Sunday, January 27, 2008

Patriot Prognostication

Amidst bouts of rocking, I participated in three Super Bowl preplays with Pizza Box Football, as part of their Predict the Winner promotion -- they send out team cards, you play the game and submit your results, they put the averages on their website in advance of the game. I've included my game reports below.

New York Giants coached by Michael
New England Patriots coached by Dennis

An early red zone interception by Tom Brady got the Giants off and running. They scored touchdowns on their next two possessions, and killed much of the 2nd quarter with a 14-play drive (13 of which were runs) culminating in a 19-yard field goal. If not for a defensive stand at the 1, the Patriots would be in even worse shape. The half ended 20-7 Giants, who rushed for 143 yards on 22 attempts, including three rushes of over 20 yards.

In the second half, the Patriots defense clamped down hard, allowing only 51 yards for the rest of the game. But after a three-and-out on the Patriots' first possession, the Giants returned the ensuing punt 87 yards for a TD . Down 27-10, Tom Brady took the game in his hands, but a poor completion percentage (20-39 for 51% on the day) resulted in multiple drives coming up short with field goals. With time running out and a 4th-ahd-4 on New York's 37, Brady threw a short pass for three yards, giving up the ball on downs and ending the game. Run the pattern to the first! Final Score: Giants 30, Patriots 20.

(I forgot to mention in my report that Michael made a 4th-and-2 from his own 18 on his first possession, as Gregg Easterbrook wrote "game over" in his notebook.)

Rushing: 33-168, 1 TD, 0 Fum
Passing: 12-20 for 133, 1 TD, 0 INT, 0 sacks

Rushing: 20-113, 1 TD, 0 Fum
Passing: 20-39 for 234, 1 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks

New York Giants coached by Dennis
New England Patriots coached by Scott

The first half was uneventful, highlighted by 7 punts and a 19-yard sack of Eli Manning (dude, where are you going?). The Giants featured a balanced attack (60 yds rushing, 88 yds passing), while the Patriots went pass-wacky (19 yds rushing, 120 yds passing). The half ended with the Patriots up 10-7 thanks to an early 46 yard field goal.

In the second half, the Giants again used the run to set up the play action, resulting in a monster half for Eli (10-14 for 227) including touchdowns of 8 and 60 yards. Meanwhile the Patriots abandoned the run completely, throwing on all of their last 25 plays. Unafraid of the run, the Giants stayed back in coverage and limited Brady to a 43% completions in the second half. The Patriots managed a touchdown late in the 4th to pull within seven, but their onside kick was recovered by the Giants and led to a game-icing field goal. Final Score: Giants 27, Patriots 17.

Rushing: 35-129, 0 TD, 0 Fum
Passing: 18-26 for 315, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks for 24 yds

Rushing: 10-21, 0 TD, 0 Fum
Passing: 27-48 for 241, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack for 7 yds

New York Giants coached by Chris
New England Patriots coached by Dennis

I switched back to the Patriots, and Tom Brady rewarded my faith by going 17-25 for 182 yards and 2 TDs in the first half. Meanwhile the Patriots run blitzed on nearly every down, forcing Eli to win the game with his arm. Eli was up to the task, but his offensive line was not -- several QB Pressure results turned into three sacks and a pick. A last-second 52-yard TD by Manning kept the game respectable at 20-10 Patriots.

The second half featured the funniest sequence I've seen in Pizza Box Football. Down 27-10 after a New England rushing TD, Eli was intercepted at the Patriot 25. Brady calmly drove down the field, and on 2nd-and-8 at the NY 28, called a rushing play. The roll was a 4 -- fumble! I rerolled to find the spot...and rolled a 17, well past what was needed for a TD. So the fumble was in the end zone -- and the Giants recovered for a touchback! Looks like Maroney pulled a Leon Lett; don't celebrate, act like you've been there! The suddenly rejuvenated Giants scored seven plays later, and what should have been a 34-10 game was now a real contest at 27-17. But with only seven minutes left, neither team could muster much offense, and the Giants gave the ball over twice, once on downs and once with a fumble on the last play of the game. Final Score: Patriots 27, Giants 17.

Rushing: 19-93, 0 TD, 1 Fum (all the run blitzing, coupled with the large early deficit, forced the Giants away from their strength)
Passing: 21-37 for 330, 2 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks for 19 yards

Rushing: 23-123, 1 TD, 1 Fum
Passing: 28-41 for 299 (68% completion -- about time), 2 TD, 0 INT, 0 sacks

So what did we learn?

1. Both teams must keep a balanced attack -- the Giants must stay with their strength, and the Patriots must run to keep the defense from keying on the short passing game. Note the only Patriot win came when the Pats had more than 20 rushes and the Giants had fewer.
2. The Patriots must stack against the run and dare Eli to beat them through the air. They need 8 men in the box on every play. Then on the rare occasion when they throw in the QB blitz, the pressure will rattle Eli into a game-breaking mistake.
3. No one in SABG wants the Patriots to win.

Finally, I found Pizza Box Football to be a lot more fun with real teams. Instead of random rock-paper-scissors, the teams take on personalities and strategies based on their strengths and weaknesses. And the results even felt more accurate (except for the whole "Patriots only win 1 of 3" thing).


At 2:27 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger seanp said...

I think I'm cheering for the Patriots on Sunday. As a born-and-bred Cowboys fan, I feel like i have to cheer against any team that shuts down our season (I know, the Cowboys mostly did it to themselves in that game). As tired as I am of the Patriots fans gloating at work, I'd like to see a team take the championship completely undefeated. I'm not committed to that 100% - the irony would be quite lovely to have the Patriots undefeated season come to a halt on the one game that really matters...

At 3:15 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger Brian said...

I liked Bostonians a lot better when they were lovable losers. I am willing to let the Celtics win this season, but any city should only have one dynasty at the time and Boston is painfully close to having 3 (should the Celts actually have a working Juvenation machine).

So, to root for the Celtics in a proper way, New England must fall flat, and the Red Sox must suffer a horrible fate next year. So let it be written.

[Note -- I'm not particularly pro-Celtic, but any franchise that's suffered so much in the last 20 years is easy to cheer for.]

At 7:09 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger Simon said...

1) I don't mind if a team is really good, or as some may say “sold-their-souls-to-the-devil” good. If you can play at that level, you deserve the honor and praise. I do mind however when said team is comprised of cheating bastards who play dirty and have no sportsmanship whatsoever. To be blunt: SCREW THE PATRIOTS! I hope they get embarrassed on the field next Sunday (though I sadly doubt it).

2) I'd just like to call in advance that if the Giants win, you will hear from way too many commentators and analysts the classic weasel-out "it's more like the patriots lost the game for themselves than the giants won." Trust me on this. It will disgust you.

3) GO ELI! Do it for Archie! …Again…

At 9:18 PM, January 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark it down: The Giants will win the Super Bowl. The Pizza Box has spoken. (I'll take 2 wins out of 3 as authoritative.)

Wow, this game was a LOT of fun. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. Clearly, the timing was perfect, with the Super Bowl one week away and no football this weekend. (I'm sure Roger Goodell must have some reason for the "bye" week, though I can't imagine what it is.) As Dennis pointed out, PBF is probably not as much fun with made up teams.

Although a PBF league of real teams next year might be interesting....hmmm. 16 games of PBF might be a bit much, but I'd like to play this again, and I'd like it to have the interest of real teams like this game had.


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