By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Show the video. Release the footage. That's all I really wanted out of this whole hullabaloo about a Patriots employee shooting video of the Bengals' sideline last weekend in Cleveland. It's all you could have rightfully asked for, really.
If the footage showed some tight shots of coaches giving the limited signals that coaches give out these days, or if it focused on a specific group, or if there was some specific pattern, then it would have shown that the Patriots' initial story didn't add up.
And if the footage showed a wide shot of a general view of a football game -- a view visible to the entire stadium -- to show what a scout generally watches during a football game? Well, then it would appear as though the footage was exactly what the Patriots said it was: general B-roll shot by a guy in the front row of the press box who clearly didn't know any better.
Thanks only to an unknown video leaker and Jay Glazer, we've now seen the video. Lo and behold, it was ... exactly what the Patriots admitted it was.
What a joke.
Now, it's only partly a joke, or mostly a joke, because there is no erasure of Spygate and everything that came with it. Obviously, you throw the history of Spygate into the equation, you consider the farce that was DeflateGate, and you remember that the Patriots just won't stop winning and that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady seemingly want to keep their jobs forever ... you know what's going to happen in a situation like this. It's why you can't just say "If this was the Dolphins doing the filming then nobody would care" and put a cap on the matter. And it's precisely why the guy working Bengals security in that video was downright giddy; the man seemed to believe he had just discovered the Watergate tapes when he declared, "The damage is done, my friend."
The Patriots are THE PATRIOTS, and everything they do is a huge deal. So surely, you understand how and why this current matter was referred to as a "scandal" 11,000 times on Sunday. Scandalous!
But if you watch that video, and you understand both the basic mechanics of football sidelines and the elements involved with collecting B-roll for a video feature, then you know that against all odds, the Patriots' story checks out.
If you were appalled at the footage that emerged on Sunday afternoon, then you might not have really known what you were looking at.
The overwhelming response of those disappointed with the footage has been either "well we don't know what it shows, but THE PATRIOTS definitely do" or "if they're doing this, then just imagine the millions of things they're doing that we don't know about!" Thus, the thinking goes, the Patriots deserve some extreme punishment. That uhh ... that doesn't make sense.
Of course, some sober logic didn't stop an avalanche of headlines and tweets suggesting this "wasn't a good look for the Patriots" ... even though it's exactly what they admitted to doing a week ago. If this footage was indeed indicative of video footage that even remotely could give an opponent an advantage of any kind ... then would the Bengals leak the footage to Glazer, who would then surely air it on national television for all of the world to see?
Probably not, you know?
In any event, the whole thing's not over. Not by a long shot. Not when Roger Goodell is sticking his nose into the matter, and not when Troy Vincent is involved in any way. Vincent, who played a key role in the testing of PSI levels of footballs during halftime of the infamous 2014 AFC Championship Game, later admitted that he didn't know what science was. Vincent and Goodell lied their way through that "scandal" for years, as anyone who followed it closely can remember. Alas, too few followed it closely, so the NFL won.
They'll likely look to do that again this time, though they'll likely be working with less material. If it was indeed a regular practice of the Patriots to send a man wearing a Bruins hat to squat in someone else's press box seat in the front row, directly in front of 20 employees of the other team to gather some casual sideline footage, don't you think that another team might have possibly noticed before last weekend? And if the Patriots made a habit out of requesting credentials from teams to send film crews into press boxes with cameras in hand, might some other teams have shared that history by now?
(And wouldn't the footage be taken ... from the opposite side of the field? I'm no spy expert, but if you're trying to spy on people to steal their brains, you generally want to not just film their butts and backs, I would think.)
Sometimes, the most basic explanation is the best explanation. In this case, much to the country's dismay, and in a rather unique scenario, it appears to have been an honest mistake by the Patriots.
Of course, they're the Patriots, so the penalty will be four to five times stronger than it would be for any other team doing the exact same thing. So instead of just the $150,000 fine issued to the Giants and a backward shift 10 spots in the fourth round of the draft when head coach Ben McAdoo illegally used a walkie-talkie during a game, or the Browns getting hit with a $250,000 fine and a GM suspension when the GM was texting to the sidelines during a game, expect a little more. It shouldn't match the $350,000 fine and stripping of a fifth-round pick that was levied on the Falcons for pumping in crowd noise during games ... but it probably will.
For that, there needn't be any outrage. In just about every aspect of this unnecessary and baffling story, it all just is what it is.
Oh, hey, also, the Patriots and Bengals played a football game, so let's explore the Leftover Thoughts from that 34-13 win.
--Clinching the playoffs is obviously no big deal in New England, but it's worth noting that the Patriots extended their own NFL record by clinching a playoff berth for an 11th straight season. This is ... not normal. The fact that they are in position to secure a first-round bye as one of the two best teams in the AFC for 10 straight years is all the more insane. They've been in the playoffs every year since 2009 and 17 times in the last 19 years, but they've needed to play in the wild-card round just three times.
Of course, actually going 16-5 in the playoffs, reaching four Super Bowls and winning three of them over the past eight years could be considered slightly not normal. That's more postseason success than a number of franchises have in their history, you know?
They've won 11 games or more for an NFL record 10 straight seasons; the Colts rank second in that category with seven such seasons.
Long story short, it's crazy what they're doing, it will end some day, but not quite yet.
