BY Art Thiel 09:41PM 01/21/2018

Thiel: From here, Super Bowl lacks luster

The Patriots are back. Again. They face in the Super Bowl the Eagles, a nice little team but one that couldn’t beat the fading Seahawks in December. Ho. Hum.

Dec. 3 at the Clink, the Seahawks defense held Philadelphia to 10 points and forced QB Carson Wentz into two critical turnovers. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

In the first Seahawks-free NFL post-season in six years, Seattle fans may have a hard time feigning a rooting interest in the Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, other than the universal appeal of rich people taking icy falls upon their wallets and purses.

Of course, it is imperative that the New England Patriots are rooted against, simply because they are the Borg, and the rest of humanity fears being assimilated by the remorseless Kraft-Belichick-Brady alien race.

But the prospect of cheering for the other side, the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, leaves something to be desired. Yes, nice 14-3 season. Yes, coach Doug Pederson was born in Bellingham and graduated from Ferndale High School, where he was all-state in football, basketball and baseball.

But the Eagles laid a dinosaur egg at the Clink Dec. 3, losing 24-10 to the Seahawks despite the presence of the precocious QB Carson Wentz, who later injured a knee and missed the 38-7 rout Sunday of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship.

Should the Eagles, a seven-point underdog Feb. 4, upset the Dastardlies, another layer of bitterness can be added to the Seahawks’ seasonal outcome, this one of missed opportunity, because the Eagles aren’t that good, and the Seahawks were more than their match, never mind the odious, 2-3 December finish for Seattle.

Part of the irony here is that over the past three seasons, the Seahawks are a combined 5-1 against this year’s final four. The Seahawks in 2015 beat the Vikings twice, 38-7 in the regular season and 10-9 in the playoffs. In 2016, they beat the Pats in Foxborough 31-24, the same year they beat the Eagles 26-15, whom they thumped again last month, sending a ripple of surprise through the NFL.

The lone loss was to the Jaguars, 30-24, Dec. 10 in Jacksonville, where the Seahawks had the ball in Jags territory in the final two minutes with a shot to win the game.

What matters, of course, is the here and now, not history. Which is why Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is purging his coaching staff. For a variety of reasons, mainly injuries, the Seahawks became worse at the crucial time when the final four NFL teams continued to get better, and somebody has to pay for that. Margins in the NFL are wafer-thin.

But the Seahawks injuries were no more plentiful than what each final four team dealt with, perhaps with the exception of Jacksonville (Motto: “We’re Florida’s uncool city!”).

When the Eagles lost Wentz for the season, vultures quickly circled the carcass. The backup was the singularly unimpressive Nick Foles. Following a modest career at the University of Arizona, Foles was taken 14 picks behind Russell Wilson in the 2012 draft and now is the most unlikely Super Bowl starting quarterback since Trent Dilfer of the 2000 Ravens.

Yet Foles threw for 352 yards Sunday against the NFL’s stingiest defense, knocking the Vikings from their hometown Super Bowl, which preserves the NFL’s remarkable clean sheet of never having a host city with its own team. Instead, Lake Wobegon will get for its party matchup Danny DeVito vs. George Clooney.

Brady enhanced his aura Sunday with an even more corny set-up: He was said to have cut his throwing hand in a practice collision with a teammate that required 10 stitches.

Brady did his best Willis Reed/Kirk Gibson/Michael Jordan/Curt Schilling wounded-hero shtick, undoubtedly inspiring Boston’s homer sports media to dive deep into the New Testament for analogies adequate to describe the feat.

Gutty Tom threw 38 times, completing 26 for 290 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns with no turnovers. After Spygate, Deflategate and Murdergate, we must now add Stitchgate to the list of unresolved mysteries around America’s most insufferable team.

The Pats’ third Super Bowl appearance in four years evolved creepily like the one in Phoenix, which you may recall.

The Jags had a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, just as the Seahawks led 24-14 with eight minutes to go in SB XLIX. Now, as then, Brady threw two TD passes, while  defenders Myles Jack and Marcell Dareus came out of the game injured on consecutive plays, much as key Seahawks defenders were wounded three years ago. And the Jags had a late chance to rally for the win, but didn’t.

