BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 01/21/2019

Thiel: Rams slightly lesser of Super Bowl evils

Fate’s cruelties denied the Super Bowl to the more cuddly Chiefs and Saints. We are stuck with the loathsome Patriots and the slightly less odious Rams.

Tom Brady of the Death Eaters is back at the Super Bowl. / Wiki Commons

After what must be recognized as the most entertaining championship Sunday in NFL history, the sporting nation is left not with the afterglow of a great meal/sex/national park visit/drawing to a full house, but with the prospect of another Super Bowl appearance by the New England Patriots.

It is not a threat to the nation — we have multiple other circumstances from which to choose for that — but it would have been pleasant to enjoy the company of the Kansas Chiefs or the New Orleans Saints on the unofficial national holiday.

But no. We have more fetid stew coming from the New England Patriots.

For the third season in a row, and fifth time in the past six seasons, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft will arrange their smugness at the Super Bowl in a sly fashion so that the condescension fits behind a false front of humility.

For a time Sunday evening at Kansas City’s frigid Arrowhead Stadium, doubt crept in about the inevitability of the outcome. Behind precocious QB Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs rallied from a scoreless, almost yard-less first half to take a couple of leads in the fourth quarter, fall back, then tie at 31 with a field goal off a drive that began with less than a minute remaining.

Stirring stuff.

Then they lost the coin flip to begin overtime.

Ball game.

Against an exhausted KC defense, Brady did what he has done seemingly since he and a few other pious souls landed at Plymouth Rock. He ran the table. Drove the par-5 in two and putted for eagle. Mariano-ed the ninth. Served Curry at the horn.

You know, 12s? As he did in the fourth quarter of the Game That Cannot Be Unseen.

Unlike the Seahawks in Phoenix, who were done in by their own hand, the Chiefs in the 37-31 loss (box) were had by the rules of overtime. If the team that wins the coin flip takes first possession and scores a touchdown, it’s on to the Super Bowl.

Mahomes, seeking to do in his second year what Russell Wilson did as a sophomore  — reach and win a Super Bowl — was not allowed to fire in OT.

Quite apart from the argument that says the Chiefs should not have allowed themselves to be vulnerable to such randomness, the NFL competition committee needs to re-do the OT rules to subvert the coin flip as a decider for who gets to the Super Bowl.

And while they’re at it, fix the Electoral College.

Speaking of fixing rules  . . . you perhaps have heard what happened to the Saints.

Late in the NFC  Championship at the Superdome on a drive that could have produced the game-winning touchdown, Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman committed not one but two fouls on the same play that went uncalled against WR Tommylee Lewis — pass interference and a helmet-to-helmet hit.

The incompletion led to to a field goal instead of a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. The Rams subsequently tied the game at 23 in regulation on a field goal by Greg Zuerlein, who won the game 26-23 in OT (box) from 57 yards.

The missed penalties outraged the sellout crowd and Saints coach Sean Payton, who said that after the game he received a call from NFL officiating chief Alberto Riveron, admitting the error.

“For a (penalty) call like that not to be made, man, it’s just hard to swallow,” Payton said at a press conference. “And then to get a phone call  . . . We spoke initially, then I called to follow up. And the first thing he said when I got on the phone — ‘We messed it up.’

“We’ll probably never get over it.”

Even Robey-Coleman knew he was guilty.

“You look at the football gods like, thank you, got away with one tonight,” he said. “It is what it is.”

We all know that bad calls are part of the game, they happen to both sides, yadda yadda. But there’s nothing keeping the NFL from expanding the list of replay-reviewable plays to include judgment calls. The game has already become used to the time stoppages; there’s no going back, just forward, for a little justice.

But that debate is for later in the off-season. For the next two weeks, great endurance will be demanded of the sporting public for the treacle emanating from the camp of the Death Eaters.

The Rams, meanwhile, are at least a novelty, having not been invited to the circus since 2001. They also have come to grace following a remarkably durable period of putridity.

After making the playoffs at 12-4 in 2003, the Rams went 13 years without a winning season — 8-8, 6-10, 8-8, 3-13, 2-14, 1-15, 7-9, 2-14, 7-8-1, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9; then, in the first year after the 2016 relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles, 4-12.

