This past Sunday, I flew to Vegas for the Patriots - Raiders game. I took my dad for Christmas and in retrospect, I can't imagine a shittier gift to give somebody than the game we witnessed.
Glass-half-full perspective, I guess neither of us have never, and will never see anything like that ever again.
And I've been to some fucking wild Patriots games in person -
- Both of the awful Super Bowls against the Giants. (pretty bad memories from Indy come to think of it)
- The 28-3 Super Bowl in Houston
- The Malcolm Butler Super Bowl in Phoenix
(followed by the greatest after party of all time)
- I actually DJ'd the stadium pre-game party at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis where Tom Brady threw for 500 yards and 5 TDs and somehow lost to a backup QB who couldn't even make it in the league after.
All this said, yes, I am fully aware I am the luckiest mother fucker alive. For these and many other reasons. You don't need to tell me.
But it's almost like I've seen it all by this point in terms of insane Patriots occurrences. Or so I thought until Sunday afternoon.
Heading into Sunday's game, the bar was low. Extremely low.
We're talking about two dog-shit teams facing off against each other. One, the Raiders, coached by one of the worst coaches to come down the pipeline in quite some time. Responsible for blowing FOUR fourth-quarter leads of 14 or more this season, resulting in losses.
The other, the Patriots, a team with no identity, no real plan for the future, and a cornucopia of cast-offs, has-beens, and trash heap guys. On the field and on the coaching staff.
Don't let the great Jerry Thornton (the best football writer in the game), fool you, because as much as Dave pays him, I'm pretty sure the Kraft's pay him twice as much to spit-shine the turds the Pats have dumped on us the past couple seasons into diamonds on a weekly basis here.
For the first time since Dick MacPherson was head coach, this team is completely lost.
Sure they were somehow still in the playoff hunt, playing for a potential wild card, but for what?
To get throttled on wild card Saturday on the road and fall further in The Draft? (Not that The Draft matters much to BB or this organization.)
So, all that said, I guess heading into the game I was most looking forward to: 1- spending some bonding time with my father, who I've recently reconnected with. 2- seeing Allegiant Stadium during a game, not a concert, up close and personal. And 3- seeing the master and the student face off
The rest of this blog is basically going to be me ball-washing the hell out of Las Vegas and Allegiant Stadium. Because frankly, it's the best stadium I've ever stepped foot in or watched a football game in.
And that experience extends from before you even get into the stadium.
For starters, if you're ubering or cabbing it to the stadium, you know how at most stadiums the drop off and pick up location is a mile, if not miles, away? Well not here. We got dropped off basically curbside on the back end of Al Davis Way, right next to the stadium.
Speaking of Al Davis- they brought him back to life and have him walking around the stadium shaking hands, kissing babies, and taking pictures all game. Pretty cool.
They get you in the stadium very quickly and efficiently. Stadium security are very helpful, plentiful, and polite.
They also didn't kick my father out for walking through a metal detector with a pocket knife in his pocket. (He doesn't get out much, and he's Italian, so give him a break.)
Walking into the place feels more like you're in a high-end luxury food court than a stadium. The concourse is RIDICULOUS.
(Faux marble or not, A for effort guys)
The seats are all crazy nice. We're talking new-movie theatre plush, supple leather.
In terms of in game production, as an aficionado, and an integral part of one of the best in-game experiences in sports, at Wrigley Field, (shout out to my Cubs Productions family), the Raiders nailed it.
Pre-game they run an awesome Star Wars Imperial Death March montage which is capped off by showing some lunatic in the black hole decked out in one of those legit, $10,000 Darth Vader costumes. The whole place goes nuts.
Also, after the Raiders take the field, they play the epic "The Autumn Wind is a Pirate" song from NFL Films.
Speaking of NFL Films, they run the classic NFL Films music during almost every TV timeout, for the first half of it, before switching into pump-up music for the crowd as they come out of commercial. Seriously, it's so well done.
The sound, and acoustics in the stadium are also incredible.
