NFL Splinters | Championship Sunday, 2010

Garcon (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

By Paul Gotham

Redemption Song

Twenty-nine days ago, Jim Caldwell, Peyton Manning and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts endured a flock of boo birds amongst their fans at Lucas Oil Stadium. With home field advantage through the playoffs safely in hand, the Colts opted to rest their starters for the second half of their game against the New York Jets. Thus the Colts forfeited the opportunity of reaching a perfect season and allowed the Jets to avoid elimination.

Luck seemed an adversary when the Colts would have to face those same Jets for the AFC Championship. The difference now was Gang Green no longer was facing elimination but walking arm in arm with momentum.

Irony looked like the tone of the day as the Jets held the Colts scoreless in the first quarter. The Colts’ troubles deepened when a drive stalled in the red zone and had to settle for a field goal. New York added to Indy’s miseries with a quick strike and a 7-3 lead.

New York would strike twice more –  a touchdown and a field goal. On the sideline, there were signs of frustration from Manning. ‘Ground and pound’  closed in on the American vernacular.

When the dust of the second stanza settled,  a 17-13 score in favor of the Jets stared the Colts in the face. Usually no deficit is too much for Manning and the Colts. Except that this deficit was to a team that had not surrendered more than fifteen points since the end of November.

Redemption Song

That was when the Colts went “forward in this generation” and earned their redemption.

The Colt offense scored 17 in the second half while the Colt defense kept the Jets out of the end zone.

With Reggie Wayne nearly suffocated in a Darrelle Revis blanket, Manning turned to Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie to pick apart the top defense in the league. Garcon grabbed a four yard pass from Manning to put the Colts ahead to stay seven minutes into the third. Garcon’s touchdown begs the question: has a D3 player ever caught a touchdown pass in an NFL Conference Championship game? During his college years, Garcon roamed the gridiron at Mount Union College.

Garcon made 11 catches on the day for 151 yards.

Clark caught a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth. Collie made seven grabs for 123 yards. Then the Colts became a ball-control team – something they scoffed at earlier this year.  Earlier this year, the Colts scored 27 points with 14:53 worth of possession. On Championship Sunday, Manning orchestrated two second-half drives that lasted longer than five minutes a piece. The second of which came midway through the fourth quarter – a 12-play, 71-yard drive that took 5:33 and all but ended the Jets’ chances.

Manning finished 26-39 for 377 yards and three touchdowns.

“But my hand was made strong, by the hand of the almighty. We go forward in this generation, triumphantly.”

Livin' In The FutureLivin’ in the future

Mark Sanchez is no longer a rookie, and the New York Jets are none worse for the wear. Getting to the AFC Championship with a rookie quarterback is a testament to the balanced attack of the Jets.  If not already, AFC East opponents should take notice. Rex Ryan has created a serious contender not just some one-year wonder.

“Don’t worry darlin’, now baby don’t you fret. We’re livin’ in the future, and none of this has happened yet.”

My City of Ruins

My City Of Ruins

“With these hands, with these hands…Come on rise up! Come on rise up!”

Much has been made (as it should be) of the misfortune and ensuing struggle faced by the residents of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  To no small degree, the New Orleans Saints have played a role in boosting the morale of Gulf Coast denizens. Forced into a vagabond existence five years ago, the Saints’ triumphant return is near completion.

Garrett Hartley split the uprights in overtime to end an effort by the Saints that will be characterized more as opportunistic than precise.

Drew Brees completed 17 passes to eight different receivers for 197 yards.  Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush managed just 69 yards on 21 carries. But the only stat that matters is the final score: New Orleans 31 Minnesota 28.

Brees hooked up with Thomas in the first, Devery Henderson in the third and finally Reggie Bush in the fourth. Thomas also scored on a nine-yard run.

The Saint defense, like that port-a-potty at the family picnic, were johnny on the spot all day causing six Minnesota fumbles (three lost) and two interceptions.

“Now the sweet bells of mercy drift through the evening trees. Young men on the corner like scattered leaves. The boarded up windows, the empty streets while my brother’s down on his knees.”

The bitterest pill

The Bitterest Pill

Brad Childress and his Minnesota Vikings have the entire off-season to figure out how one team can dominate another by so much and come away with a loss.  Minnesota nearly doubled New Orleans in total yards, 475-257. The Vikes outrushed the Saints (165-68) and outpassed the Saints (310-189). Yet, in the end, all that matters is 31-28.

Many will focus on the interception thrown by Brett Favre. Fair enough, it was an ill-advised pass. But don’t forget what else happened. It’s kind of like Bill Buckner’s error. Yeah, it happened. But how about the fact that Calvin Schiraldi had a two-run lead with two outs and no one on when he got confused and thought he was tossing batting practice. That’s sort of like the Vikings getting flagged for 12 men in the huddle…AFTER a timeout! Maybe a pass would not have been needed if the Vikings had that five yards back. Favre could have run to the sideline. True. But Bob Stanley did not need to bounce the ball five feet in front of the plate allowing the winning run to move into scoring position. And that Minnesota defensive back, who shall remain nameless, could have secured the ball that tipped off the hands of  Marques Colston.

