"Baby it's cold outside" is the theme of the rest of the NFL season.
Sunday, the 49ers and Packers played at 5 degrees and brisk wind. Upcoming divisional games will be held in Denver, New England and Seattle -- at least one and perhaps all three will be cold. Both conference title contests may be held at winter-climate sites. All of which leads up to the first-ever outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl.
Currently, much of the nation is iced over by a cold wave. Many cities will see record lows this week. On Monday in Chicago and Minneapolis, the temperature never got above zero. It's as if the weather gods are weighing in on the cold-weather Super Bowl plan.
Your columnist will be freezing his keister off at the Super Bowl next month and, if I'm not shivering too much to take notes, will report what the experience was like. (A coming TMQ will detail why I never use the press box, the press box being the worst possible place for sportswriting.) The typical daily high in northern New Jersey on Feb. 2 is 38, the typical low 25.
Being outdoors in the cold is thought to build character. If so, large numbers of NFL fans are about to get character! Though not the talking heads. ESPN, Fox and NFL Network, which will do week-long location broadcasts leading up to the Super Bowl, all are building indoor sets to keep their on-air types roasty-toasty. A Fox spokesman told me the network's game-day set at the Super Bowl itself will be "climate controlled." So as thousands freeze in the stands, they can wave to the cozy-warm broadcasters.
The first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl may prove anything from great entertainment -- it's fun being snug at home watching football played in snow -- to a total fiasco. In either case, the coming month of frigid gridiron action is a reminder that alone among major team sports, football is played in all elements. Football players are outside whether it's summer heat or sideways rain or a howling blizzard. One coaching goal is "hot to cold," meaning your team is still taking the field when the wintertime postseason begins. The entire NFL fan base is about to go hot-to-cold for the first time.
In playoff news, Kansas City's epic collapse against Indianapolis was caused in part by starters Jamaal Charles, Donnie Avery and Brandon Flowers leaving with concussions. New Orleans flirted with defeat at Philadelphia when starter Keenan Lewis, who had shut down DeSean Jackson in single coverage, left with a concussion, and Jackson promptly busted loose. A generation ago, even five years ago, these players would have been sent back into the game. This weekend, they sat. Lewis, who appeared coherent, pleaded with his coaches to send him back in, and surely would have signed a waiver if one had been offered. Instead he had no helmet, because coaches took it away: the new move when a player is concussed.
These facts mean one team lost a playoff game, and another nearly lost one, partly because concussions were treated as more important than victory. Congratulations to the NFL! This is a major step forward.
All the players involved in Saturday's postseason concussions are adults who know the risks they are taking, and are well compensated. So if they want to gamble with their future neurological health, why shouldn't they? If the only issue were them personally, then they should be allowed to choose to gamble.
But the NFL sets the example for 3 million youth-league and 1.1 million high school players who aren't adults and aren't compensated. If concussed NFL athletes go back into games, youth and prep players will feel they should, too -- and there will be 100 cases of head harm to young players whose names we'll never know for each one case at the NFL level.
In turn, the NFL receives extensive public subsidies -- about $1 billion per year in construction and operating costs for stadia, plus tax exemptions, access to tax-free bonds and antitrust waivers. A publicly subsidized enterprise must set a good example for the public. If the NFL were to pay its own way, perhaps NFL players could run any risk with their health. If the NFL is to remain on the public dole, the public has a right to demand a responsible example. This week, that's what the public got. In other football news: Offense rules and resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. The Chiefs and Colts put up 89 points and a playoff-record 1,049 offensive yards, Kansas City set a team record of 44 postseason points, and lost. Denver hasn't even trotted onto the field yet and the scoreboard is spinning!
TMQ has been reminding Denver Broncos fans this season that high-scoring teams tend to tail off late. The Bengals averaged 34.7 points per game at home during the regular season, then wheezed out at only 10 points scored at home in the playoffs. The two highest-scoring football-factory teams of 2013, Baylor and Oregon, both exhibited the tail-off effect. Oregon opened 8-0 at 56 points per game, then closed 3-2 at 29 points per game. Baylor opened 9-0 at 61 points per game, then closed 2-2 at 32 points per game. Very high-scoring teams declining to roughly half as much scoring down the stretch is exactly what happened to the 2007 Patriots, until 2013 the NFL's highest-scoring team. They declined from 36.8 points per game in the regular season to 14 points in the Super Bowl.
In wagering news, TMQ readers know my compromise with my Baptist upbringing is to be pro-topless but anti-gambling. Serious wagering brings loss and regret, and can destroy lives. But if you're making the harmless $5 workplace bet on the NFL playoffs, take the home teams this coming weekend. Home teams in the NFL divisional round are the surest thing in sports.
Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990, home teams in the divisional round are 67-25, a 73 percent winning figure. The reason the hosts are at home in the first place is that they are the best teams. Equally important, in the divisional round, hosts have spent a bye week relaxing in hot tubs while their opponents were out being pounded. Home teams dominate the NFL divisional round -- check-mark them in your office pool. You don't even need to know who's playing!
A week later in the championship round, the home advantage dissipates. Since 1990, home teams in conference championship games are 27-19, a 59 percent winning figure. That's a tad lower than the rate at which home teams win all games; during this regular season, home teams won 60 percent of the time. For the championship round, nobody's had the previous week off, and the Super Bowl is just one W away. Players leave everything on the field in championship contests.
Thus at the next step, hosts won't necessarily be favorites: But this weekend, look homeward. Of course if visitors win, remember the Tuesday Morning Quarterback guarantee: All Predictions Wrong or Your Money Back.
