You’ve Gotta Play to Win

Michael Wilbon has a fine piece today on Saturday’s NFL games.

Forget the official temperature, whether it was 4 degrees above zero or 2 above zero . . . It was cold. It was cold enough that the mucus in your nose froze, cold enough that the condensation in your mustache froze, cold enough that I didn’t see any fools with their shirts off with P-A-T-S painted across their bare chests. It was cold enough that if you didn’t cover your ears, they would soon turn the color gray, which from all my years growing up in the Midwest means frostbite. It was too cold for 68,000 people to have shown up here Saturday night. It was so cold local officials ordered extra ambulances to be on standby, cold enough that heated city buses were parked just outside for those seeking respite. It was cold enough that overly officious Patriots ownership relaxed the rules and allowed fans to bring blankets and sleeping bags in which they could wrap themselves. The cheerleaders, normally dressed like Britney Spears, covered their abs completely. There was no fooling around up here Saturday night.

And on the other game…

Goodness, if Mike Martz can’t take at least one shot at winning the game in his dome sweet home with a first down, a timeout and a minute on the clock, what in the world would he have done at zero degrees with a stiff wind? Would he have simply packed it in and gone home? How gutless. You’ve got the Greatest Show on Turf, you’re playing at home, your whole philosophy is pedal-to-the-metal when you have the ball, and you play for a field goal to force overtime when a touchdown sends you to the NFC Championship game?

How does a “genius” like Mike Martz play for OT? How does his massive ego let him get away with that?

His rationale after the game was that he didn’t want to have a pass tipped or something disastrous happen to sabotage the team. Then throw a safe screen pass to Marshall Faulk. Pitch it out to Faulk and let him see how close he can get. By suggesting that the quarterback might make a mistake, after the same quarterback twice led the team downfield (including a two-point conversion) under great pressure, Martz takes all the pressure off the coach, which is so unbelievably gutless.

Amen. No guts, no glory.