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Column: On Golf and Other Things Out of Doors

Ashes

By Jim Rice

Darn it, I really hate to have to write this article. Praising the Patriots and Tom Brady just sticks in my Southern craw like a crosswise fishbone. The Patriots single handedly removed both of my teams from the 2017 season; they defeated the Steelers in the AFC Championship game and broke the hearts of all Atlanta fans in the most exciting Super Bowl in recent memory.

The Super Bowl games, historically, have been pretty one-sided and unexciting games. Super Bowl 51 certainly was not that. In the early going it appeared that it might be a one-sided game with Atlanta leading the Pats 28 to 3, at one point, and 28 to 9 at the end of quarter 3. It turned out, however, to be two lopsided games; the Falcons half and the Patriots half.

Down by 19 points at the beginning of the 4th quarter, the Patriots never lost faith, never lost confidence and never lost stamina. Their second half performance of 31 unanswered points was a Sherman-like march to the total destruction of Atlanta. There was no “rising up”; just ashes and broken hearts left behind.

I read a few Monday morning quarterback articles, with lots of conversation about stamina; the Pats offense versus the Falcons defense. I only have one question; why, when they both play the same number of plays and have the exact same amount of on field time, does the offense stay rested and the defense gets exhausted? I’m sure that there are long technical answers to that but the fact remains that the Atlanta defense could not stop the Patriots “March to the Sea”.

And then there was the missing field goal; really? You have the best kicker in the league and you give up 25 yards on consecutive sacks and penalties to take you out of even his range? An 11-point lead at that juncture might have been unsurmountable but, there’s that Monday morning quarterback thing again.

Here’s my take on both the Steelers loss and the Falcons loss. Neither team had the self-belief to play steady, conservative, well managed, disciplined football. The Steelers, with one of the best running backs in the league, continued to throw 40-yard incompletions on third downs instead of running the one yard needed to make a first down and win the game.

The Falcons, ignored the most steadfast rule in football, “take the points.” Take the chip shot field goal and this story is going to be so much more fun to write.

How many football fans, from both sides of the ball, questioned the Pat’s decision to kick the field goal in the fourth quarter, leaving them the need to score two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions to win? How many from the opposing side of the ball get tired of the Pat’s dinky pass plays—5 yards, 7 yards, 8 yards, 4 yards; first downs, touchdowns, victories and Super Bowl titles—while the rest of us ask “How the heck did we just lose to these guys”?

Oh, well, there’s always next year, right??

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