The playoffs have begun, which means Single Worst Play of the Season is back in business. The latest garland does not go to a player. See the end of the column.
Stats of the Week No. 1: Indianapolis possession results in the second half: interception, touchdown, touchdown, interception, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, kneels to end game.
Stats of the Week No. 2: Marvin Lewis is 90-85 in the regular season, 0-5 in the playoffs.
Stats of the Week No. 3: New Orleans won its first-ever road playoff game.
Stats of the Week No. 4: Kansas City opened 9-0 and closed 2-6.
Stats of the Week No. 5: Kansas City has not won a playoff game in 20 years.
Stats of the Week No. 6: Six of the past eight Super Bowl winners did not have a bye week to start the postseason: a good omen for Indianapolis, New Orleans, San Diego and San Francisco.
Stats of the Week No. 7: Cincinnati has not won a playoff game in 23 years.
Stats of the Week No. 8: San Francisco is on a 4-0 streak versus Green Bay.
Stats of the Week No. 9: The Packers have followed a 13-0 streak in playoff games at Lambeau Field with a 3-5 stretch.
Stats of the Week No. 10: New England hosts Indianapolis in the divisional round. In the past four years, from the halfway point on, the Patriots are 29-3 in the regular season and 3-3 in the postseason.
Sweet Play of the Week: Eagles leading 7-6 in the third quarter, the Saints faced second-and-12 on the Philadelphia 24. New Orleans came out with two wide receivers left and Drew Brees under center. At the snap, the entire offensive line pulled left -- an unusual tactic mainly seen in college, for instance from the Oregon Ducks under Chip Kelly. All defenders went that way as Brees faked a toss left to Darren Sproles. Then Brees bootlegged right and found Lance Moore on a crossing pattern from left to right, covered by no one. Sweet touchdown, and a first-ever New Orleans road postseason victory was set in motion.
Sour Play of the Week: A team that loses a 28-point second-half lead must have been mighty sour. Kansas City ahead 44-38 with 4:29 remaining, the Colts reached first-and-10 on their 36 and lined up trips with T.Y. Hilton in the middle across from safety Kendrick Lewis, a four-year Chiefs starter. To that juncture in the contest, Hilton had 12 receptions for 160 yards -- you'd think he would be drawing Kansas City's attention. Yet when Hilton ran a go pattern, Lewis simply stood there like a piece of topiary, making no attempt to cover him. No one from the Kansas City secondary even attempted to run with the guy who already had 160 yards receiving -- and was about to catch the game-winning pass.
That's seriously sour. But the Kansas City collapse could as easily be blamed on a coaching decision. Game tied at 7 early, Kansas City reached third-and-goal on the Colts' 1. The Chiefs used a simplistic power dive play -- no misdirection -- and were stuffed. Now it's fourth-and-goal from the 1. Andy Reid sent in the kicking unit, leaving four points on the field, in a contest Kansas City ultimately would lose by one point.
Reid has a history of doing the "safe" thing then losing. Last season when he was Eagles' head coach, Philadelphia was trailing 2-8 Carolina at home on "Monday Night Football." The Eagles faced fourth-and-2 in Carolina territory and, at 3-7, had nothing to lose. Reid sent in the kicking unit to loud and well-deserved boos. You don't need to know anything else about the contest.
It's fourth-and-goal on the 1 in the playoffs on a day the Kansas City offense would gain 513 yards. One single yard here might have meant the team's first postseason victory in two decades. Instead Reid did the "safe" thing, and in football tactics, the "safe" thing usually is dangerous.
Sweet 'N' Sour Merges with Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! San Francisco leading 20-17 with 7 minutes remaining at Lambeau Field, the hosts faced second-and-2 on the visitors' 34. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio -- was there ever a better defensive coordinator's name? -- sent a corner blitz from the left of Aaron Rodgers. The blitzer did not contain; Rodgers stepped around him and hits Randall Cobb for a 25-yard gain. Sour for the Niners. Now Green Bay has first-and-goal at the 9, and is held to a field goal, sweet for the Niners. The Cobb catch was Rodgers's last completion of the game.
Contest tied, San Francisco reached third-and-8 at the Green Bay 38 with 1:13 remaining, holding one timeout. On a very cold day, this is not realistic field goal range: Green Bay doesn't need a sack, just an incompletion. That cannot seriously be a seven-man blitz! The cornerback blitz from the left of Colin Kaepernick did not contain. Kaepernick spun around him and ran for the first down; the Niners killed the rest of the clock and launched the winning kick as time expired. Sweet for the visitors, sour for the home team that once again showed the Lambeau mystique is a thing of the past. Of the five Packers' Lambeau Field postseason defeats since 2002, all have come with kickoff temperature below freezing.
Why defensive coordinator Dom Capers would call an all-out blitz against a mobile quarterback whose team was out of field goal range is anybody's guess. On both the blitzes, lack of contain allowed quarterbacks to make big plays. The outside pass-rusher should never cut inside to get the shortest line to the quarterback; that just allows the quarterback to get outside. Rushers who have the quarterback in their sights are taught to slow down a little: if you come at maximum speed, that makes you easy to step around. In an NFL postseason game, both teams' rushers made low football-IQ moves in the same situation on important downs.
The Road to the Swamps: This year's Super Bowl will be played in New York, which, for NFL purposes, is located in New Jersey. Since the media, politicians and celebs will downplay the New Jersey angle, TMQ will play it up. In solidarity with the state of Thomas Edison, "The Sopranos" and toxic waste, TMQ will offer a weekly Road to the Swamps item during the runup to the game.
