February 12, 2017


Judging the Patriots' Place in NFL History (Peter King, Feb. 9th, 2017, MMQB)

The MMQB looked at the best teams in league history over at least a 12-year period, and here were the interesting findings about where the Patriots of 2001 to 2016 rank with them:

• New England's regular-season winning percentage of .766 over these 16 seasons is the best of any team in league history in a span of at least 12 years.

• New England has won 14 division titles in those 16 seasons, the highest rate of division/conference titles won by a franchise over that span.

• Including playoff games, no team over a long term has averaged as many wins as New England, 13.8, in a season. That, of course, is helped by the fact that playoffs have expanded. But it's still an impressive number. The Patriots' 13.8 wins is a full win better, on average, than San Francisco's 12.7 wins from 1981 to 1998. [...]

It's harder to stay great today because of free agency and the salary cap. As our Robert Klemko reported before the Super Bowl, the Patriots do have the advantage over other contemporary teams in that players will sacrifice money to play for a perennial Super Bowl contender. "I would have played this year for $5," said defensive end Chris Long, who eschewed more years and money to sign a one-year, $2.3-million deal in New England. "I just wanted to be here."

That's a significant edge, but the greatest players aren't going to stay for cents on the dollar. Adam Vinatieri didn't. Deion Branch didn't. Darrelle Revis didn't. Lawyer Milloy didn't. More recently, New England feared it would not be able to sign either of its two best front-seven players from 2015, Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, and so traded both in 2016. In a perfect world they'd have kept at least Jones long-term to buttress their pass-rush. When Joe Greene and Jack Lambert were drafted by the Steelers, the team had control of their services until the organization didn't want them anymore. So Pittsburgh hit the draft jackpot and won four Super Bowls and nine division titles in 13 years. That's what makes the Patriots' .766 regular-season winning percentage in their 16-year run so impressive in comparison--the Steelers, with much more control over their roster, were .690 over their 13-year run of greatness.

Bill Belichick's Super Bowl XXV Game Plan (Mark Mravic, 5/14/14, MMQB)

Super Bowl XXV, played between the Bills and the Giants on January 27, 1991, is best known for "wide right," Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood's missed 47-yard game-winner as the clock expired. Just as noteworthy, though, is the way the Giants defense, coached by coordinator Bill Belichick, stopped Jim Kelly and the Bills' K-Gun offense. Kelly was the best quarterback in the league during the 1990 season, piloting a high-powered no-huddle attack that led the league in scoring and hung  51 points on the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game. Belichick had different plans for the Super Bowl: He deployed extra defensive backs to take away Kelly's deep options, and instructed his defenders to hit hard to limit the short passing game. Final score: Giants 20, Bills 19. 

Belichick's defensive plan for that Super Bowl is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and rightly so--it's tangible evidence of one of the most creative minds the game has seen.

Posted by at February 12, 2017 6:34 PM