then transferred to team ballboys

11/12 Pats balls were detected 2 psi under threshhold when retested at halftime
0/12 Colts balls were detected under threshhold at halftime
(so it isn't an effect of gas physics, etc)

The obvious implications leans towards someone intentionally deflating them.

The standard is the standard!

by Led :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:52am

Actually, your second set of questions is just straight up jive and deflection. We've been down that road before. "Everybody does it" wasn't true before and isn't a defense in any event. But we do need to let the investigation proceed into how and when the balls ended up under inflated (and we need confirmation the report about 11 of 12 balls being under inflated is correct). This could still end up being a non-issue.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:47am

There's some discussion now about whether something was going on with the kicking balls at the Baltimore game, although this theory is much more dubious.

The common thread here in the inflation issue, but also with the eligible/ineligible players argument has been a theme of Belichick probing for advantages by exploiting the general ineptitude of NFL officiating.

Harbaugh's argument against reporting ineligible is less than straight doing so is illegal and more that the ref is supposed to give the defense notification and time to adjust to that, but didn't. It's not cheating, strictly, but it is a strategy designed to provide an advantage from a ref who harried and intimidated by the home crowd.

Which is why I wonder if the Pats won't get smacked for it. The NFL can ill-afford a fourth consecutive week of playoff officiating incompetent/malfeasance, especially in a Super Bowl against the Seahawks.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 9:37am

Now that the reports of 11 balls being underinflated by ~16% are out

It will be interesting to see how many of the Belichik defender-apologists from the thread the other day will show up and spin this on Brady or someone else. LOL

The standard is the standard!

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 9:39am

Dock them 3 1st rounders, fine $10M, and let the Colts play in the SB

The standard is the standard!

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:58am

The NFL is never going to overturn a game result. They'll do potentially many things, but never that. They'd ban Belichick for life first.

I don't think 'Ballghazi' is significant, but because of appearances, it seems like it could be significant. "The appearance of impropriety is improper." Organizationally, their benefit of the doubt is gone, and they seem to be profiting by cheating. So I don't think a fair outcome that pleases people is possible.

If the balls are filled indoors, particularly if by a compressor, the drop in temperature in the game might explain half the pressure drop. And there's all kinds of other considerations. Calibration of equipment, proficiency of those operating the equipment, it's a long list. I wouldn't be shocked if another 1 psi of error turned out to have a mundane explanation. But, it's entirely possible the explanation is not going to lend itself to a simple 10 second segment.

So now this is what the run up to the Super Bowl is about, and there may be nothing to be done about it.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:01am

If you are attributing deltas in a PV=nRT type line of gas physics thought, how would you explain that none of the Colts balls lost the same amount of pressure?

Also, the equipment testing the balls (per Gerry Austin above) is the same apparatus, so the calibration errors would cancel evenly in a comparison between the footballs of each team.

The standard is the standard!

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:31am

A 20F drop could correspond to about 1 PSI of lost pressure. If the Pats inflate theirs to 12.5 psi, and the Colts to 13.5 or a little over in anticipation of the temperature drop, the Colts will be in range, and the Pats out. However, there's another missing fraction. That could be measuring procedures, which I know nothing of as they relate to the NFL. The Colts, the Pats and officials could all be using differing equipment. The measuring devices will have their own accuracy limitations which are further subjected to the proficiency of the operator, the state of their calibration and which they are maintained in. There's the testing procedures themselves. For instance, if the balls are brought inside to test, the Patriots balls exhibiting the problem are retested first, the Colts balls sit and war, increasing their measured pressure. If I was going to use one of the devices I have at home to measure the pressure of the ball, it would be +/- .5 psi. To get an accurate measurement I could have confidence in, I would have to measure 3 times and take the average. Even if I was careful, I would be reducing the pressure. Just a limitation of the device. Moreover, with some of these kinds of possible errors, we could expect them to introduce a bias.

