The NFL season began on Thursday September 7, 2017 with the Chiefs and Pats playing in Foxboro. The season has one game left; the Super Bowl will be a replay of Super Bowl XXXIX with the Patriots taking on the Eagles. [Aside: Given the frequency of the Patriots’ participation in the Super Bowl over the last 15 years, perhaps we should think of renaming it the BBIT – the Brady-Belichick Invitational Tournament.]
The Jaguars played very well and had the game in a secure place for the first 3 quarters of the game; the Jags led 20-10 at the start of the 4th quarter. My sister-in-law is not a huge football fan, but she is a huge Patriots hater; she texted me to say she thought the Jags had the game in the bag. All I did was to remind her that the Pats trailed 28-3 in the Super Bowl last year and came back to win. What I said was simple:
This game is not over yet.
Indeed, it was not. The Patriots rallied to score 2 TDs in the 4th quarter to come back and win 24-20 by dominating play in the fourth quarter. This was a game where Tom Brady led the Patriots to a win; this was not a game where Jags’ QB, Blake Bortles invented a way to lose the game. Bortles’ stat line for the game was more than acceptable:
- 23 for 36 for 293 yards and 1 TD
That is 12.8 yards per completion and 8.1 yards per attempt. Any NFL QB would be happy to see that stat line on their ledger for a season. No; the Pats won because Tom Brady led a game-winning drive at the end of the game that you just felt was coming as soon as the Pats got possession of the ball.
There were 5 minutes left to play; the Pats trailed by 3; they took possession at the Jags’ 30 yardline. The winning TD pass came with 2:48 to play and it looked as of Brady had not yet broken a sweat. Meanwhile, the Pats’ defense turned down the screws on the Jags in the final quarter too. Here are the last four possessions for the Jags in the game:
- Turn the ball over on downs.
The Pats/Jags game was not a huge surprise because we have come to expect solid if not spectacular play from the Jags and a never-say-die attitude from the Pats. And that is what we got.
The Eagles/Vikes game on the other hand was indeed a huge surprise. I did not think either team would score 20 points and that the game would be decided by a field goal – made or missed – on the final possession of the game. Not even close. The Vikes suffered a letdown from its miracle win last week over the Saints and only flashed any kind of intensity or emotion in the game. The Vikes scored first looking efficient and effective in doing so; they led 7-0 after only 5 minutes had gone by in the game and got the ball back midway through the first quarter. Then came the momentum changing play of the game:
- Case Keenum had his arm hit by Chris Long and Eagles’ DB, Patrick Robinson intercepted it near the 50 yardline and took it back for a TD.
- That did more than tie the game. That play changed the body language for the teams on the field.
- From that point on, the Eagles’ offense was in sync and the Eagles’ defense was flying to the ball wherever it was on the field.
Nick Foles more than acquitted himself here. His stat line was:
- 26 for 33 for 352 yards and 3 TDs
- Oh, by the way, in the second half he was 11 for 11 passing…
- Oh, by the way, he was 9 for 10 throwing on 3rd down.
I said on Friday that the matchup between Vikes’ DE, Everson Griffen and Eagles LT, Halapoulivaati Vaitai would be important. Well, Vaitai did more than hold his own; Griffen got only a couple of pressures on Foles and was not a huge factor in the passing game. Filling in for an All-Pro player – one who may be in the Hall of Fame one day – is not an easy task but Vaitai did just that in admirable fashion last night.
The opening line for the Super Bowl has the Pats as a 5.5-point favorite with some of the sportsbooks moving the line up to 6-points based on early money. Frankly, I am a bit surprised by that line; I would have guessed that it would have opened at 7-points and potentially gone up from there. Whatever… The Total Line for the Super Bowl is at 48 points as an opening point; that looks like a reasonable place for that line to be; I would not expect a lot of movement from there – unless one or both starting QBs comes down with the Ebola virus and has to be quarantined on the weekend of the game.
The Vikes will not be the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium this year. And maybe – just maybe – that is a good thing for Vikes’ fans. Look, it is not as if the loyal season ticket holders will all get to buy Super Bowl tickets to use or to sell on the secondary market. At least 75% of the seats are going to go to “NFL partners” and various members of the “connected class’. US Bank Stadium seats about 67,000 fans; I would be surprised if the Vikes’ season ticket holders would have 10,000 seats allocated to the whole lot of them.
Those numbers would mean that the resale market price for Super Bowl tickets would be outrageous and people might spend money that they ought not to spend on a football game just because it is a home game for their home team. I honestly believe there are some people who have just been protected from themselves.
We are about to embark on about two weeks of football silliness. The next week will be filled with reports about things that are peripheral at most to the Super Bowl game. Then we will have the Pro Bowl next weekend which is must-miss-TV. Then we will get Super Bowl Media Day where some “journalist” will ask one of the players what his favorite crochet yarn is. I hope to avoid contributing to that nonsense and, so I will leave you with this…
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this item recently about the Puppy Bowl. If you do not know about the Puppy Bowl, Google is your friend…
“Boomer, a 14-week-old Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix, has been getting rave reviews in workouts for Puppy Bowl XIV on Feb. 4.
“In other words, the pup looks really good on paper.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………