Monday, February 08, 2010

Superbowl Redux and NFL Recap (Costanza FTW Again!)

Yep, George Costanza did it for me again. I thought the Colts would win. I thought it was pretty obvious in fact that Peyton Manning was going to lead his team to victory and cement his legacy as perhaps the single greatest all-around quarterback in NFL history. Even at 5 points I thought there was room in that line for the greatness of Peyton to win and cover. By halftime, according to Tony Dungy, who apparently is no better a picker of NFL games than he is a head coach.

Anyways, I was so sure the Colts would win and cover the 5 point spread, that I went ahead and picked the Saints using the Costanza opposite method that lifted me to 2-0 last week after a dismal 6-23 stretch prior to recognizing the strengths of the Costanza system. And look what happened. 3-0 to end the season, which I guess makes the rest of my NFL pick performance during 2009-2010 a tiny bit better. In the end I had a great first three-quarters of the season, followed by as bad of a final quarter as is humanly possible. Recognizing that I could do nothing but pick losers, I made the switch to Costanza for the conference championships and then the Superbowl, and I won 'em all. I had a fun time picking the games on the blog this year and will plan to do it again next year, but next time I resolve to rely less on what the "experts" like Tony Dungy say and more on what I myself believe will happen.

Moving on to the game itself, it was a pretty good superbowl that was competitive until late in the 4th quarter. My first thought it basically that the best team won. In fact, this was the first time in a long time that we have had pretty much the undisputed two best teams in the NFL meeting up to crown the season's champion. It was the Saints, the clear winners from the NFC after they bested the Minnesota Favres in both the regular season and in the postseason, against the Colts, clearly the only great team in the AFC this year. This was the matchup that had been fixing to go off all year, pitting the 13-0 Saints before their late-season slide against the 14-0 Colts before they pulled their starters and lost a couple of games. In fact, the Colts not only had the best quarterback in the league but they did not lose a single game all season long in which they actually played their starters enough to be really trying to win. I don't remember that ever happening before since the undefeated Dolphins team in 1972, excluding of course teams that were later found to be cheating on every single goddam play during the season in question. So this was the great matchup to decide who would be the champion from among the clear best team in each conference during this season.

And like I said, the best team won. Peyton Manning and the Colts looked good on offense. Peyton threw for well over 300 yards and they ran for just a hair under a buck on the ground as well. The Colts moved the ball enough to win the game. They just did not capitalize well enough when they needed to. The Saints did a great job of taking away the big-play, quick-strike capability that we saw Manning and the Colts unleash several times on national tv this season, and the result was that the Colts just couldn't get it into the end zone enough times to win.

And I'll tell you something else about this superbowl -- not only did the best team win, but the best quarterback won on Sunday as well. Manning's body of work is obviously head and shoulders above Drew Brees right now -- nobody sane would argue that -- but on Sunday it was clear that MVP Drew Brees was the better player. Peyton finished the day 31 of 45 for 333 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 costly interception at the end of the game (final qb rating of 88.8). Drew Brees, on the other hand, was simply amazing, throwing for a hyper-efficient 32 of 39 for 288 yards, two touchdowns, and most importantly zero picks on the day. Brees' final qb rating in his first superbowl? 114.5. Absolutely stellar.

In fact, the numbers indicate that Drew Brees flat outperformed Peyton Manning not just on Sunday, but in the entire post-season. In fact in fact, the numbers indicate that Drew Brees was -- for the second straight year, to be honest -- the best quarterback in the NFL all season long in 2009-2010. Just look at this. In the 2009-2010 post-season, each of the Colts and the Saints played three games. Over those three games, Peyton Manning went 2-1, throwing 87 for 128 passes for a 68% completion rate. In the three playoff games, Peyton had 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, including the late pick to Tracy Porter in Superbowl XLIV. His average qb rating over the three playoff games this year was a lofty 100. Impressive numbers by any measure.

But now take a look at Drew Brees's postseason. Brees finished the playoffs 3-0, a game better than Manning, on 72-102 passing for a completion percentage of 70.5%, also higher than Manning's already impressive 67% clip. And in the Saints' three post-season games -- all wins for his team, again -- Brees threw 8 touchdowns (two more than Manning), and zero picks. Yep, that's right, 8 touchdowns and no picks in the three biggest games of Drew Brees' career and life, all in succession. Even Brees's average quarterback rating over the three wins bests Peyton Manning's triple-digit score, coming in at an incredible 115.5 over the post-season on his way to his city's first-ever Superbowl and his own personal Superbowl MVP honors.

As I mentioned, even over the entire regular season this year, Brees's performance compares very favorably with Manning's. Peyton finished with 4500 yards, 33 touchdowns and 16 picks in 2009, for a qb rating of 99.9, while Brees finished the year with 4388 yards, 34 touchdowns, 11 picks and a qb rating of 109.6. Both sets of numbers are really, really strong, but in direct comparison between the two, it's not close. And nor are the 2010 playoff numbers.

Oh, and while I'm at it, let's just look reallllly quick at the 2008-2009 regular season numbers as well. Peyton Manning: 4002 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 picks, qb rating of 95.0. Drew Brees in 2008: 5069 yards (!!), 34 touchdowns, 17 picks, qb rating of 96.2.

Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL today. Hands down, after Sunday night.