Have a fun fact or quirky observation about Jersey? Tweet it to me @EasterbrookG. For example: Did you know that New Jersey is the only state with highway rest stops named after Walt Whitman and Vince Lombardi?
Both of the NFL's "New York" teams not only play in New Jersey, they practice there and are headquartered there, too: neither the "New York" Giants nor "New York" Jets has the decency so much as to maintain an office in the Empire State, which today has one NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. NFL officials, media types, club-goers and politicians love New York and look down their noses at the Garden State. Should all go well, New York officials will take the credit. Should the game or the bus-based logistics be a fiasco, New Jersey will be blamed.
Three years ago, the Super Bowl was held in Dallas, which for NFL purposes is in Arlington, Texas, and ESPN's local set was in Fort Worth, 35 miles distant. These things happen in modern life. But the "New York" Super Bowl will take cartographic challenges to an extreme. Though the game will be held in New Jersey, all three networks will report on it from across the Hudson River in Manhattan. The ESPN local set will be at Herald Square, the Fox and NFL Network local sets at Times Square. For media purposes, New Jersey will be located in New York.
Officially the Super Bowl will be played at a field called MetLife Stadium located in a town called East Rutherford, N.J. In order to encourage tourism, that town should change its name to The Swamps of Jersey, New Jersey. Springsteen fans would flock. The stadium should change its name to Somewhere Field, which has a nice numinous quality. Then as the big game begins, broadcasters could say, "Welcome everyone to tonight's Super Bowl from Somewhere, in The Swamps of Jersey."
Amazon Drones to Use a Warehouse That Flies: While Google is putting mysterious electronics into mystery barges, Shell Oil is quite serious about the Prelude, the world's largest ship.
Technically "floating facility," since the Prelude is not self-propelled. Her hull, recently launched at a South Korean shipyard, is longer than the Empire State Building is high; once complete, she will have about six times the displacement as the largest warship. Shell is paying about $12 billion for the Prelude: the United States paid about $16 billion for the USS Gerald Ford, its latest supercarrier, though the Ford is significantly smaller and an outgrowth of previous designs, while the Prelude is a new concept.
Named for the Prelude natural gas field near Australia, the vessel will be towed there and spend its projected 25-year lifetime extracting gas, then converting the fuel to liquefied form while at sea. The vessel is an engineering marvel: Huge by the standards of ships, it is more compact than any on-shore facility that does the same task. Floating liquefied gas production is industry's answer to some offshore logistical issues and to intense NIMBY opposition to liquefaction facilities nearby anyone's home. Prelude seems a classic case of the mixed messages of technology: If her natural-gas production replaces coal the result will be lower greenhouse emissions, while a colossal investment of capital sustains the fossil-fuel economy and may in some future conflict present a tempting military target.
Shell, the government of Australia and numerous subcontractors around the world were able to reach the political and legal agreements for this project in three years, fast considering the complexity of the endeavor. The United States has known for decades about a Prelude-class natural gas field in Alaska, and all we have done since is bicker.
NFL Inflation: One of the indicators of improving standard of living is that declining real-dollar prices mean typical Americans spend fewer hours working to purchase the basics than was the case in the past. Food, clothing, cars, housing -- most purchases are steadily more affordable when gauged by hours worked. Of major consumer categories, only education and health care grow more costly in hours-worked terms.
Given the overall trend, you'd think NFL tickets would be growing more affordable -- instead, ticket prices keep rising in terms of hours worked, which may be among the reasons three of four postseason host teams of last weekend struggled to sell out their stadia. Reader Dustin Beutin of Los Angeles writes, "In 1967, it took 10 hours working at minimum wage to buy an average priced Super Bowl ticket. In 1977, it took 17 hours. In 1987, it took almost 20 hours at minimum wage. By 1997, the average Super Bowl ticket cost 43 hours at minimum wage, a full week's pay. Today the typical Super Bowl ticket costs 82 hours at minimum wage, two weeks' pay." NFL ticket prices keep rising though the NFL is rolling in government subsides, shutting average people out of attending games while reserving plenty of space for the rich. This is just one of many things wrong with NFL economics.
Another reason for trouble selling playoff tickets is two curves moving in opposite directions -- HD TVs make football viewing ever more attractive, while the high cost and hassle factor of attending a game makes being there in person ever more unattractive.
Michael David Smith writes on ProFootballTalk, "If you have an HD TV and a comfortable couch, sitting at home watching the games for free is a lot better than paying a small fortune to sit in an uncomfortable stadium, often in terrible weather, surrounded by loudmouth drunks." Even most recently built stadia are uncomfortable -- seats too small, aisles too narrow, long lines at the restrooms, parking attendants there to take your money on the way in but not to direct traffic on the way out. The Coach Class factor is an issue in nearly all NFL stadia: Americans are getting bigger, the seats are not. Baseball stadium seats that are narrow are only used in summertime, when fans are lightly dressed or wear windbreakers; NFL stadium seats don't provide space for heavy outwear in bad weather. Fans who don't want to buy cold-game January seats are not being wimps: From experience, they know that when wearing winter coats, it's hard to sit in the seats.
It's a common experience to spend hundreds of dollars to attend an NFL contest, be pushed and shoved then plunked into a cramped seat, then afterward spend two hours in cutthroat traffic trying to get away from the stadium as everyone involved with the team roars off via a VIP lane. The NFL needs to do a serious rethinking of the stadium experience. Forget the games; the stadium experience is a product, and the league keeps trying to charge more for less quality.
