Superbowl Season

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I’ve been a New England Patriots fan about forty years, beginning with when they got quarterback Steve Grogan. That was the first time I’d seen them been successful since the beginning of the American Football League about 1960, when they won one of its first championships.
The success didn’t last, though. They continued to be also-rans through the remainder of the 1970s and most of the 80s. They did reach the Super Bowl in the 1980s, but were uncompetitive, getting blown out by the Chicago Bears 46-10. They reached the Super Bowl again in the 1990s, and were more competitive, but still lost.
So I was very gratified when they went Super Bowling again in 2003, and this time won in a very dramatic game. They repeated in two of the next three years, and I was ecstatic.
Meanwhile, Peyton Manning had joined the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, and had quickly become one of the premiere quarterbacks of the league. But he had two problems: he had a lot of trouble beating the Patriots, even when he had the better team, and he was less successful in the post-season than the Patriots with Tom Brady, the other dominant quarterback of the last two decades. Coach Bill Belicek of the Patriots seemed always able to devise offensive and defensive schemes to frustrate the Colts, and though Manning was usually on good teams, his career somewhat paralleled that of John Elway, as always a great quarterback with a team around him that couldn’t seem to give him enough support to win in the post-season. Of course it may have been that he didn’t always play well in the playoffs too. I haven’t seen enough of his games to say. But he has won a Super Bowl, as everyone wants to do, so he is inferior only relative to Brady and the Patriots. Until this year.
This year Denver is stronger defensively than I remember them being since the 1970s. They have a pretty good offensive cast surrounding Manning too, and he has always been a smart player. Now he’s very experienced too.
It didn’t look like this would be his year, as he was sidelined with injuries for much of it, including plantar fascitis, a problem which causes a foot to hurt agonizingly. It’s especially not good for quarterbacks, who have to put lots of stress on their feet when throwing the ball. But now he’s healthy again. He made some bad throws yesterday, but not many, and I didn’t see anything to indicate that his feet were hurting. He was the aggressor as the Broncoes (to whom he moved several years ago from the Colts) scored on their first drive, and never lost their lead.
Meanwhile, the Denver defense was making Tom Brady miserable. Brady is always the key to New England’s offense, and if you let him do what he wants, you lose. Being able to KEEP him from doing what he wants is the problem, but it was a problem Denver had the answer to yesterday. They kept constant pressure on him, intercepting him twice, hurrying him often, and often forcing him to throw the ball away. The Patriots managed to keep the game close, but that was the best they could do, which is unlike them in the playoffs.
Probably part of Denver’s success was due to New England’s offensive line not being healthy, but let’s not diminish what they accomplished. New England was in position to go to the Super Bowl, and Denver took a page out of their book to stop them, preventing them from ever getting an offensive flow. Two touchdowns and two field goals were all they could manage, and with Denver’s pressure, they did well getting those.
In the second game of the day the Carolina Panthers won with the greatest of ease, and looked overwhelming, as both Brady’s and Manning’s teams have often looked. Unsurprisingly, they have an outstanding quarterback, just getting well started on his career, and a good team around him, beating a very good team in the Arizona Cardinals and hardly seeming to work up a sweat. Will Denver be able to beat them? That would make a nice story, but it doesn’t appear likely.
I’m told that Carolina’s offensive line is one of the best parts of their team, which New England’s was not, and their quarterback is equally threatening as a passer and runner, so the challenge is much greater. They also have a good defense. So the key will be for Denver to disrupt Carolina’s offense to some extent–they can’t reasonably expect to shut them down to the extent they did New England–while having an outstanding offensive day. It seems unlikely they will be able to overwhelm Carolina’s defense, even if effective against it, and I would guess that’s what they need to do to win. But I’ve been wrong before.

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2 thoughts on “Superbowl Season

  1. Julian Scala

    Allen –

    Here I’m merely bewildered. I’ve never followed pro football. But I do remember being told by my father that in the 1930s pro football had so small a following that the Giants management hired people to hand out free tickets for the Polo Grounds, just so the stands would make a respectable showing. This pump-priming apparently paid off in the end.

    • I used to follow football closely. Since I’ve been working nights almost exclusively the past ten years, and every weekend until this past year, I couldn’t follow it as closely, but I enjoy watching it occasionally now.

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