Jack of the River compounded his goal-to-defend mistake by keeping his offense on the ground in the third quarter, which would turn out to be the final time Denver had the wind. As New England was outscoring Denver 21-0 in the third quarter, the Broncos ran eight rushing plays and four passing plays, never attempting a deep throw. True, rushing was attractive -- New England was playing a funky 2-4-5 alignment intended to frustrate Manning, offering Denver the run. On the night, the Broncos would rush for 280 yards, and few NFL teams that post that kind of number end up losing.
But in the third quarter, Denver wasted its last good chance to strike deep. Denver would throw deep against the wind five times in the fourth and fifth quarters, all incomplete. Tom Brady has experience throwing against swirling Christmas-is-coming cold wind, and was close to flawless into the wind in the third quarter. Eli Manning has experience throwing into cold wind. Peyton Manning doesn't.
Exploiting the fourth-quarter wind edge, New England sent the contest to overtime. The home team won the second coin flip -- and Belichick took the wind. In the NCAA overtime format, coaches winning the flip almost always defer. In the NFL format, flip-winning coaches almost always take the ball. Belichick understood that wind was more important than the ball at that juncture. Would Del Rio have taken the wind if he'd won the flip? We'll never know. We do know that in a game where the visitors seemed to have better players, the home team had better coaching.
On the subject of those in cleats, reader Kevin Bryan of Chicago reports, "The Pats have been decimated by injuries, leading to a profusion of the sort of undrafted players whom you admire. The current 53-man roster includes 18 undrafted men. There are as many undrafted players on the New England roster as first-, second- and third-round picks combined."
Bear in Mind, Jimmy Stewart Was Not an Actual Senator: Last week the Senate changed the filibuster rule such that most presidential nominees can be confirmed by a majority; 60 votes are no longer required. It would be tempting to think that smooth-flowing efficiency will now break out. The new rule allows 30 hours of floor debate for appellate judges and cabinet secretaries, two to eight hours for others. There is such a backlog of nominees awaiting confirmation that if the minority invokes maximum debate time on each one, the Senate floor will be paralyzed for a year -- the longest filibuster ever.
In the wake of the decision, pundits harked back to Jimmy Stewart bringing the Senate to a halt in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." That dramatic filibuster, in which Stewart faints from exhaustion, has become such a part of American political lore that it's important to bear in mind, this never happened.
In Frank Capra's 1939 movie, the earnest Mr. Smith isn't elected to the Senate. Rather, he was appointed to an open seat by a cynical governor who wants to divert attention from his own corruption. From whence Smith hails is never made clear, though the movie's subject is personal courage, Capra didn't want to offend audiences in any particular state. What does Mr. Smith filibuster about in this cinematic classic? Not any great issue such as civil rights, war or peace. He wants to prevent a dam from being built upriver of land reserved for a boys camp. Today it would be impossible to get environmental permits to build a dam anyway!