Granted, the amount of glass they have in the building, especially up top, doesn't help concert performances, but for an NFL game, holy smokes does it sound great. And loud! I'd say the crowd was 50/50 Pats and Raiders fans and the place was booming all game. I can only imagine what it'd be like if this organization fields a competitive team that brings out larger home crowds. But that's not going to be easy when Vegas is the marquee away game every season for every fanbase whose favorite team is visiting Sin City to play. We circled this game as soon as the schedule dropped as did thousands of other New England fans from around the globe.
I'd be remiss, and a terrible blogger if I didn't mention how lights out the Raiderettes were.
Half-time entertainment also couldn't have been better. They had T-Pain come out and fucking rip it for 15 minutes with a medley of hit after hit after hit.
The Raiders fans were also awesome. Very welcoming and chill. At least where I was sitting. This poor guy up in the upper deck sadly couldn’t say the same as this loser lady was goading him all game like a trash fan, rather than just watching and enjoying the game.
As for the game itself, what a disaster.
Troy Aikman has hinted at it all season long, as has Tom Brady, but what we are witnessing this year is some really, truly, terrible football.
Exciting as it may seem, and to steal a line from the immortal Howard Cossell, it's not parity. It's fucking mediocrity.
"Mr. Rozelle and the league would want you to believe that it is all about "parity", when in fact it is just mediocrity."
I'm pretty sure I haven't seen worst-coached special teams in New England in 20 years.
I'm pretty sure I've never seen a home team flagged for delay of game and false start more than the Raiders in my life.
I'm pretty sure I've never seen a team be flagged for delay of game coming out of a timeout more than the Patriots have this year.
And I'm pretty sure I've never seen a team be forced to burn a timeout coming out of a tv timeout more than the Patriots have this year.
(Those last two are on coaching, preparation, and Mac Jones- who was billed as this brilliant QB with amazing in-game awareness when he was drafted.)
Everybody in New England is bitching about the offense non-stop because that's the new flavor of the week. The truth is, if you've been honest with yourself, the Patriots offense has been as vanilla as it comes for longer than you can remember.
Don't even get me started on the joke that is Matt Patricia. I'm not going to waste the word count on him.
But Josh McDaniels isn't running some fucking zany, trick play-filled playbook. He isn't now in Las Vegas, and he wasn't before in New England. In fact, the Patriots offense, is and always has been, a difficult to understand by comparison, but not because of complicatedness, rather because of its complexity. It's a regimented set of plays, with dozens of deviations and variances. Which is why it's so crucial to have a QB (like Brady) who is a walking, talking, football computer, who can read defenses, make adjustments at the line, know how a coverage will unfold post-snap, before the ball is snapped, and can save time on check downs by not even having to make them because he's ruled them out at the line. It's equally crucial having receivers who also know the offense inside and out, running backs who can block, tight ends who can block, and a line who can shift on a dime.
For years, nay, decades, literally two, New England's defense, and Tom Brady covered up this glaring deficiency. Save the couple season Bill O'Brien ran the show and Randy Moss wore the red, white, silver, and blue, we watched Brady make chicken salad out of chicken shit.
Thankfully he had a superstar in Gronk, and he created superstars out of Edelman, Welker, and Deion Branch.
Now, on a team that has literally zero star power, the emperor has no clothes, and the jig is up.
I digress and apologize because nobody wants to hear a guy who's been to more Super Bowls than he can count whine like a bitch about suddenly having a shitty football team.
But if BB and co. don't make some serious changes this offseason, as in hiring real, actual coordinators, and bringing in some real, actual playmakers on both sides of the ball, then this team is fucked. And not just because Buffalo and Miami look to be wagons, and the Jets aren't a total dumpster fire anymore.
Speaking of horrible football, lets talk about the refs.
I turned to my father before kickoff when I saw this clown, Ron Tolbert, on the field, that we were in for circus, as he's fucked me more times than Charlie Sheen at a cat house.
Little did I know how bad his crew and he would end up fucking up this game.
And not just for their ticky tack flags they threw all first half.
But this call, that got buried in the hysteria of how the game ended had a HUGE impact on the game.
