Snap Judgments (cont.)
Explain this to me: The NFL rushes in to change the overtime format in the playoffs when the coin flip results show a less than 10 percent swing in terms of favoring the team that wins the toss, and is rarely a factor in the postseason any way.
But in this weekend's first round of the playoffs, seeding by records rather than division winners and wild cards would have resulted in having four different home teams -- and that's not seen as a significant enough competitive advantage issue to address? How twisted is that logic?
The Saints had three false start penalties in Seattle, and that has always been a big part of the Seahawks' crowd noise advantage, as is the case in New Orleans's Superdome. Since the start of the 2005 season, Seahawks opponents have committed a league-high 107 false starts at Qwest Field.
Again, I've got no problem with a home-field advantage. It has always been a big part of playoff football. But you should have to earn it with your play in the regular season, not just be awarded it because the rules have always been that way in the past.
Come to think of it, though, a false start is the perfect term to summarize the Saints' quickly aborted defense of their Super Bowl title.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll just evened up his career NFL playoff record at 2-2, but has anyone ever before gone 13 years between postseason win No. 1 (New England over Miami in 1997's first round) and No. 2 (on Saturday)?
What did those two wins have in common? Lawyer Milloy played safety for Carroll in both of them.
I can't wait for NFL Films to make an epic, three-part mini-series out of that ridiculous 67-yard, game-icing touchdown run by Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. It'll take at least three nights to air, even if all Films does is interview the seven or eight Saints defenders who had a hand on him at one point during the run.
Not only was Lynch's masterpiece his career-long run, but his 131 yards represented the first 100-yard rushing game by a Seahawk this season, and was more than Seattle gained on the ground in 13 of its regular season games. So you can't imagine the Saints ever thought the Seahawks could put them away with their ground game.
Do you realize that the only way Seattle (8-9) could finish above .500 this season is if it continues its playoff upset streak and wins the Super Bowl? That would make the Seahawks 11-9, and represent the fewest victories by any Super Bowl winner ever -- strike-shortened seasons included. Even the 1982 Redskins, who only played nine games in the regular season, finished 12-1 overall, including the playoffs. A Super Bowl loss and the Seahawks would be 10-10.
Think the NFL isn't a humbling and cruel game at times? Last year during the playoffs, Saints cornerback Tracy Porter was the hero who helped salt away both the NFC title game and the Super Bowl with huge fourth-quarter interceptions of Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. But this time around, he was on the wrong side of the game-turning play.
It's going to take a while for Porter to live down the stiff-arm/shove he took from Lynch on the touchdown run, which resulted in him getting planted on his backside. Even worse, once Porter got back up and re-joined the pursuit, he looked like he didn't want any part of Lynch a second time. He all but pulled a Haynesworth.
How glaring was the absence of injured Saints second-year safety Malcolm Jenkins? Veteran safeties Roman Harper and Darren Shaper played very old and very slow against Seattle. Both of them got beat repeatedly, and looked little like the steadying presence they were during New Orleans' run to glory last season.
Sharper, talking about Lynch's touchdown run, may have summed up the mindset of the entire Saints roster this season, and put his finger on why it's so hard to repeat in the NFL. "That was a beastly run by him,'' Sharper said. "He had a lot more hunger than we did trying to bring him down.''
A 2009 level of hunger did seem to go missing at times this season in New Orleans. The post-Super Bowl challenge is in many ways tougher than climbing the mountain the first time.
The Saints and Colts -- last year's Super Bowl teams and No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences -- being the first teams eliminated this year only underscores how democratic the NFL playoffs have become. Eight different teams have earned the 10 Super Bowl berths the past five seasons (with only Indianapolis and Pittsburgh making multiple trips) and New England is the only team to play in two consecutive Super Bowls (2003-04) since Denver went back to back in 1997-98.
Sean Payton made sure Reggie Bush returned to the Saints for the 2010 season, but when will it be time for New Orleans head coach to acknowledge that he's paying for way more production than he's getting? With Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory both injured and out for the season, the Saints still didn't trust that Bush could carry the load for the running game against Seattle. He touched the ball 10 times in Seattle, gaining 49 yards, most of that coming on his five catches for 37 yards.
The New Orleans run game was forced to ride with Cowboys and Seahawks castoff Julius Jones, and that definitely wasn't the Saints' master plan for the season.
Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock had a heck of a game against the Saints (one sack, one forced fumble) and has developed into one of the NFL's reigning good luck charms. Brock is in his ninth NFL season, and he's making his ninth trip to the playoffs. Spending his first eight years in the NFL in Indianapolis sure didn't hurt. But 9-of-9 is pretty impressive, no matter what.
He's kind of the anti-Takeo Spikes.
Charlie Whitehurst had his 15 minutes of fame in Week 17, but how do you not think about bringing Matt Hasselbeck back in 2011 if you're Seattle? I suppose next week at Chicago he could revert to more of the mistake-prone form we've seen from him the past three regular seasons, but the 35-year-old Hasselbeck just played the game of his life against the Saints.
I don't ever remember seeing Hasselbeck have better touch on his passes than he did in carving up New Orleans. He floated some and fired others, but he was on the money all day long. Once that early deflected pass ended up as an interception by Saints cornerback Jabari Greer, Hasselbeck was on fire, and played the position like the wily, old veteran he is. At the very least, the Seahawks or somebody else is going to want Hasselbeck as a superb, 1A-type starting option.
Be it Drew Brees, Ray Lewis or whoever that mystery man was leading the Eagles pregame scrum/shout-fest, could the networks please spare us the mandatory televising of these made-for-TV events? They're such a cliché at this point, and you can hardly ever discern what the team leader is even imploring his teammates to do. If they were ever really a fresh and novel glimpse of what happens during the pregame on the sideline, I really can't remember when that must have been at this point.
With four games down and seven to still play this postseason, the new overtime rules were no factor in the first round of the playoffs. But I'm pretty sure we'll get still more detailed explanations next week of all the potential strategies involved. All for something that will rarely happen, and probably wasn't needed to begin with.
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