Nor would it be a Pats game without some officiating shenanigans. Besides the 6-1 disparity in penalties, referees whiffed on a pivotal call at the end of a brilliant play by Jack, the Bellevue High School (and Academic Institute) grad.

Ahead 20-10 early in the fourth quarter but trailing receiver Dion Lewis after a long catch-and-run, Jack ripped the ball free from behind, recovered, leaped to his feet at the Jacksonville 33 and took off unimpeded. But the the play erroneously was whistled dead at the spot of the recovery.

Replays clearly showed he wasn’t touched after he gained possession. The play was so improbable that officials didn’t grasp it in real time or with replay. There’s no guarantee Jack would have scored on the return, but they would have started possession well down the field.

The play could have been a game-changer, but the Jags still would have had to rely late on Blake Bortles. The much-abused QB exceeded everyone’s expectations for him throughout the season. But the season had one quarter left, and Brady was smack-dab in the middle of it.

Buster Douglas, Bortles was not.

A shame. The Jags, 3-13 a year ago, would have made for a fun week in Minneapolis. Instead, we get the low growl of Belichick and ageless-wonder stories about Brady.

So, repeat after me: Go, Ferndale.


YourThoughts

  • Estip

    Jacksonville just missed out this year. They may be the team to beat in the future.

    • art thiel

      Much as Quinn did in the SB with ATL, the JAX coaches played conservatively with the lead. Same thing happened with CAR in the playoffs when they went up 31-0 over the Seahawks. Big early leads in the NFL scare the bejeezus out of the coaches who are ahead.

      • Effzee

        Just like when the Hawks scored early and often in Lambeau Field that one year.

    • Effzee

      Nah. I don’t think Bortles has it in him.

  • Kevin Lynch

    The other way to look at it, Art, is that the Seahawks lost to seven teams who clearly were not the best in their respective conferences. On most occasions it looked like the Hawks had superior talent on the filed, yet lost. And that is the reason for the coming tidal wave of changes. Another perspective is the old bromide that defense comes out on top in the playoffs. Really? The top defenses of Jacksonville and Minnesota BOTH got lit up in the playoffs, one by a backup quarterback. As the best defense in the NFL how do you give up 38 unanswered points in the title game!!? It will really be interesting to see how the bank accounts change for Bortles, Foles and Keenum in the coming off season.

    • art thiel

      Fair point about the failed defenses, but I recall an SB in 2014 when the most productive offense in NFL history was held to eight points. It is remarkable how often a seasonal pattern of success or failure can break form in a single game of the playoffs.

      As coaches always like to say: Matchups.

  • Bruce McDermott

    I don’t know, the prospect of a Patriots loss to any team would probably be enough to get me to watch the Super Bowl.

    I thought Bortles played very well for the sort of QB he’s been for almost his entire career. But he needed to play better than that, it turns out.

    There is only one thing I like about this annual exercise in Patriots gushing–it must stick and burn in Pete’s craw. Because the Pats are the very epitome of Win Forever, and his teams are not. They are good, at times great, but not over time with the consistency of the Pats. This last season showed that sometimes, patience with poor play or poor coaching is the wrong call. Sometimes, time will not improve a bad player, or unit, or a coach who cannot reach them. Sometimes, stay the course simply insures losing. The season should have shaken Pete, and I think by now it is pretty clear that it did. That shaking may serve the franchise well….or not. Next season will be interesting for that reason alone.

    • art thiel

      You’re right, Bruce. The three December losses were high contrast with the month’s two wins, illustrating an inconsistency that violated a Carroll coaching hallmark. I don’t see any shame in falling short of the Pats’ standard — other consistently good teams like the Steelers, Packers and Panthers fell short too. I give Carroll credit for recognizing significant change is required to perform a one-season correction.

      With other assistants’ jobs to fiil, then the roster remake in free agency and the draft, it’s way too early to offer an informed opinion about ’18. But I will say that part of the 2017 problem was salary cap management that left little room for emergency help that occurs with every team every year. The adds of Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown were good, but the cost was high in 2018 draft picks, especially when no playoffs resulted. Spending resources covering previous mistakes makes a quick fix all that much harder.

