Monday, January 19, 2015

NFC Champions: A Series of Unlikely Events

I don’t even know what to say about the NFC Championship game. It basically left me unable to articulate myself. I mean if you saw it you must kinda understand what I mean. What do you say about such a crazy game? You cant really recreate the experience with typed words. You had to experience the game live. However any self-respecting Seattle sports centered blogger has to make on post about his game.  So, I am gonna try.

On Sunday the Seahawks beat the Packers 28-22 in the NFC Championship game. In a vacuum this result isn't that surprising. The Seahawks were favored in Las Vegas by 7.5 points. Leading up to the game they had been on a tear through the NFC. The had won seven straight games. The thing is this game shouldn't be viewed in a vacuum. With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, this victory was completely unexpected.  From a nonbiased opinion, the game had been sloppy, but good to watch. From a Seahawk fan's point of view it was a complete disaster.  The Seahawks offense had been so inept in the first half that quarterback Russell Wilson had complete more passes to the Packers than to the Seahawks (3-2). Then, in the third quarter, after another Seahawks offense series had stalled short, things got crazy. The series of very unlikely events started to unfold. 

The story line of this game was too crazy. I doubt Hollywood would even consider writing a script like this. Outcomes like this just don’t happen, especially at the professional level. The Producers would assume everyone would deem it to unbelievable. Good thing Hollywood wasn't in charge of this game. Here is a recap of the craziness.

  • The Seahawks trail the Packers 16-0 at half time and their star QB has 2 completions for 12 yards and 3 interceptions.
  • On fourth down, during a field goal attempt, Seahawks P Jon Ryan takes off running and finds OT Garry Gilliam (whoever he is) running free in the endzone for a wide open TD pass.
  • With Seahawks fans clinging to hope, Russell Wilson throws his fourth INT with 5:04 left in the game. The interception, like the first three, is on a pass targeted to WR Jermaine Kearse.
  • After the pick, with the Packers looking to end the game by running out the clock the Seahawks defense comes in and forces a three and out.
  • The Seahawks offense, which has been epicly bad at passing, drives 69 yards and scores a TD with a 1 yard Russell Wilson run.
  • Down by five with 2:09 left in the game, the Seahawks were forced to attempt an onside kick. The ball bounces high and ricochets off the head of Green Bay player Brandon Bostick. Seahawks WR Chris Matthews (who had no catches during  the regular season) snags the ball out of the air and keeps the Seahawks hopes alive.
  • RB Marshawn Lynch catches a pass and tip toes 20+ yards into the endzone for what appears to be the go ahead score. Upon review it is clear Lynch stepped out of bounds.
  • Shortly after his potential lead changing TD is overturned, in true Beast Mode fashion, Marshawn Lynch bursts free for a 24 yard TD run and gives Seattle their first lead.
  • In order to secure a three point lead and eliminate the chance of a last second field goal beating them the Seahawks go for two. Running around in the back field quarterback Wilson hucks the ball high into the air in what appears to be an attempt at a throw away. Instead it turns out to be a pass that lands right in the hands of TE Luke Willson who converts the two point play.
  • By scoring early the Seahawks gave the Packers a chance to possess the ball again with 1:25 to play. Aaro Rodgers, the best QB in the game, had three timeouts and plenty of time to drive down field and crush all of Seattle dreams. Instead the Seahawks defense held Packers to a FG and forced overtime.
  • The Seahawks sent backup QB Tarvaris Jackson, K Steven Haushka, and P Jon Ryan (also maybe a backup QB) out for the OT coin flip. Collectively they stood their noded their heads to signale understanding of the overtime rules and watch the coin land heads (some might wonder if Tarvaris has psychic powers). This ensured the Seahawks offense would get the ball.
  • Russell Wilson completes two 35 yard passes in OT. The first is to Doug Baldwin. The second is to Jermaine Kearse, the same WR that had seen four other passes directed towards him picked off. His final catch is for the game winning touchdown.

In case you dont believe what you just read let me recap the recap for you. The Seahawks scored 15 points in 44 seconds, recovered an onside kick, convert a PAT, held an amazing QB to a FG, and won in OT. This series of events unfolding, in this order, in the NFC Championship, and with so little time left, if super unlikely. It was probably the most unlikely finish in NFL history. ESPN calculated that after the fourth and final interception the Packers had a 96% chance of winning the game. That basically means the Packers win this game 25 out of 26 times. Realistically, the chances were probably even smaller because it was the NFC Championship game and two really good teams were playing. But probability is a funny thing. Just because an event is really unlikely doesn’t mean isn't going to happen. Sometimes people do flip a coin heads five times in a row. And sometime the Seahawks do sail into the Super Bowl of a huge helping of grit, determination and luck.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The SEC West and Perception vs Reality

Projecting an image of strength is a very important defense mechanism in nature. It is why many animals (think cats) will puff up their fur and make themselves big when they sense danger. They are trying to create the illusion that they are dangerous and not to be taken lightly. In reality the creature may be a 10 pound weakling, but how the threat perceives them is more important than the reality. A large bark is often better than a hard bite.