How Did the 49ers Do it? California team visiting Wisconsin in January, kickoff temperature 5 degrees, Colin Kaepernick came out with bare arms and no glove on his throwing hand. Obviously posing nude in the offseason was good experience for him! A few other Niners had bare arms, and most Green Bay linemen did. But the bare-armed California quarterback set the right tone for the visitors, and set aside that Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee and attended college at the University of Nevada in Reno, where high altitude can make for chilly nights. California team wins a freezing-cold game -- a good omen for the Niners, should they make the Jersey Bowl next month.
TMQ contends that Cold Coach = Victory. When Jim Harbaugh trotted out for the kickoff in slacks and a pullover -- surely Under Armour ColdGear artfully concealed -- while Mike McCarthy was bundled for a K2 ascent, I thought I had the perfect example. The 49ers jumped to a halftime lead. Then after intermission, Harbaugh/West donned a heavy parka, and the Packers surged ahead. A scientific test case! Harbaugh/West cold in first half (control), not cold in second (dependent variable). But my long-sought scientific proof proved elusive when the Niners' winning field goal sailed as the clock hit all-naughts.
The Packers sputtered early, gaining only 6 yards in the first quarter, and the home crowd booed loudly -- another indicator the Lambeau mystique is a thing of the past. On their first possession, the Packers punted on fourth-and-inches. Sure it was in Green Bay territory, but it was fourth-and-inches at home! McCarthy opted for the "safe" strategy.
San Francisco started strong: The Niners are on a 49-0 scoring streak in the first quarter, something Carolina must take into account. But reaching first-and-goal on the Green Bay 4 on their initial possession, the Niners, who would finish with 167 rushing yards, went incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, field goal. Did San Francisco learn its lesson about the goal line at the Super Bowl?
The Green Bay defense often uses funky fronts with only two or even only one down linemen; for this contest, the San Francisco also used two-down or even one-down fronts. Both defenses did well from funky sets. Sunday, when the 49ers visit the Panthers, who usually are in a conventional four-down front, there may be a major contrast of styles.
Green Bay made a major defensive mental error by letting Vernon Davis, lined up as a "flex," go deep in the second half against linebacker A.J. Hawk -- long touchdown. For the remainder of the contest, Davis was shadowed by a defensive back. But the damage was done.
Zebras allowed a lot of contact between defensive backs of both teams and receivers -- half a dozen defensive pass-interference no-calls occurred, and there should have been offensive pass interference against Jordy Nelson on his touchdown catch. Officials tend to allow more pass interference and holding in the playoffs, because they want the players to decide who wins. And in this case, at 5 degrees, zebras seemed to want the game to end as quickly as possible so they could get indoors. Wasn't that Ed Hochuli dressed as a Wookiee? Penalties stop the clock, and lead to discussions with coaches. Hochuli's crew called just seven penalties for both teams combined, quite a low number. (Five were accepted.) Yes it was really cold, but rules are rules -- wanting the game over with is no excuse for pretending not to see pass interference.
Flying Wedge Fails at Rose Bowl: TMQ's Law of Short Yardage holds -- do a little dance if you want to gain that yard. On short yardage, misdirection is essential, to make defenders hesitate for a second rather than come upfield full steam.
Michigan State leading 24-20 with 1:47 remaining in the Rose Bowl -- excuse me, the Rose Bowl Game -- Stanford faced fourth-and-1. The Cardinal lined up jumbo without wide receivers, everyone packed in close to the quarterback, then simply plunged straight ahead. No man-in-motion, no shift, no misdirection, no fakes of any kind. You don't need to know anything else about the contest.
How Did the Colts Do It? The Chiefs led by 28 points early in the third quarter -- but Indianapolis had just as much time to come back as Kansas City had used building the lead. Early, the Kansas City starters looked well-rested, after sitting out their regular-season finale. Indianapolis made boneheaded mistakes: Trent Richardson auto-fumbled without being hit, Donnie Avery caught a 79-yard Kansas City touchdown pass when Colts safety Antoine Bethea just let Avery ran past and didn't cover anyone. But in the second half, there was just as much time left for Kansas City to make mistakes.
Andrew Luck demonstrated his passing skill but also reminded that he's an athlete. Kansas City leading 24-7, the Colts faced fourth-and-1 at midfield. Luck kept the ball on a naked boot and ran for 21 yards, after first nicely play-acting as if the Indianapolis plan was to try to draw the Chiefs offside and failing that, call time. Loud halftime boos from the home crowd did not faze Luck. In the second half, normally conservative offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton rolled out the quirk – four receivers wide on the same side, even more than a trips – for several important gains including a touchdown. (A quint, five split on the same side, is possible, but one would have to be ineligible.) Kansas City made plays early, Indianapolis made plays late, and in the NFL, it's often about who is playing best at the end. In the second half and overtime this season, the Colts are plus-94 in points.
The football gods have been smiling on the Hoosier state, providing both Peyton Manning and Luck, and many other good performers. The Colts have made the playoffs 13 of the last 15 seasons, league-best in that period; New England is second-best at 11. Put another way, in the last 15 years, the Colts have made the playoffs twice as many times as Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit combined.
Michael Irvin, Philosopher:
MAN WHEN WE PLAYED IN THAT COLD WEATHER WE WAS COLD.
— Michael Irvin (@michaelirvin88) January 5, 2014
Baby It's Cold Outside, But That Doesn't Disprove Global Warming: A northeastern blizzard caused climate-change deniers such as Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump to claim proof there is no artificial global warming. Likely some will say the current cold wave in much of the United States disproves global warming. Perhaps the first-ever cold weather Super Bowl will also be cited as an argument against artificial climate change.
