As the New England Patriots prepare to travel across the pond to play their first game in England since 2009, I thought I would take this opportunity to welcome any and all non-American sports fans who have managed to come across our site hoping to learn a little more about the Pats as they prepare for what is sure to be an exciting matchup with the St. Louis Rams. While football is, without question, the most popular sport in America, it has yet to truly take the rest of the world by storm, and games like Sunday's represent the first steps in garnering some genuine international appeal for what I think is the best-run league in all of professional sports.
To those who don't follow football on a regular basis, it can be an incredibly complicated game. Between figuring out down-and-distance, understanding penalties, distinguishing the difference between an offensive guard and an offensive tackle, and trying to comprehend the complicated splendor of the End Zone Dance, there's a whole lot going on and it can get somewhat overwhelming. And while it would take far too long to explain American Football 101 by laying out the rules, regulations, and lingo of the game, I thought I could at least do my part by answering some questions our international friends might have about the New England Patriots. Some of the actions, behaviors, and strategies you're going to see this Sunday is unique to the Patriots and the Patriots alone, and so I thought it might be helpful to lay out some of the nuances of this team that might leave a lot of European fans scratching their heads. So here are some of the questions you might find yourselves asking this Sunday once the game officially gets underway.
PS -I know the game is being played in London, which - last time I checked - is still an English speaking city. So why all of these questions are phrased like they were asked by a fat Russian guy with a very stereotypical and broken understanding of the English language is beyond me. Chalk it up to creative license, I guess.
Why are Patriots in such a rush? American football is very slow game, no?
That's what we like to call the hurry-up offense. The Patriots like to move very quickly when they have the ball in order to prevent the defense from making substitutions, keep opponents guessing, and present advantageous mismatches that will make it easier to move the ball downfield. When Tommy B sees a defensive formation that he likes, expect the Patriots to go to the hurry-up often to score as many points as possible. A lot of defenses find this hurried style of play very hard to defend against, and the Patriots are the best team in the league at running it.
What is that little man doing on field? How he not get crushed like grape?
You must be referring to Danny Woodhead. Don't you worry about him; he may be small, but he's tough as nails. I'd look for him to see a fair amount of action on Sunday, as he is the team's best receiving back and the Rams have a very good pass rush. Tommy B will need to get rid of the ball quickly on a lot of plays, and Woodhead will make for a great outlet.
I'm confused...I thought object of game was to stop other team from catching ball. How come Patriots let everyone catch it?
That's definitely a big part of the game, yes; on defense, you are supposed to stop the other team from catching the ball. And if you're noticing that the Patriots are having a little trouble doing that, then you're starting to catch on. You're going to see a lot of that during this game. It's what we in America like to call a "struggling secondary" if we're feeling nice and a "crap defense" if we aren't. It's kind of a sensitive topic over here, and I don't know if I really feel like talking about it.
How come I never hear of Sam Bradford? He very good quarterback! He makes very good passes!
Don't be fooled by what you see today. Yes, Bradford is a good quarterback, but the Patriots have this uncanny knack for making pretty much every quarterback in the league look like a superstar. He may throw for 356 yards and two touchdowns today, but next week he's more likely to throw for 200 yards with a TD and two interceptions. Again...kind of a sensitive issue. Let's just move on.
These men are among your country's best athletes, yes? If so, why are number 74 and number 75 big like whale?
Don't let their size fool you; Kyle Love and Vince Wilfork are incredibly athletic, especially for their size. Would I stick them at midfield for a soccer game? No. But in terms of raw strength, explosive power, hand and foot speed, and agility, pound-for-pound I'd put them up there with any other athlete in the world. Europe's prized athletes may all be thin, fast, and able to run for days, but in the good ol' U S of A, our superstars come in all shapes and sizes.
Are Patriots' making other players tired by letting them run far before catching ball and getting tackled? Is that strategy?
You just aren't going to let this go, are you? I wish it was strategy, and maybe I'll start using that as my reasoning as to why we've seen so many 20+ yard plays this season. But the reality is that teams are able pass for huge chunks against this secondary because both of our starting safeties are injured and we have a lot of rookies on defense. Combine that with a fairly weak pass rush, and you have that lethal combination of a quarterback with time and receivers that have no problem getting open. It has been a problem all year, and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight.
Patriots winning 31-3 and there is only nine minute left. Should I leave early, beat the crowd?
I'd stay if I was you. Chances are good you're about to see three Rams touchdowns in the span of about four of those nine minutes, which should be exciting.
If it is 3rd down and 12, this means team needs to move ball 12 yards or else they punt, yes? So why they throw quick pass to receiver for loss of yards?
Good question. I have no idea why they would run that play either. Feel free to direct that question to Josh_McDaniels@whyareyouthrowinganotherscreen.org
Help! I think I felt earthquake! Is stadium collapsing?
No, don't worry. That just means Rob Gronkowski scored a touchdown. He puts a lot of stank behind his spikes, and once in a while it will effect the Earth's seismic activity. As long as he doesn't score more than three touchdowns per game, I think you'll be OK.
Who is number 12? That is one sexy American.
That isn't just one sexy American; that is THE sexy American. You'd probably recognize Tom Brady if he was wearing a $5,000 suit and a pair of Uggs, seeing as he's an international superstar. But when he puts on his work clothes, he rocks number 12, and he's going to be all business. Don't fall too hard for him, though; Tommy B is taken, and apparently his wife isn't too hard on the eyes.