Well, the results are in. We’ve got ourselves a Super Bowl match-up to analyze to death. But before that happens, the drama of Championship Sunday must be discussed. It’s time for The Final Drive.
(15-3) Denver Broncos 26
(13-5) New England Patriots 16
The first quarter of this contest featured the rare hand-off, several missed throws, and more than a few unfinished drives. it wasn’t until late in the quarter that Denver got on the board with a field goal, the first score between these two high-powered offenses.
During the game the television audience was treated to excellent coverage of Manning’s infamous audibles, the most hyped this week was obviously “Omaha.” But we did hear a few new additions to the playbook. “Fat Man” (used several times) and I’m pretty sure “Urkel” were uttered on the afternoon. Let’s talk about Fat Man for the next two weeks and see if it’s really Peyton playing subliminal mind games regarding Knowshon Moreno’s weight?
In the second quarter, the Broncos started to heat up. A 7:01 drive featured a few short passes to Wes Welker and Eric Decker, but was mainly the result of Moreno runs, with 11 and 28 yard gains among his carries on the series. A first and goal play from the one yard line saw tight end Jacob Tamme sit down in the endzone for what seemed like ten minutes as Peyton rolled right and found him for the game’s first touchdown.
Something we don’t always say (but probably should) is how ineffective Tom Brady’s deep ball has become. It’s been that way for quite some time, but it was awkwardly apparently on Sunday, as he missed plenty of throws to Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson that would have evened out the offensive output. It’s not as if his receivers weren’t getting open either. Brady just missed them terribly.
A 7:08 drive from the Broncos started the third period, killing half the quarter on their way to a touchdown. Partnered with a field goal at the end of the first half, that came out to ten Bronco points without the Patriots seeing a meaningful drive. Down seventeen, the Patriots were running short on opportunities to keep pace.
A lot is going to be made of Belichick’s call to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking the field goal in the middle of the third quarter. While I’m not quite on his side, I understand the troll’s stance. A FG would have made it a two score game, yes. But Belichick clearly thought his defense would give up AT LEAST a FG, meaning adding three points in that situation was a wash. He thought scoring a touchdown and hopefully holding the Broncos to a field was a better option for getting back into the game. He was trying to come out ahead four points instead of trading three’s.
When the Broncos went up 20 points with a second Matt Prater field goal early in the fourth quarter, the game was too far gone for the Patriots to recover. They did their best to make it interesting, with an Edelman touchdown coming on the next drive. After forcing a field goal, the offense drove down once again, where Tom Brady executed the sneaky five yard touchdown scamper at the goal line. But when Shane Vereen failed to convert the two-point try, the Patriots were sunk. They were down ten with just over three minutes left. That’s a task that would prove impossible, allowing Manning back into the Super Bowl picture.
My prediction results so far: 3-4-2
Fuck the Patriots.
(15-3) Seattle Seahawks 23
(14-5) San Francisco 49ers 17
The start of the game was nearly disastrous for the Seahawks as Russell Wilson fumbled on the opening play. Aldon Smith caused and recovered the fumble, setting up the Niners deep in Seattle territory. But luckily that vaunted defense held the Niners in check, forcing a field goal. Crisis averted.
Doing his best to spur his offense, Colin Kaepernick ran amok in the first half, with 98 rushing yards, including a 58 yard scamper in the second quarter that saw Seattle’s defense miss several tackles. That was honestly the only significant ball movement (giggle) in the first half, setting-up an Anthony Dixon touchdown establishing a 10-3 lead in favor of ‘Frisco at the break.
While the Niners capitalized on poor offensive play from Seattle in the first two quarters, their lead was too flimsy without help from their defense. A 40-yard run from Marshawn Lynch knotted up the score at 10. On their next drive, Kaepernick was stripped off the ball, which was luckily recovered by his center. A flick of his arm on a jump-pass on the next play found Anquan Boldin in the endzone, perfectly showcasing Kaepernick’s floor and ceilings within two plays.
Just for the hell of it, here’s Jim Harbaugh being a total child reacting to a personal foul penalty on the field.
A 69-yard kick return from Doug Baldwin put the Seahawks in scoring position, but they only came out with a field goal for their efforts. They got a break on the Niners’ next series, when special teamer Ray Ventrone ran into punter Andy Lee’s plant leg, which apparently is one of the key aspects of the Roughing the Kicker penalty, a 15-yard offense. But the refs called it only Running into the Kicker, a five yard penalty. That means Seattle received the punt with the opportunity to take the lead. And they didn’t squander the chance. On fourth and seven at the 49ers’ 35 yard line (after a burned timeout), Russell Wilson drew the defense offsides and took advantage of the free play, whipping it to Jermaine Kearse, who made a crazy grab in the endzone. Tee diddy! Now I felt a little better about my prediction. I only needed a few more points to clinch it.
That’s when Kap delivered another fumble, but this time his teammate didn’t pick it up. Instead, it hopped into the hands of Michael Bennett, putting the Hawks at the 29 yard line. As the Seahawks closed in at the goal line for what would have been a game-ending score, a Marshawn Lynch fumble fell into the hands of NaVorro Bowman, whose knee was caught under a teammate, bending Mortal Kombat-style in the process. (It was UGLY.) Awkwardly enough, the refs ruled that the Seahawks recovered the ball, which is non-reviewable. That was lucky for the ‘Hawks, as a review showed Bowman clearly had possession. The football gods must have been watching though, because Lynch fumbled the hand-off on the very next fourth down play, handing the ball back to San Fran, who was down only three points. But an idiotic pass from Kapernick two plays later landed right in the mitts of safety Kam Chancellor, with the Seahawks taking over at the 40 yard line.
Another field goal from Steven Hauschka gave the Hawks a six point lead with 3:37 left, just enough time for the Niners to close in for a game-winning touchdown and ruin my prediction. But as if on cue, as the Niners drive into the redzone, another Kaepernick interception rose from the fiery ashes like a phoenix. Richard Sherman tipped a pass aimed at Michael Crabtree into the hands of Malcolm Smith, ending what was an insane game from start to finish. It was unquestionably the best game of Championship Sunday, and I’m not just saying that because I picked it correctly.
…But I did pick it correctly.
My prediction results so far: 4-4-2
Unbelievable. I’m totally Seinfeld’ing this playoffs. Always evening out.
After the game ended, Erin Andrews caught up with Richard Sherman, who was in full-on Dick mode.
“Who was talking about you?” Well played Erin, well played. I love her reaction at every moment. And there’s a lot of weird hate coming out for Sherman online. Look, I totally think he’s an asshole. That’s pretty common for the NFL though. Harbaugh, Boldin, Sherman, and Kaepernick are just some of the guilty parties on just these two teams that can claim that distinction. But the racist stuff I’m seeing really isn’t necessary. He was just outrageously amped up and hadn’t really shifted his vernacular down from the game’s probably epic trash talk. That said, he’s the best corner in football. FACT.
And there you go. The Super Bowl is set. We’ll see the Denver Broncos versus the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in Jersey on February 2nd. Now we play the waiting game.
Uh… I’ve got two weeks until actual football. Anyone wanna hang out?