West Coast defense is all the rage

Carolina's normally stout defense faltered, not forcing a punt in the second half. San Francisco had the ball just thrice after intermission, but mounted two long scoring drives and a clock-killing drive that concluded with an obnoxious fake punt with 23 seconds remaining. Carolina had the ball four times after intermission, resulting in two punts, an interception and the clock running out on the Panthers' season. San Francisco leading 13-10, Carolina reached first-and-10 on the Niners' 29. The Cats went incompletion, sack, sack, punt. Until a desperation heave-ho in the final seconds, San Francisco held Carolina to 71 offensive yards in the second half.

The Niners offense was plodding but held the ball for three long scoring drives. The word is out on Vernon Post -- the play, which resulted in a touchdown at Green Bay, was double-covered by Carolina and presumably will be by Seattle. Fabulous defense can put a plodding offense into position for the coup de grâce. Squared Sevens leading 20-10 and facing third-and-1, a pre-snap shift resulted in double tight ends left; at the snap, right guard Alex Boone pulled left. The overload crushed the Panthers defense on that side; Gore's 39 yard run was the back-breaker for the hosts. Absent this down, Carolina held Gore to 45 yards on 16 carries. Seattle will notice that and try to take away Gore, forcing Kaepernick to throw at the Seahawks' well-regarded corners.

Marshawn Lynch Has a Touchdown Dance Consultant; He Needs a Media Consultant: One reason Bill Belichick has such a mixed reputation is that he snarls at the sports media. Geoff Foster of the Wall Street Journal reports Belichick has smiled in public exactly seven times this season.

NFL coaches' contracts require them to address the press corps, else Belichick likely would never step behind a microphone. He appears to think sports reporters are idiots and the requirement to explain himself to such lower life forms is an awful burden. He's not the only one. Last week, Marshawn Lynch was fined for refusing to speak to the media, which NFL contracts also require players to do.

Star athletes and coaches tend to perceive the media as press agents. When reporters ask questions with an edge instead, they get upset. That's not how you should speak to royalty!

There's another level to why NFL stars and coaches snarl at the media -- they want to believe what they're doing is incredibly serious and important, a life-or-death matter. Actually, what they're doing is providing entertainment, and the sports media is part of the act. Often it's terrific entertainment -- but entertainment is all that it is. When reporters are snarky to NFL stars and coaches, it's a subconscious reminder that whether the Patriots win or Lynch scores a touchdown has absolutely no lasting impact on American life.

Book News: "The King of Sports" is selling well -- say, have I mentioned "The King of Sports?" But I need to do a new book proposal in order to have my next volume out in 2016. Proposed titles under consideration:

"Selfish Reasons to Become a Better Person"

"Halve Your Money in Thirty Days!"

"The Perfect Gift for Anyone on Your List"

Actually I am serious about the first title: a book on that subject can be written. The third title would be timed for the holidays.

Michael Irvin, philosopher:

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