Mike Nadel: Pats win because they play to win
One major reason the New England Patriots win: Bill Belichick rejects the play-not-to-lose mentality so many coaches embrace.
Twice facing third down early in their final drive of Sunday's AFC championship game against the San Diego Chargers, it would have been easy for the Patriots to run the ball, punt and assume their defense could protect a nine-point lead.
Instead, Belichick and his staff called pass plays both times, trusting Tom Brady and the highest-scoring offense in NFL history to do the right thing. Both times the Pats converted the first downs, and they proceeded to run out the last 9 minutes, 13 seconds.
This was nothing new for Belichick. He ushered in the No. 1 ongoing dynasty in pro sports back in the 2002 Super Bowl when, instead of playing for overtime, he let a then very green Brady aggressively direct the winning drive.
If more coaches played to win instead of not to lose, they might be surprised how often they'd win.
Football was featured prominently in recent editions of my blog. The Baldest Truth (www.thebaldesttruth.com) celebrated its one-year anniversary last week, and here are some more excerpts.
Five random thoughts from Conference Championship Sunday:
1. From the steam billowing out of tens of thousands of mouths at Lambeau Field to the snot dripping from Brett Favre's nose to Tom Coughlin's impossibly red face to Pam Oliver's report that the Packers weren't heating the Giants' bench to Plaxico Burress' punking Al Harris all night long to Lawrence Tynes cashing in on his third attempt for a winning field goal, the NFC title game offered everything any sports fan ever could want from a championship-class event.
2. Everybody knows Favre will have to hang it up one day ... but there is no freakin' way he's going to go out on an overtime interception that cost the Packers a Super Bowl trip. Stop the silliness now, Brett, and just announce your return.
3. Reporting on the condition of LaDainian Tomlinson, who entered the game with a knee injury and left it early, CBS sideline reporter Steve Tasker said Michael Turner playing instead of Tomlinson was "a coach's decision" rather than an indication that L.T. had reinjured his knee. Shame on the Chargers for feeding fraudulent information to Tasker, a former Pro Bowl player who deserved more respect. Shame on the team for lying to viewers. And shame on usually sharp announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms for not pressing the issue when it so obviously was not a coach's decision. No matter what anybody thinks of Norv Turner, the man wouldn't bench one of the top five backs ever just for the heck of it.
4. Now that I really think about it, how could I have been so wrong with my NFC prediction? I mean, Green Bay lost twice to the Bears. Of course the football gods wouldn't let the Packers go to the Super Bowl!
5. Patriots 38, Giants 17. And it won't be as close as that score might indicate.
The Cubs Convention - that orgy of rampant fanaticism, disgusting hero-worship and capitalism run amok - opened Friday with the "media social." For about 90 minutes, Lou Piniella and his players were punished for last year's playoff collapse by being forced into a small room with several dozen media mopes like me.
The top five Cubbie quotes I jotted into my reporter's notebook:
1. "Seventy-five, 85, 95, 100, whatever. However you cut it, it's been too long. I really don't see any difference between 95 years and 100 years, anyway. Besides, the law of averages says we're gonna win it one of these years, right?" - shortstop Ryan Theriot.
2. "No more predictions." - Carlos Zambrano, who a year ago said the Cubs would win the World Series and he would win the Cy Young Award.
3. "Best I've ever felt. I shouldn't say that because it could turn on me, but this is the best I've ever felt." - Ron Santo.
4. "I'm very happy with (Mark) DeRosa at second base. I really don't expect to do what you people are expecting us to do." - Piniella, on the likelihood of the Cubs trading for Orioles leadoff man/second baseman/admitted juicer Brian Roberts, a deal that has
been rumored for more than a month.
5. "That's like buying a Rolls Royce and trying to get Volkswagen mileage out if it." - Piniella, on whether he'll ask Alfonso Soriano to try to become more of a prototypical leadoff man if the Cubs don't get Roberts.
In the cards
Scott Rolen not only is out of St. Louis, but the newest Toronto Blue Jay is out of the country, having been traded by the Cardinals for Troy Glaus.
Congratulations, Tony La Russa ... you won!
Your Cardinals probably won't win more games than they lose in 2008, but at least you'll have a new injury-prone third baseman to trash.
By now, everybody knows of Terrell Owens' weepy defense of Cowboys party boy Tony Romo. What you might have missed were these five other things that brought T.O. to tears:
1. "Mama McNabb won't give me any more soup!"
2. "Hilary cries, and she wins a primary. I cry, and everybody teases me."
3. "Drew Rosenhaus is so misunderstood!"
4. "I miss Coach Mariucci!"
5. "Michael Bolton? Michael Bolton? Nicollette Sheridan told me she'd never drop her towel for anyone but me!"
Mike Nadel (email@example.com) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service.