Tuesday, November 17, 2009
"Belichick's Gamble." That's all anyone can talk about, both inside and outside I-495. But any man who thinks a football game is decided by one play should be neutered so his stupidity cannot pass to a new generation.
Some have come to Belichick's defense. Football mathamagicians have even used past history to determine that going for it was a better percentage play than punting (79% win "probability" compared to 70% win probability).
I still think it was an error, but let's not forget what preceded this error.
The Patriots offense achieved 477 total yards, yet when given the ball late in the 4th quarter, only moved 8 yards in 3 plays to set up that 4th & 2.
It was also a Patriots offense that was a weakly 3 for 6 in red zone conversions. Midway through the 4th quarter, the Patriots were given the ball at the Colt 31 yard line. Peyton Manning had thrown an awful pick, essentially giving Tom Brady and the offense the hammer with which to drive home the final nail in the coffin. The Pats moved the ball to the 16 before kicking a field goal.
A touchdown there gives the Patriots an unassailable 17 point lead with only 4 minutes left. 3 scores in 4 minutes is a deficit next to impossible to overcome, even for Peyton Manning.
I guess my point is that the Patriots didn't just lose this game on "Belichick's Gamble." They lost this game in a number of failed plays. 3 for 6 in the fucking red zone is inexcusable, particularly for an offense that amasses 477 yards.
And to be fair to Belichick, how much is it to expect your 477 yard offense, which has averaged nearly 7 yards per play, to get 2 more yards?
Let the National Sports Media and the dumbasses here at home rail against Belichick all week. There's no cure for stupidity. And while the decision still irritates me, there are many more elements of a lost football game than one play and one coach's call.
Turnovers a mere 5 feet from their own net. Is there a more horrible sin in hockey? It's the equivalent of red zone interceptions for a quarterback, or lead-off walks for a pitcher. Actually, it's worse. The Bruins resorted to some of their bad habits from early October. Combined with another bland night of finishing scoring chances, and you get a 4-1 loss to the Islanders.
The Bruins have made goaltenders look very good this season. And why is that? Well, it's because they are good. NHL goalies don't mess up, they're good at everything a goalie needs to do, and if allowed to get in position, with a clear sight-line, they'll make saves on just about everything.
Without a player like Marc Savard, the Bruins lack the cleverness to create space, and ultimately draw goalies out of position. The things Savard can do are fractional, hardly noticeable elements of an equation. But hockey is a fractional game (as proven by Guerin's goal Saturday night with 2/5 of a second left).
The Bruins power play was 0 for 4, which includes a 95 second stretch of 5-on-3. The Bruins have scored 5 power play goals since the 2nd game of the season. That's where this team misses Savard.
But Savard's absence cannot be blamed for this loss. The turnovers were awful. Assignments were missed, particularly Bergeron's, and he's normally the best defensive forward on the roster.
Maybe it's frustration. The defense had been phenomenal lately. The penalty-kill unit has killed 38 of 39 penalties since October 17th. But this team has allowed itself to lose focus far too often this season. And we're no longer in the beginning of the year, we're in the middle. Things need to change quickly.
The Bruins begin a 4 game road-trip, which might help get their collective head back into the game. They play 10-6-1 Atlanta Thursday night.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa