Thursday, April 14, 2016

Beer and football VI — playoffs, week three
AFC Championship

The game: Patriots at Broncos
The beer: Maine Mo Pale Ale
The result: Fuuuuuuck
The commentary: Oh hi! What's that now? Riiight…

The time to hesitate is through. Delaying longer than in between witnessed XLIX achievement and part one of its recorded reflection (though not part two, which stretched into Summer) exemplifies the degree of difficulty in writing about, I don't know, Miles Davis albums versus winnable playoff losses. FWEEEEEEE!!!

The air was heavy. I posted "That missed extra point" to Facebook at the beginning of the fourth quarter and got six likes. One friend even blamed his Polish wife: "She knows what she did." After the first failed fourth down I contemplated having no stake in the NFC game and, to distract from such malaise, tweeted in response to Marc Maron that "How Many More Times" alone distinguishes Led Zeppelin as the band's finest moment of thievery expression. He did not bump me.

And then: Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski with twelve seconds left, showcasing what makes each a special player. Ted Wells's moutstache can never take that touchdown away. But during the conversion attempt, understated by my man Mike Reiss, "Brady was under duress [and] couldn't survey all his options." Gronkowski was open again, open open. Drag. It took me a minute to realize the game wasn't unofficially over yet because of a potential special-teams recovery, blah blah. Naught. Drag again.

It's hard to be angry with the result. A Malcolm Butler goal-line interception is exhilarating, the essence of earning—of taking—a victory. Recovering an onside kick and winning with a long field goal is exhilarating too, but more in line with your neighbor's house getting raided over meth that you cooked: we dodged this, but for how long? You wanna get high? As with the XLII loss I still haven't gotten over, the other team deserved to win. (XLVI though? We had that fucker!)

Sunday morning at the café, fueling up before Buccaneer the snowman (snowlady?) began its reign over the minor Winter wonderland of our back yard, we spotted a young woman sporting a number six ALLEN jersey. Punter Ryan Allen. Punter Ryan Allen. "Is he good at it?" asked A. "I guess," I said. I don't remember if he punted well that evening but he sure had his opportunities. Maybe Buccaneer should have started at tackle.

On the bright side, the Mo was good. I finally understand what people mean when I tell them how much I love the Peeper and they say it's got nothing on the Mo, as if Peeper were Rolling Rock. Fucking beer geeks.

Anyway, it's hard to say what the good guys would have done against Carolina. Even in winning they certainly wouldn't have dominated the way Von Miller and friends did—that was a performance worthy of the "…and introducing Von Miller" treatment in the opening credits of The Princess Bride II: No Survivors. No one on the Pats' defense was half as good. Still, with Brady bouncing back after what was to generally be regarded as a subpar, barely-there "win" (though, to me, the final scoring drive plus both fourth-down drives—Belichick leaving six points off the board—put him in the plus column), a two-weeks-healthier Edelman and a properly oxygenated Gronk, I'd have predicted a familiar three- or four-point victory and felt good about it. In hindsight, a familiar three- or four-point defeat were to be just as likely, but to hell with that. Like my other man Paul Perillo says, the Pats never lost a game they didn't play.

In recent news, the Pats waived Dominque Easley yesterday. I was surprised but not disappointed because he really had busted out. Here's what I wrote when he was drafted in 2014: "It's defensive lineman Dominique Easley out of Florida, because we've had so much success drafting Gators. I'm not being fair because I know nothing about the player but what the fuck, Bill. Gruden starts with 'If he gets healthy,' which is exactly what you want to hear. 'Big injuries,' adds Kiper. 'Two torn ACLs… durability is the reason I thought he'd be a second-/third-round pick at best.' Lewis is trying to sell me on him but 'he plays with a bunch of effort' isn't as comforting as the preferred 'he plays with a bunch of talent.' Another roll of the dice on a player with position flexibility, questionable production and durability concerns. See you in the playoffs." Boy, did Jon, Mel and I nail it. Listening to yesterday's Around the NFL podcast, which I do enjoy, you'd think Easley was a consensus all-pro the last two years, with the heroes agreeing that he (in limited snaps even when healthy) was "statistically" (according to Pro Football Focus, who couldn't calculate a twenty-percent tip on a hundred-dollar dinner check) the best defensive tackle on the team. Gregg Rosenthal, supposed Patriots fan, elaborated to slot Alan Branch at number two. I think your list is upside-down, Gregg, because the correct order was rookie Malcom Brown, Akiem Hicks, Branch and then Easley. Jesus Christ, am I the only one who watches the games? See you in the playoffs.

Up next: We're two weeks from draft night, when the Pats will use the twenty-ninth pick on a big double-bird in Roger Goodell's direction. Cheers!