NFL15 “Cherry Cherry” & The Lost Super Bowl 49

30 Jan

Call it the Damn Shame Bowl.

Super Bowl 49’s match-up looks a dandy. Stellar class.

The Seattle Seahawks versus the New England Patriots portends to be a glittering gem in NFL’s cavalcade of crowning moments, the best face-off since Dallas and Pittsburgh last tangled for title in ‘79 in maybe the greatest high-top hootenanny of ‘em all (PIT 35-31).

The balance of team talent is superb.

The head coaches are nonpareil.

...............Belichick.8.28.09.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumb

Pete Carroll plans to become the first man to dynastisize the college scene (USC / 2-NC) and bring that over into the pros (SEA / SB48), while Bill Belichick takes the Patriots to a record tying 9th Super appearance (DAL & PIT) and hopes to join that upper echelon of NFL gurus with four or more championships, joining Halas & Lambeau (6), Lombardi (5), Guy Chamberlin (Canton & Frankford) & Chuck Noll (4).

The franchises: commonalities and contrasts.

...........P.Carroll.wc.cca.12.29.13.M.Morris.thumb

Neither is old guard (Bears, Pack, Giants) as Seahawks are NFL expansion (‘76) and Patriots of the rival AFL (‘59). Both so successful, so innovative, so non-conforming in approach to the game, it’s a damn shame Deflategate has dampened the spirit and blown the bloom off the rose of this championship, so much so that no matter who mines the Lombardi silver, the ne’er-do-well narrative will be an unwelcome hanger-on.

The competing quarterback styles, like SB48, shout, ‘Changing of the guard!’

Patriots’ Tom Brady is old school pocket passer who rarely leaves ‘the bridge,’ versus his opposite Russell Wilson who is no run-QB in Kaepernick vane but new version of the old single wing tailback and may be sign of things to come: mobile-manager QB.

The immovable object (SEA-D) vs the unstoppable force (NE-O).

And the Second-chance Bowl, i.e., Misters Lynch, Blount, etcetera.

But the gates, not the Bill variety, are killing us.

..............gate.Strasbourg.Kayser.wc.thmb.Ji-Elle

Give an anti-NFL hooligan a media-bandwagon from which to pelt the shield with virtual vegetables whenever a League issue appears on social stage (Rice, Redskins, Sam, flag-gates), and they’ll board in bunches. Splat!

Which should then come as no surprise that Democrats, bound by a PCB dictate, have, in one poll, anyway, been found to be more likely than Republicans, to disbelieve Patriots denial of game-ball mischief (PPP / 1-27 (SI (FS) / 1-28)). Maybe not on veracity as much as Bob Kraft’s friendship w/Roger Goodell who’s backer of Dan Snyder and his Redskins motif. The Kev Bacon thing.

Age, regional resentment and self-loathing (jealousy), may play roles as well.

Be that as it may, as the big game nears, which I’ll watch next day on NFL Replay (NFLN), sans the insufferable IR-delays, high school half-time and over-hyped commercials, we‘ll be sure to get our fill at the traditional media smorgasbord of fun factoids, player over-analysis and press-con overload.

Two weeks of hype has always been one-week mood-kill, but this time, maybe it’s a mood-enhancer, as evidenced in Bill Belichick’s Wednesday press conference.

In one of the more light-hearted but heavy-in-clever exchanges, and god knows we need some light moments these days, Belichick was tossed an “oddball” by a reporter, asking if he was aware of the unique circumstance in store: the first All-Croatian head-coach heritage Super Bowl. Reporter added, “they’re dancing in (Zagreb?) already.”

Kick-off is set for Sunday evening (6:30 / NBC).

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle’s world turns on a historical defense w/Kam Chancellor and Bob Wagner setting the tone. Other keys may be less-than-100% on game-day, i.e., Earl Thomas (arm) and Rich Sherman (elbow), who‘s reportedly completed his treatment but whose loved one is expecting their first born sometime post-Sunday. Another sub-plot, better variety.

...............Sherman.8.18.12.J.Beall.wc.cca.thmb

Unless Ashley dissaudes his attendance so he can play, it’s most likely Dick will be bedside for the delivery, whenever it occurs. Child birth has elements of risk and then it’s #1 or 2 on ‘life’s most special moments’ list. Besides, he’s done the Super and his non-sport fandom expect full-faith & compassion here. Pete can fill the void.

So why such a ballyhooed defensive unit?

Besides topping the NFL rankings, there’s no compromise on the basics: tackle efficiency and over-lap in zones of responsibility, a team tactic that was SOP in olden days but in 2014 gets bumped by glory-stat strategy (sacks / INTs).