Much like nature, in college football perception matters, often more than reality. There are too many NCAA Division 1 teams for them all to play each other. Instead we have to use like opponents and strength of schedule to try and gage how good teams really are. Talking heads and sports writers guide the public discussion based on their often flawed opinions. The perceived quality of teams is used to schedule bowl game matchups.

The goal of the schedulers is to  create as many classics as possible. They want people to remember their bowls. Think Boise State vs Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. That game was so intriguing that it added to the cache of the Fiesta Bowl. It helped bolster their brand. However, often these bowl games don't end up so much fun. They often result in blowouts. They expose to the world the reality of a team's strength or weakness. This year the bowl season revealed just how wrong the common perception about the SEC West was.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Question for Elias Sports Bureau

Yesterday the UW Huskies lost to the OSU Cowboys 30-22 i the Cactus Bowl. This was a game that UW should have won. It was also a game that highlighted one of the strangest things about the Huskies 2014 season. They have three All-American Defenders on their team (Shelton, Kikaha, Thompson), yet, during the regular season, they still gave up 24.4 points per game and 405.8 yards per game. These stats ranked them fourth and fifth n the Pac-12. What I want to know is, has team ever had so many standout individual defensive players yet been so bad at team defense? Somebody with an Elias Sports Bureau or Stats Inc contact please figure this out. It is simply amazing to me.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Few Tidbits from Around the Web: Cardinals Lose, Cardinals Lose

On 12/21/14 the Seattle Seahawks destroyed the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona. The game stayed close until the second half when the Seahawks turned on the jets and flew away from the Cardinals. This win deserves recognition. It is huge and it puts the Seahawks in control of their own destiny. As such I think this win deserve attention on this blog so I am providing you a few links to some great commentary or related content. Her are a few tidbits from around the web.

  • With their win over the Cardinals the Seahawks took control of the NFC West with an 11-4 record. This was the fifth straight win and an impressive feat for a team that many were questioning after they lost to the Rams and fell to 3-3. This win adds power to Bob Condotta's argument that Pete Carroll should be in the running for Coach of the year.
  • Field Gulls pointed out that Marshawn Lynch is not only an amazing running back but also ambidextrous.
  • The game featured yet another classic Marshawn Lynch run. After missing the first quarter with stomach issues Marshawn ripped off this 79-yard run for a touchdown.
  • Prior to the Eagles, Hugh Millen cemented himself as a true twelfth man when he defended Marshawn Lynch on KJR.
  • If you are like me you were down on Luke Willson prior to this game. His continued drops were annoying.Then, BAM, against Arizona he grabbed 2 TD and 139 yards on 3 catches. Most impressive to me was his acceleration away from the defense.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Congratulations Danny Shelton

The NCAA continues to insist that student athletes are exactly that, students who are also athletes. In this role they are required to attend classes while on scholarship to play a sport for the university. For many football and basketball players this is kind of a joke. Players take the lighted credit load allowed and fill it with easy classes. Turn on any bowl game this season and you will see a string of communications majors parade out on the field. We usually laugh it off as just a bunch of dumb jocks, but it is sad so many young people are wasting a opportunity at such a valuable experience. So when a player actually does take his/her eduction seriously and puts in the hard work required I think they deserve to be recognized.

The Academic All-American awards do exactly this. Their goal is to honor student athletes that excel in the class room as well as on the playing field. This year only one Pac-12 football player made the team. That player also happens to be the first UW Husky to be honored with the award since 1991. Congratulations to Danny Shelton on being named an Academic All-American. You should be proud of the 3.54 GPA you accumulated and the Anthropology degree you will earn. You are a shining example for student athletes everywhere and the University of Washington should be proud of you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The MLS Playoffs Need to Change

Recently the Seattle Sounders defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 at CenuryLink Field. Normally this would be cause for celebration . The hometown team defeated a big rival, in a playoff game. But there was one little twist to this particular game , it was the second leg of the MLS Western Conference Finals. This meant, thanks to the stupidity of the MLS playoff format, the Sounders victory was actually a defeat and resulted in them being ousted from the playoffs.

