It’s a good thing we have two weeks to regroup after conference championship weekend. I don’t know if I could handle the Super Bowl any sooner after two such tense, edge-of-your-couch playoff battles. One game went to overtime while the other one should have.
Still, something was missing: where were the heroes? Instead of two individuals coming through in the clutch and forever inking their names in NFL lore, we had two goats commit flubs at the worst possible times to…forever ink their names in NFL lore. Keep reading to find out who’s responsible for setting up a Super Bowl XLII rematch between the Giants and the Pats.
FIRST AND GOAL
The four biggest stories in football this weekend. As always, use the comments section below to answer my questions!
Say It Ain’t So, Joe
Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff will get most of the blame today for missing what seemed to be an absolute gimme, game-tying field goal from 32 yards out with 11 seconds left in the game. Then there’s receiver Lee Evans, who two plays earlier dropped the go-ahead TD catch in the corner of the end zone. If you’re a true fan, though, you have to feel sorry for these guys. I guarantee both of those players are beating themselves up for their mistakes. I, on the other hand, feel worst for Ravens QB Joe Flacco. Flacco not only put up good numbers (306 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), he put his team in place to win with his final drive down the field into scoring position. Through no fault of his own, Flacco is once again going on vacation before Super Bowl weekend. But this one wasn’t on him. What do you think: even in a losing effort, did Joe Flacco do enough to silence his critics?
The Patriots weaved their way through the league this year and all the way to the No. 1 seed on the back of their high-powered offense. Strangely enough, it was their defense that carried them over the hump and back into the Super Bowl. Tom Brady was off all day, missing open targets down field and throwing two more interceptions than touchdowns (2-to-0), yet New England still wriggled out a win. Vince Wilfork earned the Professor’s Defensive MVP award for stuffing the Ravens’ running game all day and throwing a sack in for good measure. The banged up Pats’ secondary also did their job well enough to keep Baltimore out of the end zone at the end of the game to set up Cundiff’s miss. If Brady gets back on track, this defense will be able to do more than enough to add another shiny Lombardi to New England’s trophy case. What do you think: has New England’s defense good enough to win the big one?
San Francisco Slows Down
I know you can’t boil a game down to just one play. But what about two? Just as the Niners wrestled all the momentum away from the Giants in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game, back-up punt returner Kyle Williams let a ball graze his leg. The Giants recovered and a couple plays later had the lead. Then, in overtime, after the Niners had once again snuffed out a promising Giants drive near midfield, Williams fumbled during his return. Ball game. Here’s the thing: the Niners offense only had ONE THIRD DOWN CONVERSION ALL DAY. Williams’ mistakes were crucial and led directly to 10 Giants points, but shouldn’t the offense shoulder some blame for not scoring more in the first place? The two special teams mistakes may have cost San Francisco the fairy tale end to their storybook season, but let’s not overlook the stalled offense. What do you think: who deserves more blame for the Niners loss, the offense or Kyle Williams?
Big Blue, Big Win
We’ve seen this script before. The Giants ride a fierce defense and a hot QB all the way to the title. Can it really be happening in all the same ways it went down in 2007-08? It can. And it might be an even better team this time around. Look at the weapons Eli has at his disposal on offense: Ahmad Bradshaw out of the backfield; Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham on the outside; four defensive lineman who can break through with a game-changing sack on any snap. Seriously, I know most people think the Patriots are the team to beat because of their regular season record and their reputation. Just keep in mind, the Giants already knocked off the Pats this season (in New England) and in the Super Bowl four years ago (when New England had been previously undefeated). I think the tables have turned and the Giants should be the favorites heading into Super Bowl XLVI. What do you think: are the Giants the favorite to win it all?
HEROES AND ZEROES
Who excelled and who came up short this week. Nominate your own in the comments below!
Vince Wilfork, NT, NE: 3 tackles, 3 assists, 1 sack
Justin Tuck, DE, NYG: 3 tackles, 1.5 sacks
Vernon Davis, TE, SF: 112 yards, 2 TDs (without him, the NFC Championship Game would’ve been a blowout)
Kyle Williams, WR, SF: See above
Billy Cundiff, K, BAL: Same
Alex Smith, QB, SF: 12-for-26, 196 yards, 2 TDs