But this as specious as claiming a heat wave does prove global warming. Weather varies constantly, climate is the long-term concern. What is the record high and low for our nation's capital, Washington, D.C., on New Year's Day? A low of 17, set in 1918; a high of 69, set in 2005. A tweet could make that sound like a pattern of warming. It's not, it's just weather, telling nothing about long-term climate trends. Climate-change deniers shouldn't claim weather tells anything; those who favor climate change action shouldn't pretend weather matters, either. The White House makes the silly all-caps claim that THE WEATHER IS GETTING MORE EXTREME.
It would be nice if the gradual trend of artificial global warming could be written off as a scare story, but the evidence is solid. Don't trust the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is politicized and dogmatically anti-American. Trust the National Academy of Sciences, which is red-white-and-blue and has a track record of being right about science and technology issues. Trust the National Climatic Data Center, which is not in any way shape or form affiliated with the United Nations or Al Gore, and which says 2013 was the warmest year globally through the 134 years that good records have been kept.
In political optics, it is assumed only liberals care about climate change: For instance, Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing for international action against climate change. Assuming climate protection is a liberal cause is the wrong outlook. A generation ago, the term "New England Republican" meant someone who wanted small government and low taxes, but also supported civil rights and conservation. Perhaps the New England Republican worldview, which is skeptical of government-led reform but not hostile to the concept, is poised for a comeback. In an important article just out in National Affairs, conservative intellectuals Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, both former staffers of the George W. Bush White House, say there's no reason conservatives should hate government. Gerson and Wehner write, "The American people are deeply practical; they are interested in what works. And they want their government to work." Environmental protection, they note, is a place where government works, making it a good cause for conservatives to back.
Under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, recent decades have seen dramatic reduction in air pollution; increasingforested acreage; steady increase in the fuel economy of cars and light trucks; toxic chemical releases down 40 percent; water quality improving in Puget Sound, Boston Harbor and other key water bodies; near-elimination of CFCs and reduction of HCFCs, resulting in ozone-layer rebound. Greenhouse gases are the one major area where there's been little environmental progress. But then, the United States has yet to take action against greenhouse gases.
In months to come, President Obama may begin touting a proposed 2015 global summit meeting aimed at a binding international treaty on greenhouse gases. It's unrealistic to think the United States Senate will -- or should -- ratify any treaty granting international organizations control over U.S. domestic policymaking on energy use, which is how the proposed treaty would function.
But there's no reason Congress should not take the advice of the National Academy of Sciences and begin an America-only program of greenhouse-gas reduction. Bear in mind, as recently as the George H.W. Bush administration, many Republicans supported a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, based on the very successful cap-and-trade system that has reduced U.S. acid-rain emissions from 26 million tons in 1980 to just 6 million tons in 2012. Government imposes greenhouse-gas caps, then private enterprise figures out how to meet them. This keeps bureaucrats out of decision-making at the engineering level, while creating a profit motive for inventing reduction technology.
Smog and acid rain are declining almost everywhere in the world, though no treaty governs either -- because the United States invented the necessary fixes, and then gave them away. We can do the same for greenhouse gases. That's a New England Republican approach to a problem.
TMQ Vows: By 2020, I Will Reduce Factual Errors 17 Percent Compared to 2005 Columns: Consensus may be lacking on how to pursue greenhouse-gas reductions, but there is no shortage of goofy goals. Barack Obama said in 2010 that the United States should cut greenhouse emissions by 2020 to 17 percent below the level of 2005. Amazingly, no one has marched in the streets chanting, "Seventeen percent below 2005 by 2020!"
The C40 cities are pursuing a 248-ton reduction in greenhouse output by 2020, a goal with no common-sense meaning. Mexico says it plans to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 2020 to 30 percent below the level of 2012. California has a statewide goal of, by 2050, cutting greenhouse gas to 80 percent below the level of 1990. Japan, which boasted nonstop about its green bona fides when hosting the 1997 Kyoto summit, later disavowed all Kyoto promises, substituting these incomprehensible goals.
Grand reduction targets far in the future sound great -- the California grand goal was announced with much fanfare by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, while Obama grandly has said the United States should by 2050 cut emissions to 83 percent below the level of 2005. Not by 84 percent, not by 82 percent, by 83 percent! Goals for decades distant can be dramatic because the politicians involved know they'll be long gone from power, if not from the Earth, when the goal comes due.
The Football Gods Chortled: Auburn made the B.C.S. title game despite, five months before, receiving no votes for the preseason Top 25. Preseason polls had Ohio State second-ranked, Stanford fourth and Georgia fifth; all lost their bowl games. Florida, which finished 4-8, was ranked 10th in preseason polls.
How Did San Diego Do It? "Trailing with 9 minutes remaining, Cincinnati faced fourth-and-2 on the opponent's 30. When Marvin Lewis sent in the field goal unit, TMQ wrote the words 'game over' in his notebook. Lewis entered the contest winless as a postseason coach. Last season, Cincinnati was punched out in its playoff game. Victories don't come in the mail, play to win, don't play to avoid losing! Late in the game, facing fourth-and-long, Lewis had the Bengals go for it. So when fourth-and-short with a good chance of success was available, Lewis did the 'safe' thing. When there was no hope, Lewis went for it. Footnote: when Lewis sent in the kicking unit on fourth-and-short, Andy Dalton passively trudged off the field. Brett Favre, Tom Brady, RG III -- they would have gone nuts if the coach wouldn't let them try to win in this situation. Next season, Dalton needs to become a leader."
Don't mistake that for a write-up of Cincinnati's home loss to mega-underdog San Diego. That's what TMQ wrote one year ago, after the Bengals honked out in their first-round playoff loss. Sunday's listless loss was like a replay of last season's listless Cincinnati playoff loss -- Lewis far more concerned with playing not to lose than with trying to win.
