On watching the Super Bowl as something of an outsider

On watching the Super Bowl as something of an outsider    

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? Last night, I saw my first football game in several years and I'm guessing I chose the right one. I'm not anti-sports; I love baseball and soccer. I have a passing interesting the other big American team sports (football, basketball, and hockey), and I can identify most of the others from a distance ("Hey, that looks like golf!"), but i'm not a huge football fan. I'm also not emotionally connected to either Boston or Seattle. I was about as neutral as you could get about last night's game.

It was a terribly interesting game from my perspective. New England's game plan was obvious from the beginning; "We're going to throw short slant passes all night. We're not going to get huge games, but we can do this and there's nothing you can do to stop us." It worked, too. New England moved the ball down the field with beautiful efficiency. They seldom faced third-and-long, but they also seldom gained big yardage on any given play.

New England's plan on defense was equally simple: "Don't let Marshawn Lynch beat us." The big Seahawk back wasn't neutralized, but he struggled to find much space as New England dared Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to beat them. Wilson's not a pocket passer like Tom Brady; he's smaller, faster, and, while he's not great at throwing timing patterns, he throws deep balls very, very well.

New England made a couple of mistakes, including a very uncharacteristic turnover on the goal line, and Wilson made a huge play. Despite the Patriots' looking very much the better team and Wilson only completing two passes in the first half, they went to the locker room tied at 14-14. 

The Seahawks discovered that they their receivers could win jump balls. This allowed them to move the ball very quickly and opened up some running room. The Patriots offense sputtered (it was predicated on every play working for 5 yards, so a mistake or two wiped 'em out) and Seattle took a 10 point lead. I remember remarking at that time that, if Seattle didn't make any mistakes, they would win. 

Of course, New England played essentially perfect football after that and took a late lead. It all came down to the final drive. The 'Hawks lined Lynch up as a wide receiver and ate up 30 some odd yards. Then, nearly perfect defense broke up a long pass to Kearse. The ball hit his feet, then his arms, and finally landed on his chest where he made the catch five yards from the goal line. It was a perfectly Seattle moment. The Seahawks gave the ball to Lynch who pounded it to the half yard line and then...

I'll never understand the play call. You have the NFL's leader in rushing touchdowns, you have a time out, and literally the only thing that you have to avoid is a turnover. If you insist on passing, why not let Wilson bootleg outside the pocket and give him the choice of passing, running, or throwing the ball away? Like I said, I'm not a huge football fan, so maybe I'm missing something.

So, in the end, it was a fascinating contrast of two very different styles and two very different gameplans. I think New England were a slightly better team and had a slightly better plan, but it could just as easily have gone the other way. Seattle's ability to produce magic out of nothing would look like luck if they hadn't been doing it all year.  Both teams played to their strengths and it was might as well have been a coin flip in the end.

I'd be remiss*, of course, if I didn't mention the halftime show. I loved it. Whoever is picking the performers for the shows in the future would do well to avoid the legacy acts like U2 and the Rolling Stones and stick with current performers. I didn't care about any of the music, but it was a hell of a spectacle. More of this, please.

I think it was about as good an advertisement for the league as one could have hoped. Both teams played well and, I think just as importantly, played in very different fashions. If the NFL were normally like that, I'd be more inclined to pay attention on a regular basis.


* I suppose I should also mention the commercials, but I watched the game online (legally) and didn't see any commercials. You'll have to tell me how they were.