Daily Archives: January 12, 2008

AFC Divisional 2008: Patriots corner the Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots huff and puff in a test of speed, agility, and survival of the fittest at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Televised by CBS, the first quarter began with a touchdown by Jaguars wide receiver Matt Jones (on their first possession to boot; Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard threw the ball to the end zone as he was being pulled down to the ground by Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel–from the instant replays, it appeared that the ball left Garrard’s hand at the same time or a couple of nano-seconds before his knee hit the turf). Of course, the Patriots weren’t going to take that kind of showmanship; they put their own TD (thanks to tight end Benjamin Watson) on the score board just after the middle of the first quarter.

The second quarter started with a touchdown by Patriots running back Laurence Maroney. The Jaguars retaliated with another TD by wide receiver Ernest Wilford in the middle of the second quarter. Jacksonville and New England both 14. The tie would hold through the end of the second quarter.

Come the third quarter, it took roughly seven minutes for the tie to be broken….by the Patriots with a TD by wide receiver Wes Welker. Jacksonville narrowed the point gap with a field goal towards the end of the third quarter. New England 21 and Jacksonville 17. With less than two minutes on the clock in the third quarter, the Patriots scored another TD (thanks to Benjamin Watson).

The fourth quarter ran six minutes and the Jaguars got a field goal. The Patriots made one as well on their next drive. New England 31 and Jacksonville 20. And that would be the final score. Was there any real doubt that New England would be victorious tonight and go onto the AFC Championship Game?

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Jaguars defensive tackle John Henderson sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on New England’s first snap of the game.

2. Thinking back on two other games the Patriots played where they didn’t completely dominate their opponent in the first half–specifically

Against the Indianapolis Colts on November 4.

Against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 25–

tonight’s game against the Jaguars was probably the most unwieldy..in the sense that going into halftime, both teams were tied 14 to 14. Two touchdowns each.

3. No matter if the Jaguars made a mistake or executed a play well, whenever the camera cut to a close-up of Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio appeared anxious and a bit sad. Bill Belichick, th Patriots head coach, wore one expression too–something that signified skepticism and determination. His shots included more high angle medium shots, though.

4. Upon returning to the game from commercial break after New England’s field goal gave them 31 points, footage (possibly taken during the commercial) of Tom Brady petting Wes Welker’s head on the sidelines was aired. Brady must be letting that facial hair grow because of winter weather.

Get game summary, stats, and play by play here.

NFC Divisional 2008: Packers seal up the Seahawks

Lambeau Field. Thirty-six degrees Fahrenheit. Snow.

The Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks strut their stuff before each other to be another step closer to the Super Bowl. Televised on Fox, the first quarter was nothing short of adrenaline-escalating beauty. Two fumbles by Packers running back Ryan Grant led to two touchdowns by Seattle (thanks to running back Shaun Alexander and wide receiver Bobby Engram). As the frozen precipitation continued to fall and the turf became whiter and whiter, Green Bay got themselves back on track and by the end of the first quarter, the Packers tied the game 14 to 14 (courtesy of wide receiver Greg Jennings and Grant).

Green Bay took over the reigns in the second quarter, putting fourteen more points on the board with touchdowns by Jennings and Grant. Going into halftime, the Seahawks had 17 points (a field goal provided three points in the second quarter) to the Packers’ 28.

The third quarter began with a touchdown by Packers running back Brandon Jackson. As the quarter was nearing its end, Seattle got another field goal for 20 total points (how did kicker Josh Brown see through all that falling snow?). The fourth quarter started with a third TD by Ryan Grant. Packers 42 and Seahawks 20. And that would be the final score. Green Bay is going to the NFC Championship game next Sunday at 6:30pm on Fox.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. When the camera took the high angle, long shot point-of-view, the snow didn’t appear as plentiful as it did when the camera switched to an on-field POV. The snow-powdered field reminded me of a green tea pastry. By the middle of the third quarter, though, the snowfall increased significantly and even from a high angle, long shot POV, it was quite visible. In fact, the snow actually resembled plummeting clumps of brownies than snow. Cutting to an on-field POV, the snow nearly reached curtain consistency/texture. The yard lines had to be brushed (and later shoveled) from time to time. By the bottom of the third quarter, the turf had basically turned into a white powdered sugar pastry–a beignet. The view from the DLP Skycam was much clearer than that of other cameras. The snow lost a bit of momentum in the top of the fourth quarter. Visibility was better (from a televised aesthetic standpoint). A small tractor took to clearing the snow around the end zones. Lambeau Field turf was back to looking like a green tea pastry (only less green more gray) towards the bottom of the fourth quarter.

2. After Greg Jennings made his first touchdown of the evening, he leaped into the stands behind the end zone for a hug by Green Bay fans. Brandon Jackson would do something similar after making a TD in the top of the third quarter.

3. Ryan Grant’s second touchdown in the second quarter followed an incredibly executed, improvised play. Avoiding a sack, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre managed to stay on his feet (while stumbling forward) and tossed the ball to tight end Donald Lee, who ran eleven yards before being tackled by Seahawks strong safety Brian Russell.

4. Commentator Kenny Albert said “running backs should always follow fullbacks” in the bottom of the first quarter.

5. Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins “helped” in the sacking of Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the bottom of the fourth quarter. The camera went to an on-field, medium close-up of the scene, immediately post-sack. Jenkins, who was facing the camera, did a little dance that received a slow-motion instant replay. I don’t know what Jenkins’s legs were doing, but there was side-to-side movement and his hands ran from his helmet to his waist, mimicking the falling of tears or rain. I say Jenkins “helped” because I’m not sure if his hands made contact with Hasselbeck’s body. His dance could’ve been performed out of general happiness, but I remember seeing more than one Packer swarm the Seahawk QB.

