Payton’s play-calling defies the gamblers’ themeby J.W. Miller on 10/22/18
Sporting thoughts while wondering why Las Vegas considers No. 12 Kentucky a 7-point underdog at 4-3 Missouri on Saturday …
Kenny Rogers sang that a successful gambler knows “when to hold’em and when to fold’em.” Rogers probably never met Saints Coach Sean Payton, whose play-calling defies the logic promoted in Rogers’ song. Instead, when Payton’s opponent seems to have a stacked hand, Payton pushes all his chips to the middle of the table.
If you want proof, just take a look at some of his calls in Sunday’s 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. In the first drive, Payton ordered a fake punt from his own 34-yard line, and it worked. In the same drive, Payton ordered his team to go for it on fourth down two more times, and they both worked. “Those fourth and a half yarders are tough for me to concede,” Payton said after the game.
When you have a mindset to push convention, it’s good to have two Aces up your sleeve: Reliability and upredictability. Payton has both in QB Drew Brees and QB/slash/SAK (Swiss Army Knife) Taysom Hill. Behind 17-7 going into the fourth quarter, Brees piloted three scoring drives that led to a rushing touchdown by Alvin Kamara, a field goal and touchdown passes to TE Ben Watson and WR Michael Thomas, his 500th and 501st by the way. Along the way, he also sneaked (snuck?) three third or fourth and short plays to achieve first downs.
Hill also had his moments, beginning with the fake punt in the first quarter that kept the Saints’ opening drive alive. He took snaps at the wildcat position, running for a first down or handing off to Kamara. That’s in addition to his other duties as kickoff return man and gunner on the kickoff teams. The only mistake Hill made came in that opening drive when he took the snap on a run pass option and tossed the ball behind Kamara resulting in a lost fumble. Other than that, no complaints.
So if you’ve got one of the best quarterbacks of all time in the game and a jack-of-all-positions to inject a little insanity now and again, I guess it’s not really gambling. It also doesn't hurt to have the guts of a burglar and the luck that makes the kickers of two opponents miss two-foot putts that give you two wins.
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The World Series opens in Boston Tuesday night, and if the Red Sox beat the L.A. Dodgers, they will solidify their claim as the team of the (21st) century. The Sox won the World Series in 2004, 2007 and 2013, rivaled by only San Francisco, which also won three, in 2010, 2012 and 2014. You might not know that Boston held even a loftier position at this point in the last century, having won five fall classics, in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918.
But then owner Harry Frazee traded the star of the 1918 team, P/OF Babe Ruth, to the Yankees, casting his team into baseball purgatory almost forever. The Sox do not have a dominating Ruthian star on the current team, but they did win more games than any other team in baseball this year with timely hitting and solid pitching.
But just in case, the message of a lifelong Red Sox fan to team ownership is this: If they beat the Dodgers, please don’t screw up the rest of the century by making any stupid trades!