Monday, February 3, 2014

Lessons from a SuperBowl Blowout

Broncos fans express dismay during the first half of Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday.
"The slime green on his Seattle uniform is nastier than cornerback Richard Sherman. If he's the toughest thing the Seahawks have on their side, Denver will win the Super Bowl by two touchdowns" - Mark Kiszla - Denver Post . Jan. 29

"Compared to the cockroaches under the sink of a double-wide that sat a few miles east of the Mississippi River, Sherman is as cuddly as a pussycat.....There's the bottom line: Sherman isn't a tough guy. But he will play one on television for 15 seconds, " - Mark Kiszla, Denver Post, Jan. 29

 Broncos' fans are still in a state of shell shock after yesterday's shellacking by the Seattle SeaHawks. They somehow made the error of conflating how 'Murica "feels" about a team - 70 percent favored the Broncos after Richard Sherman's rant 2 weeks ago - for actually winning the biggest game of the year.  They felt having a dopey, half--clued in nation of "fans" behind them would secure the Lombardi trophy. They were wrong.

As I predicted at the end of the previous blog (a 34-17 blowout by Seattle) this wasn't going to happen. Seattle's D had quietly stewed all week long as the dumb national media coronated  Peyton Manning and his "legacy" even before a single play of the game. Peyton was the good guy while Richard Sherman (according to dumbass Sen. John McCain) was the "snarling face of Seattle".  He would not realize how much more fuel he gave the Hawks as they laid plans to lay waste to Peyton, the Ponies, and all the dumb Americans who hopped onto the Denver bandwagon.

But perhaps no one delivered more 'fuel' than the Denver Post's resident moron, Mark Kiszla, who still hasn't learned to keep his computer keys and yap shut before big games. Recall that before last year's AFC divisional playoff  Kiszla outdid himself with insults against Ray Lewis and the "over the hill" Ravens. The outcome? The Ravens knocked the Ponies from the Playoffs in a double overtime victory.

Anyway, let's  look at some lessons to take away after his blowout, which rivals some of the worst in SuperBowl history:

1) Don't buy into the media hype leading up to the Big Game.

As assorted pundits wail about the "hype" and how the game never lived up to expectations, they need only look at themselves in the mirror to find who to blame. Following the Richard Sherman rant 2 weeks ago, the callow media immediately jumped on the national bandwagon to stand with the "good guys" and against those "bad, evil Seattle 'thugs'". The rancor got worse when -  in a follow up interview - Richard Sherman said that using the word 'thug' on him (via tweets) was as bad as the 'N-word.' Then John McCain stepped in and added more ignominy, asserting that "decent Americans" would support Denver. Polls appeared to suggest this, with 70 percent preferring a Broncos' win in the SuperBowl.

Meanwhile, to echo this meme, the national sports media (except in Seattle)   drank the kool aid and kept repeating that hey, in this era of high octane offense, with the rules the way they were, there was just no way - no way at all, Seattle could prevail over the number one O in the nation. Especially with Peyton Manning at the helm, who'd already been named MVP and Offensive Player of the year.

So, along with  dissing any Seattle chance to win, the media endlessly sang the praises of Peyton's accomplishments  during the week. Meanwhile, Seattle's players stewed and ramped up their anger, not only at being ignored but at being the "villains" in the piece. They quickly adopted an 'Us against the world' mindset, similar to what the Baltimore Ravens did in 2000 (after Ray Lewis became an issue on Media Day, and coach Brian Billick refused to answer questions about him.). The Ravens went on to pound the NY Giants 34-7.

2)  Great Defenses Will Always Better Great Offenses

The NFL has tried to jury rig the rules to favor offenses, but as the SuperBowl result showed, this doesn't work if a team has a truly high caliber defense: one that's physical, preternaturally fast, furious and prepared to hit on every play. THAT was the D Seattle brought to the game, and Denver simply wasn't prepared for it.  The statement play, as observed by Eric Davis on NFL AM this morning was undoubtedly Kam Chancellor smashing Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route. Thomas was hit so hard that he likely had to check his teeth after, to make sure they were all still there.

As Davis noted, "the message was that you can try to cross over the middle, but you will pay a toll, and it will be paid each time you try."  The Broncos receivers got the message and were wussified by the specter of being tattooed each time - and they played like it.

An excellent A -class defense also finishes, and this is what Seattle did. They didn't go to a "prevent" defense after they were up 43-8, nor did they allow a cheap cosmetic TD at the end,  which drives many of us crazy when our teams do that crap. 

Before the SuperBowl, the media yappers kept repeating how Seattle "had never faced an offense as potent as the Broncos" - but they forgot the Broncs played in the AFC, and truly - I would not put their Offense even on the same level as the Niners or Saints. Sure they chopped up New England and San Diego in the playoffs - but let's bear in mind NE was missing most of their star defensive players (e.g. NT Vince Wilfork), and San Diego was hurting too. Meanwhile, Seattle arrived at the SB healthy and ready.

Bottom line: a top tier defense with all its players healthy will beat a top tier offense- even in this era where the NFL has tried to ensure the "offense" rules..

3) Showboating Isn't a Substitute for Superb Play

I had to laugh when the Broncos players were introduced, preceded by the team's mascot 'Thunder' (shipped specially to NY for the SuperBowl) ridden out from the stadium entrance in a flourish of flares and booms.  This setup - as we learned in The Denver Post- was part and parcel of the massive expectation of a Broncos' win. It was meant to intimidate the other guys, and maybe turn them into wussies. Didn't work out that way! About ten minutes later, in the first play from scrimmage, the snap from Manny Ramirez bounced past Manning into the end zone for a safety. To many Broncos' fans it signified the beginning of the end.

Denver's showboating and pre-game fanfare rated an 'A-plus' but it didn't count against a ferocious defense when the actual game commenced.

4) Seattle's 12th Man Traveled - and Made an Impact.

It was truly amusing before the game to watch videos on The Denver Post website bragging how they were in greater abundance in the stands than the Seattle fans. One guy decked out in Bronco orange bragged in his video that he estimated a 3 to 1 advantage.  Alas, as Denver took the ball first (after Seattle deferred) the crowd noise was almost deafening. The SEATTLE fans thereby made their presence known and likely caused the miscommunication that resulted in the first snap from scrimmage going awry - giving Seattle a safety.  This misplay set the tone for the rest of the game. (In a post game news conference, Peyton Manning blamed the noise for the foul up)

5) What Denver Has to Do To Win A 3rd SuperBowl

From the evidence of this game, the Broncos will need to pay much more attention to building their D, to at least remotely emulating Seattle's. That means aiming for a defense marked by punishing hitters endowed with tremendous speed.  Youth emphasis helps and that means aged guys like Champ Bailey will have to hit the road, for guys with the skills, speed of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.

Seattle's swarming defense at the line was impressive - ganging up on RBs, and ball stripping-  as much as delivering powerful hits on the WRs in crossing routes, and their DBs covering every play, preventing long passes. Many teams, including the Packers and Ravens, will be studying Seattle's defense in the hope of building one like it, but most will fail because of a number of reasons, including salary cap issues (the Ravens are limited by the $120m contract to Flacco, and the Pack is limited by a similar mega- contract to Aaron Rodgers, plus $60m to LB Clay Matthews).

Will these lessons be learned in time for the next Big Game? One hopes so, but knowing the short memory of most of the media - as well as most Americans - don't be surprised if they aren't.

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