Get game summary, stats, and play by play here.

Reveling in Rivalry: More on Army-Navy

I’ve read 75% of John Feinstein’s book on the Army-Navy rivalry. I found these passages particularly intriguing:

Feinstein recounts the 1995 Army-Air Force game in chapter 16 and observes thatemotional rhetoric is a big part of football. The reason for that is simple: going out to play a football game–even going out to practice–isn’t like other sports. To play well, you almost certainly must endure pain. You are going to be hit and you must hit back–harder. You are going to feel tired, probably exhausted, but you have to keep going. You are going to endure aches and pains throughout the season, the kind that won’t go away–if they ever do–until after you stop playing the game (276).

That makes it important to emphasize and reemphasize the commitment individuals have to a team. If you are determined not to let your friends, your buddies, your comrades down, you will push forward even when your body is telling your mind it has had enough” (277).

Feinstein then articulates, “What bothered the Army players most about the losing streak to Air Force was that they couldn’t figure out a reason for it. If they had lost six straight times to Notre Dame they wouldn’t like it, but they would understand it. But being dominated by Air Force made no sense because the schools were similar, even if the dorms at Air Force were a little plusher and there were more TVs–and the gap between Army and Navy each year was usually about the width of a thumbnail.

The losing streak had fallen into a distressing pattern: at home, the Cadets would keep the game close–losing 15-3, 7-3, and 10-6. On the road, they would get blown out: 29-3, 25-0, 25-6. In fact, Army hadn’t scored a touchdown at Air Force since 1987. That was a long time to go between extra-point attempts” (277-278).

Contributing factors to the Air Force might? Altitude (thin air, less oxygen) was considered, but attempts to address that issue didn’t resolve the matter of losses. Consistent coaching staff wasn’t it either (278). Feinstein suggests, “a large part of it was recruiting. For geographic reasons, Air Force had an advantage in recruiting anyone west of the Mississippi, and it had a large edge in California, which was one of the most football-rich states in the country” (278-279).

In terms of attracting future players, I really like the inclusion of this point:

Finally, there was image. Army and Navy certainly had the edge in tradition, and no game Air Force was going to play in was going to equal Army-Navy in national appeal or or attention. But, that was one game. Air Force sold, to put it bluntly, the Wild Blue Yonder. Tom Cruise in Top Gun was the best recruiter Air Force had. Come to Air Force, fly superfast jets for a living,and hang out with Kelly McGillis when you’re on the ground. Even General Graves admitted that the more glamorous image of the Air Force worked in its favor.

‘There is such a thing as Army Aviation…but let’s face it, when you think of Air Force, you think of flying, blue skies, sunglasses and all. When you think of Army, you then to think about activities that usually are associated with mud.’

“Ouch. The Army coaches would no doubt wince at that description, but there was little doubt that just as Navy pitched the romance of the sea, Air Force talked often about the glamour of the sky. Army had to sell tradition and leadership. Sometimes that worked. In recent years, it had not been enough to beat Air Force” (279).

Army did lose to Air Force that year and not only did it take them an extra long time to get home (plane and weather issues), but just getting away from the vicinity of Air Force’s stadium was taxing because “traffic is always slow getting out of Air Force because there is only one main road leading out of the stadium. Unlike other schools, Air Force refuses to clear a path for the visiting team’s bus to get them through the traffic” (288).

Chapter 18 covers the period of time leading up to the Army-Navy game of 1995. Feinstein notes that Charlie Weatherbie of Navy and Bob Sutton of Army view the rivalry between the academies differently. Weatherbie “had thought the people on the Yard made too much of the rivalry with Army… ‘I’m not saying it isn’t a great rivalry or a big deal, but I don’t see it as being any different from Oklahoma-Oklahoma State or Alabama-Auburn or Florida-Florida State. Those are all big rivalries. They all come at the end of the season, so that makes them seem bigger. Navy-Army…is right up there with games like that. But I don’t see it being something beyond that‘” (310-311).

Clearly, Bob Sutton “felt differently. He had coached in twelve Army-Navy games, eight as an assistant, four as a head coach. He had been involved in other rivalry games before arriving at Army, including Michigan-Ohio State and North Carolina State-North Carolina. In his mind, nothing came close to Army-Navy. If someone had told him be could coach only one more game in his life, it would be Army-Navy.

‘It’s not something you can understand until you’ve been through it…The seniors all know it’s the last game they’ll ever play, with maybe on exception every three or four years. They all want that last memory of football to be a good one, and they’ll do anything to win‘” (311).

I’m wondering the following:

1. Does Air Force still choose not to provide an open path for the visiting team after the game is over?

2. Is the Army-Navy rivalry different from those between non-service schools? If so, how?

I liked that Feinstein brought up Air Force’s benefiting from Top Gun in PR and branding. Released in American theatres in May of 1986, Tony Scott’s film came into a country led by Ronald Reagan. According to IMDB, Scott’s film had a budget of around $15,000,000 and more than made its money back.

If the visual presentation of Air Force incited desire to matriculate, the music sealed the deal. Can you “Take My Breath Away” ?

For more Army-Navy excerpts, click here.

I was five years old when Top Gun played in theatres. We had the soundtrack on vinyl–I wonder if we still do. Bob Sutton was born one day and thirty years before I was; I am also exactly two days older than Justin Timberlake.