To paraphrase the late Meryll Frost, we need to give the much-hated, much-maligned bond allocation credit for picking up the slack so far in this stock selloff. (Of course, if things get out of hand from here and investors run for the hills, we will follow protocol to take money off the table as needed.)
Offense is Sexy
In many ways, stocks and bonds can be thought of as offensive and defensive positions in an investment portfolio. Since 2009, stocks grew to commanded a premium while sentiment toward bonds were probably the worst I’ve ever witnessed in my career.
And so it was this past weekend at the Superbowl, when the greatest offense clashed with the greatest defense, with stunning results. Hat tip to Pete for sending in this article:
How the Seattle Seahawks Solved Peyton Manning
The best quarterback in NFL history was dismantled by one of the best game plans in Super Bowl history.
This, upon further review, is the story of Super Bowl XLVIII. On Sunday, in the immediate wake of the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 drubbing of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, it was natural to surmise that Manning, the league’s most valuable player this season, had shrunk on the biggest stage. After all, this is a player whose career playoff record is now a modest 11-12.
But a review of the game film shows that Manning’s struggles were destined from the start. Seattle’s strategy focused on containing Denver’s vaunted short passing game, exposing the Broncos as a team with surprisingly few tricks in their offensive bag.
The Seahawks gladly let Manning break the Super Bowl record for completions. He connected on 34 of his 49 passes. The hulking Seattle defense held those passes to an average of 8.2 yards per completion, the third-worst mark in Super Bowl history, according to Stats LLC. The plan was simple: Let Manning have his short passes, but make sure they stay short.
The Seahawks have a few trademark moves: They pressure the quarterback with their endless parade of talented defensive linemen, and their oversize cornerbacks push receivers out near the sideline. This leaves large spaces in the middle of the field, where safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor wipe out receivers that come through.
What the Seahawks did on Sunday was take that standard operating procedure and make tweaks to neutralize Manning.
The first rule of facing Manning is don’t blitz. According to Pro Football Focus, there were 184 instances this season when brave, foolish souls blitzed Manning; he devastated them in response, compiling a quarterback rating above 100 in those situations.
The point of blitzing—that is, sending defenders other than linemen to rush the quarterback—is to get the quarterback uncomfortable, gambling that he won’t be able to find the hole in the defense that was created when the blitzing player left his post. That doesn’t work on Manning. The Seahawks knew this, so they tried something else.
On Denver’s first third down of the game, Seattle sent only three pass rushers. The rest dropped into coverage. This is almost unheard of in the NFL. The play resulted in a short three-yard completion that forced a punt. In another critical instance, the Seahawks sent the standard four pass rushers—yet defensive end Cliff Avril got to Manning anyway, hitting his arm as he threw. Because linebacker Malcolm Smith wasn’t blitzing, he was there to intercept the floating pass and return it for a backbreaking touchdown.
In fact, on some plays, the Seahawks would even drop their linemen into coverage, even though they weigh around 300 pounds. A typical play saw them backing straight up and standing towards the middle of the field and giving Manning yet another (large) object to avoid. The three-man rush could still apply pressure, however.
This was the theme throughout the night. The Seahawks wanted to keep every play in front of them to prevent the Denver wide receivers from executing their blocking schemes to break off big gains after the catch—the Broncos’ trademark.
To counteract these and the “pick” plays Denver runs, in which one receiver runs interference for another by running into a cornerback, the Seahawks had a clear plan.
When two Denver receivers lined up next to each other, Seattle cornerbacks such as Richard Sherman would begin to backpedal before the snap. This was to get away from the Bronco receivers. The Seahawks knew those receiver pairs likely would try to pick the cornerback—or to execute downfield blocking on a short pass, which could lead to even bigger gains. So the Seahawks’ cornerbacks had no problem starting the play three or four yards away, waiting for it to develop, then rushing in with their superior tackling skills to stomp it out.
Seattle’s defensive plan will go down as one of the best efforts to stop an individual player in Super Bowl history. The gold standard was coach Bill Belichick’s strategy that engineered the New England Patriots’ 2002 upset of the St. Louis Rams. In that game, Belichick knew that Rams running back Marshall Faulk was the key to the offense. He figured St. Louis could execute nearly any play—from a big run to a deep pass—by either giving the ball to Faulk or using him as a decoy. So Belichick’s plan was to devote a player to knocking Faulk on his behind on every play, taking him completely out of the equation.
The Patriots, a two-touchdown underdog, pulled off the upset, 20-17. It took until Sunday for another coach to so effectively nullify a superstar in a Super Bowl.
Now if only Bill Belichick can somehow recall this lesson.