Conference Championship Quick Reads

Conference Championship Quick Reads
Conference Championship Quick Reads
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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

141 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

155 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.
http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/01/21/report-ravens-had-concerns-about-kicking-balls-at-new-england/

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.

129 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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!

142 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

143 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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!

150 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

146 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

152 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

199 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

139 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

164 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.)

170 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

203 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

156 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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?

159 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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!

161 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

dennis

167 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

171 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

177 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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!

190 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

"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.

181 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

182 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

186 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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 ....

188 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

196 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

197 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

202 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

205 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

193 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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).

189 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

195 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

194 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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...

206 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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!

200 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

"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.

209 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

211 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.

212 Re: Conference Championship Quick Reads

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.