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Patriots Week

“Ownage is Ownage.” – Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper

I should confess that I don’t know if “Kruk ad Kuip” (San Francisco Giants color commentator and play-by-play man, respectively) actually invented this saying. If they did it’s likely it only  took one of them. I don’t really see them sitting around:

  • Krukow: Hey Kuip, I got this phrase I’ve been working on. You know, like when a pitcher absolutely dominates a hitter. So far all I got is “Ownage is..” Then I hit a wall. Any ideas?
  • Kuiper: Ownage is.. Ownage is… mhhmmmm.. Well ownage is, uh, ownage is ownage. I guess. Right?
  • Krukow: [stunned] You’re a god damned genius.

So while I don’t actually know who invented “ownage is ownage,”  I do know that since 2001 the New England Patriots have exhibited a staggering amount of ownage over the Pittsburgh Steelers. So much ownage has been wrought upon the black and gold by the Pats that Patriot week in Pittsburgh feels an awful lot like finals week during that semester of college where you did nothing but slam top-shelf margs at the local tavern and sleep until 4pm every day. You know you’ve got no chance to pass any of your exams and the whole week is going to be one massive, embarrassing failure. But you have to go out there in front of god and country and suck hard for all to see. There’s no other option. This is the feeling right now in tPittsburgh. It’s amazing.

I’ve been gone for a while, but this feeling is familiar. There is dark, stinking cloud of pessimism hanging over this city. Sports talk radio has been a comedic mix of fans and hosts resigning their beloved Steelers to the fate of another throttling at the hands of BradyChick empire. Hosts and analysts – both local and national – speak not of ‘what the Steelers need to do to beat the Patriots,’ but rather asking themselves, ‘how in god’s name can the Steelers beat the Patriots?’ Steelers not in awe of Patriots explains an ESPN article.The way the article is written it feels like the editor removed the word “somehow” after “Steelers” in that headline.

Steeler fans and media have a little brother complex when it comes to the Patriots. Against other teams we feel like the Steelers always have a chance to win. The pre-game narrative changes during Patriots week. Brady and Belichick do this to teams. A lot of teams. They own people. They own coaches. They are the modern-era Walsh and Montana: a coach who seems to be smarter than every one of his peers and a quarterback who understands him in a way that turns them both into dominant forces. I am convinced Tom Brady is the player he is today because of Bill Belichick. (Consider Matt Cassel’s 2008 season: from a nobody on the bench to a 3600 yard phenom in 16 weeks).

Physically, Tom Brady is not particularly gifted. In fact, he’s particularly not gifted. He’s a decent size (6’4″ 225lbs.) but not especially strong so he doesn’t shed tacklers like Ben Roethlisberger or Josh Freeman. He’s godawfully slow. Runs like a donkey. And because of this, 1) he’s never a threat to run and 2) his rollout passing game is non-existent.

However what he lacks in strength and speed, he makes up for with his arm.  He is deceivingly strong and knee-bucklingly accurate. His entire career he has been surrounded by top-notch offensive lines, allowing him to stand about in the pocket until one of his (almost always) mediocre receivers reveals a modicum of openness into which Brady zings the ball. He is tremendous at this. This is what he does. This is all he does.

Belichick realizes Brady’s physical limitations and strengths. For that matter, he realizes his entire team’s limitations and strengths. This might seem like a rather obvious and  prerequisite skill for a coach to have, but it is staggering how many seem to lack this. You know how Ray Rice only carried the ball eight times for the Ravens on Monday night and Joe Flacco threw over thirty times? Belichick would never make a mistake like that.

Belichick knows his team’s strengths and weaknesses extremely well and he manages his games to that end. Brady throws the ball a ton. Wes Welker catches lots of passes in space so that he can make a few moves and rack up the yards. High passes are thrown to tall receivers. The Patriots don’t run much because they don’t have a greatly skilled running back, so they throw short passes that serve effectively as running plays. They play an intelligent defense that is designed to limit mistakes. They focus on forcing turnovers, having forced eleven through six games. (Although I suspect this has largely to do with the poor-quality passers they have faced.) They will allow yards but try to limit opponents to field goals.

There isn’t a whole lot going on here that is difficult to understand. What separates the Patriots is Tom Brady’s arm and the team’s crisp execution.

For some reason the Steelers find this to be unbeatable. So much so that fans find themselves – myself included – rationalizing a loss to the Patriots before it even happens. There is no excuse for this. The Steelers have beaten Brady and Belichick before. In 2004 the Steelers crushed the Patriots 34-20 at Heinz Field, ending their 21-game winning streak. It was week eight. Halloween. This year’s game is also week eight, and only one day before Halloween. SPOOKY.

I hope the Steelers win Sunday not only because it is a vitally important game  in the standings but because I want Steeler fans and the media to get over the Patriots. When the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl last season I heard a lot of, “Well the Steelers sure got lucky the Patriots stone-cold choked against the Jets cause there is noooooo way they’d have beaten Brady at home!”

It’s time to put this garbage to rest.

****

And now, picks

Last week: 4-8-1 (thank you very little, Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco)

Overall: 47-50-6

Home team in CAPS

****

Colts (+9.5) over TITANS

Jaguars (+10) over TEXANS

Vikings (+3.5) over PANTHERS

Saints (-14) over RAMS

RAVENS (-13) over Cardinals

Dolphins (+10.5) over GIANTS

BILLS (-6) over Redskins

Cowboys (+3.5) over EAGLES

Chargers (-4) over CHIEFS

BRONCOS (+3.5) over Lions

Bengals (-2.5) over SEAHAWKS

49ERS (-9.5) over Browns

STEELERS (+3) over Patriots (I mean, after the last thousand words how can I possibly pick the Pats?)

 

 

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