Sunday, December 30, 2007

Patriots, Best Team Ever? Hold That Champagne

According to veteran NFL football analyst, Chris Collingsworth, the 2007 New England Patriots are the best team ever. Collingsworth should know because he's been around long enough to compare the Pats to the other contenders laying claim to the title: Namely, the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1985 Chicago Bears, also the 1984 San Francisco 49ers. Considering rule changes, free agency, also salary levels, its very difficult to compare teams from different eras, but statistically, rough estimates can be made regarding the Patriots and their contemporaries . First of all, numbers don't lie; despite a team's apparent domination, one must consider the competition those totals were compiled against. Let's briefly look at the talented 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers. That club ended the season 14-2. In the playoffs, they beat the Denver Broncos 33-10, the Houston Oilers/Titans 34-5, but they struggled winning the Super Bowl against Dallas 35-31. In fact, the Cowboys could have won the game; but tight end, Jackie Smith, dropped a go ahead pass in the end zone. During the regular season, the Steelers only scored 356 points, however back in the day, defenses were allowed to employ the bump and run and other cumbersome tactics which have been banned in today's NFL. The sluggish Steelers offense, meanwhile, was not nearly as good as the wide open aerial game employed by the Patriots. Considering defense and special teams, however, the Steelers were clearly superior to New England. Pittsburgh, moreover, placed nine players from those clubs into the Hall of Fame, more importantly they accounted for four Super Bowl titles. Despite having superior personnel, however, the Patriots superb coaching staff would probably allow them to prevail in a mythical match up with Pittsburgh. The 1984 San Francisco 49ers were 15-1 and rolled through the playoffs by beating their oft nemeses New York Giants 21-10, the Chicago Bears, 23-0, and the Miami Dolphins 38-16. On competition alone, you can argue the 49ers beat one of the consensus best teams of all time, the Bears, and one of pro football's greatest quarterbacks, Dan Marino. The 49ers, moreover, revolutionized the game by incorporating Coach, Bill Walsh's, west coast offense. Instead of handing the ball off to his running backs, Walsh instructed quarterback, Joe Montana, to throw the ball in the flats to running backs, Roger Craig, Wendel Tyler, also Bill Ring. These five and six yard incremental gains allowed the Niners to work the ball down the field on long time consuming drives resulting in a then record 435 points. San Francisco's defense, furthermore, was stingy surrendering a meager 227 points. Surprisingly, this was considered to be Bill Walsh's best team, but it lacked Hall of Fame play maker, Jerry Rice. The running game was spiked by Wendel Tyler who gained 1,262 yards rushing. Even with a great quarterback like Tom Brady and receivers, Randy Moss along with Wes Welker, the Pats would not be expected to beat the 1984 San Francisco 49ers. The last great team the Pats would face are the 1985 Chicago Bears. They were 15-1 defeating the Giants 21-0, the Rams 24-0 en route to a 46-10 trouncing of the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Bears scored 456 during the season while surrendering 198. The running game was led by bruising, Walter Payton, nicknamed, Sweetness, for his deft moves. What made the Bears special was their defense led by Hall of Fame middle linebacker, Mike Singletary. This bunch also had Hall of Fame players, Richard Dent also Dan Hampton. They blitzed their corners and linebackers frequently in a scheme invented by defensive coach, Buddy Ryan. Anyone who saw those Bears would say the Patriots would be in a terrific mismatch against the Monster of the Midway. In compiling 16 wins the Pats struggled against lesser opponents like the Ravens, Eagles, and the New York Giants. The Patriots deserve their place in the pantheon of great NFL teams, but Collingsworth misspeaks when he labels them the greatest team ever. At best, they are the third best team behind the 1984 49ERS and the 1985 Bears.

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