Knee Jerk Reactions to Super Bowl LII: Patriots vs. Eagles

.
Things to consider while waiting for a final body count on the interstate killing spree Malcolm Butler must have gone on to earn a benching:

*While Knee Jerks after a loss of this magnitude are the worst things I ever have to write, let’s get this straight: The better team won. The better team always wins; that’s how you determine who the better team is. No excuses. Nothing about injuries because it’s football. No bitching about touchdown catches not being called non-catches. No loser talk. I won’t hear of it. Those people in Philly have every right to go all World War Z in the streets without someone telling them their team didn’t earn it. Granted, I’d like to be told the same thing once in a while. But that’s a beef for another day.

*I’m not sure how thoroughly I’ll go over the crime scene here. But just to but some of those little yellow numbers down to mark the evidence: The Patriots put on one of the worst defensive outings a championship contender ever has in any sport. They couldn’t cover anyone. They tackled with all the enthusiasm of Registry worker renewing your registration. They tried to win a Super Bowl playing in full-on “give-up-12-on-3rd-&-11-but-don’t-break” mode. Shockingly, it didn’t work. They played passively. Never got creative with their pass rush concepts. And ended up playing the kind of defense you normally only see at the NBA All Star game. They deserved to lose.

*Through it all, Malcolm Butler stood on the sidelines. The man who led the team in defensive snaps – 97 percent of the team total on the season – got zero percent. Even when Pat Chung went out for a couple of stretches, Butler watched Eric Rowe (a servicable slot corner) and Johnson Bademosi (a special teamer) get his reps. Unless reality has been altered in ways my primitive human brain can’t grasp, there is no way that makes sense. If for no other reason than Butler is a superior tackler and the Eagles pass catchers were running through the secondary like Tecmo Bowl Bo.

*I swear I got a bad feeling that something was up when Butler was crying during “America the Beautiful.” Nobody is that big a fan of either the song or Whatshisname from Hamliton who sang it. I picked up the same weird vibe I got before the Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named when the whole Pats sideline seemed to be carrying 19-0 on their shoulders like overstuffed backpacks. I don’t know if the full truth will ever come out. But I’d rather see the country get to the bottom of this than whether the POTUS likes to have Russian hookers pee on him. At least this matters.

*It all added up to Nick Foles playing like he’d achieved 20-point Legendary status in “Fortnite.” He simply could do no wrong. He operated the Run Pass Option thing to near perfection, but what surprised me was how only a handful of those completions were quick slants and very few were second reaction, outside-of-structure type plays where the first read wasn’t there and he had to improvise. He was finding receivers open on deep and intermediate routes. Which is not only supposed to be a weakness of Big Dick Nick’s, but a strength of the Pats defense. Fat lot of good that did us though.

*Another fatal mistake was putting Eric Rowe on Alshon Jeffrey early on. It seemed like a natural that they’d match Stephon Gilmore up on him all game. Even though Rowe is actually the same height and 15 pounds heavier than Gilmore, don’t you put strength on strength? If I was Belichick, I’d be so frustrated with Matt Patricia I’d exile him to go coach in some shithole. Like Detroit.

*On the most recent Laces Out podcast, I told AJ Hawk that my biggest concern was the way Philly will move their defensive ends inside to create mismatches. That I could see them sliding Brandon Graham to the interior next to Fletcher Cox and force the Pats to block him with a center or a guard. So what happens? Graham moves inside, slices Shaq Mason in two with a ninja sword, and makes the strip sack that effectively ends the game. There are moments when being right all the time is a curse.

*The tragic thing about that is, that one game-winning sack aside, the offensive line held up against a great front the whole game. That was the most glaring unit-vs-unit advantage for either team going into the game, and yet the Pats O-line more than held up. Brady had a decent pocket all night. He had time to let routes develop and step into throws. They won the battle, at least until they didn’t. But then, you could say the same thing about the Death Star. And we saw what one fatal flaw did to it.

*I don’t know what to say about Brady. Stats are for losers, but he had 500 passing yards against one of the best defenses in football. With three touchdowns and no picks. He had no way to avoid that strip sack and otherwise played without a flaw. But as Gisele says, her husband can’t throw the fucking ball and catch it at the same time.

*I want to be mad about the pass to Brady call, but how can we? The play worked exactly as it was designed, they just didn’t execute. The defense bit on the end around, left Brady alone, Danny Amendola had plenty of time and space to make a throw. He was off the mark a little and Brady proved he had the pass-catching ability of a career non-pass-catcher. It’s hard to get pissed off at the call when Doug Pederson made a call that was a very close relative of that one on 4th down at the goal line and it worked. You live by the Boise St. gadget play, you die by the Boise St. gadget play. But you have to catch the ball.

