I thought both games this weekend were pretty entertaining. The Broncos had a sizable lead for the second half, but the Patriots worked their way back to striking distance; if you hung around for the whole game, they were a two point conversion away from going for an onside kick with a chance to tie the game. Of course, there are a lot of moving parts in that scenario, which makes the whole thing unlikely, and they never got the two point conversion in the first place. But if you enjoy football and the prospect of comebacks and working through what teams need to do to get back into it… at any rate, it worked for me. And the Seahawks-49ers game came down to the last minute, so that has to be a winner. Let’s do a quick recap.
I didn’t think there was much to consider for the Pats-Broncos game. The New England offense is typically pretty good, but the Denver offense is so much better that you had to make them solid favorites. That was basically what happened: there were no turnovers in the game, no big penalties, nothing odd at all. The Pats were slightly more efficient in the run game, but were never really in position to try to take advantage. No, this game was entirely decided by the passing advantage the Broncos had. Manning had 8 more completions on 5 more passes than Brady and got 144 more yards with them. The Pats didn’t even have a bad day, per se; their 5.7 yards per play were higher than their season average and would have tied for 7th in the league on that basis (they actually came in 10th). But when the guys on the other side put up 7.1, almost a yard over their already league-best season average, you’re going to lose badly unless there are some turnovers or other extenuating circumstances. Denver probably could have won by more than 10 if they had really wanted to.
The 49ers-Seahawks game was much more dramatic. Wilson’s fumble on the first play of the game was bad; the 49ers being held to a field goal even though they started at the 15 made me think we were in for a slugfest. Instead, when the 49ers got the ball back they went right down the field on the back of a giant Kaepernick run for a touchdown. It looked like San Fran was going to play the monster game people thought they might. Instead Seattle worked their way back into it, and were able to take enough advantage of three straight turnovers by the 49ers to end the game. As you might have guessed before the game, San Fran had a decent running advantage (although maybe you wouldn’t have guessed it would be all Kaepernick). It was pretty much exactly cancelled by Seattle’s passing advantage, such that the teams tied at 308 yards each. The difference was the two turnovers and better kick returns by Seattle, and that got them six more points and the win.
The NFC match-up also produced at least one play that merits discussion, and that would be the non-fumble and NaVorro Bowman’s injury. Obviously Bowman’s injury is terrible, but the fumble recovery is more important to me. I think there are two points that people have been making: one is that fumble recoveries should be reviewable/challenge-able plays, and that the 49ers got the wrong end of the deal with the call.
On the first point, I agree. I think most sports leagues need more replay opportunities, and I see no particular reason this should be an exception. On most plays, a fumble can be reviewed if there is a clear recovery. There was in this case as well, but apparently it isn’t reviewable because the officials on the field (mistakenly) called a recovery by Seattle. So if the officials know who recovered the ball, it can’t be reviewed, I guess? Seems odd to me. I understand why challenging fumbles (and more notably, their recoveries) can be problematic given how often the ball ends up in a pile. But I don’t see why a coach shouldn’t be able to challenge it if he wants to, like he might when there’s a clear recovery.
On the second point, I don’t think the 49ers were too put out by the call. Yes, Seattle kept the ball when they shouldn’t have and had another chance to score. That’s bad. As it turned out, they didn’t and instead fumbled the ball back to the 15 where they turned it over on downs. Obviously if you asked the 49ers whether they would rather have the ball on their own 2 or their own 15, they would take the 15. So the process was bad; there’s no reason the play shouldn’t be reviewable and the 49ers could have ended up down 6 or 10. But the result was fine.
So now we get two weeks off to rest our weary bodies for the Super Bowl. The models already have a pick, but we’ll hold that for the preview. In the meantime, here’s how the picks went over the weekend. Luigi and Yoshi 2 got both games correct against the spread while Yoshi 1 missed them both. Unfortunately for it, Yoshi 2 thought both games were too close to make confident picks. So Luigi is 6-3-1 in all games and 5-3-1 in confident picks, Yoshi 1 is 4-5-1/3-4-1, and Yoshi 2 is 6-3-1/3-3-1. Luigi thought Denver was enough of a favorite to take to win but had no opinion on Seahawks-49ers; the win puts it at basically average against the moneyline for the playoffs. Yoshi 1 missed both games, as you would guess, and is a bit in the hole. Yoshi 2 also missed both games and is more in the hole because it didn’t believe in the Saints back against Philly. And with regards to Bill Simmons, he had both underdogs covering (and winning), which obviously didn’t happen. So Bill is 3-5-2, Luigi and Yoshi 2 are 5-3-2, and Yoshi 1 is 3-5-2.