This and That (Championship Weekend Awaits)
1. The Name of the Game is (Still) Turnovers – The four winning teams last weekend were a combined +10 in turnover differential. The 49ers had five takeaways, while the Giants and Ravens had four each.
2. Zebras on the Prowl – Are the games being played or refereed differently? Of the eight teams in action last weekend, Denver was the most penalized (five for 50 yards), while New Orleans and Baltimore were unpenalized.
3. The Presumptive Repeat Super Bowl Champion Packers were, in a word, brutal. On both offense and defense, Green Bay treated the ball like it was a highly radioactive menace to be avoided at all costs. The defense was especially inept, characterized by poor tackling and indifferent pass coverage, the highlight of which was the utterly preposterous Hail Mary play, which was defended so poorly that simply leaving the field early to get to the dressing room sooner for halftime would have been a far more productive use of Packers’ time. Since both Packer touchdowns were the direct result of officiating misadventures on the part of Seahawk fan favorite Bill (Mr. Magoo) Leavy, the game was not nearly as close as the score indicated, which is really saying something.
4. Here, You Take It – The talented Texans, who thoroughly dominated both sides of the ball, were done in by what tennis players call unforced errors. The Ravens were content to rush four and patiently wait for rookie QB T.J. Yates to erratically heave the ball skyward in a manner that could only charitably be described as Up for Grabs. This strategy worked remarkably well, enabling the Ravens to race out to a 17-3 first quarter lead on the strength of two touchdown drives that totaled a whopping 36 yards. The Baltimore offense managed only eleven first downs and 227 yards of total offense.
5. Wardrobe Malfunction – Nevertheless, the Patriots’ chances in the AFC Championship game were summarily dismissed by CBS commentator Shannon (Mr. Ed) Sharpe, who just minutes after the Ravens’ victory, somberly intoned the New England had lost three of its last four playoff games, a dire circumstance from which they had no hope whatsoever of recovering. For the record, Sharpe was wearing a sport coat that looked like the results of a bizarre science experiment in which an electromagnetic force field had somehow rearranged a substantial puddle of vomit into a hideously loud yet strangely symmetric plaid. Said coat was accompanied by a dark brown dress shirt and (no lie) a bright purple tie. Sharpe either gets dressed in the dark or is deliberately flaunting societal conventions in the hopes of provoking mass outbreaks of vertigo. Had this been televised in 3D, Sharpe would be facing criminal prosecution for public endangerment.
6. FCC Alert – How long will the NFL and the broadcast networks continue to let Raven QB Joe Flacco sport that cheesy porn star mustache? Surely, this is an affront to decent people everywhere, something our close personal friend Commissioner Blockhead simply cannot abide. Flacco is prone to sulking because he gets no credit, even when the Ravens win. This is a trait highly valued by NFL teams when it comes to QBs. In three playoff losses, Flacco has thrown one TD and six interceptions for a 42.2 QB rating. Now there is a reason to sulk. Here’s hoping more of this is in the offing on Sunday.
7. A Contrast in Styles – The Ravens defense has four legitimately great players. Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs (did he even play last week?) are shameless self-promoters, while Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata seem content to labor in obscurity. Lewis is the NFL career leader in Jump on the Pile at the End of the Play to Pad Your Stats Glory Hog Tackles, while Suggs is a summa cum laude graduate of the Warren Sapp School of Sportsmanship. (Ed. Note – Reed is currently suffering from serious shoulder, knee, hip, ankle and as many as a dozen other assorted debilitating and life-threatening injuries. He is listed as Probable.)
8. For Real? – Over the last several weeks, The New York Football Giants have rag-dolled the perennially overrated Cowboys (twice), the scum-sucking lowlife jets (a public service appreciated by anyone with an IQ above freezing), the Not Ready for (Playoff) Prime Time Falcons, and the almost undefeated Packers. So, are the Giants the unstoppable juggernaut they now see themselves to be? Or are they in danger of succumbing to the toxic strain of fatheaded self-satisfaction that was the undoing of their idiot Met Life co-tenants? Time will tell. Neither the 49ers nor the Giants should count on the torrent of turnovers that proved so beneficial last week.
9. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? – Memo to those who are drooling at the prospect of a Ravens-49ers Super Bowl pitting Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh. We’d all love to watch the coaches standing on the sidelines. My favorite part is when they hold the play sheets over their faces so that no one can lip read the incomprehensible play call that is being radioed in to the quarterback. That is awesome and I’m pretty sure that at least one of the Harbaughs is excellent at it. Imagine the endless replays dissecting facial expressions, expletives and the tossing of clipboards/headphones in fits of frustration and anger. Riveting stuff. Never mind the game – this is the real action that everyone craves in a Big Time Major Sporting Event.
10. As Good as It Gets – No better way to end your home schedule than to host the conference championship. I’ve been blessed to attend the Jacksonville, Indianapolis and San Diego wins at home as well as the road victory in Miami, all memorable occasions. Let’s hope this is another great sports memory in the making …
"And the anger and the yearning, like fever in my veins, set the fire burning ..." WZ