Yesterday’s Championship Sunday in the NFL may go down as one of the most memorable Championship Sunday’s off all time. From the way it began all the way to how it ended.
Starting the day off the world was awoken to the news that Joe Paterno died of cancer. After being reported falsely by CBSSports.com late Saturday night that he died family members came out saying that the reports weren’t true and that Paterno was still fighting. However, come Sunday January 22nd Joseph Vincent Paterno had passed away.
Moving on from Paterno’s death the Baltimore Ravens would take the field at Foxboro, Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots. It was a back and fourth game from the start but the scoring would be put on hold after the Patriots took the lead off of a Tom Brady touchdown early in the fourth quarter giving the Patriots the lead 23-20.
However despite not being able to score sooner, the Ravens with 29 seconds remaining had a chance to win the game; until it happened. It was a 2nd and 1, ball on the 14 yard line when Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco stepped back, fake, then threw into double coverage to wide receiver Lee Evans, touchdown! The announcer exclaimed. However Patriots safety, Sterling Moore would knock the ball lose forcing Evans to drop the ball, ending in an incomplete pass and no touchdown.
Though it wasn’t over yet as it was 3rd down with 22 seconds left and the Ravens still had one more timeout. Flacco would try to complete a pass to tight end Dennis Pitta however it would end up incomplete as well. Though, it still wasn’t over as the Ravens were in field goal range and they were down by two.
It was a 32 yard field goal, an easy one, a gimmie, right? All Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff had to do was just step back and kick it as he was faced with a kickers dream. Instead it happened again. Cundiff’s kick was up and wide left. The home crowd was lifted by a sea of cheers as the New England Patriots were going to the Super Bowl.
Next up was a showdown between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. It was another back and fourth game that the 49ers were leading heading into the fourth quarter when they made another stop on defense forcing the Giants to punt. It appeared that with the 49ers getting the ball back again, that the Giants Super Bowl hopes were dwindling as with 11:17 left on the clock and trailing by four things just didn’t look good. But then, it happened again.
It was a punt that was almost blocked by the 49ers that ended up traveling close to 50 yards until being waved off as a fair catch by returned Kyle Williams. However, Giants wide receiver Mario Mannigham who came running down the field picked the ball up and continued running until he reached the end zone where he signaled that the ball hit Williams’ knee. After looking at a replay, it did appear that the ball did hit Willimams’ knee which meant Giants ball at the 20 yard line.
Then seven plays later after the Williams turnover, touchdown Giants, 17-14 Giants lead. However unlike Evans and Cundiff, Williams was luckily bailed out by the 49ers great defensive play and kicker David Akers as he would kick the game tying field goal to send the game to overtime.
Then in overtime after stopping the Giants offense yet again, the 49ers would force them to punt. However it happened again. Instead of calling a fair catch like he did last time, Williams, caught the ball and began running until falling to his feet. But that wasn’t it as when he was falling, he lost the ball and after reviewing the play, it was a fumble, Giants ball.
Despite being in field goal range the Giants ran the ball a couple times to assure the win as they too heard about the Cundiff miss and didn’t want it to happen to them. However, it would happen again. Though not another crazy screw up or a miss, but Patriots, Giants, Super Bowl rematch…the improbable prediction, would happen again.
On Saturday the New England Patriots put an end to the “Tebow Mania” and put an end to the Denver Broncos as they defeated Denver, 45-10. As for the other AFC Divisional match-up, the Baltimore Ravens would defeat the Houston Texans 20-13 in a game that the Ravens almost let slip away.
So now come this Sunday, the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens will take the field to play for the AFC Championship and a spot at the Super Bowl. However, the New England Patriots have already begun playing, as they’re playing the famous mind game. The Patriots are known for doing this as you see it always from Belichick and Brady, however this time they’re going all out.
Brady started out by praising the Ravens defensive players by saying, “There’s no one that’s going to overlook a team like that. It would be impossible to do,” Brady said in his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “They present a ton of challenges in all three phases of the game. You watch them yesterday, they’re physical, they’re tough, they can cover. They’ve got some of the best players in the history of the NFL at their position, in (Terrell) Suggs and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata. You’ve got phenomenal players there.”
Brady would go onto add
“We’ve really got our work cut out for us. We’ll be excited about the challenge. We’ll use the week to prepare like we always do, and really try to be at our best — hopefully be better than we were this past Saturday night, said Brady.”
Some of the best players at their position in history? Okay now don’t get me wrong, Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Haloti Ngata are all great players and great players at their posistions, but the best players in history at their positions? Come on Brady that’s a stretch. With all do respect Ngata is not in the discussion, as for Suggs he’s not even a top five linebacker in the NFL right now, let alone history? Come on he’s good but not the best ever in his position. As for Lewis and Reed they’ve good arguments but they’re not the clear cut favorite.
