Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Late Stockings

So far, 2005 has been both kind and unkind to The Ninth. In the unfortunate department, Blogger has mysteriously stopped functioning at my office, suggesting that somehow The Ninth Official Boss has caught on to my screwing off/prize winning journalism. I fear he has noticed my constant (ahem) typing and found a way to block the website from our server. The immutable law of employment: if your workers appear to be trying, something, surely, is wrong. This means that The Ninth Home Office has had to move to my actual home, and the Y don't have computers. I will look into fixing this problem at work, if anyone has suggestions, feel free to email. Failing that, I'll do my best to post from the abode, but really, who wants to do that? Now, onto the good news. It seems that at long last, after a diligent letter writing campaign by hundreds of (simulated) readers, The Ninth has found its way to the airwaves. Originally, a deal was brokered with Sir Richard Attenborough to read old columns on CD, allowing families to hear my wit and insight as they traveled to the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, and other American landmarks. That fell through however when Mrs. Richard Attenborough discovered that her husband has been dead for three years. So, Plan B was swiftly put into action: calling in to a radio show. I have been asked by The Zone in Boston to dial in on Fridays and chat for a bit about sports, politics, and delightful summer recipes. Mostly sports though. The station is 1510 on your AM dial, and the show is called Further Review. My dashing voice should appear sometime between 2 and 4, and can be listened to on the internet at If you get a chance, give a listen. And if it's not Friday and you're looking for some solid sports talk, listen anyway. The station is good, and growing. Now, with the housekeeping complete, let's move on to the world of sports.

New England Patriots:

There's a football game this weekend, and for perhaps the first time this playoff season, both of the competitors are actually good. As you are certainly aware, the Colts are facing the Patriots on Sunday, in what might be the most interesting game this season. It's being billed as a classic battle between offense and defense, can the vaunted Payton Manning attack be stopped or slowed by the battered New England secondary? Will the gifted Indy quarterback slice and dice the Ty Law-less Patriots like a late-night infomercial? Well, he might, but if this question doesn't entirely miss the point, it surely does partially. Ty Law won't play, and that's not a good thing for New England, but it's getting overstated. Schemes are what have beaten the Colts in previous matchups, not personnel. Yes, Ty had 3 picks in last year's divisional match-up, but they were all in zone coverage, suggesting that any other player would be just as likely to make such a play. It's not that Ty was all over his man and Payton tried to zip a ball in that didn't belong, it's that New England had deceptively covered the entire field, and Manning made the mistake of throwing into hidden coverage. Would Law help in these situations, of course, but does his presence make them exist, I say no. If Belichick couldn't think on Sunday, I'd be worried, but #24 not being able to run does not bother me so.

This conversation so far has entirely ignored what will be the most factor of this week's game: New England's offense. Brady has torched Indy in each one of their meetings, and, truth be told, out-played the great Manning every time. 27 points, 24 points, 38 points, 38 points, and 44 points. Those have been the totals the five times he's played the Colts. That's, you know, a lot. So why do so many pundits think Belichick will try to control the clock and the ball with Corey Dillion pounding runs? Because they're simple, that's why. The way to beat Indy is to score a lot of points on their crappy secondary, and Tom Brady has done that every time he's tried. In fact, with a little more red zone efficiency, all of the above totals would be above 40, and people would talk a lot less about PM and a bit more about TB. Dillon will certainly be a factor this weekend, but I believe viewers will see a lot more of Brady's right arm than they expected.

One final point: if New England's run has been about anything the last few years, it's been about the importance of team over singular play. Now, all of a sudden, the Colts have the best single player in the league and the Patriots have lost their best single cornerback, and the world believes they're going to lose. Have we not been paying attention? This team's success is based on the strength of the group and the genius of their ideas. If Payton Manning can throw a touchdown past that, then they'll tip their caps to him. Until then, bet on the champs.