In 2017, the first year of child-coach Sean McVay, they went 11-6, punctuated by a 42-7 December demolition of the Seahawks in Seattle that helped prompt coach Pete Carroll’s makeover of his roster and coaching staff.

Now they are 15-3 and a one-point favorite to win Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta (although some books are flipping). But the Rams are still using old Jeff Fisher tricks like passing out of punt formation (Bothell High School’s Johnny Hekker, we salute you) and 57-yard field goals, and Sunday were beneficiaries of arguably the worst non-call in NFL playoff history.

From the Seattle perspective, fans can embrace the Rams little better than cactus. But the Rams are not the Patriots, who besides being loathsome since they were zygotes, also denied the redoubtable Chiefs coach, Andy Reid, his first Super Bowl, and denied Kansas Citians their first Super Bowl in 49 years.

The Patriots do not have pinchable cheeks. They do have punchable faces. The NFC  hereby grants permission to the champion Rams. Do your cruelest, Johnny Hekker.


  • Kevin Lynch

    Some of your lines are criminally good, Art. Poor Saints got robbed. “The afterglow of a great drawing to a full house”. I’ll never forget the sweetest draw to a full boat I ever saw. Miles City, Montana in the summer of 1980 at The Mint. But it wasn’t mine. Poor bastard had nines over threes and I had been dealt four threes on the first four cards, two up, two down, in seven card stud. He made it and got robbed. My angels showed up. Andy Reid’s got the worst playoff angels I’ve ever seen and Brady’s are beyond belief.

    • art thiel

      Don’t know about angels, but I know a little of Eastern Montana and poker. Glad you made it out alive before Yosemite Sam drew on you.

  • Will Ganschow

    Saints and Chiefs should meet on some High School field Feb 3rd for the We was Robbed Bowl. (or maybe all just go bowling that day.)

    • art thiel

      The clamor grows for the Consolation Bowl instead of the Pro Bowl. I’m in.

      • Alan Harrison

        Remember the Playoff Bowl?

  • coug73

    The sport gods will shine on Andy Reid’s Super Bowl journey some day.

    Young gun vs. old gun how’s that played out in old westerns?

    • art thiel

      I prefer Clint Eastwood vs. Lee Van Cleef. Lots of flinty stares and few words.

      • coug73

        Lee Van Cleef, “THE BEST OF THE BAD.”

        • Kevin Lynch

          Eli Wallach, “THE BEST OF THE UGLY”.

      • Husky73

        Clint debated an empty chair. And lost. His new movie is good.

      • antirepug3

        It is amazing how Eastwood as an actor and director can get so much mileage out of a ‘look’. All that good spaghetti western training I would guess.

        • art thiel

          Just saw an old Perry Mason show. Raymond Burr had himself a look too. Walken, Malkovich, Brando . . .

  • Alan Harrison

    The LA Rams are in their first Super Bowl since they led 17-16 in the 4th Quarter against the Steelers in 1979…and lost. Will Vince Ferragamo do the coin toss? This one and that one are the only ones. (20 years in St. Louis doesn’t count). And yes, I hate Tom Brady for no reason at all. So this is an easy one, despite the intra-divisional rivalry, because fifty years between titles is enough to root for them.

    • art thiel

      Wow. A Ferragamo pull. Well done. I fully expect you to write me about Jon Arnett, Dick Bass and Roman Gabriel.

      Yes, Brady is an easy target. But aren’t we entitled to easy targets? It’s sports.

      • Alan Harrison

        I thought Dick Bass was the best DB I’d ever seen – watching him, Eddie Meador, and later, Clancy Williams (a Coug, if I’m not mistaken) roam the secondary behind the Fearsome Foursome was amazing. And Roman Gabriel dated an aunt of mine while a Ram – I met him as a kid during that time on a Monday and never saw someone so beaten up. You’d never have known he could barely walk on the day after a game.

        • Husky73

          Dick Bass was a running back.

          • Alan Harrison

            Oh my. The first thing to go is the mind. I was thinking of Irv Cross.

          • Husky73

            They say the memory is the second thing to go. I can’t remember the first.

      • Kevin Lynch

        I still have the rookie cards for Jon Arnett, Dick Bass and Roman Gabriel. But I never liked the Rams. My brother did. So I couldn’t.