It's impossible to say. It probably doesn't confer a meaningful advantage. But it looks f'ing terrible, and threatens to tarnish what is basically a national holiday.

If the firmness and weight of the ball is very important to the NFL, they should go with a ball that's built around a ridged foam core of some kind.

by ChrisS :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:41am

Not to be a defender of the Pats. If NE inflated there balls indoors a.d the Colts used outdoor air then right after inflation they would both test fine. After two hours in the cold the NE balls might now test low and the Colts would still be fine.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:00pm

Even if it were found that that were the case and the Pats were absolved of intentionally deflating the balls, it wouldn't absolve the refs of ignoring it during the game.

by Led :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:26am

It's significant (assuming it's shown to have been intentional) because it forces all opponents to divert scarce resources into trying to figure out what kinds of underhanded crap they are pulling. An opposing head coach has enough to worry about on game day in terms of preparation to play an extremely good, expertly prepared team without having to deal with this bush league stuff. It's just ridiculous, and embarrassing for the league.

I agree that they won't -- and shouldn't -- overturn the result. But if they determine there was intentional wrongdoing, the punishment has to be sufficiently huge this time around to provide an effective deterrent. Or you get rid of the recidivist.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:39am

I said at the time of spygate punishment being handed down, that if I were in charge, and Belichik had told me that he misinterpreted the league memo, and thus didn't understand that what he did was prohibited, I would have said the following: "Mr. Belichik since fairly simple sentence structure and vocabulary appear to be an issue for you, I'm giving you a year off to work on this area of your intellectual development,and when you get back, you won't have any draft picks to work with next year, so you won't have to spend any of your time available for language instruction on scouting college players. I wish you the best".

I suspect such an approach would have been an effective path for behavior modification.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:04pm

This bush league stuff should have never escaped the refs notice to begin with. That the refs let it slide and gave exception to one team and only intervened to enforce the rules equally after the head of operations had to be called down upon them is the biggest issue of this whole affair IMO.

Until THAT is corrected, all this petty crap is never going to end.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:44am

I wonder if Brady will make more comments about not commenting on it.

Of all the reasons for Gronk to have under-inflated balls, this wasn't the one I expected.

by Tarrant :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:44am

Regardless of the penalty applied, it seems logical that a solution to this (not only the Patriots, but w.r.t. Rodgers making the comments that the Packers over-inflate them to his preference and sometimes the officials catch it and sometimes not), is that each team should submit to the league a preferred PSI, and the referees should make sure the balls are properly inflated to said PSI prior to the game, mark them as "Home" or "Away" balls, and keep them in their control, much like the kicking balls are.

It actually surprises me that the standard is that the teams inflate them, the referees check them hours beforehand, then they're given to the teams again to handle for the hours until the game starts. That almost negates the purpose of having the referees check them, because exactly this situation could happen.

The other question is, how did the referees not notice this during the game? They handle the balls almost every down, and I feel like you'd notice if a ball is suddenly a lot mushier than usual - if the reports are accurate and the balls were more than 2 PSI deflated, that's almost one-sixth of the air missing. That's a non-negligible amount.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:24pm

Former official Gerry Austin was asked about this (whether the officials should've felt it) and he said that the officials don't really spend much time with the ball during play, and they're focused on getting the mechanics done quickly and correctly (get ball, spot ball, move back). The NFL has been pushing officials to keep things moving quickly, so it's not surprising that they might not have noticed. Plus they aren't gripping them nearly as hard as the QB or the receiver, obviously.

I think the reason why teams are allowed to submit their own balls is that they do more than just inflate them. They probably also 'work' the balls to make sure the feel is what the QB wants. So it's more than just an inflation preference.

if the reports are accurate and the balls were more than 2 PSI deflated, that's almost one-sixth of the air missing.

