BY Art Thiel 10:40PM 02/03/2019

Thiel: NFL ad saves Super Bowl from a sack

A grim contest won by the insufferable Patriots was partially salvaged by the NFL marketers, who came up with hilarity that included Marshawn Lynch.

QB Jared Goff in the Super Bowl Sunday was treated as rudely by the Pats defense as he was here by the Seahawks’ Frank Clark. He was sacked four times in Atlanta. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Recall in September that when the points piled up in most outposts of the NFL, everyone was convinced that next-gen offenses had arrived, with 70-percent passers, hyperkinetic pre-snap motion and short-pass orgies. Defense and the running game were quaint but uncool relics.

Then in the season’s championship moment, Fred Flintstone clubbed the crap out of George Jetson.

In a single season, the NFL leapt into the 22nd century and fell back to the dark ages. Problem was, the Patriots’ 13-3 ooze-a-thon (box) over the remarkably flaccid Los Angeles Rams Sunday evening wasn’t nearly as compelling an example of time travel as Doc Brown and McFly displayed in Back to the Future.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing to emerge from the viscera and ash of an exceptionally dreary Super Bowl was that the NFL nevertheless won big — with a halftime commercial.

Relative to other sports leagues and even some federal prisons, the stiff-necked NFL has been a North Korea when it comes to independent thinking and creative risk-taking. But with an awards-banquet parody featuring current and former great (and well-dressed) players trashing the joint with football plays, suddenly the NFL seemed, well, hip.

It could be that I’m over-reacting because the skit’s mayhem was triggered by Marshawn Lynch. Perfectly typecast as a mischief-maker, the ex-Seahawks star’s sneaky, failed attempt at snatching some cake as commissioner Roger Goodell droned on at the podium started a hilarious sequence of banquet-room football, with all of the smashed-table mayhem of a Western-movie saloon brawl:

The commercial easily out-performed the first half, the halftime show (I believe was the group was Maroon Zero) and the second half. In fact, for the disinterested consumer, the video released by the NFL of some out-takes is better than any game action featuring Rams punter Johnny Hekker (no offense to his alma mater, Bothell High School) I could post here:

As for the tedious part, the game, the primary take from a Seattle perspective was that the NFC West champions peaked around midseason and began a circle of the drain that ended with an unceremonious gurgle and gloop in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The weak showing made even more odious the NFC Championship outcome when New Orleans lost to LA because of perhaps the worst officiating non-call in playoff history, prompting a protest parade and Super Bowl boycott Sunday in the French Quarter.

There is no way the Saints behind veteran QB Drew Brees could have been held to a field goal by a good but not great Pats defense, which lost its leader, SS Patrick Chung, to a broken right arm early in the third quarter.

The Seahawks lost to the Rams by two points in October and five points in November, but the Rams began to fade later when RB Todd Gurley developed a sore knee and QB Jared Goff developed some shakes in his gun hand.

Sunday, Goff was 19 of 38 for 229 yards and one interception (QB rating 57.9), plus four sacks. Gurley had 35 yards on 10 carries and one pass reception. He was barely around in the first half.

ESPN reported that 45 percent of the Rams’ 60 plays went for zero or negative yards — the second-highest percentage for the Rams this season, after a 15-6 loss to the Bears in Week 14. LA whiffed on its first eight third-down opportunities, and Goff finished 3-of-10.

In his third year, Goff regressed. Excluding games against woebegone Arizona and San Francisco, in his final six games he never had a QB rating higher than 83. A part of it was defenses catching up to the Rams’ misdirection, but a part of it was Goff’s unsteadiness in the pocket and penchant for poor decisions.

In his second season,  there was regression too, for wunderkind coach Sean McVay, who had no answers in the fourth quarter when the Pats went to two backs and two tight ends to blast their way to two scores.

Then again, he’s hardly the first rival to be brought asunder by Pats coach Bill Belichick.

“There’s no other way to say it, but I got out-coached tonight,” McVay told reporters. Belichick had dialed into all the Rams’ weaknesses, and the defense held serve until a sub-par Tom Brady mustered a single touchdown drive of 69 yards and five plays.

The Super Bowl trophy doesn’t discriminate between lackluster and spectacular. In winning for the sixth time in nine appearances over 18 seasons in the free agency era, the Pats have done the remarkable in all manner of ways — ask the Seahawks.

It doesn’t mean anyone outside of Boston has to like it. Ot does mean it must be respected and envied. It also puts pressure on the NFL’s marketing department.