        • art thiel

          Are you holding onto the cards waiting for a Rams SB win?

          • Kevin Lynch

            Oh yeah. A big win should take those football cards from one dollar to a dollar ten. As in cents. Ten cents. Actually, the Gabriel is worth more, even off grade.

  • 1coolguy

    KC went ahead 31-24 with 2 minutes remaining. When they got their first down by the goal line, I thought they would run 1 or two plays falling down, to burn clock, then try to score. Leaving 2 minutes on the clock with a porous, gassed defense trying to stop Brady? Suicide. Brady is as good if not better that Montana within 2 minutes.
    That would go against all convention, and Reid would be condemned if it had not worked, but so was Payton’s onside kick call to start the second half of the SB!

    • art thiel

      Coaches who think they can waste downs as clock burners, assuming a score,
      flirt with disaster. There’s a coach in Seattle who might have one of those regrets from the Game That Cannot be Unseen.

      • 1coolguy

        Art, do you HAVE to remind me of THAT game??? I can still remember walking out of the gathering that day in total disgust, people wondering why I didn’t come back. My head exploded.
        But we ALL know it is nuts to give Brady the ball with 2 minutes to go – witness the SB 4th quarter when he came back against one of the best D’s in history – The guy is amazing. Granted, burning clock is a dice roll, but Brady with the ball??? I’d have to lay my balls on the line and Just Do It.

        • art thiel

          Between your exploding head and smashed balls, I recommend you step away from the ‘puter and draw a deep breath.

          • 1coolguy

            Hey, what else to do on a day off that’s better than SNW, right?

  • Roy S

    Isn’t it time to learn to be a lover, not a Hater of the Patriots.

    • art thiel

      Probably. But that means adulthood would be mandatory.

  • Husky73

    I was confused by a person with two last names drilling a person with two first names. That was preceded by the QB’s helmet speaker going on the blink, an E-6 on a punt, and then someone pretty much costing his team a Super Bowl by lining up in the neutral zone. All of that was followed by a coach slamming down an iPad and then throwing it away, and an exhausted defense not calling a time out to re-group, which resulted in a Cano-like sauntering-in touchdown for the win. It was a baffling day.

    • art thiel

      But fun. You described it well.

  • Scott McBride

    “And while they’re at it, fix the Electoral College.”

    Oh, I didn’t know it was broken. Well, to those who lost the last election, it MUST be broken. Look at the outcome!

    The Electoral College, a compromise that mirrors the balance achieved by proportional representation in the House and equal representation in the Senate, has served the country well for 58 presidential elections. If you based the outcome of the election SOLEY on the popular vote, here’s what would happen:

    * Campaigns would focus exclusively on major population centers and their interests.
    * Forgotten and ignored would be citizens in Nebraska, Kentucky, Wyoming, Iowa, Montana and even Cle Elum.
    * If you think there is polarization in American politics now, just wait what happens when the middle of this great nation is ignored and shunned
    * It would provide yet another piece of evidence (to those in the Great Middle) that the elites don’t give a rat’s rectum about the Americans who grow the food, work in her factories and live in those hamlets between, oh, Los Angeles and Boston.
    * The New England Patriots will be crowned eternal winners of the Super Bowl.

    Well, maybe not the last one. But lets. not. fix. something. that’s. not. broken.

    • Husky73

      If the GOP candidate had won the popular vote in 2000 and in 2016, I have a feeling that you would be making the opposite argument.

      • Scott McBride

        No. I don’t believe in changing the rules just because my side doesn’t win.

        • Tian Biao

          personally, I believe every vote should count. but hey: it was a throwaway one-liner in a light-hearted humorous column. not worth a long diatribe.

          • art thiel

            Thanks for getting the point.

        • Bruce McDermott

          And there is no way we can test that proposition now, is there?

    • art thiel

      I knew that if I used the line someone would toss a sixth-grade civics lesson into the discussion. So you’re entitled. My only response is that the creators of the Constitution could not have envisioned the consequences of renegade gerrymandering.

      • rosetta_stoned

        A state’s EC votes are determined by the number of Congressional districts, not the boundaries. But you knew that.

        • Archangelo Spumoni

          It was a bolstering point, supplementing the takedown. But you knew that.