I also wanted to mention the performance of the biggest Payton in the superbowl this year, Sean Payton. His handling of the 4th down play late in the second quarter wasn't just bad. It was legendary. I mean, Andy Reid musta had pangs of jealousy watching Payton pucker his anus up just like big Andy would have in that big a game. I was already writing the post here in my head about how Sean Payton stepped down in a huge spot and basically pulled an Andy Reid on the country. Going for it on 4th down in that spot was probably the wrong decision -- the game was so close at the time, the 3 points instead of 0 could have made a big difference with the way the game was going -- but I wouldn't kill the guy for deciding to go for it there given the percentages and where they were on the field even if they missed. But running it up the middle just off the right tackle on 3rd and then again on 4th down? With Drew Brees, the undisputed best quarterback in the NFL two years running now? With Meachem, and Shockey, and Thomas, and Reggie Bush, etc etc etc? And the best you can do is go for it instead of taking the guaranteed 3 points in a close game against a very powerful foe who already has the lead on you, and then run it up the middle again and again and get stopped every time. That is just pathetic.

One of the things that helps me to be successful long-term at poker is that I don't get caught up in results-oriented thinking. Ever. In this case, the Saints missed the first down and failed to score at all in a spot where it is obvious to me that they really needed to get something out of their drive. Those that point out that the Saints ended up getting a field goal before half anyways miss the point of course, since again it's not so much the decision to go for it -- probably the wrong one as I discussed above, but not clearly wrong -- but that decision combined with the play that was chosen that make it such a horrible, horrible move by Payton. His ass tightened up in a tough spot and he made a horrendous, hideous call, and I don't care how the play ended up. It was a brashly wrong decision at a key time for his team, and he let them down badly.

And then somehow, Sean Payton goes into the locker room, knowing in his heart of hearts that he had just made a horrendous coaching blunder that was going to be talked about for weeks on the airwaves, on ESPN, at water coolers, etc., and this guy somehow has the testicular fortitude to come out to open the second half and risk giving the potent Colts offense a short field by attempting on onsides kick to open the half. And I'll be damned if it didn't work. The Colts weren't even thinking of considering such a move, they were taken completely by surprise, the Saints executed it perfectly, and they got the ball back. This clearly swung all the momentum in the game in the opposite direction towards the Saints, and by the time they punched it in a few plays later the entire game had taken on a different feel, one I am sure the players on both teams were well aware of. This onsides kick decision was another dubious one by Payton, as if it does not work, Payton has just compounded his national embarrassment from the first half with a mega blunder that gives Peyton Manning only half the field or less to get back into the end zone and make it a two-touchdown game. You won't hear hardly anyone say this today, again because so many people in the world of poker and in the world at large are results-oriented, but Payton has got to have some massive brass gondalas to make that kind of a dubious call in that spot. He clearly put his team at risk of falling far behind an offensive powerhouse due to his own stupidity, but in this case you have to give him and his team credit for pulling that play off, I'm sure practicing it hard all week long, and getting it done there. But Payton, who coached a very good game otherwise, definitely has me wondering after those two big calls that were each highly dubious ones in their own right, and even worse when combined together over just three or four minutes of game time in the biggest game of the year and the biggest game his team's franchise had ever played in.

I mean, can you imagine what people would be saying about Sean Payton today if that onsides kick didn't work?

Big, huge, brass balls I tells ya.

It's also pretty amazing isn't it that the same guy who intercepted Brett Favre to end the last-minute threat against the Favres last week is also the one who intercepted Peyton Manning in the superbowl with under four minutes to go in a 7-point game? That kind of karma is hard to come by around these parts. Truly amazing, I seriously hope Tracy Porter got one hell of a hummer from somebody last night.

But more than anything else, what I really, really hope is that all these clowns can find a way through the current labor issues that are leading all parties to claim now that a lockout by the owners before the start of the 2011 NFL season is all but a certainty. Letting things get off-track with the NFL at the heights at which it is currently perched would be a massive donkoff by the league's owners and players that would make Sean Payton's playcalling in the second quarter on 4th and 1 look like the second coming of Vince Lombardi.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good write up.

Payton going for it on 4th down was the correct decision IMO although the plays they ran on 3rd and 4th down were questionable.

Payton played to win the game. They were aggressive all game long, they gambled and took chances, and it was refreshing to see since 98% of all NFL coaches are so ultra conservative. You play to win the game!

I'm surprised you didn't mention that complete moron Phil Simms and how horribly wrong he was with his analysis all game long.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

You are so right, Don. Phil Simms had a bad game and did not even try to fix or address his mistakes after he said them.

Love to hear your thoughts on that onsides kick to start the second half. I still can't help but think Payton is widely viewed as the goat if that one low-percentage play does not result in a favorable outcome in that spot.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Alceste said...

Not sure the onsides kick was that low-percentage of a play in that situation -- the folks that study these things found that unexpected onsides kicks (and this one was truly unexpected) have been successful as much as 60% of the time. It was a ballsy call though in any event, and I agree with Don that it was good to see him coaching to win.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Brees, the Saints were definitely going to try an on side kickoff at some point during the game and I think they picked the right time.

If the onside kick failed and Indy scores it's either 13-6 or 17-6 and it's not like they would have been buried since they planned on throwing the ball all over the field in the second half.

Payton was going to gamble plain and simple. He was going to take chances and leave it all on the field which is so refreshing to see with how conservative most coaches are. He played to win the game.

As far as a scapegoat, who ever remembers who finished in 2nd place years down the road and so given what could be a once in a lifetime chance to win the Super Bowl balls to the wall man.

12:18 AM  
Blogger Schaubs said...

I told your the Constanza method works... almost as well as fading Waffles.

1:28 AM  
Blogger OES said...

great recap. All of this is not your rudimentary recap, which equals cool.

Payton would probably love full tilt.

11:11 AM  

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