Well, not quite. The PSI that a gauge reads is gauge pressure. The amount of air in a ball is absolute pressure. Their nominal inflation is ~13 PSI over atmospheric, which is ~15 PSI, so it's ~28 PSI absolute. So ~11 PSI over atmospheric is ~26 PSI absolute, or somewhere between 5-10% less air.

Which, for comparison, is about the change you would get going from room (~300 K) to freezing (~278 K). Note that just about every sports website I've seen screws this up, so they always come up with a much smaller change (since they just use the gauge, not absolute, pressure). That being said, the actual change that a ball experiences will probably be a drop of between 1-2 PSI, depending on what the difference is in the atmospheric pressure between the indoors room where they're checked and outside.

(That being said the gauge (apparent) pressure is obviously 1/6th less.)

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:29pm

Clearly, the solution to this conundrum lies in changing from using an inflated ball, to the carcass of a goat. Of course, that damned Darth Hoodie will no doubt try to get the corpse of a chinchilla placed in play, when his offense is on the field!

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:37pm

One has to wonder whether any physicists work for the league office. I'm guessing not.

It would be easy to do experiments...fill a ball at room temperature and leave it outside in the rain for a couple hours, and then measure it again. It would also be easy to re-inflate the balls they have to see if they are leaky. Also, they should have taken some of the Colts' balls and measured them as a control group. That nobody thought of doing the last step indicates they have no scientists on board.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:47pm

As an actual physicist, I heartily agree, and would happily volunteer. Of course, transportation and tickets to games would have to be provided.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:58pm

Don't physicists need caddies, to lug, oh, I dunno, bunsen burners, slide rules, or portable particle accelerators? I promise, I'll keep my mouth shut, and just hand you the requested tool.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:19pm

Bunsen burners?? We're not damn chemists! You've got to work on your physics lingo before I'd let you caddy for me!

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:29pm

I can't stand your type, with your Physics Privilege. NO JUSTICE! NO PEACE!!

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:55pm

I read that they did re-test all the Colts' balls at halftime as well, and all 12 were still within the allowed range.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:45pm

I edited this post because originally I had thanked you for Gerry Austins information, thinking that this allayed concerns about the refs being in collusion with the Patriots. Thank you for Gerry Austins information about what kind of pressure the refs are under and why, under normal circumstances, they might not notice the balls were under inflated. However, it is now known that the Colts brought this to the NFL's attention back in Nov. after they intercepted two other footballs BOTH found to be deflated.

The NFL was well aware of the situation and HAD to have brought it to the refs attention. That the refs continued to go an entire half and had to have it brought up AGAIN by an interception is even MORE troubling than I'd originally feared.

Now it sounds like this is a systemic corruption of the entire league that goes beyond the refs and right to the top.

by Behemoth :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:06pm

And we see the end of rational discourse before our very eyes ....

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:59am

If what NE did was submit under-inflated balls to the refs in the hopes the refs didn't thoroughly test them and they'd slip through (i.e. what Rogers has admitted the Packers do in the opposite direction), or did something a bit sneakier (like inflating to 12.5 PSI with warm/hot air), I'm OK with that. And if Goodell tries to punish NE with anything more than a fine I want Kraft to tell Goodell that's total BS and that he'll forfeit the game unless the punishment is changed to be more in line with the "crime" (which wouldn't actually be against any rule).

I also note that since P2 = (T2/T1) * P1 (where P and T are absolute pressures and temps), a drop from 70F to 50F would mean about a 1.1 PSI drop. So if the NFL tries to punish based only on the balls being measured 1.5 PSI too low at halftime, I again want Kraft to go nuclear with the league.

But if the league actually does have evidence of the balls being messed with post-checkin (skullduggery on sideline, breaking into ball storage room after checkin, whatever), then I am done with Belichick and want Kraft to fire him. What's the point of having a coach that leads the team to wins when you can't enjoy the wins?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:12pm

"that he'll forfeit the game unless the punishment is changed to be more in line with the "crime" (which wouldn't actually be against any rule)."


by Johnny Socko :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:18pm

Your opinion is based on the dubious assumption Robert Kraft is a man of integrity. Don't underestimate how intoxicating "winning" is for type A personalities. Sports are flush with Lance Armstrong types, who justify cheating in their own minds as being part of the game.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:20pm

That is not how gay-lussac law works.

