Well, you can’t win ’em all. Especially if you’re me. Friday I picked the Saints to beat the Bears 26-24, and the Colts to beat the Patriots 19-13.
- Bears 39, Saints 14
- Colts 38, Patriots 34
Big congratulations to all, .
And I’m more than happy to be wrong about the Bears this time. They had been suspect lately, and had not looked good on defense for weeks, both in not pressuring the quarterback, and in failing to produce takeaways. Today they did both, and it made all the difference.
I’m now beginning to believe that takeaways are the single biggest factor in winning football games, for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is that takeaways produce points, directly and indirectly. But beyond that, they change the game in a variety of subtle ways. They switch a posession from one team to the other, instantly. Momentum changes. For the team that turns the ball over, the offense is kept off the field longer, and the defense on the field longer, while the reverse is true for the team that takes the ball away. Advantage takeaway team. And when points are scored off turnovers, not only is there a net change of up to 14 points, but the team that lost the ball has that much less time to make up what is now more points. Play calling is often forced to change (even though I think often that is an ill-advised panic move, especially in the first half of a game). If a team goes away from the run, the opposing defense gets to tee off on the quarterback, which produces sacks and turnovers. Rinse and repeat.
The Bears forced at least 3 turnovers in many of their games this year, and produced 140-something points off turnovers, which led the NFL. Today they got 15 points off turnovers — 6 via field goals, 7 via touchdown, and 2 via safety — and it was obvious from watching the game that those points and the resulting momentum shift — again, especially from the safety — were big turning points. Without the turnovers, you have a much different game.
And the Colts – Patriots, wow, that was a tremendous game. The first half looked like a rout in favor of the Pats, who established a 21-3 shortly before the half. But the Colts stormed back and outscored them 35-13 the rest of the way, and looked dominant in the second half, both on offense and defense.
So two weeks from today, Colts and Bears. Strap it on, football fans.