Sunday, December 18, 2016
Every NFL team, from the players to the coaching staff to the front office has an obligation to win. At all costs.
The Seattle Seahawks and their head coach Pete Carroll have recently come under fire, stemming from their decision to fake a punt with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter of a game in which they led by three touchdowns. The game, which was played last Thursday night, saw the Seahawks ultimately complete their rout of the Los Angeles Rams 24-3, as the outcome was never in question.
Another Thursday Night Football game, another blowout.
At first, there was consideration from this scribe that this maneuver may have seemed a trite bush-league. I mean come on, faking a punt up 21 points! It even sounds funny.* However, "upon further review" it dawned that this is nothing new. More importantly, it may even be something to be lauded, if not appreciated.
A few seasons ago, 2007 to be exact, during their undefeated, record-setting, record-breaking run to the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots under the stewardship of their incomparable head coach Bill Belichick, continually and routinely, almost as if in their sleep, ran the score up on their opponent from week to week. Some of the outcomes were closer than others. The majority being blow-outs on the scoreboard, but the message was clear: This is a professional league. Players get paid to perform. ALL. THE. TIME. There is never a moment to take a play off. There are only so many possessions and plays within those possessions to be treasured with the utmost respect. For at any time, the game, and the momentum it totes so carefully, can shift.
There have been games in which teams trailing by three touchdowns have overcome such a deficit. The instances are many, albeit far and few between, to provide evidence of such, but rest assured it does occur. Opposing teams have scored three touchdowns in less than two minutes as well; similar to what took place between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers a month ago when both teams traded back-to-back-to back touchdowns, the Cowboys being the one to fall on the right side of the coin in that affair. So the game can change, and the tempo and momentum can increase at any point in time in a game, and it is there which lies the reason as to why teams should never take their foot of the gas, take their foot off the throat, take their foot out the...well, you get the point. So for Carroll to take the friendlier (read: less aggressive) approach with about five minutes left in the game it would be the football equivalent of sacrilege. The football gods are watching. Always watching.
There are various other instances where the supposedly improbable suddenly became probable. This is why coaches like Belichick and Carroll (who themselves are from the Bill Parcells School of Coaching) do what they do. They are not putting their destiny and fate in the hands of anyone else but their own. They get paid to win, not to make sure that the other team is feeling good about themselves.
Yes ethics and morals do matter...in all walks of life. Yet, as is the case with most things, there is a time and a place for everything. The football field is not one of them.
* Not that it was funny, but the punter, Jon Ryan, who faked the punt, after a gain of 26 yards on the play was concussed on the ensuing hit. Imagine that. You fake a punt up 21 points and get your punter knocked out. It provided a measure of hilarity to the whole situation. For the Los Angeles Rams it provided a measure of retribution to the fake.
Monday, December 5, 2016
The New York Knicks, with balanced scoring from their back-court and front-court, beat the Sacramento Kings 106-98 Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, and have now won eight of the last ten games they have played in front of the hometown crown. They also notched their third victory in a row, and now stand with a record of 11-9 after the first 20 games of the season.
The Knicks, with leads of 21 points in the first half, and 20 points at the beginning of the third quarter, were able to stave off several runs by the Kings, including a 16-0 run in the same quarter, and never relinquished those leads. The Kings were able to close within a point on several possessions, but were never able to tie the game or take the lead after the Knicks were able to establish control of the game from the second quarter until the final buzzer.
Timely baskets by the guards Derrick Rose (20 points) and Brandon Jennings (19 points), as well as Carmelo Anthony (20 points ) and Kristaps Porzingis (15 points), ultimately made the Kings' runs come up short. Although they were threatened at various stages of the game the Knicks never panicked and composed themselves productively on the possessions they needed most; defensively as well.
This game had the makeup of a blowout due to those 21 and 20 point advantages, and although the Kings made their run, as most NBA teams do, they never quite could get out of the hole that they dug for themselves. Sound familiar? Usually this is the Knicks alibi and prescription for heartbreaking losses of this type. In seasons past, and even at times this year, it usually is the Knicks playing the role of the Kings, falling behind early, only to make a run late, but never quite able to get over the hump themselves. Leading to many a frustrating night, for Knicks fans, and players alike.
Thankfully this is a new season and thankfully these are new Knicks. Going into this season, with so many unfamiliar faces added to the roster, it was the sentiment of this scribe that we (as well as the Knicks themselves) would begin to have an idea of this team's identity after about twenty games or so. And, after twenty games, it's safe to say that these Knicks are destined to be much better than their 15 and 30 win counterparts from the last two seasons.
These Knicks should most certainly win 45 games, and could possibly win 50 or better. 15 win improments in 2 to 3 season increments is certainly not astonishing, although it is nothing to blink at, but the notion that these Knicks could be embarking upon something of a special journey, gives rise to the sentiment that they may indeed be worthy of doing some real damage this season.
[Editor's Note: This piece originally was intended to appear during the New York Knicks 2016-2017 campaign.]