Patriots

Patriots

SAN FRANCISCO -- A trio of thoughts for you as we embark on a Super Bowl week missing the best all-around team in football (you). 

-- This will be Peyton Manning's fourth Super Bowl, and the fourth head coach he's taken there. No one else has come close to doing that.

First of all, only Tom Brady (six) and John Elway (five) have been to more Super Bowls. Brady has obviously had only one coach, and Elway took two (Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan). Manning is tied in appearances with Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach and Jim Kelly. Montana is the only other QB on the list to go to the big game with two coaches (Bill Walsh and George Seifert). 

Even more striking is that of Manning's four coaches, I'm not sure any of them were truly great. Tony Dungy is the closest, but I hesitate to put him in that category. John Fox and Gary Kubiak don't qualify (at least not yet), and Jim Caldwell isn't close.

So, again, four appearances with four different coaches, none of them elite. I know you hate Manning, but come on. That's kind of impressive.

-- Perhaps the best analysis I've heard of the Pats failures two Sundays ago in Denver came curtesy of Matt Light in a pair of radio interviews last week. 

The inability of the Pats offensive line to deal with the crowd noise and pass rush of the Broncos were clear to everyone. And according to Light, it came down to a lack of preparation, a stunning charge from a guy who has almost never offered a critical word on his former team. Given that, it's not hard to see why former offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo lost his job. The Pats tried to run in Miami in Week 17 and failed. They tried to pass in Denver in the AFC Title game and failed. Something had to give.

 

Still, where was Bill Belichick when it came to the issues up front, especially on crowd noise? Aren't details like that his speciality? It's what makes him the best, right? Sorry. DeGuglielmo may have deserved to lose his job, but the Pats problems in Denver (not to mention the fact they were there in the first place) ultimately lie at the feet of Belichick.

-- I know it's now fashionable to say that this Super Bowl matchup reaffirms that being able to play defense and run the ball still matter in today's pass-happy NFL. Certainly, Denver's passing attack has ranked near the bottom of the league all year and Manning would be the worst quarterback to win the title since Brad Johnson in 2002.

But I would consider that an aberration, not a trend. I think the record still shows that you better have a QB. The four conference title games featured probably the top three candidates for the league MVP award with Cam Newton, Carson Palmer and Brady. Of the eight teams in the divisional round, only one featured a sub-par passer, Houston with Brian Hoyer. The other quarterbacks filling out that round were Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith.  

The great misnomer is that any one thing wins championships. Defense doesn't win championships. The running game doesn't win championships. Quarterbacks don't win championships. The only thing that wins championships is balance -- which should be defined as the best combination of quarterbacking, coaching and defense.

Sorry to keep going back to it, but the Pats had the best combination in the league this year. They should be here.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz this week live from the Super Bowl, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast will run on Comcast SportsNet.