"The main cautionary note for Denver faithful is that the formula the Broncs are using -- fantastic pass-wacky offense, middling defense -- is the formula the Patriots have used for the last five years, and the Patriots have petered out in the playoffs," your columnist wrote in early October. "TMQ has been reminding Denver Broncos fans this season that high-scoring teams tend to tail off late," TMQ said as January arrived. Just before the Super Bowl: "One of TMQ's themes this season has been the warning that scoreboard-spinning teams tend to peter out at the last. Until this season, the highest-scoring NFL team ever was the 2007 Patriots. They averaged 37 points per game in the regular season, then dropped to an average of 26 points in their two home playoff games, then scored 14 points in their Super Bowl loss. This season, the Broncos became the highest-scoring team ever. They put up 38 points per game during the regular season, then dropped to 25 points during their two home playoff games. Will the third part of the pattern repeat?"
Obviously, the pattern repeated. I note all my warnings not so much to pat myself on the back (OK, a factor) but to show that Denver should have had plenty of notice about this common football phenomenon. Instead, the Broncos seemed shocked and unprepared when they didn't fly down the field.
But why do high-scoring offenses peter out late? Most rely on rhythm: bang, bang, bang; gain, gain, gain. In the playoffs, defensive intensity cranks up and rhythm is disrupted. High-scoring offenses become frustrated. Plus for a college bowl or the Super Bowl, there's extra time to break down film of the offense's tendencies and know what's coming, as Seattle often seemed to. As the pendulum swings back toward defenses, offensive coaches need to bear in mind that the scoreboard tends to spin early in the season but not late.
Brie and Chablis Circuit Shrugs at Jersey Bowl: The two great highbrow publications of New York City, the New York Times and the New Yorker, seemed strangely uninterested in the Super Bowl in their midst. (There is no great highbrow publication of New Jersey, though the Newark Star-Ledger wonderfully maintains the feel of the old-fashioned crusading tabloids.) The New Yorker ran a short comment on the Richard Sherman circus, but avoided the subsidies and social impact of the NFL. Two months before the game, the New York Times reported that public handouts made possible MetLife Stadium -- but buried the story on page A30, and did not return to the subject. The Paper of Record offered ample sports reporting and some amusing slice-of-life material about Jersey, but nothing on the No. 1 issue of the NFL -- the social impact of football.