We're doing a season-long NFL roundtable with our friends at Slate. Check back here each week as a rotating cast of football watchers discusses the weekend's key plays, coaching decisions, and traumatic brain injuries.
From: Dan Kois
To: Stefan Fatsis, Emma Carmichael
Indeed, enough is enough. I'm happy for us to dispatch Tebow and the Broncos in as perfunctory a manner as the Patriots did. After the orgy of Tebow coverage we've endured over the last few weeks—including, but not limited to, ESPN's ritualistic incantation of his name—I'm glad to be rid of Denver, at least until the inevitable stories about how Tebow's faith helps him bounce back from defeat start popping up.
If I'm relieved, I can only imagine how Bill Belichick feels. Surely the only person more annoyed than Christopher Hitchens by suggestions that God Himself was hand-picking NFL winners would be Belichick, America's most tangible man, who's spent a career doggedly proving the surprisingly radical argument that superior talent and coaching will usually win a football game. I can't even imagine what hideous blasphemies were uttered in the Patriots practice facility last week as Belichick and his assistants reminded their team that somehow a quarterback who can't throw had become the league's darling. Yesterday, the Patriots killed your darling.
In other news, the Colts won for the first time in 350 days, and the Packers lost for the first time in 364. The Colts didn't hurt themselves too badly in the draft sweepstakes—their season finishes up against Houston and Jacksonville, and they've got a fighter's chance at 1-15—and so, unless they are complete morons, they will still be able to pick Andrew Luck. Bob Costas's homily at halftime of last night's Ravens-Chargers snoozer was less objectionable than usual; it contained elements of actual wisdom, as he pointed out that, were the Colts willing to shell out what it'll take to keep Peyton Manning happy while also drafting Luck, they'd have the chance to replicate what the Packers did with Aaron Rodgers. Recall that Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three seasons before he took the NFL by storm. Luck might even benefit more from such a scenario: assuming that Peyton Manning is a rational actor, Luck could have the advantage of not being completely hated and ignored by the QB he's understudying.
As for my Packers, I wasn't able to watch the game live—here in D.C., Fox showed Eli Manning soiling the bedsheets against the Redskins—but watching the NFL.com Game Rewind condensation may have given me some cumulative small-impact brain injuries of my own. The Packers' bend-but-don't-break defense broke once again, giving up a fourth-quarter touchdown when the team needed a stop. (The Chiefs came in averaging about one touchdown per game.) And unlike two weeks ago against the Giants, the offense wasn't spectacular enough to make up for it. In fact, the Packers' offense, and Rodgers in particular, weren't even good.
There's an argument to be made that it benefits a team to experience the bitterness of defeat once in a while, so that they'll be freshly reminded how superior is the ambrosia-like flavor of sweet, sweet victory, or whatever. I agree with this argument, even though it's probably stupid. And so I'd been on my knees Tebowing for weeks that the Packers might completely botch a game late in the season, then channel their rage into enough consecutive victories to once again win it all. They've now taken care of the botch, which is great, but of course now my Machiavellian side—They must lose to win!—has been overwhelmed by my Chicken Little side, and all I can think about is how totally awful Aaron Rodgers looked yesterday. I wouldn't call him Tebowesque—he's not literally like a kid out there—but he did seem (shudder) like a quarterback on a football field. That is, he did not appear to be some kind of robot sent from space to destroy the rest of the NFL with his super-fast processors and a throwing arm accurate to within 0.01 micrometers.
Rodgers underthrew receivers. He overthrew them. Once, on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter, he underthrew Jordy Nelson and overthrew Jermichael Finley at the same time. With Greg Jennings hurt and the entire offensive line on crutches, Rodgers looked indecisive, confused, and harried in the pocket.
The touchdown pass in the third quarter to Donald Driver was fine, but the play before it summed up Rodgers' day: He got nailed by a Chief, just barely managed to keep his feet, and then—the pocket collapsing around him—he didn't coolly survey the end zone, find a receiver open in the tumult, and hit him in the numbers for 6. Nope, he chucked the ball ten rows deep into the stands, as if he never wanted to touch a football again. In short, he was not a Top Performer. This is brutally pointed out in ESPN's box score, at which Rodgers this morning must be wincing as he reads the words under "Top Performers": "Passing: K. Orton (KC) — 299 YDS."
We're well into the magical-thinking part of the season, in which fans begin to believe that their team's success depends as much on the measures taken in front of the TV as it does on the players' performance in the field. Of course this is as irrational as believing that God loved Tim Tebow so much that he let the Patriots destroy him, just to keep His new favorite son humble. So I must steel myself, regain my courage, and realize that I am overreacting and the Packers will be fine. Their chances are no better and no worse to win the Super Bowl than they were 48 hours ago. (Except that they lost another O-lineman, this time to a broken leg.) (Shut up, Dan.)
Emma, distract me. What did you take away from this week?
Dan Kois is a senior editor at Slate and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.