by Robert Ferringo - 01/17/2006
What an insane, brutal, jaw-dropping, adrenaline-addled weekend of football. I'm not going to bother with a lead; we're just going to get right into my random ravings about the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs:
-- The Patriots are Dead. Long live the Patriots.
Watching the Patriots lose in the manner they did made me rethink my whole concept of good and evil. Five turnovers? Missed field goals? Tom Brady not being dreamy? When did New England become the St. Louis Rams?
The Magic is spent and The Dynasty is over. It's just like when the Yankees lost to the Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Once the aura is broken, it's gone for good.
-- As I'm typing this, Steve Smith just made another catch.
-- Since 1990, teams that have the positive turnover differential in playoff games are 128-21. Those are the odds that Seattle overcame when it beat Washington 20-10 this weekend despite posting a minus-2 in the turnover department.
-- Here are three reasons why Pittsburgh's win over Indianapolis was not as dumbfounding and unbelievable as the mainstream media would have us believe:
1. That 10-point line was bogus, playing right into public perception about the Colts. If oddsmakers had set the line around 6.5 it would've given people the idea that maybe Pittsburgh could win and pulled money away from Indy. The result was likely a windfall for the books on Sunday.
2. In any Big Game, the tough, grind-it-out team with the much better defense will always beat the flashy, high-scoring team with the soft defense. Always. Football is a physical, violent game so the more physical and violent team usually wins. It happened two weeks ago with Texas/USC, so how is this upset "shocking"?
3. Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy, on the same team, in a clutch spot.
-- Denver only gained nine yards en route to its first 17 points. Their first touchdown was a one-yard run set up by a pass-interference call in the end zone. After Ellis Hobbs fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Broncos netted only seven yards before Jason Elam hit a 50-yard field goal. Finally, Mike Anderson capped a one-yard drive following Champ Bailey's game-changing interception late in the third quarter.
Oh, and Patriots fans need to quit bitching about that pass interference call. I agree it was poor, but over this four-year run it's not as if New England hasn't been on the receiving end of some suspect officiating (the Tuck Rule in 2002 and the entire 2003 Divisional game against Indy come to mind).
-- The Seattle secondary is the most underrated unit left in the postseason.
-- Friday night I made the mistake of saying to my fiancé that "If anyone in the world was hot enough to make Brad Pitt leave Jennifer Anniston, I guess it would have to be Angelina Jolie." Sara went into a murderous rage. She couldn't believe I would say such a thing. How could I betray Jen? Angelina's a slut. Yada, yada, yada.
I bring this up because maybe Indianapolis cornerback Nick Harper said the same thing to his wife on Saturday, leading to her stabbing him in the knee. I mean, chicks can be as crazy about this celebrity stuff as we can be about sports. Just a theory.
-- "Independent films are those black-and-white hippie movies. They're always about gay cowboys eating pudding."
Brokeback Mountain completely validates Eric Cartman's theory.
-- Mike Anderson's 18-yard run with 2:15 left in the game was the first run of more than nine yards that the Patriots had given up in 27 quarters.
-- Matt Hasselbeck earned himself a spot in the mainstream with his play last Saturday. However, I took one look at him at the press conference afterwards - in his V-neck, Argyle sweater with pink in the pattern - and it became obvious that Seattle absolutely, positively will not win the Super Bowl this year. You can't win The Big Game with a quarterback who wears pink sweaters. It's just a rule.
-- Have you ever seen a quarterback throw an entire organization under the Bus like Manning did on Sunday?
First, he waved off the punt team near the end of the third quarter to go for it on fourth-and-two. He was absolutely right on the call, and Tony Dungy should've made that move himself, but watching Manning neuter his coach like that was painful.
Secondly, Manning publicly called out his entire offensive line after the game. This is the same line that dominated people all year, allowing a league-low 20 sacks on the season. Manning was sacked five times on Sunday, and was terrified in the pocket all game. His happy feet led to airmailed passes and no offensive rhythm.
Hey Peyton - it's football. It's a physical game, and you're going to get hit. That right there is why you're not a leader, why you're not a clutch player, and why you've never won anything.
-- Rex Grossman's numbers to start Sunday's game: 3-for-15, 2 yards. I'm sure it had nothing to do with being rusty.
-- Last week, assistant coaches Ron Rivera and Eric Mangini were both either interviewing for or preparing to interview for another team's head coaching job. Is it a coincidence that both of them watched their defenses get lit up and their clubs lose?
-- I don't think I've ever seen a momentum swing in a football game like the one that took place in the last minute-and-a-half of the Pittsburgh/Indianapolis game. That was just incredible.
-- This just in, Steve Smith just beat the Chicago secondary for another deep grab.
-- On Monday the City of San Antonio "honored" Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. - the civil rights leader, anti-war protestor and one of the most peaceful men in our nation's history - with a flyover by two Air Force T-1A Jayhawk jets, an overt symbol of military power.
-- Shaun Alexander sure looked OK jumping up and down on the sidelines. I understand that acting like a cheerleader isn't nearly as hazardous as bashing skulls with Marcus Washington, but what ever happened to digging deep in the playoffs?
-- If you recall, Jerome Bettis almost ended the Steelers season last year with a key fumble in the Divisional Round. He put it on the ground against the Jets early in the fourth quarter with his team down 17-10. However, both times the other team's kicker bailed out The Bus.
-- The Idiot Kicker, a.k.a. Mike Vanderjagt will never be remembered for his perfect season in 2003 or his verbal jousting with Manning. He'll forever be linked to that awful excuse for a game-winning field goal, and for crying about it on the sideline.
-- "Who the f@!# are you, and what the hell are you doing trying to guard Steve Smith???"
That came out of my mouth after watching the replay of Smith's second touchdown catch, which put Carolina up 23-14 with two minutes left in the third quarter. I've watched every snap of Chicago's season and I had no idea who Chris Thompson was. I found out after the game that he's a second-year player that spent last year on Jacksonville's special teams. Nice.
Chicago did a very good job making offensive adjustments to the vicious Carolina blitz on Sunday. However, Rivera didn't make any adjustments as Smith single-handedly undressed his defense. Charles Tillman had one of the worst games I've ever seen a corner have, and it was clear after about five plays that he couldn't stay with Smith. I will never understand why Rivera didn't put Chicago's Pro Bowler - the smaller, quicker Nathan Vasher - on him.
-- The Steelers win was huge for anyone who made a Futures play for the NFC regarding the Super Bowl line. Bettors could have picked up the NFC getting anywhere from 10-13 points, and the actual line will be half of that.
-- Breaking news update: Steve Smith just scored another touchdown.
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