--All of that being said, they trailed 10-7 for almost an entire quarter on Sunday to the Bengals. Even Zac Taylor wouldn't have expected that to be the case.
It wasn't really rocket science how the Patriots fell behind. When you fail to tackle a running back in the backfield ...
... and when you only require Andy Dalton to throw one single pass in a 75-yard drive, and when you get too much into the holiday spirit by falllllllllllllllllllllllling on your knees on said pass ...
... well, you're going to give up a touchdown. Even if you're facing the Bengals.
--The Patriots' defense clearly didn't show up on time, getting gashed for 75 yards and a touchdown on nine plays. The Bengals moved 54 yards on nine plays for a field goal on their second drive, too.
After that ... the Patriots limited Cincinnati to 191 yards on 45 plays, forcing four interceptions and never allowing the Bengals to even sniff the red zone. They showed up eventually.
--For the life of me, I don't know how an NFL team can take the field, watch James White (JAMES WHITE!) motion into the slot, and then ... not cover him. On the second play of the game.
And yet ...
That was, as the kids say ... a case of #ZeroHumansDefense.
Alternatively, it could be called the "Hope Brady Doesn't Throw It To The Uncovered James White" defense. Technical names aside, it proved unsuccessful. Nice blitz to the other side of the formation though.
--Can't talk Patriots without talking Tom Brady, so let's go with two different areas.
Three throws Brady missed:
That last one absolutely need to be caught by a running back who was drafted in the first round, but nevertheless, the quarterback didn't make a very good throw.
And here are throws Brady made that didn't get caught:
Likewise, the third one's a partial stretch, as the pass might have been a touch too far ahead. Nevertheless, an imperfect day for the quarterback, with some drops that didn't help matters.
But he also BUZZED this touchdown pass:
And threw this one that didn't count:
So he looked fine.
--Let's get to everybody's favorite part of the program: UNDERRATED PLAYS OF THE WEEK! No, this isn't a program, and no, I've never done underrated plays of the week before. But it's called salesmanship, bucko.
UNDERRATED PLAY OF THE WEEK, NUMBER ONE: John Simon shakes off a bogus penalty call from a few snaps prior to recognize the screen, halting his pass rush and turning around to chase down Joe Mixon from behind.
Two plays after that, the Patriots' defense stuffed Mixon on a fourth-and-inches, and the Patriots went ahead and dropped 20 straight points. Big time play.
UNDERRATED PLAY OF THE WEEK, NUMERO DOS: You know the play when Tom Brady had 45 minutes in the pocket before hitting Harry for a touchdown? Look at the man Joe Thuney on that play at left guard. LOOK. AT. HIM.
Obviously, everyone on the line did their jobs well on that play. But against the 328-pound Andrew Billings, Thuney had to work the hardest.
Well. That was fun.
--One play that wasn't underrated was the fourth-and-inches stop by the Patriots' defense. On that, I'd just like to direct your attention on Danny Shelton, who grabbed a fully grown adult male who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 315 pounds, and he took this fella, and, well, it wasn't pretty:
Danny Shelton simply discarded that man*. Good grief.
*His name was Michael Jordan. Ergo, Danny Shelton is now the GOAT. Transitive property.
--I initially thought Matthew Slater got away with interfering with Alex Erickson catching the punt that was muffed. And then I realized ... it only happened because Tony McRae blocked Slater in the back, essentially shoving Slater into the return man.
How very Bengals of him.
--Stephon Gilmore is definitely the Defensive Player Of The Year. Definitely. So are like three other guys. What are ya gonna do?
It would be pretty cool if Gilmore did earn an honor that so many great cornerbacks never won. And it would be well-deserved. I've seen plenty of historic cornerback play, but I don't ever recall seeing everything working so smoothly every single week for anyone like it has for Gilmore. He does his homework, he shows up to the field, he knows when to apply his film study, and he knows how to make plays -- including one-armed picks in the middle of the field.
Whether he wins the award or not ... this has been a historic season for Gilmore, and it's been a treat to witness.
--Gilmore came this close to interception No. 3 on the day:
He also lamented that he didn't have four interceptions. I've yet to figure out which play he wanted No. 4. But I guess that's just the level is brain is at right now. Meanwhile, Tyler Boyd claims he won most of his 1-on-1 matchups against Gilmore, which shows the level where his brain is at right now.
--Do you care about the Patriots potentially becoming the eighth team to ever allow 200 or fewer points in a 16-game season? Maybe you do, maybe you don't. If you don't, more power to you. If you do, then know this: The Patriots have allowed 181 points this season. Some quick math with my fingers tells me that gives them 19 points of leeway against the Bills and Dolphins.
They could do it. But, as I've noted throughout this months-long story, it only matters if they win the Super Bowl. Otherwise, you're the '78 Broncos or the '86 Bears (who actually had a better defense than the '85 Bears, but didn't win the Super Bowl.)
--Here's a thing:
How do you show your face if you're the official who threw that flag? What do you even say in the huddle when your coworkers tell you that you can't count? What's that like?
--Rex Burkhead: Ferocious Juke?
--Don't tell anybody, but I used my super secret spy equipment to eavesdrop on this conversation between Zac Taylor and Andy Dalton:
--Hey, Tom Brady. How we feeling?
All right, then. Pats-Bills, Saturday afternoon in late December, with a playoff feel and the division still technically up for grabs? Sounds like a plan.
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