Brady would continue to praise the Ravens defense as he would single out Safety Ed Reed and Ray Lewis who have combined picked off Brady two times, recorded 67 tackles, and two sacks against the Patriots through out their careers.
“I love Ed Reed. If I could be a defensive player, I’d be Ed Reed — or Ray Lewis — between those two guys,” Brady told WEEI. “We’ve got guys that are getting banged up, too. I’m sure Ed will be there. This game means everything to our season. If he has any chance of playing, which I’m sure he’s got a chance of playing, he’s going to be there. And he’ll be playing good. I can promise you that.”
Brady who’s probably fearing this Ravens defense is trying to get in the heads of the Ravens defense and he’s doing it the smart way, by coming at the leaders of the defense (Lewis, Reed, Suggs, and Ngata). However it won’t work as chances are their not even paying attention to what Brady is saying anyways and if they’re, they’re probably just taking it all in with a smile.
Now it wouldn’t be a true mind game, if head coach Bill Belichick didn’t join in as he said, “They’ve won a lot of games, and I think that’s the big thing. A quarterback has to do what his team needs him to do to win, and Joe has done that. I don’t know how to improve much on 11-5 and 12-4, and they just keep doing it. He’s been a solid guy since his rookie year in terms of managing the game and using the clock and making good decisions and those types of things. He’s been able to throw the ball obviously to his backs, to his tight ends and down the field to whether it’s [Torrey] Smith or [Lee] Evans or [Anquan] Boldin or whoever it happens to be. I think he can make all the throws that you need a quarterback to make. He can run the team and manage it well. He can make checks and decisions that the offense needs to have a good flow and take advantage of defensive alignment. I think he’s certainly over four years improved in all those areas incrementally, but he did them at a pretty high level to begin with and he continues to do that.”
Now Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been consistently criticized and marked as the weak point of the Ravens franchise as he’s always making the mistakes. However Belichick marked him as the guy and the player that they need to watch and that’s just what he does he changes the mindset and flips the wrong with right.
Belichick would go onto say that the Ravens are the best defensive team that they faced all year. However the Ravens really aren’t the best defensive team as the Pittsburgh Steelers were the best team that they faced, which was week 8 during the NFL season. The Steelers won that game 25-17.
“It’s got to be a one-day-at-a-time thing,” Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “You don’t win a game on Sunday, you win it throughout the course of the week. Giving ourselves a chance to have success, it starts today.”
“You win it throughout the course of the week.” A tactic that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have used for years and they call it the mind game.
In the first round of the NFL Playoffs the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans faced off in Houston where the winner of the game would face the Baltimore Ravens. Striking first the Cincinnati Bengals would take the lead off of a one yard touchdown run from Cedric Benson.
It was a drive that was lead by rookie quarterback Andy Dalton who was trying to one up the other rookie on the opposing sideline; T.J. Yates. However Yates would respond striking back on the next drive which he would set up running back Arian Foster for an eight yard touchdown.
Both teams would go onto score field goals in the second quarter, however with less than a minute to go in the first half Dalton would throw a pick to J.J. Watt who would take it all the way to the end zone for a score. It was a costly turnover right at the end of the half that was the turning point of the game that may have cost them the game.
Coming out in the second half it would be all Houston as there was no problem as the Texans would score twice knocking the Bengals out of the playoffs, 31-10 your final.
In game two of the day was the NFC Wild Card matchup between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints. It was a game that was set for a shoot out as both teams had high powered offenses lead by high powered quarterbacks who both (Drew Brees and Mathew Stafford) threw for 5,000 plus yards on the season (Stafford 5,038 and Brees 5,476).
The Lions who received the ball first, would score on the opening drive off of a 10 yard Will Heller touchdown reception from Stafford. However as we saw in the first game, scoring first in the game didn’t necessarily mean that the game was going to result in a win.
Stopping the Saints on their next to drives, the Lions would lead 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. Opening up the second quarter the Saints would score off of a two yard Darren Sproles touchdown tying the game at 7-7. Though, the Lions wouldn’t settle as they would respond with a 13 yard touchdown reception from Calvin Johnson thrown by Stafford, 14-7 Lions lead.
Holding the Saints scoreless on their next drive and to a field goal on their last drive the Lions would head into the locker room up, 14-10. That first half deficit was the second first half deficit at the Super Dome this season for the Saints as the only other time that it happened was against the Houston Texans 16-10. Luckily for the Saints, they would go onto win that game 40-33.
Starting the second half off the Saints would go 78 yards on just four plays to score on a 41 yard touchdown reception to Devery Henderson thrown by Brees, 17-14 Saints. Though the Lions wouldn’t respond as the Saints stopped them and continued the beating in the making as they would score again off of a three yard Jimmy Graham touchdown thrown by Brees giving them a 24-14 lead.
