Posted by: Nate | January 24, 2008

NFL Championship Round Recap: Part I

Patriots vs. Chargers

There was a lot of buildup to this game, as with most other second half Patriots games, due to our undefeated record. People were wondering and speculating if this would be the week the mighty Patriots were finally defeated. There was also the running subplot of all the hurt stars on the Chargers and whether or not they would be able to play. Rivers had a bad knee, Gates had a sprained/dislocated toe and LT had a knee strain as well. Without these guys at 100%, would the Bolts even be able to keep pace?

As we all know by now, the Pats won 21-12 and LT essentially didn’t play (2 carries, 1 reception). Looking at this, one has to wonder, had someone told you that LT wouldn’t play in this game what would you predict the score to be? 35-10? 42-13? I mean, he is their best offensive weapon and a player you always have to be on the lookout for since he has demonstrated the ability to run, catch and throw the ball with great efficiency.

Why was the game so close then? First of all, Tom Brady threw 3 interceptions in the game and also sustained a mild ankle sprain. Seeing as those 3 picks represent over 25% of his INT’s for the season, that’s not a good way to put an opponent away. Secondly, the Pats shifted to a heavily run oriented offense in the second half and ate up a lot of clock but didn’t put a whole lot of points on the board. We went on a 9-minute non-scoring drive to end the game, for instance.

On the whole, the 2007 Patriots post-season thus far has been very methodical, no-nonsense football. Neither of the games so far have been particularly memorable on their own accord and their weren’t too many flashy plays on offense that we have been used to the previous 17 weeks. Part of this was due to the fact that Randy Moss has been neutralized so far, having a couple of catches and one rush through 2 games. This has shifted the offensive emphasis to check downs to Faulk, Welker and Watson and a grind it out, smash-mouth style running game with Maroney. It was an effective, simplistic winning offensive strategy in the playoffs; just control the ball, convert 3rd downs and red zone opportunities and play solid defense when you need to.

Limiting the Chargers to 4 field goals, 3 of which came on red zone possessions, was a huge stand for the Pats D and one of the main reasons we walked away with a win. Those 3 FG’s get turned into TD’s and we have a drastically different ball game on our hands.

It bears mentioning that Phillip Rivers was easily the MVP of this game for San Diego. Not only did he play hurt to try and lead his team to victory, but also he didn’t make the typical Phil Rivers panic throws that doomed my fantasy team this season. He was throwing with precision and zip on the ball and making good decisions for the most part. Before the game we were told Rivers had a strained knee, a sore knee, a bad knee or some variation thereof. He was wearing a brace and going to try and play. After the fact it comes out that not only did he have a torn ACL, but he had arthroscopic knee surgery the Monday before the game in order to give him the best chance of playing.

It takes true grit and guts to play on a bad injury, especially for a younger player who may be taking a serious career risk in the process. This type of competitive spirit and commitment to your teammates when it matters most not only makes for a compelling story, but is also something you expect to get from you quarterback. As the leader in the huddle, and oftentimes the leader of the team, you want this guy on the field. Many people felt that LT was this guy for San Diego, the leader who would do anything to ensure a victory and lead his team, especially in the playoffs. Apparently, that is no longer the case, as Phil Rivers has clearly taken the leadership role on this team in my eyes.

This is not to bash LT’s accomplishments or talents, or to question his toughness outright. I recognize that as an athlete only you really can know how hurt you are and what your effectiveness level is going to be. I find it odd though that LT was able to play in a couple of series, albeit relatively devoid of impact, and then chose to sit on the sidelines like a kid in detention. He didn’t think he could go out there in some of those red zone situations to play decoy? He couldn’t at least act interested in the game and cheer on his teammates? He was totally isolated on the bench for a good part of the second half, sitting under his Darth Vader visor and wearing the big jacket/cape combo. That was totally uninspiring and unhelpful in my eyes.

Speaking of uninspiring, Norv Turner punting from around the Pats 40 yard line with 9 minutes to go and down by two scores? You’ve got to be kidding me. Either go for it on 4th and 10 or try the long field goal. Worst case scenario you at least took a shot at closing the gap, instead of effectively rolling over and dying, down 9 with most of the 4th quarter to play. Idiotic move of the week for sure.

On the whole, while I haven’t been awed with leaping catches, huge running plays, bombs to Moss or INT’s returned for touchdowns that Patriots have taken care of business. The playoffs seem to have morphed the team into an older version of itself; less flash and offensive explosion and a focus on the ground game, running clock and being efficient. While the games may not be on ESPN classic anytime soon, they certainly were more than good enough to pick up the W and that’s all that matters come this time of year. I’ll have a similar recap/reaction for the Giants=Packers up shortly as well.

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Responses

  1. […] Goatboy wrote a fantastic post today on “NFL Championship Round Recap: Part I”Here’s ONLY a quick extractPatriots vs. Chargers. There was a lot of buildup to this game, as with most other second half Patriots games, due to our undefeated record. People were wondering and speculating if this would be the week the mighty Patriots were … […]

  2. […] Here’s another interesting post I read today by 207 Prospectus […]

  3. This is a precise and interesting recap. Are you going to write a pre-game report for the bowl? The Brady ankle seems to be pulling a lot of press.

    Where’s Duff in all this?


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