          Or not.

    • StephenBody

      Heard every one of those arguments before. Here’s the thing: LAND doesn’t get a vote. People do. The electoral college was intended to balance out the concerns of the eighteenth/nineteenth century rural areas but it was assumed that the entire country would grow at a somewhat similar rate. It didn’t happen that way. What possible logic is there in a state in which 17 million people live having the same representation (one senator) as a state with less than a million citizens?

      Arguments, one by one:
      * Campaigns would focus exclusively on major population centers and their interests.
      They would, therefore, address the needs and concerns of the greatest number of PEOPLE.

      * Forgotten and ignored would be citizens in Nebraska, Kentucky, Wyoming, Iowa, Montana and even Cle Elum.
      Neither forgotten nor ignored. If those citizens want to argue for their own interests, we have just the place for that to happen: Congress, where the sausage gets made, anyway.

      * If you think there is polarization in American politics now, just wait what happens when the middle of this great nation is ignored and shunned.
      They whine about that NOW! The simpering about victimhood and the animus directed at population centers by rural people is as old as this country. Is it any more acceptable for states with sparse populations to dictate to people just because they choose not to live in cities than it is in the reverse? Living in either place is a CHOICE. If someone doesn’t like their choice they remain free to change it. This “nobility of the heartland” baloney is one of the great hoodwinks in American history. There is NOTHING inherently more noble about working the land than living in Detroit and inventing the harvesters or living in Palo Alto and inventing the laser.

      * It would provide yet another piece of evidence (to those in the Great Middle) that the elites don’t give a rat’s rectum about the Americans who grow the food, work in her factories and live in those hamlets between, oh, Los Angeles and Boston.
      They can grow the fuck up and use their heads. What is it about people who don’t get preferential treatment that makes fairness feel like oppression? Their problem is that they see all of us who live in cities as “the elites”, which is so far off the mark that it doesn’t even really deserve an answer. Poverty and deprivation are MORE rampant in urban America than rural. You grow the food? Good on ya. Who built your tractor? Where did that computerized controller for your dairy apparatus come from? Your car? Your truck? Your satellite dish? Your microwave? Because no one is ankle deep in cow crap while doing those jobs, does that mean they lack sufficient cred as a good American? Does the fact that there are MORE factories in urban areas than in all of rural America mean anything or is that just jettisoned because it doesn’t fit this whine? The people who live in those hamlets, for the most part, choose to live there. Is remaining in a place and erecting a grand cathedral of oppression for yourself any more noble or enlightened than living in a city and bitching about that?

      * The New England Patriots will be crowned eternal winners of the Super Bowl.
      They already are. Is there a point to this? When do you think the Minonk Mudhens and the Abilene Pistols will start becoming competitive for the Super Bowl? Last time I looked, with the sole exception of Green Bay (which has not done too badly for itself in terms of NFL titles), all the places with teams are – GASP! – in those clusters of your “elites”, so why would Middle America care about those uppity jerks at all?

      You decided this would be a great time to hijack a thread and air your suppressed grievances about the electoral college. But the final word on that subject is above: PEOPLE vote, not acreage. If those huge clusters of people don’t get to have their votes count EXACTLY the same weight as a rural person’s, what is “one man, one vote” all about?

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      Uh maybe your rant would be better received at Fox News.

  • Howard Wells

    all you guys commenting are too high brow for me. I will just say Patriots again? UGH ! LOL

    • art thiel

      High brow? Here? Um . . . thanks. I think?

  • ll9956

    Beautiful piece, Art. Like so many others, I will hold my nose and root for the Rams to win the SB. UGH!!! They don’t deserve to be in the Super Bowl. But the truth is, the villains are not the Rams, but the officials. It’s bad enough when a player screws up and costs his team a game, but when the officials commit a horrible error that changes the outcome of a game, that’s unforgivable. The only possible good that can come of this is the one you alluded to, making pass interference calls or no-calls reviewable. I hope that happens.

    In retrospect I’m sure that the offending official feels terrible. What are the possible consequences? Firing the entire officiating crew? Barring them from ever participating in post-season games?