In the final two minutes of the first half, Tyquan Thornton hauled in what looked like, and should have been a catch.
The officials ruled it incomplete. And didn't even bother to review it.
The result? Well that setup a third-and-6, where Cole Strange got called for ANOTHER false-start penalty, sending New England back five yards. 3rd and 11. The next play Jones hit Hunter Henry for five yards, bringing it to fourth-and-6. This was where the wretched special teams made a costly disaster of letting Michael Palardy have his punt blocked, with the Raiders recovering and eventually scoring another touchdown in the final moments of the first half.
A MASSIVE swing.
And that's nothing compared to the Keenan Cole TD.
This one isn't so much on Tolbert and his crew as it is the NFL.
How can a multi BILLION dollar corporation not have better technology in the year 2022?
I'm not even saying the best technology, which it has no excuse not to being the financial juggernaut that is, just better than what they have.
They spent like 5 minutes reviewing this catch and showing various replays in the stadium. To be honest, you really couldn't tell from the whopping two angles they had the catch on angle from. (Nice work Fox). But then this photo drops today, and you've gotta be fucking kidding me?
That tied the game and lead to the pathetic series the Pats ran to (maybe?) attempt to set up a field goal? With two timeouts, Mastermind Matt Patricia dialed up a 7 yard pass across the middle to Myers. First timeout. That was followed by a horrible throw on a 8 yard out to the left sideline that Agholar didn't come close to catching. 3rd and 3. Then they ran it (?) to Stevenson up the middle for ten yards. Putting the ball at their own 44 and forcing them to use their final timeout with 14 seconds left. Essentially, they needed to pickup 20 yards to give old man Nick Folk a chance. No easy task to do with no timeouts and 14 seconds left. But not impossible. At the very least, they were within reasonable distance for Jones to chuck one up into the endzone for a Hail Mary attempt. Either way, running the ball and having your guys so unaware that they play rugby with the ball as time expired, when all they needed to do was go down and live to fight another day in overtime was astounding to see. Not so much because of how insane the result was- Chandler Jones running so fast into the endzone in a walk-off that his clothes almost fell off- but because of the fact it happened to a Belichick coached team.
Scott Zolak agreed.
That shit NEVER happens to the Patriots.
That's the kind of stuff that the Patriots were always on the other end of. The kind of stuff we Pats fans would point at other teams, laugh, and say
Now? It's us.
I don't know for sure. All I know is I've never seen anything like that happen, and I probably won't ever again.
(The only caveat to it, and to Tolbert's crew horrendous performance was that my father and I had the Raiders +1.)
Luckily, Las Vegas and Allegiant Stadium made up for the debacle.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, because after next year's Super Bowl takes place there, and all the pundits and media experts are shouting it, remember where you heard it first- every single Super Bowl going forward should be played in Las Vegas.
It's got a great airport, accessible from pretty much everywhere.
It has more hotel rooms than you know what to do with. All budgets and price ranges too. You fancy? You got the Wynn and Bellagio right there. You not looking to spend a fortune because you'll never be in your room anyway? Excalibur or Luxor are calling your name.
Restaurants impossible to get into on high-traffic tourist weekends? Never in Vegas. Well always in Vegas, but they're used to high volume weekends every weekend all year, but they have a zillion top-notch ones as opposed to a small handful of good/great ones like other cities.
Entertainment also needs no discussion here but I'll do it anyway. Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. Plain and simple. More bars, clubs, strip clubs, theatre shows, peep shows, whatever you're into. They have them and they have lots of them. And they're all in a few square miles. Meaning you can walk to everything. Including the stadium.
Allegiant Stadium is right behind the strip of hotels on the other side of Dean Martin Dr.
Meaning depending how far down the strip you are, it's walkable. At the worst, you're talking a $20 uber.
The Super Bowl, is arguably the biggest entertainment and sporting event in the world besides the Olympics, and Las Vegas is the biggest entertainment capital on the planet.
The two were made for each other.
Make this a yearly thing and follow it up with making the Final Four a yearly Vegas thing also. Done and done.