Path to Super Bowl LI: How It Should Have Gone Differently
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Simon Teska, Oregon Sports News
Earlier this week, I came across a gem of a hashtag on social media. To put it into perspective, I am amused by maybe 1.2% of the hashtags and memes I find in the social networking circles – about the same percentage of humans rooting for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
That’s why #NotMySuperBowl is gaining some momentum. I took a step further and figured if I am going to partake in this #NotMySuperBowl hype, I might as well make up two teams I would rather see face off in Houston next Sunday. While I am at is, I will have to make up the scenarios in how they got there.
REPRESENTING THE NFC
For the Seattle Seahawks, it won’t be too difficult to make a case for them to get in, since they were already in the playoffs and won their Wild Card match-up.
There was a time at one point where the Seahawks were in good shape against the Atlanta Falcons – up 10-7 with the ball and playing fairly well. We all know what happened next as Russell Wilson tripped over his own lineman, fell into the end-zone for a safety, giving whatever momentum they had completely to the Falcons.
Let’s pretend he didn’t do that. Wilson hit Jimmy Graham for a quick first down instead, and the Seahawks chewed up the clock, marched down for a touchdown, and the Falcons never could get into a rhythm. The Seahawks win, 31-20 and move on to face Green Bay.
In order for them to beat the Packers, I need to make up the entire game, which gives me room for ridiculousness. Highlights of the first half include a Jeremy Lane interception he returns for a touchdown (he didn’t pick off a pass all season) on a play where Aaron Rodgers ran around for what seemed like ever before launching the ball off of his back foot across the field and 50 yards down the field.
When asked about the throw in the post-game press conference, he was quoted as saying ‘I was starting to get bored and tired, so I figured, what the hell, let’s try this.’ Halftime score, Seattle 10, Green Bay 7.
There was a little more scoring in the second half, the ‘Hawks scoring on a one-yard run from Thomas Rawls after Pete Carrol tried three passing plays inside the one-yard line including a shovel pass that went for a half-yard loss. He finally went with a running play, and Rawls walked right in. Rodgers added two touchdowns of his own – both of which came on blown assignments in the secondary. Kam Chancellor was seen on the sidelines yelling at the corners while Richard Sherman was pretending it wasn’t his fault.
Tied in the last minute of the game, a Steven Hauschka 55-yard field goal wins it for Seattle, 27-24.
REPRESENTING THE AFC
Obviously, I am going to pick my team – the Indianapolis Colts here, the problem is I have to tinker with a few regular season games to even get them into the playoffs. Luck-ily, this one is easy. There was no reason for them to lose at home to Jacksonville by three points on October 2, and they didn’t need to lose BOTH games to Houston this year. Andrew Luck is better than that – unfortunately his defense and offensive line are not. Anyways, those two wins easily let them win the AFC South instead of the Texans, earning a Wild Card match-up against the Derek Carr-less Raiders.
They win the game easier than the Texans did, 33-10.
Then they are off to New England…where I have to really get insane on how they win this game. Peyton Manning patrols the sidelines, helps convince owner Jim Irsay to fire general manager Ryan Grigson (Actually happened…my conspiracy theory is that Manning had some influence) and he helps will Luck to an unprecedented upset. Tom Brady gets knocked out early in the game on a questionable helmet-to-helmet hit from Robert Mathis, who gets ejected because it was Brady who got hit. The Colts defense rallies behind it and they win 34-20.
In the AFC Championship game, the Colts travel to Pittsburgh where they get to deal with the worst fans not found in Buffalo. It’s a factor early on, as the Steelers jump out to halftime lead, 20-3. The Colts never show up until the second half anyway, so Luck is used to it. Frank Gore runs for 100 yards and Luck throws three fourth quarter touchdowns.
Colts win, 38-27, and the stage is set for a much better Super Bowl.
Well, unfortunately for Indy fans, their ‘Luck’ runs out. Literally, and hypothetically. The Seahawks are more prepared, more experienced and have a better game plan in place. Luck throws two interceptions, despite throwing for 300 yards and two scores. Wilson just plays better and the Colts have zero rushing yards. I don’t expect Luck to win in his first Super Bowl appearance, but I expect him to win his second.
Final score: Seattle 30, Indianapolis 17.
Congratulations Seahawks, you are the winner of Super Bowl LI, since the game next week between Atlanta and New England will officially be #NotMySuperBowl. Wilson has two rings now and easily emerges into the ‘elite QB’ echelon.
Mike Ditka - Benching Walter Payton in Super Bowl
Mike Ditka kept Walter Payton on the bench after an early fumble in Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots.
The decision did not matter much as the Bears shredded the Patriots 46-10 but it's just silly. Instead, Ditka used William Perry and quarterback Jim McMahon to score two goalline touchdowns.
Walter Payton finished his career with 110 rushing touchdowns, 15 receiving touchdowns and 16,726 yards rushing. In that Super Bowl, Payton carried the ball 22 times for 66 yards and was still the teams leading rusher in the game, but no touchdown.
