By Andy Dabilis and Constantinos E. Scaros
In last year’s Super Bowl, we both picked the Broncos to beat the Seahawks. Instead, the Seahawks blew the Broncos right off the field, and the readers laughed our powers of prognostication right off these pages.
This year, at least, we have each chosen one team, so TNH won’t go 0-for-2 again. Disgusted by the Deflategate distraction, we hope to see some good football on Sunday.
Will it be the clutch coaching and quarterbacking of the Patriots’ lethal Bill Bellichick-Tom Brady combination that prevails, or will the Seahawks’ one-two punch of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch be too much for them?
Come Monday morning, one of us will be ready to take a bow and the other one some more lumps.
DABILIS SAYS PATRIOTS
If they were still the BOSTON Patriots – not the New England Patriots, a concocted public relations name designed to make people in the other five states surrounding Massachusetts to think it’s their team too, then I’d really care about whether they win the Stupor Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks.
I go back to the first game of the Boston Patriots, listening to them on the radio as a kid and know that running back Gerhard Schwedes of Syracuse was their first-ever draft choice and a bust, and I’d still rather have Steve Grogan at quarterback than Prettyboy Brady and all his slinky excuses why he and coach Bill Belichick don’t cheat to win when they do, underinflated balls and all. Since the scandal though, the league is requiring the Patriots to be pumped up.
So it’s pretty hard to root for this team because fair play is as important as winning because if you cheat to win, you didn’t win – you lost. That’s a concept lost in sports these days, along with a lack of class that comes with winning, much the way the old Boston Celtics of Red Auerbach and Bill Russell wore suits and how Joe DiMaggio carried himself on the field and off.
Let’s leave this to two Greek philosophers, starting with Chilon, one of the Seven Sages of Sparta, who said: “Prefer a loss to a dishonest gain; the one brings pain at the moment, the other for all time.” In reserve you have a guy named Sophocles who said, “Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.”
But this isn’t Philosophy class, it’s football, the game where, as legendary coach Vince Lombardi said after picking up the phrase from UCLA coach Red Sanders, that, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” and what counts is what happens on the field.
The line is pretty much even for this one with one side picking the Patriots because of Brady and Belichick and other the Seahawks because of quarterback Russell Wilson, who can run as well, and Marshawn Lynch, who’s been likened to the second coming of Jim Brown – except by people who saw Jim Brown or they wouldn’t have said it.
Lynch couldn’t wear Jim Brown’s jock and is fond of grabbing his own after a touchdown so he’d better get a look at some Brown highlights, which would make him take a deep swallow, and then see how Brown acted when he scored – placing the ball down and walking away because, he said, “I like to act like I’ve been there before.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, a flop when coaching the Pats, undoubtedly is licking his chops hoping for revenge too, but as good as he’s been he can’t match up with Belichick which is the biggest difference off the field.
The Patriots biggest challenge will be containing Lynch, who ran for 1,306 yards for an average of 4.7 per carry, which is Hall of Fame stuff, but not Brown’s 5.2. Belichick, though, is very adept at adjusting defenses and exploiting weaknesses – and stopping strengths – so look for him to shadow on Lynch or even have a double team concept if Lynch touches the ball.
Belichick will also probably stack the defense close-up with almost eight in the box daring Wilson to get away from the running game and try to throw in the Pats secondary, having seen, of course, the game films against Green Bay in which the Seattle quarterback did virtually nothing until the big overtime throw to win the game and he’s interception-prone.
The Patriots allowed the fewest runs of 20 yards or more in the league and safety Patrick Chung can deliver the kind of punishing blows that slow up even violent runners like Lynch so look for some brutal head-on collisions.
On the other side, Seattle has to contend with Brady. It’s been 10 years since the glamor boy won the Big One, and he should have had two more, so this is probably close to his last shot at gaining the kind of legacy that ranks him with the best who ever played.
And then there’s the Gronk Factor: just who the hell on Seattle, unless they put all 11 guys on him, is going to cover the All-Universe tight end who’s the second coming of Russ Francis, a runaway freight train who is an equal opportunity destroyer.
