Does 1 player make a difference?

During these 2012 NFL playoffs and Superbowl we have seen the impact 1 player has had on the outcome of football games. Kyle Williams. Billy Cundiff. Wes Welker. But the question remains, does 1 player or even 1 play determine the outcome of a football game better yet sporting event. Whether it be a clutch game-winning 3 pointer in the 4thquarter of a basketball game, or a missed field goal, does the entire game rest on the shoulders of 1 play? One play can literally swing all the momentum from one side to another. But isn’t the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB a team game. We always hear athletes say that “we win as a team and we lose as a team.” Is this always the case?

Kyle Williams, WR, Kick/Punt Returner for the San Francisco 49ers is a prime example of 1 player determining the outcome of the game for his team in a negative way. Kyle Williams had 2 lost fumbles in the NFC divisional game vs. the Giants which gave New York 10 free points. The first of Williams miscues came in the fourth quarter when the 49ers were up 14-10. San Francisco made a defensive stop and forced the Giants to punt on 4th and 15 on the NY Giants own 15 yard line. Kyle Williams unsure of picking up the bouncing football was stuck in no man’s land and caught in a pickle of deciding whether to pick up the ball or get out of the way. After further review of instant replay it was confirmed that the ball bounced off the knee of Kyle Williams and recovered by the Giants. The Giants will a short field, on San Fran’s 29 yard line were able to punch in the score in 7 plays and take a 17-14 lead. Instead of driving and extending the lead to 21-10 or 17-10 the 49ers blew there lead and needed a field goal to send it to Overtime, which is exactly what happened. In Overtime the saga of Kyle Williams continued. As ESPN tweeted, “Kyle Williams and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” Things just kept spiraling out of control for Mr. Kyle Williams. With another 4th and long, Kyle Williams attempted to return the punt from his 24 yard line when ran 5 yards and then was stripped by New York Giants Jaquin Williams and recovered by teammate Devin Thomas. The Giants inherited the ball on the 49ers 24 yard line and moved the ball to the 8 yard line, and then a false start penalty of 5 yards moved them to the 13 yard line setting up a Lawrence Tynes 31 yard game winning field goal. Tynes nailed it and the Giants won the game, and as we all witnessed went on to beat the Patriots in the Superbowl, in a thrilling 8th fourth quarter comeback for Eli Manning.

After that game 49ers fans showed there fury towards Kyle Williams as they flooded Twitter with the bashing of Williams and even death threats towards him. With that kind of reaction it is quite hard to argue that 1 player does not make a difference.

How about Billy Cundiff? Kicker for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens were leading the Patriots going into the 4th quarter. The Patriots scored early in the 4th but left lots of time remaining. With 1:44 remaining, the Ravens stagnant for most of the quarter drove the ball down to the Patriots 14 yard line. The Baltimore Ravens sought to tie the game at 23 a piece and sent it into overtime. The field goal was from 32 yards out. A chip shot for Billy Cundiff. Cundiff sent up kicked it and it was no good, wide to the left. Ravens fans were in disbelief. The whole game came down to a simple kick, almost an extra point. But Cundiff shanked it, and the Patriots were headed to the Superbowl. Instead of being the hero Cundiff turned into a zero and his name is used as a curse word in the streets of Baltimore. What the Cundiff? Mother Cundiff! Freaking Cundiff!

Most recently and maybe the biggest play or non-play of the biggest game in sports happened in the Superbowl. The Patriots were driving in the 4th as they trailed the Giants 21-17 with less than 5 minutes left. Tom Brady dropped back when he saw a wide open Wes Welker in open field. He delivered the ball high to Wes Welker where Welker had to jump and catch the ball in midair. The pass would have been at least a 20 yard gain and put the Patriots into scoring position. Welker know as Brady’s most reliable receiver almost with perfect hands never drops a catch. However this time was different. As Welker leaped up and was coming down, he dropped the ball. Patriots’ fans, Brady, Wilfork, Bill Belichick, and Wes Welker were all in disbelief. The whole world could not believe their eyes. Tom Brady connected with his number 1 receiver and they couldn’t complete the pass! On the biggest stage of sports, Tom Brady and his sidekick failed. Welker’s drop was a monumental turning point in the game. The drop hurt the Patriots whose drive was stalled and eventually fell flat to the Giants in Superbowl XLVI.