Because when the Pats go to Super Bowl LIV in Miami next year and beat the Dallas Cowboys 5-2, the videoheads are going to have to salvage the exercise again by topping the 2019 commercial.


  • Ɖ♂ற *º¤Ø♥ؤº*(°◡°♡)

    Art, the Patriots have Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Stephon Gilmore, Trey Flowers, Kyle van Noy…I understand your frustration as a Seahawks fan and we all do — but these are All-Pro players. The Seahawks don’t have that. There’s no Gi;more on this team. There’s no Devin McCourty. There’s definitively no Dont’a Hightower who destroyed the whole Rams’ offensive line by himself. Those guys are three time Super Bowl champions. It’s not about “what ifs” it’s about getting it done. Sure if Seattle had an All-Pro running back like Saquon Barkley they’d be great. Any team can say that. Defensively, the Patriots were fantastic.

    • art thiel

      It’s true that the Pats D is good. It’s not true that I’m a Seahawks fan. That was over when I first walked into a newspaper office to work.

      McVay didn’t give Goff enough counters to the Rams pressure. And Gurley’s negligible contribution remains a mystery. Presuming a healthy O-line, the Seahawks would have done better pounding the Pats D-line, but the defense would have been nearly helpless against Edelman/Gronk. The key would have been thumping Brady.

      • Ɖ♂ற *º¤Ø♥ؤº*(°◡°♡)

        I apologize if you thought I meant calling you a homer that was not my intent and everyone here knows what kind of a good writer you are. it’s a weird game, it’s true. Almost no scoring. But, the difference is the Patriots could blitz, the Rams could not. You can’t blitz Tom Brady and Art, remember those last two drives in 2014 in the 4th quarter? No blitzes right? And the Seahawks conceded two scores in that 4th quarter and lost the game. The Rams’ O-line is fine, they just couldn’t stop the ferocious blitzing.

        • art thiel

          Seahawks in the 4Q vs. Pats had no Avril (concussion) or Lane (broken arm) and Sherman/Thomas were playing with significant injuries. Belichick knew it all, and exploited it, as he always does. He seems to know more about opposing players than their own coaches.

          • Ɖ♂ற *º¤Ø♥ؤº*(°◡°♡)

            Avril only had 4 sacks that season and Lane is a essentially a practice level player. I thought Sherman was fine otherwise the Patriots would have targeted him the only problem is he struggled that year against crossers and shallow meshes (game against the Chargers had a hard time) and that’s exactly what they did. But at the end of the day, how many blitzes? Maybe 1, that’s the problem with Tom Brady, you just can’t blitz.

          • art thiel

            Avril was fast enough to have to account for in pass pro. Lane was better than his replacement. And the Seahawks in those two years rarely blitzed anyway, relying on DL that included Mebane to get there.

            By the 4Q, Seahawks D was significantly damaged. Not saying it’s an excuse; it’s a reason. And no pity necessary; breaks of the game.

          • Ɖ♂ற *º¤Ø♥ؤº*(°◡°♡)

            Well Avril was fast but unfortunately his technique was rather poor and he played with no power. Still, 4 sacks that season is unacceptable. Brady had like 20 completions in the first half. He was moving the ball too well. Mebane was only good because Dan Quinn is an excellent defensive line coach and proved it with the 49ers. Outside of that, made no impact with the Chargers. Lane Art please tell me you’re not serious about it, he’s a camp body. he’s not good, his injury made no difference. I’m sure you can look at a Patriots’ championship and see that they also had many injuries. If you can’t survive two or three injuries, you’re not a true championship hunter. It takes a lot of players and depth to contribute and the Seahawks just didn’t have that. I’ll give you an example: 36 players for the Patriots in 2018 played for them in 2016. Experience and depth matters. Having Tom Brady, helps a lot also!

    • Husky73

      …and Danny Shelton….

      • Ɖ♂ற *º¤Ø♥ؤº*(°◡°♡)

        Byron Maxwell?

  • Kevin Lynch

    The Patriot defense looked fantastic because the Rams were late, late, late. Late hitting blocks and Goff repeatedly late making reads and making decisions and trying to make throws. If the Patriots were that great on defense they wouldn’t have been 11-5 during the season. But they do focus for the big game. Goff could not.

    • art thiel

      With two weeks’ prep, the Pats largely knew what was coming, especially when McVay wouldn’t unholster Gurley. Goff wasn’t ready for the big show.

