January 25, 2010

Instant classic

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

The Super Bowl has a tough act to follow and no, I’m not talking about next week’s Pro Bowl. The Saints’ stunning overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings could go down as one of the most memorable conference championships ever. It had everything you could want from a classic game: Great performances on the offences and the defences, several big “OHH!” plays, duelling turnovers at one point and a stunningly bad play that would taint the career of a QB if he wasn’t named Brett Favre.

Adrian Peterson’s fumblitis was so bad on Sunday, it became contagious. If this guy wants to prove he’s a premier runner in this league, he’s got to work on his hands over the off-season. There’s no way he should have fumbled twice in a game this big. And, like I said in the picks column, the Saints are excellent at causing fumbles and if that game wasn’t a prime example of it, well I don’t know a better way to show you.

When you gain 475 yards of offence, you usually win, but with all the fumbles – only three lost out of six – and Favre’s two picks, the Vikings truly lost the game for themselves and if there’s someone to blame (other than Favre, we’ll get to him in a second), it’s Brad Childress. How you could not prepare your team for the Saints ball-stripping ways is ridiculous. His players should have been putting a premium on ball safety, instead of carelessly handling the ball and putting it on the ground. Also, his game plan, which included playing Percy Harvin as a running back, wasn’t exactly conference championship material. When you have an explosive back like Peterson, why isn’t he taking those handoffs? Harvin should have been utilized more on a reverse or two and bubble screens. Failing that, try out some wildcat snaps, but Favre should never have been handing off to him as a RB.

Then there was the game-losing debacle at the end of the fourth quarter. I have a few questions for Childress.
A) Why call the first timeout?
B) How do you send 12 men onto the field?
C) Why would you call a passing play when Peterson is gaining 4.9 per carry?
D) Why allow Favre to pass with his history of sketchiness late in big games?

Now, for Favre, I don’t think any other veteran QB could get away with what he did at the end of the fourth quarter. You should never be throwing across your body, or across the field in any circumstances, but that’s what he did. He could have thrown the ball out of bounds and still had enough time to try for to get the first down (or even try the very long field goal), but that’s not what he did. He could have taken off and maybe gained a couple of yards, but that’s not what he did. He could have simply ran out of bounds, but no, he decided to force a bad pass into double coverage and was picked off and nearly returned for a touchdown. Vintage Brett Favre.

Also, let’s just remember that if Favre was allowed to call that timeout after realizing he had 12 men in the huddle, that’s a 5-yards penalty too.

As for the hero of OT, Garrett Hartley, I won’t be quick to forget that the game-winning 40-yard field goal was actually two yards longer than his season high. But, when it comes down to the Super Bowl, kicking at a neutral field or at home are two completely different things. I don’t think he’ll be that clutch if it comes down to him again.

So, cue up the Brett Favre retirement talk for another round and let’s remember this fun fact. Should Golden Brett hang them up, his last passes as a Falcon, Packer, Jet and Viking will have been interceptions.

Earlier in the day, you may have been mesmerized by Kelly Kulick shattering the Pro Bowling Masters gender barrier, but there was actually another football game on. And up until halftime, the Jets actually looked like they had a shot at winning it. Then came the stomach punch that their fans should have seen coming.

Peyton Manning must have given one hell of a halftime speech, because when the Colts hit the field again, they were a different team. They stopped everything that the Jets offence could throw at them and then marched up and down the field against the opponents’ vaunted defence. It was the kind of performance that you should expect from a Super Bowl contender and one that you would expect from a rookie QB on the other side.

I’m not sure how great of an NFL QB Mark Sanchez will become, but he’s certainly laying the groundwork and building confidence while gaining reps at a high level. I’m not sure if he can become a game-changer, but he has definitely raised his ceiling and showed that he can handle some of the offence’s burden in the future. The Jets have a real keeper in him.

As for Manning, if there were a singular doubt about his MVP season, it should was demolished in the Jets game. He showed what being a leader is and has to be considered the clear favourite over Tom Brady as best QB there is right now, win or lose two weeks from now.

As for my early Super Bowl pick: New Orleans +4.5 over Indianapolis. I have no clue how the Colts are giving that many points when the Saints are no slouches.

4 Comments

  1. Looking forward to a pretty good match up. When Peyton gets blue in the face he means business!

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