So does 1 player actually matter? Yes I believe so. 1 play, 1 player can definitely determine the outcome of a game. One play can swing all the momentum and change the course of a playoff game even the Superbowl. At the same time I believe that football as well as baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, etc are TEAM sports. The team wins together and loses together. The culmination of all the plays previous to the last play determines the outcome of the game. If the team was sharper and made plays earlier in the game or even down the stretch, the importance of one play and one player wouldn’t matter as much. The point of team sports and team play is TEAM. You have to have teamwork to win and even to lose. Teamwork is a collective effort of individuals coming together to help the team win. So yes 1 player making the final catch, hitting the game-winning shot, missing the game-winning field goal, or losing a fumble twice may determine the outcome, but they are still par t of the team. One play may matter but the 50 plays before that matter just as much. Kyle Williams losing 2 fumbles hurts but Alex Smith going 1-13 on third downs hurts even more. The lack of effectiveness early magnifies the inefficiency of late in big time playoff games. So to Kyle Williams, Billy Cundiff, and Wes Welker you may have affected the outcome of your teams’ losses but it is not entirely your fault.

Why the 2008 Superbowl Will NOT Repeat Itself

Nobody can forget the 2008 Superbowl matchup between the New England Patriots and New York Giants. The Patriots were entering the game with a perfect record at 18-0 and they were facing an underdog Wildcard team in the New York football Giants. The Giants clawed their way into the Superbowl as they proved why you should never count out a Wildcard team. The Giants won there first round matchup versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-14, and then they won again in the Divisional round versus their divisional rivals the Dallas Cowboys 21-17. There magical run continued as they made it to the NFC Championship game and knocked off the Green Bay Packers and the gunslinger Brett Favre in a 23-20 win. Then came Superbowl day, Feb 3, 2008, aka what everybody thought was Doomsday for the New York Giants. Terrific Tom Brady was strolling in the Superbowl with a record setting and jaw dropping season of 50 touchdown passes thrown. Randy “I play when I wanna play” Moss alone caught 23 TD’s which broke Jerry Rice’s record set in 1987 of 22 receiving touchdowns in a season. This Patriots team was the team of Destiny. They were going to be the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to go undefeated and win the Superbowl, and the first team to do it with a 16 game regular season. The ’72 Dolphins went 14-0 but they only played a 12 game season instead of the 16 games that are played nowadays. Tom Brady was looking to record his 4th Superbowl Championship win and tie the “immortals” Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only Quarterbacks in NFL History to go a 4-0 in the Superbowl. With 1:15 remaining Tom Brady thought that his Patriots had wrapped it up with a 14-10 lead over the Giants. Then the miracle catch, happened. Eli Manning threw a long bomb to  David “God put some sticky gum on my helmet” Tyree who made a miraculous helmet catch on a 3rd down and 5 play that ended up going for 32 yards. That play alone singlehandedly shifted all the momentum and set up the Giants to score and eventually win Superbowl XLII. The miracle catch by David Tyree goes down as the greatest play in Superbowl history and it also cost Tom Brady his 4th Superbowl Trophy.