The Lions would respond with a score cutting it to three however once the fourth quarter would start, the Lions would just collapse as the Saints would go onto win 45-28.
The Houston Texans will face the Baltimore Ravens next week and the New Orleans Saints will face the San Francisco 49ers.
Green Bay Packers (10-0) at Detroit Lions (7-3) 12:30: The undefeated Green Bay Packers travel into Detroit’s Ford Field to take on the Lions. It’s going to be a loud atmosphere for the Packers as for once the Lions are actually good and for once the Lions are good on Thanksgiving.
Coming into this Thursday’s game the Detroit Lions have lost seven consecutive holiday games and they have lost them by an average of 22.9 points. As for their overall record on the holiday of Thanksgiving games, is 4-27.
Now despite always losing on Thanksgiving Day the Lions aren’t worried as the past is the past, “From what it’s been in the past to now, it’s different,” said Detroit defensive lineman Corey Williams to ESPN. “For us to be doing as good as we’re doing right now, it’s real exciting. Then we’ve got Green Bay coming in — the big, 10-0 Green Bay. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be like a mini-Super Bowl, I think, atmosphere-wise.”
So with that being said now it’s time to pick a winner; Detroit. The reason why I believe the Lions are going to win is because of the crowd; it plays a big factor in games and this Ford Field crowd especially on prime time games gets really loud. So loud that it does effect play. Remember the Monday Night game against the Chicago Bears in week five? The Bears had nine false start penalties and lost 35-13. Though fast forward too week 10, the Bears played the Lions again except at home and they beat Detroit 24-13.
So that just goes to show you that crowds can play a role and that the crowd of Ford Field plays an even bigger one. Also when you add in that the Packers defense not playing well plays a factor too with this Lions team who averages 30.1 points per game.
Prediction: Detroit wins.
Miami Dolphins (3-7) at Dallas Cowboys (6-4) 4:15: Do I even have to say it? Like come on seriously, you’re really asking who’s going to win between the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys? I mean just three weeks ago this team was DE-feated and in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. But because they beat the Kansas City Chiefs (4-6), the Washington Redskins (3-7) who the Cowboys already beat twice this season, and the Buffalo Bills (5-5) that there all of sudden good is just plain out ridiculous.
The Dolphins are 1-4 on the road and as for the Cowboys their 4-1 at home so that right there pretty much sums it up. However if that’s not good enough for you then we’ll continue; Matt Moore he’s your starting quarterback. Jason Taylor; he’s still on your team? Shouldn’t he be vacationing with Brett Favre or something?
Now yes Reggie Bush has been doing a lot better since he started seeing Kim Kardashian again, but that doesn’t mean that his team is going to be good too. Kim only helps him, not the team…at least as we know it’s only Reggie.
I have two words for the Miami Dolphins…game over.
Prediction: Dallas wins.
San Francisco 49ers (9-1) at Baltimore Ravens (7-3) 8:20: Its brother versus brother, and mother and father versus 49ers apparel or Ravens apparel. But all jokes aside it really is and for the first time in NFL history there will be a game where two brothers as head coaches will face each other. That right there makes this game alone a great one to watch but because the 49ers at 9-1 are having such a great season for the first time in years, makes it a great one as well.
With Ray Lewis’s status still up in the air for Thursday’s game really plays a factor in determining who will win because he’s the general of that unstoppable Ravens defense. Now saying Lewis does play, that give the Ravens a great edge. Now saying Lewis doesn’t play could mean a lot of trouble for the Baltimore Ravens.
It could mean trouble in the fact that Frank Gore is the 49ers main ingredient to success on the 49ers offense and without Lewis; the Ravens did awful against the run. Last week without Lewis, the Ravens allowed Cincinnati running back Cedric Benson to score two touchdowns. Which means that Gore would most likely do the same if not better as let’s face it Gore is a lot better than Benson.
Though don’t underrate this 49ers team as Gore isn’t the only good thing on their team as they wouldn’t be in this position if he was the only option. Their defense has been the other ingredient for them this season as well. Allowing not one opposing running back to score a touchdown is a great stat and very hard stat to have and with Ray Rice being such a key factor for the Ravens, this too could also play a role in determining a winner.
So with that being said if Ray Lewis can’t go and if Ray Rice is held scoreless and shutdown then expect the 49ers to win this football game. However if Lewis plays which he’s listed as a game time decision then the Ravens have a big edge in this game as stopping Gore will be a lot easier. This will make the 49ers have to pass the ball putting the pressure on quarterback Alex Smith which is something the 49ers don’t want to do as last time that happened was in Dallas which as you all know resulted in a loss.
Prediction: 49ers win.