The MLS playoffs are based on the aggregate goals scored by each team over the course of a two game series. One game is played at each teams home site. If the total goals scored by each team end up even after the two games, the victor is decided by whoever scored the most goals on the road. This often results in a team winning the second game at home, but losing the series, exactly like what happened in the Sounders-Galaxy series.

In no other major North American sport's championship playoffs can a team win the final game of a series but still lose. Could you even imagine the Yankees losing to the Red Sox in game seven, but still heading to the World Series? Probably not because it is just plain un-American. Winning playoff games should result in winning playoff series. The MLS playoff format is just dumb. They need to change.

A better format would be to play best two out of three, with no ties allowed. If the game is tied after 90 minutes you simply take one player off each team every five minutes until someone wins. As an example the Sounders and Galaxy are tied after 90 minutes so each drops to 10 men and play 10v10 for five minutes. If there is still no score another man is removed from each team and the play conitinues 9v9. At some point in the 7v7 area we are basically guaranteed to have a winner. This method would ensure a winner in each game. First team to win two games wins the series.

The best of three games series would also allow the league to eliminate the confusing and powerful, but stupid, away goals tie breaker. It would return the a goal equals a goal equals a goal sensibility that is currently missing from the system. Why should a goal scored in front of fans of the opposition be worth extra? It is simple really, it shouldn't.

The three game series would also allow for the team with the better record to have a true home field advantage. Whoever had the most regular season points would get two home games. It would probably make since to award them the first and third, but you could also give them the second and third. It doesn't really matter. It would be a home field advantage and a reason to fight for that top seed. The current system awards the second leg to the series to the team with the better season, which just results in disgruntled fans.

One downfall of the first to two series format is it could drag the already long soccer season into January and basically eliminate the offseason. But this has an easy fix. MLS would just need to schedule more than one game a week. This is nit that horrendous. Players wouldn't all suddenly drop dead with exhaustion. Baseball, basketball, and hockey all play multiple game in a week. Sure a single baseball game is much less physically demanding than soccer, but basketball is at the least equivalent and hockey is clearly much more demanding. MLS wouldn't even have to go all the way to two games a week. They could do some kind of hybrid like  Friday, Tuesday, Saturday schedule for each series. This would give players three days off between each game in a series and five games off between series. This should be plenty of time to recover.

It is time for the MLS to join all the other major sports leagues and implement a respectable playoff system. They need to eliminate the aggregate goal system.  No more loser moves on. No more confused fans. No more un-American playoff systems. No more stupid (who am I kidding this is soccer there is always going to be some stupid, but I am ok with that).

Monday, December 8, 2014

Learn an NBA Roster: Los Angeles Lakers

It's time for another edition of everyone's favorite blog post: "Learn an NBA Roster!"  Yes, now is the chance for you to learn about all the players you don't care about on the teams you don't care about.  Previously on "Learn an NBA Roster," we looked at the cream of the tanking crop: the Philadelphia 76ers.  Nobody really cares about the 76ers, and for good reason.  If you are a 76ers fan, let me be the first to say: my sincere apologies, KJ McDaniels' mom.  Rest assured, your team is not alone in its anonymity.  This year marks one of the strangest occurrences in NBA history, outside of the entirety of Darryl Dawkins' career.  The Los Angeles Lakers are tanking.  The Los Angeles Lakers are filled with players you've never heard of.

Take a breath.  We all know how strange those two statements are, but they are indisputably fact.  Gone are the days of Kobe and Shaq, though Kobe remains hilariously certain that he is that good.  Gone is Lamar Odom, who used to destroy just about everything before succumbing to the dangers of lots and lots of Hershey's kisses.  Gone is Pau Gasol, who thankfully gets to contribute to a team worth watching (until Tom Thibodeau plays him 85 minutes one night and he dies on the spot).

Instead, we have a roster of forgotten partial icons and players that may all be just one guy wearing different jerseys (look at Xavier Henry, Jordan Clarkson, and Wesley Johnson.  Tell me they are not a progression of Wes animorph-ing into Henry).  That doesn't mean there's on reason to pay attention to them, though!  They're still on national TV 26 times this season, so you'll be forced to watch them instead of say, the Milwaukee Bucks or some other team that doesn't make you cry.  Yes, we live in a bizarro world where the Lakers are bad and the Clippers are good.  The Lakers are the Jamie Lee Curtis to the Clippers' Lindsey Lohan, and we've all been Freaky Friday'd.