Mitch's Sports: Butler Didn't Do It (Because He Never Got The Chance) And Other Superbowl Thoughts

Feb 6, 2018

I told you those Eagles were going to be tough. OK, to be fair, I picked the Patriots to win by three, but like a lot of people, I didn't expect a 41-33 Philly victory that was pretty much all offense.

This game saw records set for most total combined yards, not just in super bowl history, but in any NFL game ever played, regular season or otherwise. I mean, honestly, how do defenses on both sides take the day off for the biggest game of the year?  

1,151 yards between both offenses. Tom Brady set a record for most yards through the air the Super Bowl--505 total yards--and was the losing quarterback. There was one punt in the game. One.

I get it that both these teams have potent offenses, and Eagles quarterback Nick Foles played the game of his life, out-dueling Tom Brady even though technically Brady threw for more yards. Foles was better when it counted, not only throwing for three touchdowns but becoming the first quarterback in superbowl history to catch one, burning the Patriots on a play very similar to one they had tried earlier in the game on a third and five that failed when the ball tipped off Tom Brady's fingers, so it was an extra slap in the Pats face when Foles eased into the end zone on a fourth and goal to pad Philly's lead in the first half.

And that leads us to another shocker in this super bowl. After all the hoopla, well deserved, about what a brilliant tactician Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is, the adjustments he makes, the intimidation factor, etc., he was flat-out out-coached by Philly's Doug Pederson, who continually rolled the dice, showing no fear whatsoever and obviously sensing that New England's defense really didn't know how to stop Foles or the offense on third down, or fourth. Pederson also called a gutsy go-for-it on fourth and one with the ball around mid-field with the game still very much in flux, and that one worked, too.

And as long as I'm daring to question the wisdom of the stoic to the end Belichick, was it really a good idea to keep cornerback Malcolm Butler on the sidelines for almost the entire game? Butler is the guy who saved the Patriots' bacon against Seattle three years ago when he intercepted a pass at the one yard line to preserve New England's win, but he played only on special teams last night, not a single down on defense and was visibly upset about it after the game, saying the Patriots gave up on him and that he could have changed the game had he been in there, and it's hard to argue, given how porous the Patriots defense was. Belichick was his usual tight-lipped self, saying only that he put the players out there he thought would give the team the best chance to win, but you have to wonder if Butler's benching was disciplinary, as he didn't fly out with the team earlier in the week, claiming illness. And if he was sidelined to send some kind of message, I don't think it got through, and it probably wasn't the time to make that kind of point. Eric Rowe, the former Eagle, started in Butler's place and was burned on a number of plays on third down, and allowed an Ashlon Jeffrey touchdown before Stephon Gilmore was switched over to cover Jeffrey and effectively shut him down, but only after the damage had been done.

Another record set in this game: There was only one sack recorded by either team all night, and boy, was it costly for the Patriots. With about 2 and a half minutes left on the clock and the Pats trailing by five, plenty of time for Tom Brady to do what he does and drive the Pats downfield for a potential game winning touchdown, Brandon Graham of the Eagles got to Brady, stripped the ball from his grasp before recording the sack, and gave the Eagles the turnover which turned into three more points and ended any realistic hope of another miraculous Brady comeback, his final Hail Mary into the end zone for a helpless Rob Gronkowski batted to the turf.

I'm a little mystified by this game. If you're an Eagles fan, congratulations. Your team was the underdog, and the franchise has finally won its first superbowl, doing so in dramatic fashion and with a journeyman quarterback who played better than the greatest of all time on the biggest stage possible in the one game that mattered most.

But I can't call this a great football game, because while nobody wants to see a game filled with three and outs and punt after punt, defense is a part of the game, and is necessary for even the most voracious of offenses to produce victory, and the Patriots found that out the hard way last night, denied the franchise's sixth championship ring because the defense was non-existent and perhaps, because the Patriots coaching staff was a bit overconfident when they should have realized you can only go so many times to the comeback win for the ages well before it runs dry.

All that said, I don't want to take this to be taken as sour grapes. The Eagles played a masterful game, deserved to win, and fans should revel in their first ever championship. But maybe from now on, you can drop the whole proud belligerence thing and stop throwing snowballs at Santa Claus.

Believe it or not there were other games played yesterday and at least Boston sports fans have Al Horford's almost last second shot go through to produce a 97-96 win over Portland in Boston, and the Montreal Canadiens won their second game in a row, beating Ottawa 4-1 with Tomas Plecanek registering point number 601 for his Montreal career, which places him 13th on the all-time franchise scoring list.

In local ski carnival action, Dartmouth beat out host UVM to win the UVM carnival, the Big Green's Nordic Ski squad leading the way taking three out of four events. Dartmouth finished first with  969 points. UVM placed second with 932, and UNH finished third with 701.
 
And in slalom events Saturday, the Castleton University men's alpine ski team swept the podium in for the first time in school history, with Paul Rechberger, Anton Smith, and Jan Klindic taking the top 3 places in ECSC MacConnell Division races.

 

Tags: