Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Foot in Football

Super Bowl 39 is over, and the Patriots are winners, by a score closer than most people predicted. The 24-21 game wasn't pretty and was largely a battle of attrition (and even though I hate it when people use war terms to describe sports, I just did it).

Deion Branch walked away with the MVP and he played a great game; he had a couple of great catches that looked like his gloves were magnets for the football, and tied the record for receptions in a Super Bowl while he was at it.

But for what it's worth (not much), my MVP doesn't go to Branch, or to Brady, who had a solid game, or even Rodney Harrison, who played a phenomenal game leading a patchwork secondary, had 2 interceptions, and helped on another takeaway (the forced fumble on LJ Smith). My MVP is Josh Miller, the punter.

Let's go through his punts one by one

1) 48 yards to the Philly 7 yard line, no return. Final result: 3 and out.

2) 44 yards to the Philly 16 yard line, 10 yard return. Final result: 55 yard drive with INT at the end by Harrison

3) 44 yards to the Philly 46 yard line, 9 yard return. Final result: fumble recovered by Eugene Wilson

4) 48 yards to the Philly 19, no return. Final result: Philly TD, 9 plays, 81 yards

5) 48 yards to the Philly 38, no return. Final result: Philly TD, 10 plays, 62 yards

6) 50 yards to the Philly 21, no return. Final result: Philly TD, 13 plays, 79 yards

7) 22 yards to the Philly 4, no return. Final result: NE interception, game over.

Total: 7 punts, 316 yards, avg. 45.1 yards. 19 return yards.

Now, aside from the last punt, which was short because it had to be, he averages over 46 yards a punt, better than his 42 yard per season average. Philly scored on three of the possession they got, but it took them a total of 32 plays and 222 yards to get those points, taking precious time off the clock. Time which really cost Philly at the end of the game. More possessions today would have favored the Eagles, who, despite takeaways, were racking up yards against New England's depleted secondary. By driving for longer distances, they had to use up more clock. Today, the Patriots needed the wasted time too, considering the three-and-outs NE kept spitting up on offense.

More importantly, every time the Patriots had to punt from deep in their own territory, he put the ball in Philly territory (aside from a 9 yard Westbrook return). Consider that a bad punt from deep in NE territory places Philly in field goal range. David Akers didn't get a chance to use his foot today, and while it was largely due to takeaways, Josh Miller played a role as well, setting the table for the New England D.

A punter has to kick it deep, and he has to prevent any return yards, whether it's good angles or getting it out of bounds. He certainly did that, limiting return man Brian Westbrook to 19 yards of punt returns. Anyone that discounts the potential power of punt returns didn't watch either the Jets-Steelers game or the Atlanta-Rams game.

Santana Moss's punt return TD got the Jets precious points and jump started the team when their offense was stalling and except for a brainfart on the part of the coaching staff, nearly got the Jets into the AFC Championships. The Atlanta special teams squad made the Rams look idiotic, even though Mike Martz does a good enough job by himself.

Brian Westbrook was hailed a today's X-factor with the ability to rush, catch, and return punts. He only did 1 out of 3, and it wasn't enough. The Pats D didn't stop Westbrook's receiving game when the Eagles were on offense, and it led to 64 receiving yards and a TD. They did however, stop his running game, limiting him to 40 yards on the ground.

But Josh Miller single-footedly stifled Westbrook's dangerous return game, and it could have been the difference in the game. Westbrook didn't take punt returns this year, but he averaged over 15 yards a return in 2003 and returned two for touchdowns. If Westbrook gets 200 all purpose yards (pass, rush, return), the Eagles win the game. He didn't come close thanks to a good Patriots defensive line and the foot of Josh Miller.

Miller's counterpart, Dirk Johnson (now there's a porn star name), did well too, but was helped by a holding penalty that negated a 45 yard Troy Brown return.

Also, if Miller's last punt results in the touchback, and punting from the opponent's 36 usually does, the Eagles get the ball on their own 20 and a couple of chances at long passes with a minute left. Nothing is more daunting than passing out of one's own end zone, and that's precisely what Josh Miller made Donovan McNabb do.

On a day when New England's offense was struggling to get first downs, Josh Miller acted as a failsafe, erasing the team's offensive woes with his punts that kept Westbrook from gaining many return yards and preventing Philly from good starting field positions. Although a lot of people did talk about David Akers and Adam Vinatieri, it was Josh Miller whose foot did the most talking on this Super Bowl Sunday.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deion Branch won MVP, actually...

sorry for being a pain in the ass

5:46 PM  
Blogger Satchmo said...

Well crap, that's what I get for not getting my Patriots receivers straight. Go figure. Oops. Fixed

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you 110% on this one...Josh Miller changed the game. He made the game, giving them crap field position to start every time...what he can do with the football, knowing exactly where to drop it...MVP worthy

1:48 PM  

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