Defense? We Donít Need No Stinkiní Defense! 5 Feb 18
by Tony Medley
In a game that saw
more than 1000 yards gained by both teams, New England Patriots coach
Bill Belichick signaled before the opening kickoff how little value he
gave to his teamís defense by benching probably his best defensive back,
Malcolm Butler. You remember Malcolm Butler, of course. He was a rookie
defensive back who won the Super Bowl for New England three
years ago by making an improbable interception on the stupidest play
call in the history of professional football, a pass called by Seattle
coach Pete Carroll when Seattle had a first and goal on the 1 yard line
with less than a minute left to play.
Belichick nonspeak, Coach Bill explained, ďwe did what we felt was best
for the team.Ē
Even so, Philadelphia
had to recover from several momentum changing gaffes to prevail.
Gaffe #1: Quarterback
Nick Foles took the opening kickoff and drove his team down to a second
and goal on New Englandís 3 yard line. It was at this point that star
tight end Zach Ertz was called for illegal motion. Philly couldnít
convert so was limited to a field goal.
Gaffe #2: After New
England drove down and tied the score with its own field-goal, Foles
threw a perfect touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffrey. But Philly then missed
So after playing a
brilliant first quarter, Philly was only up by six points and it looked
as if New England had momentum.
But these gaffes soon
proved to be illusory as neither team played defense. Actually New
England put a lot more pressure on Foles than Philly put on Patriotsí
quarterback Tom Brady. This resulted in Brady throwing for a Super Bowl
record of more than 500 yards as Philly simply had no pass defense;
Patriots receivers were often wide open with no defenders in sight.
While New Englandís
defensive secondary was equally inept, the Patriotsí four-man rush often
pressured Foles; certainly a lot more than Phillyís four-man rush
pressured Brady. There was only one sack in the entire game. Even so,
Foles, eschewing the pressure, threw several pinpoint long passes.
Whatís a Catch?
This is a question that has been bugging the league for years and there
was certainly no definitive solution by the officials in this game.
Catch #1: In the
third quarter Foles threw a 22 yard touchdown pass to Cory Clement.
Clement caught the ball at the back of the end zone but the ball moved
just as his foot hit the end line going out of bounds. During the
regular season this would have been called an incomplete pass 100% of
the time. But after a review the officials upheld it. This raises the
question of propriety of ignoring a rule just because itís the Super
Catch #2: with 2:21
left in the game and trailing by one point Foles threw an 11 yard pass
to Ertz who caught it with both hands on the 5 yard line, took three
steps and dove into the end zone holding the ball out in front of him
with two hands. When the ball hit the ground in the end zone it popped
up in the air and Ertz caught it. While this went into replay because it
was a scoring play, the two TV announcers, Chris Collinsworth and Al
Michaels, both indicated that they thought it was going to be ruled an
incomplete pass. That was absurd. Ertz caught the ball and took three
steps before he dove into the end zone. He was clearly a runner
stretching the ball over the goal line; it wasnít even close. And thatís
the way it was upheld.
But there is no doubt
that under present NFL rules and the way they have been interpreted all
year long, the touchdown by Clement should have been disallowed. It does
raise the troubling question of the propriety of changing the
interpretation of a rule just because itís the Super Bowl.
Combined with the
trade two months ago of blossoming star quarterback Jimmy Garapollo,
apparently a trade ordered by owner Robert Kraft in response to a Brady
request and over Belichickís strenuous objections, the benching and
probable departure of their star defensive back, who becomes an
unrestricted free agent, along with rumored retirements of people like
tight end Rob Gronkowski, make the Patriotsí future less than rosy.
There is also
apparently a rumor floating around that Brady might retire. If he did
lobby for the trade of Garapollo because Jimmy was a threat to Bradyís
starting quarterback position, it would be the ultimate offense to his
team and his fans if, having gotten rid of his competition, he were to
hang up his cleats, leaving the Patriots high and dry without a
Hereís a thought. If
Brady and Belichick were on opposite sides of the Garapollo departure
and Belichick obviously lost that one, maybe Bill will retire.