So this is turning into the NFL blog but what the hell. Just wanted to get my observations about yesterday's Championship Games down before I forget them:
Something is wrong in Atlanta. They are getting closer, but they are still too soft and appear intimidated/confused at times. You just can't play like that at home (more on this at the end of this post).
The Patriots biggest weakness was exposed - wide receiver. I really don't care about your "record setting offense". It doesn't make a difference in the post season. You have to have a good offense. You have to have an adaptable offense. And you have to be able to score - and outscore - your opponents, any way it takes. The rules in the last twenty years have all gone the way of the offense. But defense still wins championships - I don't care what anyone says.
The Patriots looked unbeatable to all the pundits - why? Because they score - a lot. But that stat can be very misleading. The Pats are way better than most teams. And on most Sundays, if they have you beat, they have you beat big time and they pile it on. So they scored a lot this year. But as we have seen before they can be stopped by a good defense that executes well. And when they run into one, they actually can look sort of terrible (like yesterday, or against the Jets a couple of years ago).
But look at what Baltimore did. Totally switched gears on offense with the all shotgun attack, and dominated the second half of the game, while physically punishing the Pats with their D. Where was the change of gears in the Pats attack when they needed it?
Which brings me back to the receivers and the rules of the game. Give Brady Holt and Boldin, and give Flacco Branch and Lloyd - and who do you think wins that game? And Welker? Don't even get me started. How many drops did he have yesterday? And he can't outrun anyone. Slot receiver is almost a gimme position now with the current rules - any athletic, coordinated receiver (like the injured Edelman) can play that position and do well in a system like the Patriots run and with a QB like a Brady. Even having Gronkowski would not have helped them yesterday. He needs skill everywhere, like Atlanta has, like Baltimore has, like even the 49ers have. I guarantee you Brady goes apeshit for wide receivers this off season and gets them. The Patriots are really good, but they were not the best team in the AFC this year. As usual the team that got hot at the right time is - and that is the Ravens. It really should not be too surprising - they had the Pats beat last year don't forget in the same game. It was only their injuries/age on D and their own stumbling O that made them seem like an afterthought a couple of months ago. The deserve to be where they are... which leads me back to Atlanta and the top of this post.
The game is obviously so much a process. You get close, you knock at the door, and eventually (if you are good enough, and a little lucky!) you get to the big show. The Jets of a few years ago were so close - two Championship games in a row - and now are on the way down until proven otherwise. The Ravens were so close last year and for years before, and this year are through, just like the 49ers (who in a way remind me of the Jets - Ryan having the same sort of success that Harbaugh has had really in the first couple of years with a bunch of players from another regime). Green Bay is close. Atlanta finally won a playoff game - did anyone think they would actually win two??? And who doesn't think the Redskins and Seahawks will go further next year?
Anyway I am hoping for a great Super Bowl. I hate to think the game comes down to the kickers but I could see that happening - so obviously the Ravens have to have the edge if there is one.