  • Effzee

    I don’t care about the Eagles, and I’d rather eat a bowl of dung than watch Tom Brady win a game of pin the tail on the donkey, much less another Super Bowl. If Carson Wentz were the QB, there would be a 3% chance I’d watch the game, but there’s just no way that Nick Foles is going to beat The Cheatriots. Rooting against them in a Super Bowl is like rooting for the sun to not come up or for water to not be wet. I haven’t watched a minute of a Super Bowl since the Play Which Cannot Be Unseen.

    • art thiel

      Really? Not a glance while you’re doing Sunday chores? No gatherings at another home/bar on the unofficial national holiday? I’m impressed with the discipline.

      • Effzee

        Correct. Not one minute. I turned on the radio while running errands last year when Atlanta was way ahead in the game. I turned it off right away because I was like, if they win, WOO-HOO, but if they lose, I want no part of listening to (or watching) Brady lead the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Obviously, I made the right choice.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Say no more – I’m down. I made time in my usually swamped schedule to absorb both division championship games, and came away pretty unsatisfied. SB 52 would be so much more interesting IF the Jags were in it – former Gus Bradley team, Image of Carroll’s system, Coughlin being the Pats killer, and ixna on the Atriots-Pa and their fans!

    Taking the emotions of being a die-hard Seahawk fan out of the equation (they run deep; I hate the Steelers that relish their “win” in SB 2006, and not so much the Patriots from SB 2015, because they won what the Seahawks handed them), the Patriots organization is quite a wonder in how it perpetuates year after year. I’m not calling them perfect, but one has to appreciate the art of perfection, for which a case could be made for their run of championships, even in participation, especially in the period of time that it’s been accomplished. Respect made. Now, reality – I will watch with at least one eye, with the hopes of an Eagles’ punishing win

    • art thiel

      Cheatriots jokes aside, the run has been remarkable. Looks like all the good jobs will be taken by the time Belichick can consider his options beyond Foxborough.

      • DJ

        I’m not aware that Mr Bill has any aspirations beyond feeding his machine – I’m not aware of the latest HC hires in the league. Doesn’t he need to look to replace the shuffle from loosing head assistant Oompa Loompas?

  • John M

    Great summation of the season, Art, you put a spear in everybody and then helped a few to their feet for a peck on the cheek. The season did feel stranger than most, and every team suffered some surprising inconsistencies. Now the Hawks have this tsunami of change going on and no one is very upset. Pete had to oust some real friends, and now I’m sure they’re trying to figure a plan to gain draft picks and who is worth how many. You have to respect Pete and John for making the moves they think will benefit the team. A strange season begets a strange post season, and your right, the SB doesn’t seem so interesting this year . . .

    • art thiel

      Across the NFL, major injuries to stars really soured the season. JAX was among the few that had relatively good health, and look how far it took them.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Nailed it once again. One of the biggest frustrations of this season was how wide open the NFC was.

    Aside, the AFC needs to get it’s crap together. Undoubtedly, the Patriots are great, but they’ve also been blessed by playing in the most consistently bad division in football. The Bills, Dolphins, and Jets pretty much guarantee Brady & Bill a first round bye every year. Plus, except for some Peyton Manning and Steeler teams, the conference doesn’t offer much resistance either.

    Here’s the murderers row of opposing QB’s they have faced/will face this postseason. Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles. Granted, the Seahawks lost 2 out of 3, but this is not a lineup that will leave you quaking in your cleats.

    • art thiel

      No super teams in either conference, aside from the Pats’ brilliant 4Qs. Which makes the Seahawks’ whiff all the more galling.

  • ll9956

    Like so many NFL games, the Jags should have beat the Patriots, but seemed to suffer in the fourth quarter from a severe case of lack-of-discipline-itis. IMO the disastrous PI penalty (30+ yards) exacerbated by a personal foul penalty comprised the coup de grace. And as you correctly pointed out, Art, the officials were guilty of an inexcusable failure. As always, the Patriots seized on these and walked away with the win. I hope the Jags raise one hell of a stink with the NFL and demand that the officiating crew not be allowed to participate in the post-season forever. Probably won’t happen.

