New England 24, Philadelphia 21
Raise your hand if you thought there would be any other outcome than this: the Patriots win a hard-fought World Championship with great defense, zero Tom Brady interceptions, by the margin of an Adam Vinatieri field goal. I mentioned in my last post that New England and Philadelphia were predestined to meet; they were the better teams on paper since August. And darn if there were few surprises when the teams finally met.
So in a way this game lacked some of the dramatic luster of previous Super Bowls. Oh, it was solid football, but lacked the jaw-dropping aesthetics we've seen before, even in blowout contests. I suppose that would've required Mike Vick and the Falcons to win two weeks ago. Can you imagine Tedy Bruschi and company trying to spy Vick all day? That would've been good theater, even if the final score could've duplicated Sunday's.
- Philadelphia should've won this game. Let's be honest. You often don't catch Belichick's boys looking so rusty early on. The Sports Guy wrote that if ever Vinatieri was to miss an important kick, it'd be a shock. I was equally aghast that in the first half Brady and Dillon missed a simple handoff, creating a fumble in the red zone. These guys are so good, so disciplined that I was slack-jawed at early-season mistake. The Eagle's defense came to play, pressuring normally stable Tom Brady enough to produce the necessary three-n-outs. Sounds like a prescription for victory to me. But the Philadelphia offense couldn't carry the weight, producing a scant seven points despite great support from their special teams and D. Credit to the Pats' defense, of course, but McNabb had a subpar game (if one can say that about a 350+ yard passing day) and made some critical mistakes that outweighed any brilliant plays. Once New England settled down and got their running game going, the handwriting was on the wall. Early in the second quarter, I looked at my boy D-Trux and proclaimed "the New England defense is smarter than the Eagles' offense." I don't think I was proven wrong.
- I was surprised Donovan wasn't sent on planned scrambles and bootlegs. I know he'd prefer being a pocket passer, but New England sure looked like they knew this preference and I think it would've provided an x-factor (boy, there's an overused sports term) that that Pats may not have schemed for.
- It's been noted, first by oval-headed FOX analyst Chris Collinsworth, that the Eagles' last meaningful drive was horrific even though it produced seven points. With just over five minutes to play, holding two timeouts and down by two scores, Philly looked positively lethargic in playcalling and execution. McNabb didn't look like he was particularly concerned about conserving time. It was weird, as if Coach Andy Reid had a secret, 10-point play in the back of the Philly playbook marinating for just such an occasion as this.
- One positive from the Eagles' loss is that the free world no longer has to hear blathering bravado from wideout Freddie Mitchell. After Sunday's performance (1 catch, 11 yards) he is such an easy target for mockery that the NFL should petition federal courts for a nationwide gag order. Since they haven't (yet), I'll take my potshots. Flamboyant Freddie not only has two nicknames (one shoplifted from wrestling superstar The Rock, the other too wack to grace even this blog), but actually has one of his entourage walking behind him carrying a faux boxing-style championship belt. Odd, I didn't see that guy Sunday night. On Media Day, Mitchell called out ESPN's former-player analysts, blasting them for critiquing his play. ("It's fast out there!" Freddie said. No kidding, ESPNews' Eric Allen remarked. Catch the ball.) This fool called out the Patriot's secondary, calling them no-names. Fabulous Freddie has--you ready?--five career touchdowns and has never reached 500 receiving yards in a season. By contrast, Washington's Rod Gardner began his career at the same time and has twenty-two touchdowns, has never had less than 600 receiving yards, and is probably going to be traded in the offseason. Fab Five Freddie, live long and in silence.
- Speaking of receivers, Fantasy Stud Terrell Owens again frustrated the naysayers, who hoped that he couldn't walk the talk and would be a nonfactor. (OK, I might have suggested he'd have a four-catch day too.) But T.O. got loose for almost 125 yards on nine catches and reminded us that he has the biggest heart of any wideout in the game. He didn't look 100%, but New England needed to respect him. And when they didn't, by giving him space on the corners or one-on-one, Owens made great grabs and good cuts. If you don't choose him for your fantasy team and you stink next year, don't blame me. My boy BigWes wondered if T.O. might have been more distraction than help. The way I see it, with Todd Pinkston needing a Gatorade IV and Flamin' Freddie still on the team bus, Owens needed to play and could only make the Eagles more competitive. Philly may have something special in young receiver Greg Lewis.
- Man that was a numbingly-dull halftime show. Look, Paul McCartney's contribution to modern rock is undeniable. But it's equally clear that he doesn't exactly move the crowd like he used to. Nobody at Ryan the Commish's spot, where I caught the game, cared much for the pyrotechnics, laser show, and Hollywood Casting Agency crowd. My wife put it best: "They need to have somebody else out there with him."
- What in the name of Moses was that John Travolta movie about? The commercial began with the groan-inducing voice over introducing us to some painfully square white guy in urban gear who wants to be a gangster. Excuse me, "gangsta." Next you see Black tough guys (including Outkast's Andre 3000) who proclaim to said wannabe "you jus' tryin' to be Black!" I must've been watching PBS when the news broke that Black people are gangsters. If that's not bad enough, Travolta is introduced because he IS a real gangsta. You can tell because he beats people up and wears dark colors. Before you can say "Tarantino," Uma Thurman suddenly appears and she and Travolta reprise their Pulp Fiction dance club scene. Then they make a record. I think that's the plot. I don't know because my anguished screams drowned out everything else.
- Enough with the monkeys at the office, CareerBuilder. We got the joke early and every successive ad assumed we didn't understand it the first time.
- Don't you miss the 1970s/80s Miller Lite commercials, starring Bob Uecker ("I must be in the front row...!"), Rodney Dangerfield and a host of old-school tough guys like Bubba Smith, Joe Piscopo and Dick Butkus? Fans over 30 know what I'm talking about. The memories of those "Less Filling!/Tastes Great!" rivalries still bring a smile, especially the classic "All we need is one pin, Rodney..." Now if Miller had any sense, they'd reunite some of those NFL greats (including quarterback/whipping boy Bert Jones) and film one more for ol' times' sake. I'd love it more than any ad I saw on Sunday's broadcast.
- It doesn't matter how ESPN tries to spin it; the Pro Bowl is not worth watching. I've tried for many years to draw upon some enthusiasm for one side (usually the NFC), but Lord knows the truth. Fans don't care. Why? Unlike the NBA All-Star games, defense is actually half the sport's attraction. A 13-10 game can be more riveting than one with a 45-28 final score. If two NBA teams can't score more than 60 in a game, fans just shake their heads and try to forget it as quickly as possible (which is easy since teams play 150 games per season). Let's not forget that none of the NFL starts want to get hurt playing in a meaningless game, so the Pro Bowl is more akin to watching light contract drills during trainging camp. Just with better weather and uglier uniforms. So forgive me if watching a bitter McNabb and Manning throw 40-yard bombs all day against 1/2 effort defensive backs doesn't grab my attention.
- There can't be much of an argument that New England isn't one of the best NFL teams in history, a living, breathing dynasty. Any bets on whether they'll be as strong next year, having lost key coaches?
- Redskins fans should be happy about Philadelphia's loss. So says my buddy Fresh Dan, who wrote me and offered this glimmer of sanguinity: "I figured a devastating loss for the Eagles could traumatize them and make them easier pickings for the Skins next year. Maybe now post-bowl in-fighting within the team will cause it to disintigrate from inside out and they will be easier vicitims next year. One can hope!"
One more note: His Joeness, Coach Gibbs, is back at work already for the Skins and is committed to his five-year contract. Yes, Dan, there is hope.