It requires absolute temperatures (like in Kelvin)

T2/T1 in K = in this sense your 70/50 (in F) equates to a ratio of 1.039

ratio of P can only vary by that amount accordingly.

If we accept as a thought experiment that
P1=12.5, P2=10.5
and your idea that T2=50F

T1 would be almost 150F

The standard is the standard!

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:22pm

It also requires absolute pressures. 12.5 PSI gauge is 27.2 PSI absolute.

PatsFans numbers are about right: 294K -> 283K with a gauge pressure of 12.5 PSI will drop by 1.01 PSI, assuming the inside and outside atmospheric pressures are equalized.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:24pm

It also requires absolute pressures, not gauge pressures.

70F = 294.2K
50F = 283.1K

Initial absolute pressure = 12.5 PSI + 14.7 PSI = 27.2 PSI
Final absolute pressure = 27.2 * (283.1/294.2) = 26.2 PSI
Final gauge pressure = 26.2 PSI - 14.7 PSI = 11.5 PSI

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:35pm

Ahhh crap (egg on face), I forgot about the absolute in pressure.

it's been too long .

The standard is the standard!

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:38pm

That being said, the problem is that the balls were probably taken indoors at halftime (since they were presumedly inflated back to the minimum) - so you probably couldn't use the temperature change to explain it away. A 2 PSI drop is pretty big to explain from natural effects.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:45pm

The fact that there have been hundreds of gamed played in conditions more prone to natural deflation, and this is the first report I've read of a player taking note of the issue midgame, leads me to strongly suspect that a deliberate act is involved.

by dcl0 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:22pm

In PV-nrT, the T is Kelvin. Going from warm room temperature (25 C) to freezing (0 C) gives a drop of about 10%. The Patriots could keep their room ward. The Packers should keep it cool. Every little bit helps.

I bet they used carbon dioxide to fill the balls. This diffuses out much faster than air and would probably lower the pressure a bit after two hours. A serious bicyclist would know this.


by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:36pm

You really think control freaks like Brady and Manning would want to play a game with a football that is constantly changing pressure?

The standard is the standard!

by nat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:33pm

[edit] Other said it before me. In short, storing and filling the balls in a warm room explains it all.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:31pm

I want some kind of statement from the NFL about what they think they know. If all they have is that the balls were 2 lbs PSI low, and it's fairly normal for them to be 1 PSI low, I'm not going to be all that impressed.

I would also like a definitive statement from the Patriots, not just to the effect that they are cooperating with the league investigation, but a categorical refutation of the charge that somebody from the organization tampered with the balls.

If Belichick did tamper with the balls, I think he needs to retire. He'll be the Bill Cosby of the NFL. I cannot imagine what would motivate him to do something so ridiculous to gain a tiny advantage against a team that the Patriots had been dominating in the past three meetings. As Bob Kraft said to him after Spygate, when Belichick said that the videotaping only gave the Pats a very small advantage, "You're a shmuck."

If he's done something like that again, he should be a shmuck without a job.

But the flip side is I don't trust the league office, either. They have a history of hostility towards the Pats, and most recently were humiliated by Bill Simmons, an unabashed
Patriots supporter. Also, the league office really has no credibility after Goodell was shown to have lied to the public about the Ray Rice incident.

I really want to see the cards on the table. Leaking things to "Mort" is lame.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:37pm

Kraft has been a consistent supporter of Goodell, from the reports I've seen. The idea that the league has been hostile to the Patriots seems dubious. Having said that, Goodell has an established track record of dishonesty, so, no, there aren't any parties involved here that inspire confidence.

by Led :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:53pm

Agreed that Goodell has no credibility, but I disagree that the NFL is somehow hostile to the Pats (why would it be?) or that the league cares enough about Bill Simmons to retaliate against the team he roots for.