    As to the SB, it’s true that Foles was the Eagles’ backup QB, but he played about as well as any QB could, as indicated by his rating of 141. As an incurable optimist, I hope the Eagles come out on top.

    • art thiel

      Nothing in Foles’ resume suggested a 31-point beatdown of the No. 1 defense. No one saw that coming.

      I doubt the Jags are going to do much lamenting about the calls. The Jack call was astonishing because the replay clearly showed he was not touched while in possession.

  • Warchild_70

    Great write up Art. The Hawks season was summed up perfectly, and painfully. Looking back I guess we’ve gotten spoiled but again age has become a factor in football life and our time has come. This year’s Super Bowl is not going to be watched by me because of the obvious outcome and to see “Pretty Boy” raise the trophy again isn’t in my plans. Take care, old son until I write again stay frosty.

    • art thiel

      I bet when somebody tells you the Eagles are up 17-3, you’ll drop what you’re doing.

      • Warchild_70

        Guilty as charged I’m always a fan of impossible, are you kidding me?,
        endings!

      • Effzee

        To watch Brady come back like he did last year and last weekend? No thanks.

  • Husky73

    Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

  • Laughing At

    Pathetic disingenuous whining. “Deflategate.” “Spygate.” Is not it time to just lay it all off on the Russians and also call for a special counsel? And sure, people will have no interest in watching arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, unquestionably the greatest franchise of all time, and unquestionably the greatest team of all time on the biggest stage in the world. No, rather people will be reliving the Seahawks regular season victories of the past several years. LOL

    • Kirkland

      Unless the Seahawks are involved, I find it hard to enjoy anything about the NFL. Domestic violence, Goodell’s incompetence, franchise relocations, sanctimoniousness about the anthem/flag, etc. And if the extralegal-employing Patriots are involved, I simply won’t see it, even if they’re playing the Seahawks.

      I’m likely attending a play, the ballet or an art gallery that Sunday, and will wait until the CFL begins in July before I re-engage with football.

      • art thiel

        C’mon now. Tony Romo’s pretty good.

        • Kirkland

          I wouldn’t know. I haven’t heard his work because I’m not a Jim Nantz fan.

    • art thiel

      Is it not possible salute the feat and loathe the chraracters? Or are you a fan of simple?

    • Effzee

      It is curious that anyone else caught at such levels of cheating (Rick Pitino, Alex Rodriguez, Pete Carroll’s USC, etc) are vilified by all, yet the Patriots get a free pass. The arguments “greatest QB of all time,” “greatest franchise of all time,” can only be made BECAUSE of the rampant cheating. *insert facepalm here*

  • Ron

    Art, you made no mention of the primary reason not to root for the Eagles.

    (from a StarTribune letter to the editor):

    “After the Vikings beat the Saints, my father and I decided to go to
    Philadelphia the following week for the NFC Championship Game. It turned
    out to be one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made — and it had
    nothing to do with the outcome of the game. I witnessed, and
    experienced, the rudest, most obnoxious and violent behavior I have ever
    seen at a sporting event.

    From the moment we got on the subway to go to the game until the time
    we made it back to our hotel room afterward, we were subjected to
    constant verbal and physical assault. We were called names I can’t
    repeat because they are unfit for print. We were shoved, had objects
    thrown at us and were warned that if the Vikings won, we would be lucky
    to make it out alive.

    I have never been to a sporting event where
    I feared for my safety until last Sunday. All because I had the
    audacity to come to the game wearing a Vikings jersey.
    I wish I could say that this behavior came from only a few individuals.
    Unfortunately, it was pervasive. And those who did not participate stood
    idly by and watched it happen. I have no problem with Eagles fans
    celebrating a historic win. That’s the joy of sport. But you can do so
    with class and not ruin the time of fellow football fans whose only
    “crime” is being from another part of the country.

    I am not sure how it became culturally acceptable in Philadelphia to behave in such a
    manner, but it’s a shame. I was literally embarrassed to be a human.”

  • Ron

    Good to see the Patriots lost. Nice to know that the Seahawks were the only team all season to dominate the Eagles. Makes you wonder what could have been.