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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Monday, February 02, 2004

I'd Like To Make A Couple Of Points (And So Would John Fox)

I'll give the teams credit. They turned two weeks of boring hype about two dull styles of football into an exciting second half of football in which a couple of noted ground games and defenses aired out the ball and provided a thrilling finish. And Adam Vinatieri, despite his struggles all game long, once again is the toast of New England with a last-minute Super Bowl-winning field goal.

Goats? That would be you, John Fox and John Kasay.

Fox, down 21-16, went for two early in the fourth quarter in an attempt to bring his team within a field goal. There was way too much time left to try for two. This isn't second-guessing, because I was thinking at the time (and Phil Simms and Greg Gumbel, who called a great game, agreed) that it was a bad idea.

Sure enough, they came up short and remained down five. When the Panthers scored another TD later on, they had no choice but to go for two in order to give themselves a three-point lead. The conversion failed again, and Fox & Co. had a 22-21 lead instead of a 24-21 lead.

The football gods, frowning upon Carolina's poor judgment, then helped the Patriots out. When the Pats scored the go-ahead TD, they made the right call in going for two to extend their lead to seven. Naturally, they made it. That's a three-point swing right there - had all the touchdowns been seven-pointers, it would have been 28-24 at that point. Instead, the Patriots were ahead by seven, 29-22.

So even though the Panthers scored again, they were only able to tie it at 29, instead of taking a 31-28 lead. Bring on Vinatieri, whose game-winner would have instead sent the game into overtime.

The simple math here? Fox dropped three points by going for two too early, and lost himself one Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Kasay, too, didn't help his team's cause. The kicker shanked one out of bounds following his team's game-tying TD, setting the Pats up with great field position. They didn't have far to go to get into Vinatieri's range, and with three timeouts, they did it with ease.

While Fox and Kasay couldn't avoid the consequences of their blunders, there were a few people who dodged some bullets. Vinatieri, for one, went from inexplicably missing two from short range (yes, one was blocked, but it was a low kick) to hitting another Super Bowl-winning kick. He's sealing a reputation as one of the best kickers of all-time because of some of these clutch kicks despite his occasional shakiness.

Troy Brown also should be thankful that the Pats were able to move into Vinatieri's range on that last drive, because he cost his team 10 yards with an offensive pass interference penalty. He, too, did his job in helping make up for that mistake by catching a pass on the very next play.

And finally, I bet the NFL is thankful that the game didn't go into overtime. The last thing the league wants is a Super Bowl that is decided on the first possession of overtime, which wasn't too farfetched the way that game was going. Such a debacle would expose the inherent unfairness of a sudden-death OT with no opportunity for an equalizer.

Some other thoughts on the Super Bowl:

The Patriots weren't missing Lawyer Milloy much during the regular season. But Jake Delhomme - Jake Delhomme, people! - picked apart the Pats secondary in the second half, especially after Rodney Harrison was hurt. I wonder what Milloy was thinking as he watched the Panthers tie the game at 29 with that pass to Ricky Proehl up the middle.

Ah, irony. While over four million people supposedly dropped $20 to see the Lingerie Bowl instead of the MTV-produced halftime show on CBS, there was actually a fleeting moment of toplessness on the official Super Bowl show. Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, who did an awkward-looking dance to "Rock Your Body," found an interesting way to conclude the show. JT reached over to Janet, and, while singing, "Bet I'll have you nekkid by the end of this song," ripped off a piece of her outfit, exposing her breast to 40 percent of the households in the country. Guess he won that bet.

And finally, there should be a rule: If a city's football team wins a championship, they shouldn't be allowed to whine about other sports for at least three years. Hear that, Red Sox fans? Your Pats just gave you a second title in the last three years. Whining about the curse is like hooking up with the really hot chick and then pining after your high school crush. Just be happy with one, and if you're still suffering, do that in silence.


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