    Letting my curiosity run wild, I wonder what would happen, presuming the officials keep their jobs, if the Saints GM or some other higher-up, after consulting with his colleagues, informed the NFL that the Saints will NEVER play in a game in which any member of this officiating crew is present. I for one wouldn’t blame them.

  • Talkjoc

    Sorry the election didn’t go your way but the Electoral College has worked just fine for centuries. Agree on OT rules. Crazy.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Along the lines of the Electoral College, Rams/Patriots is the Trump/Clinton of Super Bowls. Can they both lose?

  • Bruce McDermott

    In the end, Brady threw a bad pass that got picked, and was bailed out only by a Ram DE lining up offsides, for Chrissakes. Not all that heroic.

    The Rams are less heinous, as you say. But they should not be in the Super Bowl at all, and everybody outside of LA knows it. That call was an abomination, on review.

  • bugzapper

    Welcome to the NFL’s version of the Major Market Corporate Bowl. Who gives a rat’s ass?

    • Husky73

      Same cities as the World Series.

      • art thiel

        I believe that is legal.

    • art thiel

      I do. You do, or you wouldn’t watch or comment.

      • bugzapper

        Oh, I have about as much interest in this game now as I do in a case of jock itch. It only hurts when I scratch, but this time around I’d be ripping out my own jewels.

  • PJ

    Simply karma from Bountygate. Pay back’s a bitch Sean.

  • StephenBody

    I keep hearing on the radio, for the past day, “More review would just slow down the game!”, as though we all have somewhere pressing to be because the games would be something south of ten minutes longer? You want an answer, here ya go:

    Within the final five (seven, three, whatever) minutes of any game, the NYC officials can review ANY controversial play. No limitations about whether the play is “reviewable” at all. Coaches CANNOT request a review. NY and on-field officials ONLY. Here’s the catch: they have :30 (:45, :60, whatever) for the review. They trigger a signal called something like “official stoppage”. For a play like the non-PI call in the Saints game, that review would have taken about five seconds. If the error is egregious, as that was, it won’t take long to see it. If the officials can’t decide within the allotted time that there was a mistake, it probably didn’t happen. When the clock on that review runs out, even if there is no ruling from New York, play resumes and the play is no longer reviewable. It is then assumed that the NY crew couldn’t find sufficient evidence to overturn the call or the non-call. If the call or non-call is reversed, play resumes with the appropriate remedies enacted.

    I agree that something like that INFINITE belly-button staring on the Edelman punt return is too much. If this rule had been in place, it would have taken the entire :30 and then a verdict of insufficient evidence would have been ruled. But this business of blithely shrugging and chirping, “Oh, well, mistakes happen!” ignores the MAMMOTH repercussions that accompany that screw up. What IS the exact financial disparity between losing a league title game and participating in a Super Bowl? It’s MILLIONS and that figure does NOT exist in a vacuum. Teams freak out and assign blame. People lose their jobs. Careers can be ruined. Subsidiary businesses – food service, licensing, apparel, travel, airlines, hotels, TV licensing, etc., etc. – are adversely affected by those “Oops!” moments. Atlanta WILL suffer for this, as the Saints FIERCE fan base will be replaced at the Super Bowl by the far smaller legion of blase LA dalliers who don’t travel in anything like those NOLA numbers. How many players will see this game show up in bonuses they don’t get and new contracts they won’t be offered?

    It’s an ongoing contradiction that professional sports are GAMES, FIRST…unless it suits someone’s argument to proclaim, “Hey, it’s a BUSINESS!” If this is really supposed to be about sucking it up and accepting that Mistakes Happen, quit paying astronomical salaries. Take the money out of it and make it a GAME again….which is NEVER gonna happen, so we should just grow up and accept that the foremost priority is to Get Things Right, so that all issues of fairness have been soberly addressed. Not to do that becomes more and more untenable, every time one of these little land mines blows the ass-end off the NFL’s credibility.

  • Greg Fey

    It’s the “Tuck Rule” vs. “Non-Reviewable PI”. Gotta admit there’s some symmetry here….I’m just hoping Zuerlein pulls a Vinatieri!
    At the risk of being that guy, didn’t Andy Reid coach the Eagles in the SB in 2005?

  • Bayview Herb

    Can anyone-tell me when the super bowl kickoff is, or do I have to wade through a couple of hours of hype?