The Back Nine: A distaste for zone defense

New England receiver Julian Edelman runs up the field Sunday while Los Angeles defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman comes in to make the tackle at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)

The Back Nine comes at you after a Super Sunday that resulted in a meat hangover. Maybe you shouldn’t mix brats, wings and baby backs.

10. What is it about the Super Bowl that always has social media with sharpened knives ready for the attack (me included)? It was a horrible game, I agree, unless you like punting. The NFL refs blew a bunch of calls, but don’t we expect that all the time? I thought the halftime show was OK, nothing special. The commercials were clearly the highlight, especially the NFL one and almost all of the Bud Light takes. Was it an entertaining four hours? No, but that’s because it was a sporting event and sporting events are unscripted. There are no guarantees, no built-in gimmicks to make sure you enjoy it (and some you couldn’t possibly enjoy). And now football is over. A nation turns its lonely eyes to you Steve Spurrier and the Alliance of American Football. Make it fun again. Oh, and the Rams just punted again.

11. That game did cement something in my small brain and that is my distaste for playing zone defense against really good quarterbacks. You play zone and you are basically saying, “We have places you can pass the ball to open receivers if you can find them.” And Tom Brady and Julian Edelman found them all day. How many times was Edelman just standing in the middle of the field with nobody within 3 yards? I hate zone defenses. I think they should be banned. At least for the team I am cheering for. But if you think I’m angry, what about the guy who put $2 million down late on the Rams in Vegas? And saw them score three points? He’s probably thinking what everyone else is:

• Sean McVay was out-coached by a guy twice his age with 10 times his experience. I seriously think Bill Belichick could take the current Raiders, Jets or Dolphins, give him Brady and he could win a Super Bowl with those rosters.

• Jared Goff, as I predicted, played like a guy playing in his first Super Bowl.

• His offensive line, especially the right side, gets a lot of the blame.

12. So early last week there was a lot of talk about the NCAA considering possible changes to the college football overtime system. Of course, they are. What’s the most exciting thing in sports? College football overtime. So let’s screw that up. It’s an overreaction to the Texas A&M-LSU game that went seven overtimes. Let’s remember that since the overtime rule instituted in 1996, there have only been five games that went to seven overtimes — and God help me, I loved every one of them! A majority of OT games are decided after both teams get the ball once. I’m all for player safety, but isn’t it a little hypocritical to keep adding games if you want to do something about players safety. I mean, Alabama and Clemson played one fewer game than the Jags, Fins or Bucs this season. I think the compromise of making teams go for two immediately is something I can live with.

13. Another opportunity, another failure to launch for the Florida basketball team. The broken record is getting irritating to a fan base that is suffering through what looks like a season without any NCAA Tournament. I know Florida still has reasonable metrics (No. 40 in the NET Rankings), but there’s no reason to think anything is going to be different down the stretch because it’s always the same. It’s a difficult team to watch — kind of like some of the football we’ve watched around here over the last decade — and Saturday against Kentucky was simply another example. Florida only had four turnovers in the second half and still only scored 21 points. Every player who played for the Gators had a negative in the plus/minus stat. Kentucky, to be fair, can do that to you with its length. The Wildcats have held six of their last seven opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the field (Florida shot 34.9). I’m still not sure about coach John Calipari’s team in the postseason, but I know they always seem to peak at the right time.

14. My buddy Brandon Zimmerman of the SEC Network pointed out this stat heading into Tuesday’s SEC games: home teams in conference play are 27-29. Here’s why: the top three teams in the league (Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU) are 15-2 on the road. That’s impressive. There still aren’t easy outs in this league, but the bottom isn’t as good as I thought it would be before the season began.

15. It hasn’t exactly been a great year for the Pac-12 in either of the two major sports. The league currently has four teams ranked in NET Rankings below the 100 mark led (?) by Cal at 267, the lowest ranking of any Power Five team. By contrast, the Big 12 has zero and the Big Ten only one. (The SEC has three). I don’t think hiring a PR firm, which the Pac-12 did, is going to solve the problems in that league.

16. So much for the mature version of Sergio Garcia. He went ballistic during the Saudi Invitational, attacking a bunker like he was trying to dig up buried treasure and then getting disqualified for damaging as many as five greens in anger during the third round. Calm down, bro. And congrats to Rickie Fowler, who won finally in Phoenix in the rain. I knew he’d win because I told somebody Saturday night Fowler might be overrated. The old reverse jinx.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports — Bizarre: “The lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever (16 points) also winds up providing the largest margin of victory the Patriots have ever had in a Super Bowl (10 points).” It is amazing how tight the games have been during the Pats’ Super Bowl dynasty.

18. Special thanks to Mayflower Cellars — a major sponsor of the Bob Dooley Invitational — for supplying the brats that were exquisite on Sunday. Now, I have a week to work them off at the gym and this playlist will be part of it:

• “Pretty” by Girlpool.

• “Gave You Everything” by The Interrupters.

• “Golden Embers” by Mandolin Orange.

• “Landslide” by Beirut.

• And for an oldie, “On the Road to Find Out” by Cat Stevens. I used to go to sleep with “Tea for the Tillerman” on the record player in college. By the way, someone suggested I include a YouTube link for each song in my playlists. I’m not that tech savvy. But I will work on it.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. I have 2 alumni friends that said after the Ky game that they just couldn’t watch this year’s team any longer. I will never say that, but they do stink up the place in the closing minutes. Nembhard is going to be an unbelievable talent, but folks, he’s not there yet! As Kasey Hill tried to do in the closing minutes of a number of games over his career, he thinks he has to win the game all by himself. Nembhard is worse than Kasey at driving the basket late. His real talent is in setting up the offense and assists. It sure seems that late in games they are standing around with the ball handler in isolation and nothing happening. Exactly what a defense wants to see. Early in the Ky game they were weaving and the ball was moving great from side to side, creating open looks. Later it was not. The result, 19 3-point attempts for a team that averages 30. Starting to question White’s offensive prowess.

  2. My quip during the Snoozer Bowl was that for the first time in its history, the MVP would stand for the Most Valuable Punter. If you look at the list of Super Bowl champs and their opponents, you will see that in many of the games where a team was making its first appearance against a team with SB experience lost to the experienced SB team. (Glad that wasn’t the case for the Bucs vs Raiders!) Anyway, even though the Rams have been to the SB, clearly as Pat delineated, the Pats had far more experience and I couldn’t imagine anyone thinking the Rams would win except for their fans.