*There were a few questionable calls by McDaniels. But then again, too few to mention. Overall I like the way he kept a confident, aggressive Philly D off balance and putting them into sets that gave the Pats and advantage. Particularly with James Develin on the field. He kept rolling base personnel (two running backs, one or two tight ends) and then splitting them out to generate advantages for Brady. I lost count of how many times Develin and his neckroll split wide outside the numbers. And whether he drew a corner (zone coverage) or a linebacker (zone) revealed the whole defense to Brady and he exploited the mismatches.

*Brady has been in eight Super Bowls. He has led his team on a late go-ahead scoring drive in the 4th quarter or overtime in seven of them, including this one. Some days 500 yards and 33 points just aren’t enough.

*And consider this: Until they took the lead 33-32 with 9:22 to go, the Patriots hadn’t led in a Super Bowl since the Brady-to-Edelman TD put them ahead of Seattle. Which is why the one definite prediction I can make with total moral certainty is that we are doomed to never be able to relax and enjoy these games.

*I’ll let someone else take a deep dive into the commercials. I’m in no mood. I’ll just say that call me old fashioned, but in the America I grew up in, we got people’s attention during Super Bowl time outs the traditional way. The right way. With sex. Cindy Crawford in a tank top buying Pepsi out of a machine in slow motion. The Go Daddy Girl. The Miller Lite chicks carrying the “Tastes Great/Less Filling” fight into a public fountain. The proud tradition of selling crap to football audiences with sex is dead. Replaced with lifting Martin Luther King’s speeches to push pickup trucks. And the nation is worse off for it.

*I won’t bellyache about the hit that knocked Brandin Cooks out. He had the ball with full vision of the field and was trying to gain ground. Malcolm Jenkins keeps the lights on by preventing guys from gaining ground. The day may yet come when they legislate that type of helmet-to-helmet out of football, but it is not this day. It’s unfortunate. But I don’t know that a team that moved the ball as much at the Pats did and which had as many punts as Malcolm Butler had defensive snaps (0) can complain that losing a receiver was the difference in the game.

*This Week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “C’mon, man. I had a rough night and I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man!” – The Dude, The Big Lebowski (Author’s note: No I don’t. Congratulations, champs.)

*If Butler’s tears in the Time Out chair wasn’t omen enough, you had to sense the bad juju when Joe Cardona of all people, the most automatic guy in all of professional sports, messes up. If Gostkowski had made that kick, it would’ve been the kind of miracle that turns the stadium into a world pilgrimage site. To have Cardona screw up in the biggest moment like that when the Pats had to be perfect in order to win is the worst thing to happen to a Navy officer since Fat Leonard.

*I think Gostkowski’s missed extra point was all him, but it’s possible it was the hold. I leave that stuff to McAfee.

*The thing McDaniels and Patricia have most in common is the confidence they have that 60 minutes will be enough time for them to figure things out, make adjustments and pull of the win. Unfortunately that asks the rest of us for the one thing we don’t have to give: Patience. It took until the opening drive of the 3rd quarter for McDaniels to figure out a way to get Gronk open, and then he took over the game. But it was too late to make up for all the points they’d left on the board earlier. And Patricia’s adjustments will come next year with the Lions.

*The hard fact to swallow, but it should be a point of pride, is that the Patriots of the 21st century don’t have the luxury of simple losses. The lesser franchises can have their season end on a down note or miss the playoffs altogether, and it’s not the end of the world. When you’re striving to rewrite the history books every season, any time you don’t win it’s Lossmaggedon. It’s the price of being hyper-relevant. Of being the center of the football galaxy. And as much as it sucks right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. No. Days. Off.

*They’ve taken this team’s draft picks away. Suspended their franchise player. Changed the pass defense rules to slow them down. Banned them from trick formations they did not invent but used to perfection. Outlawed jumping the long snapper after they were successful at it. And still, they make it this far every other season. And as we sit here in early February, does anyone doubt they’ll be back in the conference championship game next year? This is the end of this season, but not this dynasty. Not by a damned sight.

*I’ll be trying to process this game and all the alleged palace intrigue going on in the weeks and months to come. But in the meantime, I’m just going to try to be grateful they’ve extended the football season this long once again. Never lose sight of the fact that once it ends, there’s nothing but bobsledding and people counting down the days til pitchers and catchers report.

*Thanks to everyone who tells me reading these KJRs is a regular part of their Mondays. I started posting these on the Patriots Planet message board long before I came to Barstool like 13 years ago. They take time to put together but the feedback you guys provide makes it worthwhile. Appreciate you.

*We’re onto deleting the game off my DVR. To never be watched it again.

@jerrythornton1