Monday, January 24, 2011
Conference Championship round up
Time to look back at Sunday's games: Green Bay Packers 21 @ Chicago Bears 14 One day Jay Cutler is going to look back on this game and regret not just forcing his way onto the field, even if it meant fighting people off to do it. Because the Internet, the media and much of Chicago has gone into freaking meltdown with Cutler hate. For those who don't know why yet, it's all to do with his knee. As I write this, we still have no idea what precisely is wrong. All that's known is that it's something knee related. Very helpful as you can see. But it's not so much the fact that he injured said knee as the fact that he didn't finish the game. An early appearance for the second half was cut short and Todd Collins came in to replace him. That's when the world blew up. Players current and former have been hitting Twitter and pretty much every other outlet they can to denounce Cutler, questioning his toughness and making a point about big time players playing in big time games, citing numerous examples from footballing lore. Two of the more hilarious (not intentionally) were Maurice Jones-Drew and Deion Sanders. That being the same Jones-Drew who missed his teams last two games of the season through injury when the Jaguars were still in with a shout of winning the division, and the same Deion Sanders who was just as famous for making "business decisions" when it came to tackling as he was for making big plays against the pass. But I digress. Collins threw four passes and didn't complete a single one. Added to Cutlers 6/14 for 80 yards and things did not look good for the Bears as the Packers raced off to 14-0 lead. But then Lovie Smith had seen enough of Collins and rolled out his secret weapon; Caleb Haine!!!! The third year quarterback had probably taken as many snaps with the Bears first team in this past week as Barack Obama. Yet he came and rallied the troops with 13/20 for 153 yards and a TD, as well as helping the Bears to drive for a TD by Chester Taylor. Unfortunately he also threw two interceptions, but his contribution can't be denied. Based on that showing, had he played since snap one you have to feel, no joke, that the Bears probably would have done a lot better. Chicago fans seem to think so to, as an emerging number of fan photos appear with Cutler's jersey's being set on fire. If this was Philadelphia fans doing this, the fans would already be coming under fire for being too harsh and the media to critical, but I guess it's ok in Chicago. Maybe the rule is if the city you live in has a strong connection to the current President then it's all good. I dunno. Anyway, the Packers got the job done, but not without some trials of their own. Aaron Rodgers was an uncharacteristic 17/30 for 244 yards with 2 interceptions. But 7 carries for 39 yards and a TD made a big impact, as did rookie running back James Starks who carried 22 times for 74 yards and a TD. The third came from a B.J. Raji pick 6. Yes, B.J.Raji got an interception... and then ran it back 18 yards for a TD. Other notable defensive performances for the Packers were Cullen Jenkins, who shared a sack with Clay Matthews, as well as recording two tackles for loss and 2 quarterback hits, and also rookie corner Sam Shields who had a sack, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble. The Bears D just couldn't match up. LB Brian Urlacher (who would later jump to Cutlers defense over the injury/toughness situation) recorded the Bears sole sack, along with 2 tackles for loss, a QB hit, an interception and a pass defended. But one man a defense doesn't maketh (or something along those lines). The Bears played well, but their inability to get to Aaron Rodgers or even at times just contain him cost them dearly. In retrospect the Bears put up a good fight. They ended up losing only by seven points with their third string QB on the field. I know people don't like to hear these things and often find its hard to take solace from a championship game loss, but I'm a realist. Given the expectations of this Bears team in week 1, this has been a hell of a positive season for them. They should be optimistic next year, especially as Cutler and co. will have had a full season to assimilate Mike Martz's system. Just as long as they can convince Martz to run the ball a little more in 2011, with Chester Taylor and Matt Forte forming a solid duo. And convince him not to run end around plays on critical third downs. For the Packers it's off to a Super Bowl which they have a solid chance of winning. However as I understand it they're currently the bookmakers favourites to win it all, which I find rather confusing given the team they're up against. Speaking of which. New York Jets 19 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Finally, thank you God!! I respect Rex Ryan for his coaching ability. People tend to think of Ryan as a loudmouth braggart who lacks the fine grasp of tactics that we expect from guys like Belichick. But that's simply wrong. In fact, it couldn't be more wrong. Ryan is probably the most clever and skillful strategist and tactician in the league today, as well as being a very strong technical coach. But I do wish he and his players would shut the f**k up. Well, hopefully he will now as the Jets came up short in the AFC Championship game for the second season running. With the promise of a Super Bowl or bust on the table, it looks like Rex had a pair of Kings and then suddenly pulled out a Jack. All the hype, all the talk etc, all for nothing in 2010. Well, I say nothing. Reaching the AFC Championship two seasons in a row is nothing to be scoffed at. What it tells us is that either the Jets are incredibly talented, or Ryan and his staff just have a knack for squeezing out every last drop from the players. Or they got extremely lucky. I guess we can't really put our finger on any single reason. Like most teams that make it this far, all three of the above is true to varying degrees. Certainly the offense had expended whatever luck it might have previously had. For the entire first half they rustled up just a single field goal. Sanchez finished the game 20/33 for 233 yards and 2 TD's, but for the first half he was a mere 7/15 for 63 yards and having been sacked twice. Thus the Sanchez carousel goes around once more, leaving him in the odd spot of being probably the worst QB to ever win four road playoff games. One more win and he sets a new record. A new all time record for most road wins in the playoffs. How? There was another QB in this game though who's also pretty handy at winning playoff games, that being Ben Roethlisberger. He finished a paltry 10/19 for 133 yards and 2 interceptions, but it mattered little as the Steelers took a 24-3 halftime lead largely off the back of a strong running game and a strong defense, aka - Steeler football. Rashard Mendenhall carried the ball 27 times in all for 121 yards and a TD. Roethlisberger himself added another 21 yards and a TD on 11 carries. But the Jets defense didn't exactly go down without a fight. They collectively picked up 2 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, 2 interceptions and 5 passes defended. But the Steelers first half defensive dominance paid dividends. As a group they put up a total game tally of 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 4 QB hits, 4 passes defended and a forced fumble which was returned 19 yards for a TD by CB William Gay. The Jets nearly came back into this one but it was too little, too late for the New Yorkers. I can picture Rodger Goodell now crying into his champagne when it finally sinks in that a) there will be no team from New York, the biggest media consumption market, in the Super Bowl and b) the Steelers, who he seems to hate so much, will be there. And Pittsburgh has earned this. They've played dominating defense for almost the whole season. On offense they've adapted to fit in their rookie wide receivers and they've coped with missing Roethlisberger for the first 4 games. It's been a struggle at times, but credit where it is due, they really have pulled through so far. Personally I consider them the favourites going into Dallas, not the Packers. Which of course now means that we have two weeks to just sit around and stew waiting for the big game to come along. I smell some rest time coming for myself. Of course by rest time I mean that I'm going to spend less time blogging and more of the next two weeks furiously studying game clips of the 2011 draft class. Which now brings me around nicely to my moan for the day. I didn't get to see the East-West Shrine game. I thus then logged onto NFL.com for some highlights, bearing in mind that the NFL network had the coverage. What I found was this sh*t-tastic 49 second clip. I mean seriously? 49 seconds? (actually I lie, it was 42) And I had to watch a 30 second advert just to get to the video. That's ridiculous. It would appear also that a fair number of the commenter's for the video agree too. It just stuns me that the NFL can be so damn stingy with things like this. It's almost like they don't want fans to watch football. If anyone from that network or that site happens to stumble across this blog, perhaps part of the censorship division on the look out for people who disagree with that ass hat Goodell, then for Christ's sake sort your crappy video service out. It might even help you to "grow the game" a little.