That said, you are 100% correct that this sort of thing requires an effective investigation, transparency, and a definitive conclusion rather than a series of cowardly leaks (no pun intended).

Also, this issue really should have its own Extra Point so it doesn't swallow Quick Reads more than it already has. Perfectly reasonable for FO to ignore it when it was just a rumor tweeted by a Indy beat reporter, but at this point.... I just saw a report on CNN!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:07pm

"If Belichick did tamper with the balls, I think he needs to retire. He'll be the Bill Cosby of the NFL. I cannot imagine what would motivate him to do something so ridiculous to gain a tiny advantage against a team that the Patriots had been dominating in the past three meetings."

Watergate wasn't necessary for Nixon to beat McGovern.

He did it because he couldn't help it. That's how Nixon thought.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:12pm

The league said it would ban Marshawn Lynch from the NFCCG if he wore his gold cleats.
I don't think it sends a very good message to the players or the fans if they don't crack down exceptionally hard on the Patriots for this.

by morganja :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:07pm

The right thing to do at this point is to force Kraft to sell the team, ban Belichick for life, and figure out what to do about the Super Bowl. You can't have the Patriot's playing for the championship.

What will Goodell do? Whatever Kraft tells him to do.

The NFL is such a complete mess right now. Goodell has always been Kraft's man. It's time for them to go.

by duh :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:15pm

I write this as someone who first rooted for the Patriots back in the days of Coach Clive Rush and QB Mike Taliaferro (and that will leave you scarred for life)

If skullduggery is proved I agree that BB should be banned for life and it should be effective immediately.

He was warned after the taping fiasco but declined to change his ways.

Bye Bill.

by Behemoth :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:38pm

Because we all need to take advice from Morganja about the Patriots .... Sheesh. How about we wait to establish the facts? Was there wrong-doing? If so by whom? Is it possible that the Patriots followed the rules, say, inflating the balls in a warm room to the minimum amount, then seeing them deflate naturally? Did the Colts inflate them to a higher standard, so that those balls, tested later, were still above 12.5? Were they stored differently in the meantime? If so, what's the problem? The NFL would need to revise its procedures, perhaps, but there would have been no wrong-doing.

If it is skullduggery, then by all means, suspend Belichick if he's responsible, effective immediately. Of course, there's this body of practice called the law that requires punishments to be proportional. I suspect that what Morganja suggests would drown the league in litigation that it could not win. A year's suspension could be sustainable in light of Bountygate, perhaps, but life? I think that that penalty would be hard to sustain.

But, hey, in the meantime, procedures and evidence? Who cares? Why wait? If one has a chance to pound on a franchise that one hates, why not? Due process? Who cares? Throw the bum out!

This outpouring of moralism is all the more surprising to me, in that Aaron Rodgers seems to have said that the Packers deliberately over-inflate balls, an actual admission of wrong-doing, yet there is little heat or discussion about that practice, while regarding the Patriots some folks proverbially heat up the tar and start plucking turkeys. How about we relax and figure out what actually happened first? Just a thought ....

by duh :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:41pm

As I clearly said 'If Skullduggery is proved' It hasn't been yet.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:52pm

If the NBA can whack an owner for being a racist, then yes, the NFL can whack a coach if they they think he is bad for business, if a preponderance of evidence suggests he is affecting the league's reputation of competitive integrity. This isn't a criminal matter, and the cartel has broad leeway in dealing with people in management who they no longer want around. No, I don't think we are anywhere near that yet, but a coach really doesn't have a lot of power.

