AFC North: Divisional Round Ramblings

AFC North: Divisional Round Ramblings
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Interesting weekend of football, for sure.  In fact, these playoffs have featured some really good, compelling matchups, some great storylines, and now, a reprise of the (cue horn section) “greatest quarterback matchup of the 21st century”.


(twirls finger in air; whistles softly)


I have nothing but respect for what Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have accomplished.  Yes, we’re tired of looking at Manning’s ever-receding hairline and hearing his well-documented twang pitching another insurance company.  Speculation over Brady’s career accomplishments will always be tainted in the eyes of many because of the cheating allegations that have dogged the Patriots since 2007.  But the fact remain; these guys were (and at least in Brady’s case, still are) among the best at their craft, historically or otherwise.  Between them, they own five titles among nine Super Bowl appearances, and are the NFL’s statistical leaders in career yards, single-season yards, career touchdown passes, and single-season touchdown passes.  It’s safe to say that both are locks for the Hall of Fame.  And despite my weariness with looking at both, I’ll be watching them duke it out once more time with interest.


Because quarterbacks of this caliber don’t appear very often, let’s enjoy what’s left of them.




Speaking of the Patriots, it’s nearly impossible to defend Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s horrible clock management and plodding, inept offensive showing in Foxborough last Saturday.  The Chiefs’ final drive took over five minutes and did result in a touchdown, which is fine in quarters 1-3.  Not so when 6:29 is remaining in the game.  Reid’s offense simply looked sluggish and uninspired, which is testament to how little the urgency of the moment was registering on the Chiefs’ sideline or coaching booth.


That’s all on Reid.


I understand the need to remain calm and efficient in the face of that level of pressure, but when the difference is winning or losing a playoff game, a little more intensity is surely needed.




Kudos to the Cardinals and Packers, who played a highly entertaining game Saturday night.  For those of us that had no rooting interest, it was as enjoyable – and remarkable – as a playoff game gets.  Lots of storylines abound in this game, including a “turn back the clock” moment for venerable Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald, whose eight catches for 176 yards were an obvious difference in the game, particularly his last catch, which was good for 75 yards and the winning overtime touchdown.  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, undergoing a bit of a redemption story himself, had already delivered a Hail Mary pass to little-known wideout Jeff Janis to send the game to overtime; the second time this season that Rodgers’ late-game heroics had produced at least a tie, and setting the stage for Fitzgerald’s exceptional catch and run.


Great stuff.




Never thought I’d be saying this, but much respect to the Seahawks and their players (but definitely not their fans; more on that below) for hanging in and not surrendering to the moment or the ultimately insurmountable 31-0 halftime lead that the Panthers had established.  The Seahawks showed a lot of character by nearly erasing their deficit; of course, the fact that they had incurred such a scoring margin doesn’t speak nearly as well for them.  I suppose I can’t fault Panthers head coach Ron Rivera for calling a conservative game in the second half; 31-0 will often result in that sort of game planning, and, as Rivera has pointed out, they still won the game.  But they sure made Panthers fans nervous in the process, and gave Seattle something to build on heading into the offseason.


Regarding Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s disposing of a “12th Man” banner while taking a victory lap around his home stadium (it was handed to him, by the way; he didn’t seek it out); the Seahawks’ fans are apparently incensed over what they deem to be a slight against them and their charitable contributions to the community in the name of the “12th Man”.  It’s similar to the outrage often seen when players denigrate the Pittsburgh “Terrible Towel”, sales of which also contribute to worthy causes.


The sanctimonious responses to this sort of thing force me to question the sanity of those complaining.  Really, it’s a strip of polyester with a transfer print on it, and while it’s good that contributing fans received them as essentially a receipt for their donation, the condemnation of a quarterback celebrating over trashing said polyester is pretty ridiculous.


Get over it.




Lastly, props to the Steelers for being closely competitive in a game that many had written off as a blowout loss in light of several key Steelers injuries.  No, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t “faking it” as many have implied – has anyone actually watched the clips of his injury? – but he was surely on a few painkillers to deliver the amount of yardage (339) that he did with a bum shoulder.  While I might not have made some of the same coaching decisions that Mike Tomlin did during the game, I understand why he made them.  The results of coaching gambles often dictate the perception of the coach (at least to fans), and Tomlin hasn’t had much luck with his gambles lately.  But this doesn’t make him a bad coach.


Also of note:  Antonio Brown or no, the Broncos limited the Steelers’ vaunted offense to 16 points, which is impressive, particularly in the red zone, and what I would have expected from the league’s top defense.  It remains to be seen whether they can sustain this level of play against a mostly-healthy New England team.  Oughtta be fun.






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