Monday, December 30, 2019

Belichick is right and you're wrong: Episode 442 - The Clock and Timeouts

I'll state two things before getting into the meat of this post:

1) Bill Belichick is not always right. He is fallible. He has made, and will make incorrect decisions.

2) You are not smart enough to judge when those incorrect decisions have occurred. In other words, I will defer to Belichick over you, always. That means any "you" who might be reading this (including me). From the geniuses on sports radio, to the sofa stains who yell at the TV with their rational coaching insights. Belichick understands football at a level beyond most professional football coaches, let alone the Madden All-Pros out there or the former high school standouts who caught two TDs in the Thanksgiving Day game to make the Division 6 all-star team.

Bill Belichick was conservative at the end of the first half. He didn't use a timeout on defense to save the clock. The first offensive play was a draw which lost 2 yards. That pretty much ended the drive. Why so conservative?

Because the Patriots' offense struggles to get first downs, and Miami had 3 timeouts.

What do you think was more likely, a Patriots scoring drive, or a quick three-and-out?

So your options are to get the ball with 1:40 on the clock, 2 timeouts, and a very real chance of giving the ball back to Miami with 1:00 remaining. Or you get the ball with 1:00 of clock, 3 timeouts, and see if you can string together a few plays without giving Miami a chance to touch the ball again.

You are either in control of the clock and therefore the game, or you have to hope to move the ball in order to be in control. And you're not good at moving the ball.

It's like a basketball team dribbling out the clock at the end of a quarter, waiting until the clock is near 0 to shoot so as to prevent the other team from having an extra possession.

Don't forget, Buffalo scored after getting the ball with 0:33 before halftime last week. The defense is not immune to allowing big plays and quick drives.

And if you think scoring with 1:40 and 2 timeouts is likely or possible, yet somehow with 1:00 and 3 timeouts scoring is impossible, I really don't know what to tell you. Good luck with that.

And if you don't like the draw play call, go back to all the other 2-minute drives the Patriots have started with draws, screens, and other conservative plays. Go all the way back to Super Bowl 36 and tell Belichick that a 5 yard pass to Redmond is too conservative a play to call with 1:21 on the clock.

They frequently start those types of drives with low-risk plays. If they get some yards, you crank up the speed of the drive. If not, you keep the ball and go to the locker room.

The Patriots also seem to, in many situations, give timeouts a higher value than 40 seconds of time. Timeouts keep your play-calling flexible and your playbook wide open. There are 3,600 seconds in a football game, and there aren't many 40 second blocks that are more valuable than being able to call a run play or use the middle of the field.

This offense has struggled almost all year, but the struggles get even worse when their range of plays is limited. Having more timeouts makes you less predictable.

So the Patriots wanted control of the clock, didn't want to give Miami a chance to score like Buffalo did, and they value a timeout more than actual time.

The end. You're wrong, Belichick is right, we're on to Tennessee.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Patriots dynasty is over, yet again

Texans 28, Patriots 24. And with that, the Patriots' run of success has come to an end. It's over. The dynasty is done. All good things come to an end. The defense isn't as strong as we thought. The offense is shriveled and flaccid. They can't even figure out the field goal kicker. Cue the hearses for the funeral procession.

We know with certainty this is the end because we've seen the end so many times. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Patriots' dominance of the 21st century is how many times their reign has ended and the team has fallen apart.

It came to an end a month ago in Baltimore. And of course, last winter it was all over in Kansas City when Damien Williams scored with 2:03 left to beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Before that, the dynasty fell apart when the Pats were forced to go on the road to win the AFC, something they hadn't succeeded at in years. There was no way they'd win.

The Miami Miracle also ended the Patriots' 2018 season, and thus also their string of triumphs. Before that, losses in Tennessee, Detroit, and Jacksonville each ended the 2018 season as well. The 2018 Patriots were knocked out of contention about 6 or 7 times in 2018.

Of course, the Patriots never recovered from losing to the Eagles in the Super Bowl. And since parting ways with Malcolm Butler, the defense just hasn't been the same.

The Falcons embarrassed the Patriots the year before that. And that 2016 regular season was the end of the Pats' dynasty because they'd have to play without Brady for 4 games, and also there was that irreconcilable turmoil between Kraft/Belichick/Brady over the fate of Jimmy Garoppolo. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put the Patriots dynasty back together again.

Ever since losing to the Chiefs in September 2014, the Patriots just haven't been "Good anymore." They've collapsed about a dozen times since then. Maybe more. Just like when 2002's 9-7 record showed that the year before was a fluke. Or in week 1 in 2003 when Tom Jackson revealed to us that the Patriots "hate their coach."

Now the AFC baton is being passed to the Ravens and Chiefs. Just like Mark Sanchez and the Jets took it in 2010 and went on to glory. Or the Colts took it and had a streak of banner years with Manning and Luck. Or the year-in year-out success of the Broncos. Or the way the Steelers have been able to get past the Patriots both on the field and in their own minds.

People have been digging graves for the Patriots dynasty ever since they picked them to lose to the Steelers and Rams in 2001, or thought the Patriots were done winning in that stretch from 2005 to 2014.

At some point the Patriots dynasty will die. And maybe it's now. But the people predicting this death have spent years, even decades digging empty graves for the Pats. So if this is indeed the end, I'll enjoy an Irish wake and revel in the good times, and the unparalleled competitiveness of this team. I'll pay my respects and congratulate myself for only mourning the dearly departed just once, not 20+ times.

And if this isn't the end, I'll smile like the insufferable prick I am as I watch the exhausted haters and befuddled fools start digging the next set of graves for this team.