The crash landing is coming


The crash landing is coming

By Michael Felger

A few things:

Here's an example of why the Jets will ultimately come up short this year:

Late Monday night, in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in their harder-than-it-should-have-been victory over Minnesota, the Jets had an easy chance to kill the clock and put the game out of reach well before Brett Favre puked on his shoes. Only they blew it.

The Jets had just gotten a first down on a Mark Sanchez pass to Santonio Holmes when the Vikings called their last timeout with 2:47 left on the clock. At that point, the Jets basically needed a seven-second play to end the game. A pitch to the outside, or a rollout by Sanchez, or some other slow-developing play, would have done the trick. Heck, Sanchez could have run backwards 15 yards. It didn't matter. The play didn't have to gain any yards, it just had to get them to the two-minute warning. With Minnesota out of timeouts, the Jets then could have taken two knees, milked the 40-second clock down to the last seconds each time, and punted the ball away to the Vikings with around 30 seconds left in the game.

Instead, the Jets called a quick dive into the line, forcing them to snap the ball once more before the two-minute warning. And making matters worse, they called a pass. That play ended up bouncing incomplete with 2:04 left, which necessitated another snap before the two-minute warning. Another incomplete. The Jets then punted away with a hefty 1:56 left in the game, which was more than enough time for Favre to move the Vikings into field-goal range.

Thankfully for the Jets, Favre turned into Favre (he's the most overrated two-minute quarterback in the history of football, folks) and Randy Moss was his usual do-nothing self when it counted so New York escaped with the victory.

But Rex Ryan and the Jets won't be so lucky against Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger down the line. Ultimately, that poor attention to detail is going to cost them.

Meanwhile, I feel bad for the fans of Minnesota. You think you got a guy to put you over the top. Instead, you got a guy who is going to score a touchdown or two a game but won't make an appreciable difference in your won-loss record.

I witnessed Monday night's game from the stands at the New Meadowlands and I basically spent most of my time watching Randy. What I saw was Moss running about 40 vertical routes down the numbers and that's about it. Antonio Cromartie had him covered most of the time. Sometimes Favre threw it up to him, sometimes he didn't. The net impact was a lovely 37-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter and not much else (Moss finished with four catches on 10 targets).

Get used to it, Minnesota.

And see you next year.

(That said, I loved the Vikings' first play: a pass from Moss to Favre out of a double-reverse. The play was called back on a penalty, but so what? It was fun. I wonder if that came from Brad Childress, or if Moss and Favre just drew it up in the huddle).

Finally, you folks are going to like Deion Branch back in the Patriots offense. He won't make any one-handed, 40-yard touchdown catches in the back of the end zone over Darrelle Revis, but he'll move the chains and make Brady feel comfortable.

Dumping Moss for Branch is the best move the Pats have made in a long, long time.

The AFC championship game is scheduled for Jan. 23. See you there.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.