On the Bengals' first possession, home crowd roaring at military-afterburner decibels, Lewis had his team punt in fourth-and-4 in San Diego territory; the Bolts took the ball the other way for a touchdown. Later, Lewis ordered a punt on fourth-and-1 in San Diego territory, then punted again on fourth-and-5 from midfield. That's playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. Dalton did not protest any of these passive, wimpy coaching decisions, each time trotting off the field with his head bowed. In the final moments, Bengals down two scores, then Lewis went for it on fourth down. Everything was exactly like it had been last season in the playoffs -- hyper-conservative afraid-of-my-own-shadow tactics when the game was close, risks when it no longer mattered, and Dalton acting like a JV player who's afraid to talk back to his high school coach. The Bengals have two offensive touchdowns in their three postseason games under Dalton, and did nothing to shake up their bad habits. Bengals fans sitting in the cold rain had every reason to boo loudly in the fourth quarter, as they did.
As for the Bolts, they ran two corner blitzes in the first half, both times hitting Dalton hard as the corners came unblocked. By the third quarter, Dalton had "happy feet," assuming he was about to be hammered. San Diego mainly rushed once ahead in the second half -- Bolts coaches called 40 rushes and 17 passing plays. But San Diego ran on every down of the first half, too, and Cincinnati didn't adjust to the visitors running rather than being pass-wacky as expected.
San Diego goes back to Denver, where the Bolts stand no chance whatsoever. Of course they stood no chance whatsoever last time they went to Denver, and Sunday at Cincinnati. The Bolts have surged to 5-2 in TMQ's quirky Authentic Games metric, and now trail only Denver and New Orleans.
Wacky Whisky Update: Reader Bion Chen of Chicago reports, "A couple weeks ago you expressed skepticism about the numerous labels of Johnnie Walker scotch -- Red, Black, Double Black, Blue, Gold and so on. Traveling in Asia this fall, I saw additional Johnnie Walker labels: 'Explorers' Club' scotch in Spice Route ($45 a bottle) or Gold Route ($95). Apparently the rugged individuals worthy of the Explorers Club can find these blends only in Asian airport duty-free shops: I saw them in Taipei's Taoyuan International, as well as Tokyo's and Seoul's international airports. Glasses were out for sampling. I tried them. Both tasted like gasoline, which I guess makes sense for a trade route running through airports." Wonder what would happen in a blind taste test where one glass held Gold Route scotch and the other held Jet A aviation fuel.
Last week I wondered if smoking bishop, the 19th-century port-based punch described in "A Christmas Carol," can be had at any modern high-tech foodie hangout. Reader Brad Kasavana of Grand Rapids, Mich., reports that smoking bishop is on the cocktail list at Manhattan Beach Post in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Doesn't Matter If There Are Footballs Involved -- Telling Children to Harm Other Children Ought to Be a Crime: Many readers including Griffin Lahre of Columbus, Ohio, have noted an upcoming show about ankle-biter youth-league football on Esquire Network, which is owned by NBCUniversal. In the trailer posted by the network, grown men scream at 8- and 9-year-olds, urging them to hurt each other. An Esquire Network spokeswoman told me the series "was filmed documentary style and is not scripted." What's shown is 2013 youth-league play, including this team.
What's shown in the trailer is everything that's wrong with football culture -- little kids being taught to bash each other helmet-to-helmet as crazed adults scream. One coach tells 8-year-olds of opponents, "rip their frickin' heads off and let them bleed." Another says to a little boy apparently headed onto the field, "Put it in his helmet, I don't care if he don't get up." Injured 8-year-olds are shown lying on the ground sobbing.
In the NFL and NCAA, football players are well-informed about risks, and assume risks willingly. Youth and high school play are quite different: All youth and most prep players are, legally, children. They not only legally cannot assume risks in the way adults can; legally, adults are required to shield children from risk. Yet in the "Friday Night Tykes" trailer, adults coach children to do something known to be very dangerous (helmet-to-helmet contact) and instruct them to attempt to harm other children.
Your columnist has been in many football locker rooms and heard many coaches scream at players to hurt the other team. Considering players often ignore coaches, mature players who told to cause injury may think, "That's just coach talking B.S. again." New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended from of the NFL when he admitted urging players to injure opponents. Williams should not have done so. But the players he was talking to were grown men, and not fools. Most of them played as they would have anyway regardless of whether Williams had demanded blood or read aloud from Thich Nhat Hanh.
But the players being screamed at in the Esquire Network series are impressionable 8- and 9-year-olds. Children of that age are conditioned to obey authority figures. There's no chance one would stand up to a grown adult who is quaking with rage.
Maybe the trailer misrepresents what happens at the youth leagues shown. But if it's accurate, "Friday Night Tykes" might make a viewer wonder why football culture associates anger with courage -- the two are very different -- or thinks a coach who screams and threatens is a good teacher of athletics. The key question is simpler: Why isn't what is depicted viewed as child abuse? If this series is even close to reality, law-enforcement officers belong at the practices and games shown.
Adventures in Timekeeping: Timekeepers are supplied by the home team; they are supposed to be neutral, and to be supervised by the officials. Fourth quarter at Indianapolis, the Colts were desperate for time for their comeback. At 14:08, a Colts runner went out of bounds for a first down. The clock should have restarted almost immediately, but did not restart until 2 seconds before the Indianapolis snap, at 14:06 -- this saved the Colts around 15 seconds. At 5:46, Colts still desperate for time, a Kansas City runner went out of bounds, and again the clock should have restarted almost immediately but did not. The clock only began to run as the Chiefs were starting their cadence, so the next play started at 5:40, again saving the home team around 15 seconds.