Ditka, who now works for ESPN, has since said that he regrets the decision to not let Payton score.
Photo courtesy of chicagobears.com
Chuck Pagano - Fake Punt
The Patriots were up by six, 27-21, with a minute left in the third quarter and forced the Colts to punt on a fourth and three, or so we thought.
The Colts lined up with eight players near the line of scrimmage to the right side and the punter behind them. Then wide receiver Griff Whalen lined up as the snapper and safety Colt Anderson lined up under center.
They snapped the ball and the Patriots made the easy stop for a turnover on downs.
"The whole idea there was on fourth-and-3 or less, shift our alignment to where you either catch them misaligned, they try to sub some people in, catch them with 12 men on the field and if you get a certain look, you can make a play. Alignment-wise we weren't lined up correctly, and then a communication problem on the snap. I take responsibility for that," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano after the game.
The Patriots scored a touchdown on their next drive to go up 34-21 and ice the game.
You could argue that play cost the Colts the game.
Bill Belichick - 4th and 2
In the historic rivalry between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, this game came down to a decision by head coach Bill Belichick to go for it on 4th and 2 from his own 28 yard line as opposed to punting the ball away.
Brady threw the ball to Kevin Faulk who was stopped short of the first down marker giving Manning the ball back and a relatively easy win. Manning found Reggie Wayne for a one yard touchdown pass, completing a 17 point comeback by Indianapolis.
If Belichick had punted the ball away, Manning still may have come down and scored and won the game, but at least it would have given the Patriots defense more of a chance.
Miracle at the Meadowlands
On November 19, 1978 the New York Giants took over possession of the football with a 17-12 lead and under two minutes to play against the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Instead of just taking a knee, quarterback Joe Pisarcik handed the ball to Larry Czonka who ran for 11 yards. All was fine. However, on the next play, the Giants did the exact same thing except this time Pisarcik's handoff slipped out of his hands and Philadelphia's Herm Edwards scooped it up and scored the winning touchdown.
Thus, the Miracle at the Meadowlands was born.
Rex Ryan - Calls Time Out, Pats Perfect Season Continues
The Baltimore Ravens hosted the New England Patriots in an early December 2007 game and had a chance to win the game, should have won the game, were going to win the game and end the unbeaten season, until defensive coordinator Rex Ryan called time out.
The Patriots had 4th and 1 from the Baltimore 30 yard line and Tom Brady called his own number with a QB sneak but was stuffed. However, Rex Ryan had called time out just prior to the snap meaning the play did not count.
The Patriots were given a penalty on the next attempt and then converted for the first down on what ended up being a 4th and 5 two plays after the timeout.
The Patriots won the game 27-24 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left. New England stayed undefeated.
Marty Mornhinweg - Defers in Sudden Death OT
It was 2002 and the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears were tied at 17 and were headed into sudden death overtime.
Detroit Lions won the overtime coin toss and head coach Marty Mornhinweg decided to defer, giving the Bears the first overtime possession.
Chicago went down the field and won the game on a Paul Edinger 40-yard field goal.
Photo courtesy of New York Jets wikipedia
Jason Garrett Ices Own Kicker
An important December win slipped away from the Dallas Cowboys when head coach Jason Garrett called a just before kicker Dan Bailey nailed a 49-yard field goal.
Bailey had to redo the kick and missed it short and wide left the second time around.
The Arizona Cardinals defeated the Dallas Cowboys in overtime.
"The play clock was running down. We just wanted to make sure that he had a real clean opportunity at it. It was at about six [seconds] and we were still getting settled in, so we banged a timeout to give him the opportunity to get the snap, hold and kick as clean as possible," Garrett said after the game.
Bill Belichick - Benching Wes Welker in Playoff Game
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick benched wide receiver Wes Welker for the first offensive possession of a 2011 divisional round playoff game against the New York Jets.
Belichick benched Welker because of comments that Welker had made earlier in the week regarding Jets coach Rex Ryan's foot fetish.
While Welker's benching did not lead directly to the Patriots losing the game, it rattled the Patriots offense early on and they were not able to recover.
Dennis Green- 1999 NFC Championship Game
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the greatest offenses of all time in 1999, featuring quarterback Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, Robert Smith and Randy Moss.
In the final moments of the NFC Championship game, head coach Dennis Green decided to have his offense take a knee and play for overtime. Vikings kicker Gary Anderson only needed about 40 yards and the Vikings had two timeouts left.
The Vikings lost the coin toss in overtime and proceeded to lose the game.
Pete Carroll - Super Bowl XLIX
The Seattle Seahawks trailed the New England Patriots 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX and had second and goal from about the Patriots three yard line.
The Seahawks had been running the ball well the entire game with Marshawn Lynch and he nearly got into the endzone on the play before. Instead of running Lynch, Carroll sets Russell Wilson up in the shotgun and has him throw a slant that Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler read perfectly and intercepted.
If Carroll had run the ball again, the Seahawks likely would have won the Super Bowl, instead, the Patriots won thier fourth.