..............Chancellor.8.22.14.wc.M.Morris.thmb

For the scoring side, it starts with a Tom Cable-capable offensive line and a pound & astound run-game featuring stalwart RB Marshawn ‘speaks with feet’ Lynch.

Lynch has been a force-in-motion of late but was fairly “silent” (See: SB5) in last Super Bowl and better find his rev this time or his friend-in-backfield will duck for cover.

Clearly, Russ Wilson can excel under pressure and is key cog in Hawks’ O-machine. But he’s still learning his trade (NFCT15 (4 INT) and will have tougher time vs Patriots pass defense (Revis & Collins) than he did Denver’s. His fast-track to fame was paved in managing from the pocket and reversion back to college curriculum (Rabbit 101), while unlikely in SB49, is a risky road onto which Pats D hopes they can divert.

Upside: When Wilson does bolt, his excursions are textbook for novice run-QBs.

He slides before the hit, has a motive in mind in sideline or end-zone and even in mobile-mode has a cohesion, a synchronization with his receiver corps (Wilson, Baldwin & Kearse) that translates into a fine ‘14 completion (63%).

............Wilson.wc.cca.12.29.13.L.Maurer.thumb

Lateral mobility is key to Russ’ game, but hanging in, fighting urge to bolt, letting the big men (ML) carry the freight and implementing the boss’ game-plan, from the pocket, are reasons why Wilson & Seahawks’ offense clicked in Super Bowl 48.

Hawks rebounded nicely after Harvin’s high tail but their field of competition post-KC was so-so and had to pull their fat outta’ the fire vs visiting GB w/Rodgers limited.

And for master-craftsman Pete Carroll, looking the “new Belichick,“ the words football genius are waiting in the wings as he’s thrown down the gauntlet as challenge to his opposite for NFL’s best gladiator guru.

Carroll is leading that new wave of team scheme threatening to replace the west coast offense that’s defined NFL matriculatory methodology ever since Bill Walsh took the reigns in San Francisco.

..............Blitz.Seagals.SB48.2.2.14.w.ccca.A.Quintano.thmb

It’s a scheme with Western flavor and plays big in NFCW. It begins with top defense that values tackling skills and loathes the late-game prevent mode. The offense works off play-action by establishing the run game to open the passing lanes for a manager-QB, pocket (Flacco) or mobile, who keeps it simple & sound (25-30a).

Word is, Wilson will become the highest paid QB in the land this off-season. But owner Allen best make sure he pays Pete a comparable king’s ransom, coach class. Man is Belichick West but the personas are worlds apart.

William the Conqueror plays it cool, almost aloof at times, though, with today’s petulant press corps it’s hard to find much fault there, while Peter the Great can’t talk enough. When he’s not jawing with the zebras he’s jawing his gum like nobody’s business.

A well structured, leader-laden defense (Kam & Dick) doesn’t require the same sideline symbiosis as the offense, where strategizing play-call is quick & constant.

...............Seahawks.wordmark.76-01.wc.cca.thmb

Seahawks world spins on an axis of defense but it’s the harmony between it’s coach and quarterback that creates, sustains an atmosphere of life from which victory grows.

Carroll and his young protégé Wilson are ‘same-pagers.’ In a manager-QB system, the composer (Carroll) is as important as the conductor (Wilson) to making music.

It takes all styles to forge a championship caliber offense. Ditka and McMahon (’85-86) were kismet for brief time, but longevity requires rapport in style & purpose. Lombardi & Starr had it, Tom & Bill still have it and Pete & Russ are building to perfection.

Any imperfections aside, Pete Carroll & Crew have earned a reputation for making super teams (DEN (’14) / GB (’15)) look super-silly-us.

If Pete-harmonic continues to orchestrate happy tunes to which his men can play, Hawks could have a dynasty and a new football genius in the Emerald City by February 1st.

New England Patriots

Count Seahawks with the public (80%?) who wish Deflategate had never been.

On that Conference Sunday night when the story broke, there may have been feelings of disbelief, a little smugness, even some sympathy, but now, the NFC and Super Bowl defending champs know it’s only likely to give their AFC opponent better focus and more motivation to achieve that end that helps to cleanse the soul of the “cheat” talk that’s been driving dialogue for days. Pats have to win, they don’t have a choice, so they’ll tell themselves.

..............Patriots.wordmark.60-92.wc.cca.thmb

And with a better balance they can boast this time around (’14-15), it’s pretty fair chance they will…win.

Offense has always been a Patriots’ preference under Bill Belichick, defensive credentials notwithstanding, and this season is no different.