Several years ago, the out-of-bounds rule was changed such that the ball carrier going out of bounds only stops the clock in the final two minutes of the first half or final five minutes of the second half. Otherwise, "Whenever a runner goes out of bounds on a play from scrimmage, the game clock is started when an official spots the ball at the inbounds spot, and the Referee gives the signal to start the game clock." This usually doesn't take long. On both the above plays, the game clock should have restarted much sooner than it did. Officials didn't notice, nor did any of the 23 coaches of the Kansas City Chiefs.
It turned out the game was decided on Kansas City's fourth-and-11 at the two-minute warning, so the clock favoritism to the home team, which saved the Colts about 30 seconds in the fourth quarter, did not determine the outcome. If it had, this week there would be huge controversy regarding an NFL blunder. Unless the Chiefs had converted that fourth down, and it turned out the extra 30 seconds gave the visitors time to win!
Duke Loses! Not a Misprint! Duke acquitted itself well in nearly beating an SEC power team. Coach David Cutcliffe made manly man decisions on fourth down and with a surprise onside kick. But in retrospect, the game against Texas A&M was decided by the blunder of doing what's "safe."
Leading 35-17, the Blue Devils were at the Aggies' 1-yard line with 2 seconds remaining before intermission. Cutcliffe sent in the field goal team. Normally a 21-point halftime lead would be considered secure, but Texas A&M has one of the country's best offenses -- and in the second half, had as much time to come back as Duke used in building the lead. Then in the third quarter, Duke took a field goal from the Aggies 2. On the night, Duke averaged 8.1 yards per offensive snap, including 6.3 yards per rush, against a low-ranked Texas A&M defense. Doing the "safe" thing twice at the Texas A&M goal line cost Duke dearly in a game ultimately lost by four points.
Adventures in Officiating: Philadelphia scored to take a 24-23 lead with a little under five minutes remaining; on the kickoff to New Orleans, the Eagles were called for horse-collar tackle, positioning the visitors at midfield for their winning drive. The call was correct, but why is the horse collar illegal? TMQ is all for strict enforcement of helmet-to-helmet rules. Grabbing a player's shoulder pads does not seem especially risky. I've watched way too much football and not seen a runner injured by a horse-collar tackle.
When the Packers kicked off to the Niners before their game-winning drive, the ball bounced around in the end zone, and LaMichael James of San Francisco batted it out the back. James should have been called for batting. I don't think this should have been a safety -- James did not provide the impetus that took the ball into the end zone, nor did the down begin with San Francisco possessing the ball. But Green Bay could have taken a batting penalty and kicked off again, from the 45 rather than the 35 -- then bloop-kicked hoping to pin San Francisco deep, or onside kicked hoping to clinch the contest.
Mike McCarthy might have done the "safe" thing and declined the penalty, making San Francisco start at its 20. All of which raises the musical question, scored tied, kicking off with five minutes remaining and knowing San Francisco was moving the ball well, why didn't McCarthy surprise onside to begin with?
Everything Keeps Getting Faster: "Look how much time he has!" NBC color man Mike Mayock exclaimed as Andrew Luck stood in the pocket -- then threw in 2.5 seconds. "He's got all night!" Al Michaels of NBC exclaimed as Nick Foles stood in the pocket -- then threw in 5 seconds. Five seconds is a lot by modern football standards, but the acceleration of life makes it seem "all night!"
You Don't Need to Know Who's Playing: Back in the day when TMQ tracked victory- and final-score predictions, each season I reality-tested different betting systems and the specific predictions of experts. None could best the results of the Isaacson-Tarbell Postulate, proposed by two TMQ readers. Check this 2009 column and scan for "Catey Tarbell."
That system holds: Best Record Wins; If Records Equal, Home Team Wins. In 2009, the last time I tracked results, Isaacson-Tarbell finished the season .665, only slightly below ESPN's best expert finish of 2013 -- .679 by Ron Jaworski -- and well above such experts as Eric Allen (.613) and Chris Mortensen (.628). Jaworski achieved his results by thinking, studying stat sheets and watching film. How old-fashioned! Next season, Use Best Record Wins; If Records Equal, Home Team Wins. You not only don't waste precious time thinking -- you don't even need to know who's playing.
News from Space: If you are in the mood to be awed, check these photos from Saturn.
Hidden Play of the Week: Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but sustain or stop drives. New Orleans leading 13-7 in the third quarter, Philadelphia faced third-and-4. Riley Cooper, alone on a crossing pattern, dropped a perfectly thrown pass; he would have gained at least 20 yards. The Nesharim punted; the Saints drove the other way for a 20-7 margin.
How Did New Orleans Do It? "The Saints' defense may determine who wins this game," yours truly wrote last week. Verily, it came to pass. Despite losing two starters during the contest, the Saints' D held Philadelphia, which came in with the league's No. 2 offense, to 256 yards on its own field. Rob Ryan has a reputation for being blitz-happy, which seems to be what Philadelphia expected. For most of this contest, New Orleans played a conventional front with four-man rush and discipline. What made the Eagles offense go this season was No. 1 rusher LeSean McCoy. An offense with a back who regularly snaps off big gains, and averaged 5.1 yards per carry, is formidable. New Orleans held McCoy to 3.7 yards a carry and, through discipline, contained his cutbacks: McCoy's best run was just 11 yards. Taking away McCoy frustrated the host's tempo tactics.