by Behemoth :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:44pm

Will, I am thinking here that there is a pretty big difference between the NFL cartel being able to manage the franchise holder of the one of its 32 teams and its treatment of an employee. I am neither a Boston area lawyer nor a Washington one, but I think it likely that whichever state labour law would apply would deal very differently with a coach who was barred for life than the courts would treat a franchise holder compelled by the rules of a cartel to divest his holdings. It's not my specialty though. American labour law's quite different. I am pretty sure that proportionality would certainly apply to a coach, though, in a way that it would not with a franchise holder.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:58pm

Could they ban the guy for having bad breath? I certainly doubt that. Could they ban a guy about whom they could make a credible claim that he had on two occasions harmed the cartel's reputation for competitive integrity? I'd be shocked if they couldn't. Hell, the NCAA does that to coaches all the time.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:41pm

Can? Yes.

Will? No.

The Sterling issue was on the edge of causing a player walk-out during the playoffs. The playoff teams had talked and had issued a back channel ultimatum to the league that Sterling went or they did. The NBA owners had little real choice in the matter, they could oust Sterling or watch all their teams lose half their value overnight.

This isn't that severe. Hell, this isn't even Spygate severe. Without Spygate, this is probably mostly funny gamesmanship, up there with doctoring a baseball. It's only in context that it looks like repeated malfeasance.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:13pm

Oh, like I said, I don't think we are anywhere near that yet. I was just disputing the notion that Belichik would have much legal recourse to fight a lifetime suspension, if the cartel had reasonable evidence that he had, for the 2nd time, damaged the cartel's reputation for having games with competitive integrity. Now, if Belichik compounded his stupidity (I think there is about an 80% chance that some Patriots employee(s) deliberately deflated the balls after inspection, and not for the 1st time) by making it easy to obtain evidence that he ordered the action, then I think he could get the Pete Rose treatment. I think Belichik is considerably more intelligent than Pete Rose, however, so I doubt any such evidence will be obtained. If there is punishment, it'll be in the nature of a cosmetic fine of the team, or if they get serious, losing draft picks.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:23pm

My understanding is that the difference between this case and what Rodgers talked about is that these balls were possibly tampered with after they had already been approved by the officials. What Rodgers was talking about was inflating balls as much as possible (but still within the limits imposed by the rules) prior to the inspection. At which point, if a ball was illegally overinflated, the official would take it away and force the Packers to use a brand-new ball instead (so the Packers have incentive to not present a ball that is actually illegal).

by morganja :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:56pm

Ah...Behemoth. We have evidence. What you are suggesting is that we ignore evidence and thrash around until we hitch on to some barely, remotely plausible explanation that excuses another deliberate act of cheating.

Kraft, Belichick and the Patriots have an established history of cheating. They've created yet another situation in which if they win in two weeks, fans of 31 teams are going to be disgusted, many of which are going to wonder why they bother following a sport with so many problems in which the winner is caught cheating over and over again.

At this point, I wouldn't even punish the Patriots. Ban the perpetrators, Kraft, Belichick, and whoever deflated the balls under their orders.

You can't have the Patriots playing for the championship. Either substitute another team in there, the Colts, or play the game and declare the Seahawks the winner no matter what.

Bring in a new owner, a new GM and coach, and start a new era in New England.

by Behemoth :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:38pm

Apparently, your understanding of the word evidence and mine are so different as to be irreconcilable. I heard it on the internet, for me, doesn't count much for evidence. Where, pray tell, has anyone yet established that Belichick or Kraft ordered anyone to deflate balls? If the NFL, or some competent court in certain circumstances, does establish that Belichick and Kraft did so, then punishment is in order. Until then, people who write such things as you've written above are merely speculating and showing the extent of your prejudices. I'll wait for actual evidence before jumping to conclusions, as would any competent leader who has served in a responsible capacity with a major organization.

