Since it is officially Super Bowl week, it is time for me to dust off this relic from last year. I have made a few small changes to it, so it is still old and unimproved but with a couple of more cliches.
So here goes....I proudly repost The Definitive Super Bowl Primer.
As we all know, the game can be won or lost long before the kickoff. The players can’t afford to get distracted by all the hoopla surrounding the game in the two weeks leading up to it. There will be plenty of time to party after the game is over. For now it is all about focus. The team that is better prepared, better disciplined, better coached and that has the better game plan will win.
But once the ball is kicked off, you can throw out all the notes, the film, and the Xs and Os because it basically comes down to execution. Football is a simple game of blocking and tackling, that is all. Which means neither team can afford to make mental mistakes, have blown assignments, or miss tackles. It is all about execution---that is what playoff football is all about, and the team that executes better on game day will win. If you gotta take it up a notch in the playoffs, you gotta take it up two or three notches in the Super Bowl.
And what it all comes down to every year is that, while offense can win you games, defense wins championships. The front four on the defensive line have to get pressure on the QB and hurry him, knock him down, disrupt the offensive rhythm, get into his head, send him a message that they will be in his face all day. The DBs have to jam the receivers at the line and throw them off their routes, and if the receiver makes a catch the defense has to make sure to limit the all important YAC---yards after the catch.
And of course, you have got to stop the run. Stopping the run is all about gap control by the linebackers. You cannot afford to over-pursue the play---you’ve gotta stay with your assignment. It is all about discipline and execution---that’s what playoff football is all about.
And on the offensive side of the ball, you gotta make sure you establish the running game. If you can run the ball, that takes the pressure off the QB and opens up the play-action pass, which means the defense can’t just pin their ears back and rush the QB. Plus you can bleed the clock and have the opposing defense sucking wind by the fourth quarter. The team that wins the TOP ---the Time of Possession—battle will usually win the game.
Therefore, particularly in big playoff games where both teams are good and evenly matched, the battle is always won in the trenches. The unsung heroes are always on the offensive line. If the O-line can give the QB time to look to his second and third reads, it will make the secondary vulnerable to big plays and make for a long day for the opposing defense.
But all the offense in the world is no good if you cannot protect the football. As always, turnovers will kill ya. You can’t turn the ball over and expect to win championships. The team with the better turnover ratio will usually win the game.
But protecting the ball is not enough to win; you gotta have great special teams play too. The special teams always play a huge role (or an uuuuuge role, if you’re Al Miracles) in determining the outcome of the game. A blocked punt or blocked field goal, or a muffed punt, or pinning the opponent inside their 5-yard line can completely turn the momentum around. Plus, special teams can determine the outcome of that most basic of all football ‘game-within-the-game’ chess-matches---the field position battle. In all big games, field position will eventually determine the outcome of the game. Good field position can lead to an easy score and bad field position can lead to an ill-timed turnover. [Speaking of special teams, since John Madden is doing this game there is a decent chance (if there is any wind during a punt attempt it is almost certain) you will hear about the time Giants punter Sean Landeta completely whiffed on a punt during a windy playoff game against the Bears at Soldier Field in 1986]
Anyway, you gotta remember that both teams have made it to the Super Bowl not by fluke but because they are good, battle tested teams that know how to win. That is why they are playing for the WORLD championship. So in the end it will come down to who wants it more. Who has the desire, the hunger, the stick-to-it-iveness, and the refuse-to-lose mentality? Which team is able to enforce its will on the other?
Finally, will the X-factors emerge on the biggest stage? Of course, one can never forget the intangibles.
But in the end, it comes down to the superstars and the play-makers; great players make big plays in huge games on the grandest stage----that’s what playoff football is all about. The team that makes more plays will win.
All that having been said and done, nobody can contest this fact----when time runs out, the team that has scored more points will be the champion.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009