      • Kevin Lynch

        I thought two days ago what I thought when the Rams won the toss of the coin yesterday. Take the ball and have Goff throw long on the first three plays. It would stretch the defense, unlimber the young QB and, if a pass of 40 yards gets picked it serves as a punt. The ‘go for the gusto’ attitude is exactly what the Rams offense was missing yesterday.

        • art thiel

          Good point about taking a risk early, and having 59 minutes to make up for a mistake.

    • Ɖ♂ற *º¤Ø♥ؤº*(°◡°♡)

      In 2010 the Packers had a top defense and went through the wild card. You obviously have zero football knowledge. The NFL is not about records, it’s about talent, and the most talented team always wins. The Patriots had more talent.

      • art thiel

        Always? Strong word, rarely justified.

  • Parts

    I can’t help but think the Saints would have put up a more entertaining fight.

    • art thiel

      Brees would not have walked off TD-free.

  • antirepug3

    In the absence of anything funny anymore on TV, that NFL commercial was funny and I did laugh the first time in quite a while at something on TV.

    • art thiel

      The NFL may have discovered it’s better at marketing than footballing.

  • Matt Kite

    You nailed it, Art. The commercial was the best — and only entertaining — part of an otherwise dreary game.

    • art thiel

      For her national anthem, I give Gladys Knight a pip.

      • Husky73

        Long ago, Chevy Chase had a comedy special. His guests were the Pips. They just sang their backup parts.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    Good game from my perspective – two teams I don’t like beating up on each other, neither able to score willingly, and justice in the Rams not winning! The Pats do what the Pats do – there’s no denying that fact (aside from giving them a freebee).

    Thanks for the link to the video – I had no idea it had occurred (something to do with many distractions at a SB party where I might have been the only serious football fan!). Nice to see Marshawn – I hope that it’s a nod to his future acceptance in the HOF.

    • art thiel

      I figured that the halftime runs to toilet and fridge may have denied the amusement to many.

      Lynch has a way of keeping his brand alive. Remember the photo of his cleats over a wire announcing his retirement? That was at the start of the SB’s 4Q.

    • Howard Wells

      reminds me of my favorite sexual joke…the masochist saying “beat me beat me” and the sadist responding “no no” both end up happy while nothing happens.

  • Tian Biao

    you nailed it Art: That NFL commercial was by far the best moment of the entire dull afternoon (friends, family, beer, nachos, guacamole aside). the entire affair was dreary, slow, listless and unappealing. the halftime show was bland, Tony Romo was off his game, the Rams ‘offense’ was damn hard to watch, and even the commercials were lame and slow, full of ‘messages’ and earnest voice overs. nothing fun or upbeat or cheerful. Except the whole thing was almost redeemed by watching Marshawn Lynch reach for that cake. what a hoot.

    • Husky73

      Did you see Lynch with Bill Maher recently? Painful.

      • art thiel

        How so?

    • art thiel

      Well, you covered the landscape well. Apparently there was a karmic price to be paid back from a year ago.

  • WestCoastBias79

    It’s funny, my friends and I had a long chat and settled on that ad as being the only entertaining thing to happen in those four hours. I do wonder if the league has figured out McVay. The Patriots basically sold out for vertical penetration which took away Gurley cut backs and the jet sweep. Without the subterfuge of misdirection working, Goff looked liked Fisher was still coaching him. The Rams will be worse next year simply due to talent attrition and them going all in on this year (the year where they’re selling PSL’s in LA). They might be a lot worse if Bill just gave the league the blueprint to stop them.

    • art thiel

      I think the Bears created the blueprint when LA was held to six points in Week 14. You’re right about the Rams in ’19. There will be a falloff.

    • jafabian

      Several key players, including Suh, had only a one year deal as the organization went all in for 2018. They gambled they could win it all with this team. Many of those players will most likely use the past season’s success to garner a big contract elsewhere and that will result in mediocrity for the Rams, at least initially. Still, because of the Super Bowl run many in LA will get swept up with Ramsmania and dump money into the team for the next 3-5 years. Ultimately what they want anyway.

  • coug73

    Goff never got over the loss of Cooper Kupp. Rams DL played OK when great play was needed to harass Brady.

  • Husky73

    I have watched every Super Bowl. This one isn’t in my Top 50.

    • Kevin Lynch

      It’s not in my Top 51. There was that massacre called a ‘Comedy of Errors’ that was #5, I believe. The Colts/Cowboys maybe??

  • Howard Wells

    I hate the success of the Patriots!!!!! I will grudgingly admit they’ve been pretty good for a decade or two. grumble grumble grumble