Sunday, January 16, 2011

NFL Playoff musings…

I almost feel bad for the Ravens…almost…

They had this game halfway in their pocket. I’m sure the Ravens offense will get most of the blame and they deserve some of it for the key turnovers that changed the game in the third quarter. Flacco will get further heat for “coming up short in big games”...unfairly, I think, because he made two throws that could have changed the outcome. He found Boldin in the end zone and hit him in the chest with the football but Boldin dropped it. And he made a pretty amazing pass to TJ Houshmandzadeh on their last 4th down….4th and forever and he put the ball right on the money for 1st down yardage and TJ dropped it. If Boldin makes the straightforward TD catch, they’d have been up by 4 (instead of tying the game with a FG) and the game may have been lost for the Steelers. With time running down in the 4th quarter, (and especially against great defenses) mounting a successful drive with the score tied is easier than mounting a successful drive while down by 4 pts…in the former case a FG is meaningful and valuable, so the defense has to respect all options on the field and the offense can dictate terms better. If the Steelers had been down by four points, I seriously doubt Ben could have completed that pass to Brown…the safeties would have been sitting on the long routes and cared less about the underneath stuff.

BTW, while Brown made a great ‘helmet’ catch he also made it more exciting than it had to be. I looked at the replay several times online…Ben flings the ball about 60 yds downfield and drops it in just over the shoulder of Brown, in stride….that pass was damn close to perfect…as was Flacco’s pass to Boldin the end zone… but Boldin dropped it while Brown caught it, and I guess it is by such margins that games are won and lost and careers and reputations of QBs are made and broken.

Few things, sports-wise, give me as much pleasure as watching Aaron Rodgers play QB. And not just because of what I think of Brett Favre….Rodgers has been under unfairly intense pressure since day one and he has been great. I thought it was ridiculous that people picked on him for not winning a playoff game when on the only occasion he played in one he led the team to 45 points. But hey, the media is generally too busy making apologies for the Mannings of the world to care or notice…..

What Green Bay, and Rodgers, has accomplished this year is freaking amazing. Every time I feel bad about the Steelers having to deal with injuries on their O-line I remind myself that Green Bay is much worse off….and that they still find a way to kick some ass when it counts. That beatdown in Atlanta last night was sobering….I mean, I thought Green Bay could win but didn’t imagine in my wildest dreams that Atlanta could be dismantled like that at home.

The only thing that sucks about the NFL playoffs is that they go by so fast. But that’s also the beauty of the NFL…even with everyone’s (including their own) efforts to overexpose it, the games largely occur only once a week and the playoffs are single-elimination. This is why it remains so much fun….as opposed to baseball and basketball where the seasons are way too long and even the playoffs are painfully drawn out. The NFL is a great example of “less is more”….of course, the league members (and the networks) are doing everything they can to ruin that state of affairs but that’s another story for another day.