The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty


I have more time for the Sports Guy than some others do, but this is among the more aggressively stupid things he’s written in fucking ages.

I’m at work and can’t give this the good old-fashioned rogering it deserves, but some quick points:

In football? Statistics can help. Absolutely. But you still need to watch games to have an educated opinion.

The sad part is that there are some lucid points later on that do address how one applies statistics to a given game situation…and it will be lost in the shuffle of shite like this. If someone cares enough about football to compile those statistics, you don’t think they’re watching games? Really? I know it’s easy to perpetuate the stereotype of statistics only falling under the jurisdiction of nerds in pocket protectors, but somehow I don’t get that sense from the Football Outsiders guys. Just throwing that out there.

And I certainly never expected statistics to back up what seemed to be an unforgivable decision.

Heh…are we going to believe you, or our lying eyes…right?

By this logic, Belichick also should have held a loaded pistol to his head on the sideline, spun the chamber and tried to shoot himself like Chris Walken in “The Deer Hunter.”

The only problem there is that should the 1-in-6 happen, you’re quite dead. The Colts still had to move down the field to score, and some of this is on the Pats’ defense.

There are also times when statistics make that same discussion dumber. For instance, a former Mavericks statistician named Wayne Winston recently debuted a complicated plus-minus statistic…

A one-off instance of some wingnut coming up with a kooky theory does not in any way disprove the work of the serious research currently being done on football statistics today. Seriously, this sounds like something Brian Sabean would come up with to justify his penchant for old, injury-prone guys who wouldn’t take a pitch if it would save a relative’s life. Also, anything having to do with Tim Thomas being awful – while true (I write this in the sincere hope that Brendan’s head doesn’t explode upon mentioning Thomas’ name) has a dubious-at-best correlation to a discussion on what to do on 4th-and-2 in a close game.

I cannot remember another team doing on the road in the last three minutes of a close game, that’s not “gutsy.” It’s not a “gamble.” It’s not “believing we can get that two yards.” It’s not “revolutionary.” It’s not “statistically smart.”

I hate to say it, but the fact that coaches haven’t tended to go for it in this situation in the 80s and 90s (when there was no available research of this sort, I might add) is also not a significant proof that it doesn’t work most of the time. A steadfast resistance to change is not always a good thing…actually, it’s rarely a good thing. Seriously, by this logic, all I have to do is hope that Tom Coughlin finds Vince Lombardi’s magical playbook – we’ll definitely win the Super Bowl now.

So we’re saying 55.7 percent, huh? That’s the success rate for a road team playing its biggest rival, in a deafeningly loud dome, coming out of a timeout — a timeout that allowed the defense to get a breather and determine exactly how to stop the obvious five-receiver spread that was coming because the offense’s running game sucked — along with that same defense getting extra fired up because it was being disrespected so egregiously/willfully/blatantly/incomprehensibly. I say lower. By a lot. 

OK, when is a defense NOT fired up? Seriously? Maybe when it’s 34-7 and there’s no prayer of a comeback…that I’ll grant you. But in a big game, you’re going to make the argument that the defense has a better chance of stopping a play because they feel disrespected? By this point, wouldn’t you say that the Detroit and Cleveland defenses feel disrespected…you know, on account of being national laughingstocks and all? Of course, it’s a silly argument to compare that to this situation because DETROIT AND CLEVELAND AREN’T ANY SODDING GOOD. Likewise, taking Indy’s feelings into account is clown shoes and deep down, Simmons has to know that.

That’s what I was saying before about how the tragedy of this piece is that there are solid points adrift amongst the white noise. I wonder myself how the percentages change when you factor in the strength of the opponent’s defense. Does a run succeed more than a pass? What formations work? On 4th-and-2, why DID they go to a spread-five WR set? I’m no football tactician by any stretch of the imagination, but doesn’t that formation take away the possibility of a play-action pass? What I’m getting at is that I absolutely imagine that applying strength of defense and the formation of both sides is eminently useful in this discussion. If they haven’t already, the stats types should be figuring out how to factor that information in. I’d have more time for this piece if I felt like that was the overall point that Simmons was driving towards, but in honesty it’s more like scattershot sour grapes because the Pats lost a game.

By all means, question Belicheck’s play-calling. To me, that seems to have been what lost the game, not the fact that they went for it.

Insane Angle No. 2: “If they punted, Manning would have rolled down the field and scored, anyway.”

The only thing I’ll give Simmons here is that the Pats’ field position at the time has to be taken into account. On their own 29, it’s infinitely more dangerous to go for it on 4th than it would be on the 50 or in Indy territory. He cites that Hanson tends to get 44 yards on a punt – assuming a minimal return, that puts the Colts on about their 30 with two minutes to play. It’s not a certainty by any stretch that Manning would have marched down the field anyway, but the possibility does remain.

Still, they would have had to go for lower-percentage plays had the Patriots punted. That said, for Simmons to say that the Colts “weren’t exactly lighting it up” in the air is laughable – Manning had already thrown for 3 TDs and finished with 327 passing yards. Trust me, there’s some lights glowing once you hit 300 yards, never mind the three scores.

The rest of it is along the same lines – you have to give Simmons a partial pass for being devastated at the loss, but he maybe should have given this one a second look before submitting it.

November 23, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. As a diehard Pats fan I loved the call. Simmons is actually my favorite sports writer, but I have to disagree with him here. The game would’ve been over had they made that play, and I, like Belichick, probably had no faith in the D to make a stop.

    My biggest problem with Belichick comes in some of the other play calling, which Simmons brings up. Why not run it on 3rd down to bring the clock to the two minute warning? Why call a TO after a kickoff? Why not tell the D to let Indy score? Why not shoot Maroney in the fucking head? These kind of things.

    I agree with you Sean, it was Bill’s play calling throughout the 4th qtr that cost the Pats the game (and Maroney), but not that play. Hell, if Meriweather doesn’t tackle Addai on the two, Brady would’ve had 1:03 to move the team into FG position.

    What really drives me nuts about the call is it overshadows two HORRIBLE calls by the officials. That 3rd down 30-yard pass interference was simply atrocious, and that was a rough spot on Faulk’s grab (but, the Pats can’t really complain because they blew their time out earlier).

    C’est la vie. At least the Pats got to get back on track by throttling the Jets.

    Comment by Tony | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  2. If it weren’t the Pats, he never writes that column.

    Comment by TK | November 24, 2009 | Reply

  3. I just don’t see how on 4th and 2 you give the ball to Faulk with the chance that Manning gets it on the 28. That makes no sense. You are still winning and up by 6 if you punt it.

    When it doesn’t work out, Manning gets the ball, then you force your defense to try and make a stop when they haven’t the entire 2nd half.

    If you know you can’t hold them anyway, let them in. They should have let Addai march right in there rather than stopping him just short of the goal line. Then put the game in Brady’s hands and let him try and March it down the field. All they need is a field goal at that point. We’ve seen him do that before many times.

    And while I still think the call to go for it was completely stupid in risking Manning getting the ball there, the reason they lost the game was on a RIDICULOUS pass int. call giving the Colts 31 yds.

    The Pats should only have one loss at this point. They keep being on the sh* end of these stupid calls. And this is coming from a Jets fan.

    Comment by kenonbass | November 25, 2009 | Reply

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