Something’s seemed to never change. This 2012 Superbowl rematch between the Giants and the Patriots has the same storylines as 2008. The Giants scraped their way into the playoffs by winning the division on the last day of the regular season against none other than the Dallas Cowboys. Wildcard weekend the Giants embarrassed a potential contender in the Atlanta Falcons 24-2, then in the Divisional round they knocked off the defending Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packers 37-20. Following that they played the surging San Francisco 49ers who had just came out of a barn burner upset against the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional round. However these Giants were hungry and they got after Aaron Rodgers sacking him 5 times and bringing heavy pressure with blitz and pass rush schemes. The Giants were able to beat the 49ers by heavy defensive pressure but mainly the miscues of Kyle Williams. Kyle William’s singlehandedly gave the Giants 10 points and ultimately the game. Yes I know that football is a team sport and yes 1 player does not determine the outcome of the game but in this case Kyle Williams changed that whole philosophy. His muffed punt and fumble handed the Giants 10 points on a platter, and in the NFL playoffs you can’t go around giving away free points like it was candy on Halloween. So the Giants pulled off a 20-17 victory in overtime and now we are here at Superbowl XLII, a rematch of 2008.

These 2012 Giants are so similar to that of 2008. Both Giant teams have a stout defense and rode it all the way to the Superbowl. The amount of pressure the Giants bring on defense is unreal. There defense with studs like Jason Pierre Paul, Osi Umenyora, Justin Tuck get after the quarterback and accumulate the sacks and hits. Eli “Rain Man” Manning (He doesn’t seem all there) had a great season with a completion percentage of 61% and passed for 4,933 yards with 29 TD’s and a 92.9 QB rating.

With all that said, the Giants will not repeat the 2008 Superbowl. These Giants are highly motivated and their defense is tenacious but Tom Brady does not forget. Tom Brady has not forgotten that he was 1:15 seconds away from a 4-0 record in the Superbowl. Tom Brady does not forget that the Giants took away “his would have been” 3rd Superbowl MVP. Great players don’t forget when they lose in the big game. Tom Brady is playing this game with a chip on his shoulder from the haunting loss of 2008. Kobe Bryant lost to the Celtics in 2008 and he remembered the horror so when he got his chance to face the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals he revenged it and claimed sweet victory on his home-court in Lakerland. Tom Brady is trying to do the same and shut up little brother Eli in big brother Peyton’s backyard in Indy. Tom Brady is coming off of a stellar season that is even more impressive than Eli Manning. Brady passed for 5,235 yards which would have been a record if not for Drew Brees (5,476). Pretty boy Tom also threw 39 TD’s had a completion percent of 65.6% and a QB Rating of 105.6. Tom Brady rarely has had any back to back games where he has played poorly and the last one he had was in the AFC Championship win against the Ravens where Billy Cundiff missed the game-tying chip-shot field goal. So Brady is highly motivated to bring his A-game and have one of his best performances of his career. Will the Brady of the Divisional round show up, or will the Brady who squeaked by the Ravens and lost to the Giants in the regular season show up? The Brady who threw for a record tying 6 TD’s against the Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round hopes to come through at Superbowl XLVI. The only back to back losses that New England has experienced this year was in weeks 8 and 9 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and then none other than the New York Giants.

Everyone is saying that the big storyline is Rob Gronkowski’s ankle and if he will be able to play. Gronk twisted the ankle nastily vs. the Ravens in the AFC Championship game. The fact is with or without Gronk, Tom Brady will be Tom Brady. Tom Brady knows how to get the most out of his receivers and tight ends. He makes no-names into pro-bowlers. Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch, and yes Rob Gronkowski all are products of Tom Brady. Brady one of the most accurate passers in the NFL delivers the ball on target and threads his passes even in tight coverage. GQ Tom also knows that he can’t sleep on the sleeper New York Giants. He did that once before and it bit him in the 4th index finger.

The Giants gameplan is simple attack and pressure Brady on defense and throw the deep ball on offense while using there 2-headed monster running attack of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon “The Bull” Jacobs. Everyone knows that the Patriots D can’t stop anybody. So the biggest factor for Tom Brady to beat the Giants is to rack up points on the score board and keep his defense off the field as LONG as possible. If Tom Brady can be cool and collected and avoid the pressure and not get sacked, then the Patriots could win this game by a large margin.

All in All, Tom Brady does not forget 2008 so with that said the 2012 Superbowl will have a different result. You messing with an angry Patriot know and the last time we saw this was the Revolutionary War where the Colonists upset the British Empire.

Prediction: Patriots 30 Giants 21