The National Faux-Pas League

For the second time in the past three years, ridiculous play selection has cost a team destined to be Super Bowl champion to be no more than a footnote to history, an errant call away from the pinnacle of football to a heartbreaking ending to a soon to be forgotten season.

In both of those instances, boneheaded play selection and/or inefficient execution has given the championship to the New England Patriots. Bear in mind, Brady, Belichick, et. al., need no help whatsoever in winning titles. They know very well how to do that by themselves.

Two years ago, in SB 49–please excuse the absence of Roman numerals as I still haven’t conquered the alphabetizing of numbers–for some totally unknown reason, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, instead of turning around on second-and-goal from the one with less than a minute to go and giving the ball to monster running-back Marshawn Lynch to barrel into the end zone for the winning touchdown, decided to throw the ball.

Not a fade route to the deep corner of the end zone where there would have been fairly secure one-on-one man coverage but rather into a melange of red, white, blue, grey and yellow uniforms on the goal line with a half dozen arms grabbing for the ball. Predictably, the ball flew into the chest of a Patriot defender three yards away. Game over, New England Patriots are Super Bowl champions.

Fast forward two years to Atlanta and New England this past Sunday. Julio Jones makes a great catch, putting the ball on the Patriots twenty-two yard line, first-and-ten, 4:47 to go in the game with the Falcons up 28-20.

Sitting up in the heavenly coaches box, Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and Bill Walsh all say the same thing. Run the ball to the center of the field, make the Patriots use their three remaining time outs, and kick a chip-shot field goal at which your kicker, by the way, has been perfect all season. Your running game has averaged 5.8 yards all day so it is very possible you might even drive the ball in for a touchdown.

But let’s say Atlanta gains no yardage on three rushes. New England still would have to use their timeouts to stop the clock from winding down. This is where the offensive coordinator of Atlanta, Kyle Shanahan, soon to be head coach of the 49ers (yikes) had to prove he was the smartest guy in the room.

If Belichick does nothing else well, he is extremely adept at getting the opposing coach to do something stupid at the most critical time. Note the Seattle fiasco of two years prior described above.

So a series of plays which started with the promise of grabbing an eleven-point lead only moments before now becomes a fourth down punt fair-caught at the five-yard line after a run, pass, sack, and holding penalty had moved the ball back to nearly mid-field, negating even an attempt at a field goal.

We really should have seen Shanahan’s shenanigans coming. When his team was up by 28-9 in the third period, he was presented with a gift of a botched Patriot’s on-side kick on his opponents’ 46-yard line. With the play calling acuity of an anvil, he had Atlanta go three-and-out and punt.

Atlanta never even saw the ball in overtime. For the second time in three years, the Patriots were presented with a gift of astounding stupidity enabling them to become Super Bowl Champions.

Maybe the old adage of “it is better to be lucky than good” is true after all.

At least young Shanahan had the honesty to say he blew it, something his father never did while leaving RGIII in a playoff game when he could hardly stand.

13 responses to “The National Faux-Pas League

  1. Barbara slloum

    All I wanted was a good game. And I got it in the 4th quarter. I’m ready for next year where all will be forgotten!

    • Patriots are obviously good but to be handed two Super Bowls in three years is really astounding. And the Giants, down late, did come back to beat them.

  2. Great stuff, Coach.

    What came first? The chicken or the egg?

    Are the Patriots that good because they are able to take advantage of these situations or are the other coaches that bad for inexplicably not being able to put them away?

    Either way, New England is pretty happy right now and no matter which way you slice it, that Brady kid is pretty effin’ good.

  3. Robert Chambers

    Hey Coach, In your opinion how much is on the play calling of the OC and how much should be shared by the HC for not stepping in to interject? Or should the HC even be a consideration? While I would not expect Belichick to actually have a “wait till they make a mistake” in his playbook I feel certain is on his mind wishing and hoping that opportunity and spark. It was really interesting to look at the end of game stats such as Time of Possession and First Downs. Wow lopsided for New England. But while watching I don’t think I would have said as much. Great game non the less. While there are arguments for defense wins big games, the play of J. White was pivotal, not too mention some great catches on both sides, but at the end of the day in my humble opinion it is about playing 60 minutes of football and finishing the game. Cheers till next year Coach and thank you!

  4. Atlanta fired the DC the next morning while the OC was heading out the door to San Francisco. HC Quinn, however, has to look in the mirror every morning to what might have been. When your team is given the golden opportunity of going up by four scores in the third period and punts, and then is given a game clinching field goal shot at game’s end and punts, everybody on staff takes a hit. Quinn should have dictated three runs and a field goal at game’s end regardless of staff decisions. He’ll never make that mistake again. Glad you like CC, Robert.


  6. Thanks, Dan. Exciting as it was, it seemed luck more than pluck dictated the final score once again.

  7. In any kind of athletic contest especially when everything is on the line Always make a play that the percentages make sense. Drew D.

  8. Drew, if only Coach Quinn had heeded that advice, they’d be champions today!

  9. Johnny Salvatore

    With all due respect to the coolest Fordham QB I know, I hafta disagree. Not w/any of the Seattle stuff of course, just last Sunday. IMO Shanahan played to win the game. If another QB from another Jesuit institution did his part, they would have won the game. Instead, during his final four drives the MVP went 5-9 for 91 yards. And almost half of those yards came on a dump off to Devonta Freeman. He also took 3 sacks. He also fumbled away one of those sacks. He also threw what would have been an interception had (Patriots corner) Duron Harmon landed both feet inbounds. Plus he was playing with the single best WR in the world and 9 other guys on the roster with at least 2 TD catches this season. Maybe Matty Ice is a super nice guy off the field but I can’t see how someone fails to close like that, yet still escapes Cam Newton-levels of blame.

  10. Johnny…..All the other Jebbie had to do was hand the ball off thrice straight ahead to set up a field goal from a distance from whence he has never missed, and at worst send his opponent onto the field, out of timeouts, down by two scores, eighty yards away, at the two minute warning. The other Jesuit of whom you speak fondly above, he of the Fordham variety, even now in his ninth decade of life, could have pulled off that assignment with no help from anybody, much less an ill-informed egomaniacal OE named Shanahan.