Ranking #11 in yards per game (365+), just behind Giants (10) and Hawks (9 / 376), they were neck n’ neck with GB (1 / 30.4), DEN and PHI in upper echelon of points per game (4 / 29.2) with Seahawks rounding out top ten (10 / 24.6).

...............Collins.wc.cca.1.19.14.J.Beall.thmb

Defensively, Minutemen are led by Jamie Collins (LB). They’ll come into University of Phoenix will respectable ranks. In ypg, they sit at #13 (344) (SEA 267 (1)) in virtual tie with MIA (12) & IND (13) and a strong #8 rank in ppg (19.6), about a FG off Seattle’s stellar #1 post (15.9).

Quarterback Tom Brady had another MVP-caliber season and would’ve positioned better for the trophy had he pulled off the road win at Lambeau W13 (L 26-21).

This season Tom had a quartet of inter-changeable run-support (Vereen, Ridley, Gray & Blount (W12)), a personnel shift that can pose a challenge for any caliber defense and then Shane possessing of the Chuck Foreman hands (52r / 447y).

.............Brady.wc.cca.mongomez93.thmb

As to the hardcore hand-corps, that’s been Patriots power-point for years. I count 4 Level-1 pair-a-mitts (Gronk, Edelman, Vereen & LaFell) and 2-4 Level-2 guys. They’re stacked. And nobody puts it in the old “bread basket” like Brady. Just ask Mr. Berman (ESPN).

It would be prudent to predict the stronger suits of both teams will determine SB49’s outcome: Seattle’s super-stout defense (IO) pushing back on Patriots scoring punch (UF).

But then you realize, their work-a-day ensembles aren’t too shabby. Hawks have their own tested TD tactics and Pats are no slouches at holding their ground too.

Seahawks’ defense can be a reincarnation of the rocks of granite 1932 Chicago Bears (44 pts allowed) and yet the Patriots are gonna‘ put up some points, “gar-ohn-teed.” Question is, can they keep Wilson & Co. from finding their happy zone, a la SB48?

..............UoPhxStd.2.4.08.USDoHS.wc.thmb

Some think that incorporating the sprawling metropolis that is Russell Wilson-in-motion to be the key to stopping Seahawks flight. And that would be a red-herring.

Wilson’s mobility is merely an extension of the Carroll play-call. The former Badger is not a run-QB per se in category of Kaep, RG3 or Cam, all who run-at-will and funkify a game plan in the process of frequently futile free-lance, aka, misnomer read-option.

Hawks matriculate because Russ sticks to Carroll’s management plan: establish run and work the pass (short-to-mid) off play action (See: BAL, etc.). Mobility simply affords more time behind the line to execute an air-route or footwork at breakdown as Wilson has a nose for the 1st-dwn marker and sideline safety.

The keys to stopping Seattle scores: 1) frustrating Lynch, 2) stopping progress at point of pass completion and 3) flushing-out the young QB into vulnerability.

.......cherries.B.Kua.thumb

Super Bowl 49: Cherry on Top

Pre-season, this was the match-up most NFL fans envisioned, coast-to-coast.

Both coaches are smart, successful and capable of being bold and creative. Patriots held slight edge in TA/GA differential (12 v 9) and turnovers always play big. As to kicking games, something to always keep in mind in waning moments of Super play, New England holds small lead there, too, in place (94.6% / 83.8) and punt (46y / 44).

As Seattle has played a notch below last season’s Super showing, are fortunate to be in Glendale after shocking GB late and this is probably the best New England team in 10 years, one now vested with a morality mission of sorts, Patriots will win Super Bowl 49 and maybe, before the hoist, stop by the lost & found and retrieve its spirit.

Record: 96 – 55 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Belichick, wc.cca, K.Allison, 8.28.09, 2m; Belichick crop; Carroll, 12.29.13, M.Morris, wc.cca; baroque-gate, wc.cca, Strasbourg, Ji-Elle; Sherman, wc.cca, 8.18.12, J.Beall; Chancellor, M.Morris, wc.cca, 8.22.14; Wilson, wc.cca, 12.29.13, L.Mauer; Blitz-Seagals, wc.cca, SB48, A.Quintano; Seahawks, wc.cca, 76-01, wordmark; Patriots, wordmark, wc.cca, 60-92; Collins, wc.cca, J.Beall, 1.19.14; Brady, wc.cca, mongomez93; UofPhx.Std, wc.cca, Glendale, 2.4.08, DoHS; cherries, 6.1.08, wc.cca, B.Kua.
Posted: 1.30.15 @ 6:54pm; edit @ 11:48 EST

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