Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Running it up...

Through out this season there has been a lot of the Patriots running up the scores on teams. Let's really look at this, game by game. One quick note before breaking down the games - Through the Redskins game 20 of Brady's 30 TD passes have come in the first half. The first half! Almost 70 percent of the team's aerial damage was done long before the fourth quarter even started. As a matter of fact, only six of those td passes came in the fourth quarter and five of those were with more than eight minutes on the clock. Only once (the sixth game) was the touchdown thrown with less than 8 min - v the then highly regarded offensive machine in the Bengals (a 14 point lead became 21 with 3:18 on the clock when Brady completed to Moss in the end zone). It wasn't until more recently that everyone realized the Bengals just aren't that good on offense this year. -

Jets, 38-14

With two minutes left on the clock, the Patriots were up by 17 points. A quick touchdown followed by an on-sides kick could put the ball back in the Jets hands with well over a minute left and down only by ten. So, was Heath Evans running the ball in with two minutes remaining running thee score up, or was it icing the game?

However, in this case, with two minutes left, I will grant that this can be considered running up the score.

San Diego, 38-14

The Patriots have been knocked for passing late in games when the contest is out of reach. In this game the team played the highly regarded, then "most talented" team in the league. With 3:18 left, the Patriots ran the ball in from three yards out with career back up Sammy Morris. Like the Colts and the Bengals, the Chargers were expected to have a high octane offense coming into this game. With close to three and a half minutes left, and weapons like Antonio Gates and LaDanian Tomlinson on the other sideline, no coach would consider a two score game out of reach.

Running it up? No. Sealing the deal? Yes.

Buffalo, 38-7

Yeah, they ran it up in this game. There was no reason to throw the deep pass into the end zone to Moss in the fourth quarter already up 31-7 against a team that showed no signs of life after the first quarter. The Pats certainly could have just started handing the ball off and have Matt Cassel in by the start of Q4.

Cincinnati, 34-13

See the introductory paragraph. Against an offense initially considered to be potent, making the game a three score game with more than three minutes left was just prudent. I seem to remember the Colts engineering a 24-point comeback on a Monday night not long ago with only a little more time than 3:18 left on the clock.

Running up the score? I think not.

Cleveland, 34-17

Running it up? Not even close. With a minute left and the Browns in possession of the ball, the Pats had a ten point lead. One big play and an on-side kick and the Browns could be one touchdown, or one field goal away from a tie game - or even one score from winning with possession of the ball. Instead, the Pats D forces the turnover and Randall Gay runs it into the end zone to open an insurmountable lead with about 40 seconds left.

Dallas, 48-27

Outside of the Redskins, these guys have been some of the biggest whiners about the Pats running up the score. Of course going into the fourth quarter Dallas trailed by only a touchdown. Brady lofted his final touchdown pass with more than 12 minutes to go. With ten to go, Dallas kicked a field goal to make it a two score game again. Sure, with four minutes to go, Gostkowski kicked a field goal, increasing the lead to 14 points.

What everyone seems to get upset about is that the Patriots rushed for a touchdown with 19 seconds left. What nobody mentions is that Dallas could have let the clock run out, but Wade Phillips called a time out in hopes of getting the ball back. What nobody mentions is that the vaunted Dallas defense couldn't keep a running back signed off the Patriots practice squad just days earlier out of the end-zone.

Running it up? Borderline at best. When a coach is trying to get the ball back for one final score, you don't just take a knee and give it to his team, you make the team earn it. Dallas couldn't earn it. So, no, I don't put this in the "running it up" category.

Miami, 49-28

After what happened to the Patriots in the playoffs last year, I don't buy this as running it up either. Think about it - you go into the locker room with a 35 point lead. You call off the dogs in the fourth quarter only to see your lead shrink by 14 points in less than five minutes in the stadium that has been your team's personal house of horrors since you took the job. Suddenly that 21 point lead with more than ten minutes left looks kind of tenuous.

What do you do? You slot your A-team back into the game and put one final nail in the coffin - which happened with more than eight minutes left.

Washington, 52-7

In fairness to the pundits, Belichick ran the score up in this one. After this game there was a lot of speculation about payback. Of course no one mentioned that this score probably was payback - the only other time that Belichick faced Gibbs as head coaches was back in 1991, Belichick's first year coaching the Browns. Gibbs' Redskins put a 42-17 thrashing on big bad Bill's Browns.

The pundits are right, coaches should beware of payback. Just ask Joe Gibbs.

Running the score up? Yeah...yeah they did it in this one. Somehow, I don't feel too bad about it.

Indianapolis 24-20

If not for 13 points gifted to the Colts by the refs on imaginary pass interference calls, there would potentially be talk of the Patriots late scores as running it up. Yet, against an explosive offense like Indy's, shouldn't a team try to score as much as possible?

The bottom line - as football fans we might be witnessing something historic with the Patriots. The team might be on the way to an undefeated season, along the way they might set all sorts of offensive records - points scored in a season, touchdowns by a quarterback, yardage by a quarterback, most consecutive games throwing three touchdowns by a qb, average margin of victory, and those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

If the team does so, they will prove to be the most dominant team of all time. The 1972Dolphins can put any spin they want on it, but on their way to their Super Bowl, they faced only one winning team during the regular season and their opponents had a combined winning percentage well below .400, and an average margin of victory of 15.3 points. The Patriots have faced four teams with winning records including likely playoff contenders Dallas and Indianapolis. The Pats have faced teams with a winning percentage of .479 - close to .100 points higher than the foes of the Dolphins, and the Patriots are beating that higher quality competition by close to a 23.1 point margin.

Somehow, this team has become the bad guys of the NFL. Excellence is a sin. Nobody vilified the high scoring Vikings or the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams. We live in a society in which all participants in youth sports are given trophies, actual competition with a goal of winning is avoided because it might be psychologically damaging to our children. Is it any surprise now that when a team excels, that it gets bashed for trying to be the best?

Ultimately, these guys are paid to play at the highest level. If they themselves have a problem with teams scoring on them, then stop them. It's what they're paid to do.


David Sullivan said...

I think that all of this media bullshit is feeding Bill's "us against the world" motivation he has been using since week 2. Let opposing fans, coaches and media pile it on. They are creating a monster that will soon be uncontainable.

Kevin Smith said...

I'm with you. And it's not like I'm the only one...there are a number of national writers that think the NFL has dug its own hole with Belichick

Dave said...

Well done, sir! The sad thing is that any sportswriter at SI or ESPN could have done this research as well. Good job showing them all up.

Kevin Smith said...


Teresa said...

I don't have a problem with the scores...but as I had said before, if you don't need to play your starters to win, why risk getting them hurt? That would be my only concern.

Well researched post.

Kevin Smith said...

Honestly, I understood bringing Brady back in after the quick scores in the 'Phins game. As for the other games, as someone who has done a little coaching, I would have begun subbing by the end of the third quarter - so I'm with you on that.

waltzingmathilda said...

This is completely unrelated, but I tried to type in your blog today and typed in "theangryflan" instead. Which made me giggle. I thought of a flan saying "grrr...."

I love New Orleans....