Conference Championship Quick Reads

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
Hawkbusters
Distance
Att
Cmp
Yds
Success
Rate
Yds/
Play
YAC/Cmp
Frequency*
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
Distance
Att
Cmp
Yds
Success
Rate
Yds/
Play
YAC/Cmp
Frequency*
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.

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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.

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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.
Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Tom Brady NE
23/35
226
3
1
84
80
3
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.
2.
Aaron Rodgers GB
19/34
178
1
2
-10
-17
7
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).
3.
Andrew Luck IND
12/33
126
0
2
-132
-138
6
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.
4.
Russell Wilson SEA
14/29
209
1
4
-137
-147
10
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)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
LeGarrette Blount NE
30
148
3
0/0
0
0
62
62
0
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.
2.
Marshawn Lynch SEA
25
157
1
1/3
26
0
56
54
2
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.
3.
Dan Herron IND
10
51
0
2/4
11
0
10
15
-5
All ten of Herron's carries gained positive yardage,including gains of 12 and 17.
4.
James Starks GB
5
44
0
1/3
0
0
-1
14
-14
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.
5.
Zurlon Tipton IND
5
14
1
1/4
4
0
-1
10
-12
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)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
LeGarrette Blount NE
30
148
3
0/0
0
0
62
62
0
2.
Marshawn Lynch SEA
25
157
1
1/3
26
0
56
54
2
3.
Dan Herron IND
10
51
0
2/4
11
0
10
15
-5
4.
James Starks GB
5
44
0
1/3
0
0
-1
14
-14
5.
Zurlon Tipton IND
5
14
1
1/4
4
0
-1
10
-12
Least valuable running back (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Eddie Lacy GB
21
73
0
0/3
0
0
-9
7
-16
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)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Eddie Lacy GB
21
73
0
0/3
0
0
-9
7
-16
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Julian Edelman NE
9
11
98
10.9
0
48
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.
2.
Doug Baldwin SEA
6
9
106
17.7
0
32
Three of Baldwin's catches gained at least 20 yards, including a 29-yard gain on third-and-19.
3.
Jordy Nelson GB
5
8
71
14.2
0
22
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.
4.
Ricardo Lockette SEA
2
2
25
12.5
0
20
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.
5.
Randall Cobb GB
7
10
62
8.9
1
16
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
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Danny Amendola NE
1
3
8
8.0
0
-20
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.

Comments

214 comments, Last at 22 Jan 2015, 2:25pm

1 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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!

32 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

76 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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).

80 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

118 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

126 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

90 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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:

http://andrewgelman.com/2014/08/12/understanding-hot-hand-myth-hot-hand-time/

122 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

2 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

7 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

13 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

40 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

48 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

72 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

86 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

89 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

87 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

88 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

"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.

110 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

"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.

166 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

97 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

58 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

121 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

8 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

22 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

47 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

52 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

9 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

111 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

42 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

"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.

53 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

78 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

102 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

106 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

117 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.'

84 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

10 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

25 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

39 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

85 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

15 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

21 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

26 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

82 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

136 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

16 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

20 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

50 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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).

29 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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!!!

64 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

131 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

"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!"

68 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

83 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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?

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/quick-reads/2012/week-13-quick-reads

91 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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?

92 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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!

94 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

103 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

100 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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?

104 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

105 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

108 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

"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.

112 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

125 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

132 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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?

133 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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).

145 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

144 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

134 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

"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?

140 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

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The standard is the standard!