Saturday, January 24, 2015

Prelude To A Title - Part 2: Winner Of Super Bowl Will Be The Best When It Counts The Most

"Great teams aren't great all the time; they're just great when they have to be."

Legendary NFL Films narrator John Facenda coined that phrase over thirty years ago, but he may as well have been talking about both of the entrants of Super Bowl 49.

For those who don't know of Facenda or are too young to even have an inkling as to who he is, his voice could only be described as deep as a bass drum, his appearance that of Rick from from the television show Pawn Stars, his prose as elegant as that of Grantland Rice - "The Voice of God" as was proclaimed by legions of football fans, a voice so iconic that to this day it is often parodied and replicated...

Kam Chancellor and the Seahawks have been stout on defense...
...and were he alive today, I suspect that he would again dip into this most poignant of quotes to describe both the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, who both endured turbulent starts, then turned on the afterburners to run roughshod over the rest of the National Football League.

In fact, were Facenda somehow resurrected and put behind the microphone to narrate the 2014 NFL Season, there would probably be a hint of marvel in his voice, for when he passed away in 1984 of Lung Cancer, the Patriots has a combined three playoff appearances in their 24 year history, while the Seahawks were still relative infants with two playoff appearances in their eight years.

Things change.  Times change.  Now the Patriots are about to appear in their eighth Super Bowl and the Seahawks their third, both eschewing their previous monikers of doormats and indeed entering the game as the unquestioned top two teams in the National Football League.

And how they got to this point are two amazingly similar stories, at least as far as statistics will take you.
...but so have Brandon Browner and the Patriots.

It has long been held by the Seattle media and perhaps by the team itself that the turning point in their season was a distressing loss at Kansas City in Week 11 that left the Seahawks with a mediocre 6-4 record and in second place in the tough NFC West Division, a full two games behind the Arizona Cardinals, and amazingly being counted out of the running for the division title.

The Seahawks won six straight down the stretch to finish out the season, eclipsing those fading Cardinals for the division title and eventually securing the number one seed in the conference, and have since won two home playoff games to find themselves headed to Glendale, Arizona to face a New England team that also counts a 41-14 drubbing at the hands of those same Chiefs as a turning point to their season...

...tearing off a very proper seven game winning streak after that loss and winning 10 of 11 to secure the AFC's top seed in week 16 before coasting home with a loss to the Bills on a meaningless final Sunday of the regular season.

But to properly appreciate what these teams have done to get to Super Bowl 49, one must jump inside the numbers - and what one finds there suggests that football fans around the world may just be in for the treat of a generation.

In the eight games since their loss to Kansas City, the Seahawks' offense has put up 155 points on the scoreboard, an average of 19 points per game - which is ok, because they have allowed only 78 points, a mind-blowing average of just 9.75 points per game, while during the same time period, New England's offense has amassed 213 points, or nearly 27 points per game while their defense has yielded two touchdowns per game.

So it's easy to see how both teams had success in the past two months, but those figures don't tell the entire story.

The two teams' opponents have done most of their damage on offense in the first half of games, with Seattle's foes scoring 49 points in eight games while the Patriots' nemesis' have hammered out over twice as many - which is neither here nor there for the purposes of this discussion.

Where the two teams have have shined the brightest, where these two great teams have been at their greatest is in the second half of their games, particularly in crunch time, and while the offenses remain incredibly consistent from the first half to the second, the difference in these games have come from the teams' defenses, and the numbers are staggering.

In the past eight games, the Seattle Seahawks have given up a ridiculous 29 points in the second half, 16 in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth, completely shutting out three of their foes and giving up just one touchdown, that to Carolina in the divisional round of the playoffs - they are, after all, the appropriately named "Legion of Boom".

But perhaps it's time to find a trendy nickname for the Patriots' defense because they have been even better.

In the same two month span, New England's defense has yielded but 22 second half points, 10 in the third quarter and only 12 in the fourth, shutting out four opponents, including the thrashing they gave the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game - the only touchdown surrendered in that time frame was to Baltimore, again in the third quarter of the divisional round.

So, what are we to make of these numbers?  Well, on paper, the Patriots have a slightest of advantages, the math suggesting an 18-17 Patriots' victory - but these are just numbers and this is just paper.  When the whistle blows and play begins in what should be an epic Super Bowl, we will see what the two teams can do on grass...

...and the winner will be the one who may not be great throughout the entire game, but the one that is the greatest when they have to be.

1 comment:

  1. Fresh perspective about the teams' path to the Super Bowl, regardless how much any one's footballs weight. Thank you for posting As our Fan Page.