The magic fairy dust on Nick Foles wore off, while the football gods seemed to prefer the Saints. Game scoreless, the Eagles punted on fourth-and-4 from the New Orleans 47. Gunner Brandon Boykin made a perfect play on the ball, stopping it cold at the Saints' 1. Boykin got out of the way -- only to behold teammate Roc Carmichael roaring into the picture and kicking the ball into the end zone for a touchback. Which diverted attention from the question: With his high-powered second-ranked offense, why did Chip Kelly order a punt on fourth-and-short in opposition territory?
TMQ contends that short-yardage plays must involve misdirection. Yet twice on its game-winning late drive, the Saints converted on third-and-1 and with a simple quarterback sneak, no theatrics. New Orleans' blocking was terrific, especially from the center of the line -- Ben Grubbs, let go by the Ravens, Jahri Evans, who played in Division II, and undrafted Brian De La Puente.
The New Orleans winning drive, from midfield: rush for loss, rush for 13 yards, rush for 3 yards, flare pass for 6 yards, rush for 3 yards, rush for 4 yards, rush for 5 yards, rush for 1 yard: deliberate kneel to put ball in the center, then field goal. For all the high-tech stuff Kelly installed at Philadelphia, the Eagles' season came down to inability to stop a cloud-of-dust drive that would have made Bud Wilkinson proud.
'Ere the season began, Zack Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, "Kelly won 46 of the 53 games he coached at Oregon, a percentage unseen in the NFL. He might lose seven games in just his first year in Philadelphia." Yea, verily, it came to pass, Kelly's charges finishing 10-7.
The 500 Club: Kansas City gained 513 yards on offense, scored 44 points, built a four-touchdown second-half lead, and lost. Alabama gained 516 yards on offense in the Sugar Bowl, and lost. After A.J. McCarron appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the Crimson Tide, then 11-0, lost both their remaining games.
The Football Gods Chortled: Since Nick Saban demanded an extra second on the final play against Auburn, Alabama is 0-2 and has declined from likely BCS title participant to fortunate to finish in the Top 10. At the Sugar Bowl, Alabama's defense-focused team gave up 45 points to Oklahoma, more than the Sooners scored this season versus Louisiana-Monroe.
The 600 Club: Duke gained 661 yards on offense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and lost. After Duke football was lavishly praised by TMQ, the Blue Devils, then 10-2, lost both their remaining games.
The Mystery Remains: How Did Dan Snyder Become Rich When He Can't Run an Organization? As next season kicks off, the R*dsk*ns will have their eighth head coach since Chainsaw Dan acquired the team. Not only has Chainsaw Dan's mismanagement led to an average of seven wins per season under his aegis, the R*dsk*ns have become a graveyard of coaches.
Of the head coaches who labored under Snyder, not a one remains an NFL head coach. Steve Spurrier returned to the college ranks; Norv Turner and Terry Robiskie are NFL assistants; Joe Gibbs does his stuff with NASCAR; Marty Schottenheimer and Jim Zorn are OOF -- Out of Football. Schottenheimer's last football gig was in 2011 as coach and general manager of the Virginia Destroyers; Zorn was last seen auditioning for a CFL position. Schottenheimer is 200-126-1 as an NFL head coach, and no one wants him. His years in San Diego didn't help, but the big knock against Schottenheimer seems to be that his name is associated with Snyder's. Will Mike Shanahan ever be an NFL head coach again?
Despite the career-killer aspect of working for Snyder, there will be a line for the head coaching post. Wouldn't you take $25 million over five years repeatedly to be embarrassed in public? Most people would. Plus any head coach who actually made the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons successful despite the owner would be viewed as a miracle worker.
Single Worst Play of the Season -- So Far: Kansas City led 38-10 in the third quarter, staged an epic collapse, but remained very much in position for victory at the two-minute warning, facing fourth-and-11 on the Colts 43, needing a field goal to win. Alex Smith brought the Chiefs to the line and must have thought it was Christmas morning. Indianapolis had come out in a nine-man front with Cover 1, every quarterback's dream defense to throw deep against. On the outside left, 6-foot-2 receiver Dwayne Bowe was single-covered by 5-11 corner Vontae Davis, who was playing injured. Your columnist said aloud (I have several witnesses), "Kansas City should snap fast before the Colts call time out." And then Andy Reid called time out.
His team facing the ideal front to throw against, Reid called time. After the time out, he shifted Bowe from the left to the right; it didn't matter, because Indianapolis took advantage of the time out to change defensive fronts. Incompletion, and Kansas City's epic collapse goes into sports lore.
With four starters out injured by the second half, including star Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs were in a tenuous position despite their 28-point lead. But Kansas City was hardly blameless in collapsing. From the point at which Kansas City led 38-10, Reid called 23 passing plays and 10 rushes. Six of the passes fell incomplete, stopping the clock and preserving time for the Colts' comeback. True, both Charles and his backup were out injured by the late third quarter. But the Chiefs have a third-string back and also have Dexter McCluster, a college tailback. They could have carried out clock-grinding tactics.
Reid's second-half passing calls did result in some first downs. But they not only stopped the clock for Indianapolis, they kept Indianapolis alive psychologically. Seeing Smith constantly heave-ho the ball into the air helped Indianapolis think a collapse could happen.
Coaches have good games and bad games just as players do. Andy Reid, you are guilty of the single worst game-day performance of the year -- so far.
Next Week: TMQ starts a religious denomination that is pro-topless but anti-gambling.
In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback for ESPN, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The King of Sports" and eight other books, and is a contributing editor of The Atlantic. His website is here and you can follow him on Twitter here. Every Tuesday during the football season, at 3 p.m. Eastern, he will answer questions on Twitter about that day's column.