Matt Cain threw a perfect game. It was exhilarating to watch and easily goes down as one of my all-time favorite sports moments of my life with the Giants World Series victory and the 49ers victory over the Saints last year. I don't want to turn into a slobbering SF Giants fan boy on a 49ers blog (though it's somewhat pertinent, I would argue), but I do think he deserves recognition. He is the consummate pitcher and gentleman and I cannot think of another person whom I would wish could achieve such a magnificent deed.
That said, I did want to pose a simple question to you guys. Or, rather, two questions. First off, look to the title - what is Football's perfect game? And secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, is such a title even applicable?
I have a couple ideas about this, though I am more interested in what you all have to say in the comments because I have been racking my brain the last couple of days in vain. First off, I think it is fairly safe to say that the QB is to Football as the starting pitcher is to Baseball. Thus, I want to limit my conception of Football's perfect game to achievements by the QB.
By no means should you in the comments do such a thing, but it just does not have the same ring to it when, say, a pass rusher sacks the QB five times in a game. Clearly this would be an amazing accomplishment - and we would rightly go ballistic if a 49er pulled it off.
But it's got to be the QB. So, we should look to history. I have decided to use Steve Young's Super Bowl stat line from the 1994 season as a barometer. Surely we could debate which game should be the most representative of perfection from the QB perspective, but that debate escapes the bounds of this post. Moreover, I have seen the 1994 Super Bowl countless times and thus I am familiar with it.
Young's line that game was 6 TDs, going 24 on 36 attempts for 325 yards and a 66.6% completion percentage. He also rushed for 49 yards. So is this the barometer for a "perfect game?" Does a QB, for instance, need to throw at least 5 TDs, at least 300 yards, with at least a 65% completion percentage? A tall order indeed.
Here's the kicker, though. Young rushed for 49 yards, which was the highest rushing total for the 49ers. He was almost the entire source of offense for the game. Does a QB need to do this to qualify for the "perfect game?" Is it fair to expect QBs to rush the ball more than anybody else on the team?
Whatever the answer to that, I still think it might be a misnomer to even talk about a perfect game in Football. Not because Football is a team sport. I don't buy that line of logic. Without Gregor Blanco's fantastic catch in the seventh inning, Cain does not have a perfect game. Yes, the burden of the game was on Cain, which is why he gets the bulk of the glory. He had a great defense behind him for a game and an excellent catcher calling his pitches.
No, the big difference between a perfect game in Baseball and a theoretical one in Football is the structure of the game. In Baseball, a team must get 27 outs in order for the game to be completed. That is a definite goal for which a pitcher can strive. Football is much more flexible than that. In Football, the only condition is that the center must somehow snap the ball off to another player. That's really it when you think about it. And, snapping the ball is a bit easier than pitching a baseball. I don't think we are going to be handing out glory any time soon for a perfectly snapped game.