So are the Patriots so when the dust settles and Lynch is under it, and Brady’s bombs are flying over it, New England will take this one home, 27-17. But check to see if the trophy is deflated.
SCAROS SAYS SEAHAWKS
Andy, if I had written this pre-Deflategate, I would have said: I hope you’re right, as I am rooting for Tom Brady. But now, I’m not so sure I’m rooting for anyone. Nonetheless, I am hoping that while those of us on the sidelines have been following the ugly, sordid mess of the Patriots’ footballs’ PSI levels, that the players themselves, on both sides, have buckled down and prepared to play some football.
Do I think the Pats cheated? I don’t know. Do I think the Colts would have won if the balls were fully inflated? Absolutely not. The two best comments I’ve heard on this so far were: “The Patriots could have beaten the Colts using medicine balls,” and “the Pats defense had no problems catching [Andrew Luck interceptions] fully-inflated balls.”
I hope that Deflategate has neither enhanced nor hampered the level of play for either team. And so my analysis, which I determined pre-Deflategate, still stands.
I’m picking the Seahawks and, if nothing else, I’m happy that this year we’ve chosen opposite teams, so at least that guarantees we won’t go a combined 0-for-4 in our Super Bowl prognostication collaboration thus far.
My very boring prediction – which I hoped wouldn’t come true and at least half of it did not – at the beginning of the season was that the Seahawks would again meet, and defeat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Last year’s Seahawks made a believer out of me, and I think they’re a team good enough to repeat if not threepeat.
I picked the Broncos by default in the AFC because I didn’t see Peyton Manning’s late-season implosion coming. Nor did I think the Pats would be as good as they’ve been; mostly, I figured they’d win the East because in a division that includes the Bills, the Dolphins, and the Jets, I’d take the Pats to win and maybe the Toronto Argonauts (who aren’t even in the NFL – they play in Canada – and that’s my point) to finish second.
But I thought Brady’s last hurrah might be a playoff loss to a team like the Steelers, even before having to face the Broncos in the conference championship.
But Brady exceeded my expectations. I knew he’d bounce back from the early season thrashing by the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, but I didn’t think he’d make it look so easy – even to this day.
What I love about a Pats-Seahawks Super Bowl is that both teams can be so unpredictable in how they score points. Had the championship games turned out the other way, it would have been the arm of Andrew Luck versus the arm of Aaron Rodgers. The Colts and Packers are that one-dimensional. Not so the Pats and Seahawks.
At this stage in their careers, if the game is on the line, the QB I’d want in the game as much as anyone would be Brady. But the team I’d most fear playing against him would be the Seahawks.
Brady put on a clinic against the Colts, but Seattle showed a sheer will to win like I haven’t seen since Michael Jordan’s Bulls against Karl Malone’s Jazz in 1998. The Jazz were poised to win Game 6 but Jordan simply took over – and as well as the Jazz played, his will to win prevailed.
Similarly, Aaron Rodgers played a great game – as he usually does, but Seattle refused to roll over. Marshawn Lynch played like a man possessed. Whether or not he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Jim Brown makes for a good debate, but as Brown won’t be suiting up to play on the Pats this year, Lynch is the next-best thing on the field, by far. He and Russell Wilson are such a deadly one-two punch around the goal line, that I don’t see how the Patriots (or any other team) can stop that. Tom Brady is clutch personified, but he found a way (and I still don’t know how it’s possible) to lose to Eli Manning and the Giants in the Super Bowl – not once but twice!
Simply put, this year’s Seahawks are leaps and bounds better than those Giants teams, and the Pats are not as good as their versions of those years.
Which brings me to my prediction: 34-23, Seattle. Tom Brady will not roll over the way Peyton Manning did last year – because again, the Pats are a more complex team than last year’s high-octane Broncos. But neither will he be able to muster more than a couple of TDs, the rest of the points on field goals. The Seahawks, though, will have an easier time of things.
Finally, I tend to root for quarterbacks – and Brady is someone I’ve always liked. Part of me will try to forget Deflategate during the game, and if he does lead the Pats to another title, I’ll be the first to cheer. But that’s for Sunday – right now, it’s my head talking, not my heart. Seattle will repeat as Super Bowl champion.