For what it is worth, if I were Kraft, and if it were proven that Belichick cheated in this regard, I wouldn't wait for a suspension, I'd fire him. But I'd wait for actual evidence first. If I were Kraft, and I knew about it beforehand, then I would be expecting the League to react with extreme prejudice.

by young curmudgeon :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:35pm

Oh, good grief...now the Ravens are raising suspicions about air pressure shenanigans in their game. This could all blow over, but the "where there's smoke..." types, those already convinced that BB is a cheater, and the general tendency of the internet to spread rumors and give credence to speculation, make that very unlikely. And if there turns out to be some merit in the charge, it does kind of cast a pall on the super bowl.

Part of me thinks "why would they do that?". Another part sadly knows that people will do lots of stupid or nefarious things in pursuit of even a small advantage.

I tend to disfavor the current iteration of the Pats, but I'm no hater. But I'd really, really prefer to watch the game as a sporting event, rather than a moral struggle.

Shakes head, sighs...

by Anonymouse :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:07pm

Good lord man, get over yourself. If you are watching professional football, a sport in which men put themselves at grave physical risk for money, as a moral struggle, you're probably picking up the wrong signals.

by young curmudgeon :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:24pm

Wow, Anonymouse, either I can't write or you can't read (or a combination of the two.) I thought I was expressing a preference for watching a game and leaving all the "moral struggle" elements out of it--that I'd rather hear about coverage schemes, matchups, etc. rather than the allegations of cheating, moral posturing, suspicion of coverups, claims of collusion in favor of or against a particular team, and all the rest of the BS that threaten to dominate the discussion of the game for the next few days (weeks?). In other words, I'm pretty much agreeing with your viewpoint (without, admittedly, feeling the necessity of 'getting over myself.')

I think I remember one other occasion when someone posted something in a discussion thread that was misunderstood, but I can't recollect the exact details!

by Lyford :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:12pm

"now the Ravens are raising suspicions about air pressure shenanigans in their game..."

...which increases, rather than decreases, the "let's all join the lynch mob" aspect to this whole thing, since they're complaining about the kicking balls, which are under the sole control of the NFL, not either team.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:12pm

I'm surprised anybody cares at all about this.

This used to happen all the time in the NBA. The Lakers were notorious for using over inflated balls at home because they created long rebounds and Magic Johnson liked a high dribble. The Trailblazers of that era did the same thing. Slow down teams would literally take the air out of the ball. The Bad Boy Pistons tampered with one of the baskets in their arena, making it harder to score on, and always made sure to play their best rebounders when shooting at that basket.

Phil Jackson used to bring a pressure gauge with him to games to measure balls. No surprise he knew what to look for since his Knicks teams carried pins in their jerseys to deflate the balls when they could. Occasionally he'd catch someone trying funny stuff, they'd laugh, you'd throw that ball out and replace it and that would be that. It never went any further.

I mean, I know the NFL has a rep for having it's head up it's own butt and taking itself way too seriously, so no surprise it attracts like minded fans, but some of the (over)reactions to this are just laughably absurd.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:34pm

On one level, I agree with you, but on another level, I really, really dislike, highly intelligent, very highly paid people who choose to be slow learners. If such a person is told to knock of the shenannigans, because the people with huge sums of capital at risk have decided it's bad for business, and the highly paid, highly intelligent, woodhead just stubbornly decides he's gonna do what he wants to do anyways, well, a good public hanging, metaphorically speaking, of course, can have some value with regard to behavior modification for the group as a whole.

I hate having to talk to rich 65 year olds as if they are still in third grade.

by anotherpatsfan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:31pm

If there was a violation of the ball pressure rules and you think that there is any realistic chance BB was involved, you are under the influence of the morganja. On the other hand, if some intentional violation occurred, the odds of Brady being in on it seem quite high. BB just an easy target.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:31pm

I actually tend to agree that Brady is a more likely culprit, if there is one.

by Behemoth :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:09pm

Can we bring back the irrational Brady-Manning thread; it was far more reasonable and useful than this deflating one ....

by young curmudgeon :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:19pm

I saw what you did there.