Monday, January 21, 2008

No Guts, No Glory

Every team that goes far into the playoffs experience a singular moment that - whether deserved or not; whether positive or not - defines their entire season. Both losing teams had such moments on Sunday.

Let's check things out.

Patriots 21 - Chargers 12: You knew the Chargers were doomed when they had to settle for field goal after field goal following some impressive drives through the Pats defense. I will admit I was nervous watching this game.

But then Norv Turner reminded everyone he's Norv Turner. The defining moment of this Chargers season came with less then 9 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. The Patriots had just used an impressive running game to score a touchdown and make it a two score game. The Chargers were again moving down the field, crossing into Patriot territory. It comes down to 4th and whatever. The season is on the line. The Chargers need at least a field goal to keep hope alive. So what does Coach Turner do? He punts.

No, really. He sent in his punting team with about 9 minutes left in his season, in Patriot territory, possessing one of the better power running games in the NFL, and needing two scores. Anyone who saw the game knows how it turned out. The Chargers never touched the ball again. The Patriots kept the ball, the clock running and the Chargers from moving on.

Look, I know the odds were against the them, but this is your entire season. The months of training camp, the pre-season, the 16 grueling regular season games, the two previous playoff games. It all came down to one decision and Turner elected to not even try. He never gave his team a chance. I feel bad for the Chargers' players (well, except Tomlinson who we'll get to in a minute). They played their guts out and were undermined by a coach who didn't want to look bad and never gave his players a chance to decide things for themselves. Sad.

As for the Patriots, it says a lot about them that they still won despite 3 Brady interceptions and Randy Moss again being a non factor. Is there a type of game this team can't win? They can air it out, grind it out, come from behind, crush the opposition, win with defense, win with offense, win the close ones and win ones when they aren't playing their best. The question is no longer the same. It used to be 'How do you beat this team?' now it's 'Can you beat this team?'

As for LT2, I could not be more disappointed. Pre-game conversation between Phil Simms and whoever the play by play guy was (Jim Nance, I think) involved how Tomlinson would be playing no matter what. As Simms recounted, he was told by LT2 that as long as he could walk he would be out there playing. After two touches he was on the bench for the rest of the game. I know he was hurt and this was reported as a 'coaches decision' but he had a bruised knee. MRI revealed no damage and his QB was out there giving his all and playing well despite having a more severe injury to his knee. So, is Tomlinson a baby? Was this really a coaches decision or was Turner covering up for him. I don't know Tomlinson at all, but the things he has been saying to the media since last year and the actions he takes certainly question whether he is a team player. Enjoy the rest of your winter, LT2. Here's hoping your bruised knee feels better.

Giants 23 - Packers 20: Holy shit! I mean HOLY SHIT, did anyone see this coming? Eli Manning and the Giants in the Super Bowl!! Read that again. Eli Manning will be playing in the Super Bowl. I don't think I can get my feeble mind around this. I may need the entire two week hype machine to actually believe this happened.

I know everyone is applauding Eli and saying what a great job he did, but there sure were a lot of 'old Eli' throws yesterday. Some sailing 3 feet over open receivers' heads, others landing by their feet, still others winding up 10 yards past the sideline. Yeah, he pulled it off and no, he didn't throw any interceptions, but he only completed 21 of 40 attempts so I'm hardly intimidated by him.

That rookie running back on the Giants, however, does scare me. That guy is a rocket on legs. Just barreling through anything or anybody in his way. He could be a MAJOR problem for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Love that kid. Also have to say kudos to the Giants' defense for playing their balls off. They had Favre off balance all day and completely shut down Grant on the afternoon. Impressive is the word.

Even with that, the Giants needed not one, not two, but three field goal chances to finally put the Packers away. Lawrence Tyne, by the way, should thank his lucky stars his two lame field goal misses were erased by his OT winner. He wouldn't have been able to show his face in New York ever again. Phew!

Meanwhile, the Packers sure seemed to abandon the run in a hurry yesterday. Yeah, they weren't having much luck, but you have to keep trying for, if nothing else, it keeps the defense guessing. It sets up the play action fakes and keeps things honest on the other side. Instead they ran the ball six times in the second half. Six times!! It wasn't like they were way behind, either. I don't get it.

As the saying goes, you live by the pass, you die by the pass. Green Bay's season will now be defined by two plays. First will be the interception thrown by Favre in over time that setup the winning field goal. The second, and more infuriating if I were a Packer fan, was the fumble that should have been recovered by the home team. However, instead of falling on the ball, the idiot Packer tried to pick it up and run with it. Needless to say, he couldn't hold onto it and the Giants got the ball back.

Nice try, Packers, but enjoy your winter. Maybe you can massage LT2's knee for him.

Today's distraction: I'm not bothering with the Super Bowl rundown since they'll be more than enough to cover every minute detail in excruciating detail. In fact, here is an initial look at the matchup. I'm not talking about football until after the big game.

Oh, by the way, unsurprisingly, some Charger players are saying the Patriots play dirty. What a shock, they're complaining about another team.

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