So Favre threw an interception on the last pass of his career…again. Bill Buckner let one go through the wickets. That’s all right, Favre will get his bust in Canton. Billy Buckner? This weekend he’ll be signing autographs at a card show or playing in some celebrity softball game. Somehow, life is not fair. Billy never made us endure any soap operas. I’m retired. I’m not retired. I’m retired. I’m not retired…

“The dying spark, you left your mark on me…for the bitterest pill is mine to swallow.”

I strenuously object!

McCarver trumps Aikman

Anyone else catch the exchange between Joe Buck and Troy Aikman? New Orleans got flagged for roughing the passer. On the first replay, Aikman commented that he didn’t like the call. Buck disagreed. You read that right. Buck disagreed. How many times has Tim McCarver put his foot in his mouth only to have pipsqueak smooth it over by mentioning that jello mouth caught Bob Gibson or something? Then Fox shows the replay again (remember, this is the NFL where a 60:00 game consists of about 15:00 of play, 25:00 of replays and 20:00 of watching guys stand in the hudlle or on the sideline). Aikman proceeds to explain himself at length. When he finished, Buck dismissed it: “I disagree.”  I half expected him to pull a Demi Moore and “strenuously” disagree.

Joe? You do realize you are sitting next to hall-of-famer right? Not to mention a hall-of-fame quarterback. Okay, he’s had a couple of concussions, but the guy still has his wits about him. You might want to defer to his judgment in the future.

Jaworski spot on

When Ron Jaworski makes a prediction, people should listen in the future. On the Sunday Morning Countdown, Jaws predicted that the Jets would go long on their third possession to Braylen Edwards. After the Colts made it three to nothing, the Jets took the kickoff for their third possession. First play, Sanchez dropped back and hit Edwards for an 80-yard touchdown. Now, THAT’S a prediction! Jaworski described how he had analyzed Jet tapes for a while and picked up on the tendency.

Got any NFL splinters? Share them here.

10 Responses to "NFL Splinters | Championship Sunday, 2010"

  1. Pingback: Pickin' Splinters

  2. Wally   January 25, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Casey —
    Great post. I was thinking the same thing that you wrote … I thought it was a terrible roughing the passer call and Aikmen agreed with the rest of the world except here comes Joe “Never played football in my life” Buck trying to trump the hall of famer. Unbelievable!

    Spot on … the 12th man in the huddle penalty probably forced the Vikes to pass on 3rd down instead of run to get into FG range. Doh! I think Favre would’ve gained 10 valuable yards had he just run instead of pass … against his body and across the field. Doh! Favre’s legacy is filled with these ill-timed screw-ups, but he had a GREAT season. Hope he comes back.

    Winner of the Pete Bercich “I REALLY Wish I Woulda Caught That Ball” Award goes to that unnamed Viking defensive back for dropping that sure interception in OT. It was a ball that was essentially soft tossed to him on a pillow. Well, I guess we now know why he plays defense. Ironically, Pete Bercich was also a Viking, but is more “well-known” by ND fans for dropping a sure INT vs Boston College in November 1993. Had he caught that ball near the end of that game … another gimmee right into his gut … the Irish would’ve gone on to win the national title that year. As it was, ND lost that game and finished #2 to FSU in what is properly known as the Bobby “Bumfuzzled” Bowden Career Appreciation Award. (We’re not bitter, are we Pete?)

  3. Casey   January 25, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Favre probably could have gained 10 yards, but he might have had enough of getting slammed around the field. Wow! Did the Saints tee off on him?

  4. Smitty   January 25, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Completely agree with you guys.. I didn’t think it was possible for Joe Buck to sink any lower as an announcer, but yesterday was a new low. I’m sorry, but you bring in guys like Aikman and others to analyze and provide their thoughts on the game. For Buck to upstage Aikman with a ” I disagree” was ridiculous.

    As for Farve.. It is sad to think that his career may end on that throw. It is very easy.. almost Joe Buck easy to say Farve should have run it on that play. The fact is the 40 year old took an absolute beating yesterday and that hit late in the game on his first interception – I was shocked he got up. I thought his knee or ankle was done. If there is anything people can say about Farve after this game was he is incredibly tough. Probably one of the tougher QBs to play his position. Did he make a mistake throwing that ball? Yeah.. Should be he thrown in away and give Longwell a shot? Yeah.

    I am on person that is hoping he comes back next year. I don’t think the Vikings are Super Bowl contenders without him.

  5. Herm   January 26, 2010 at 11:02 am

    You play to win the game!

  6. bill r   January 26, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I’ll agree with Smitty here – I was going to write a piece called “Run Favre Run” using a Forrest Gump tie in (I hate that movie almost as much as Joe Buck, but that’s another story), but I haven’t gotten inspired enough yet. As an overweight, middle-aged slob, there are a few things I know about, and one of those things is pain. Favre should have run, and the Vikings would have won the game on the field goal, but he didn’t, he threw, because he was in a heap of pain. I saw him a few plays back walking to the huddle, and I recognized the body language, and from the gut down, he was long gone. So he threw, probably banking on the fact that his arm strength was still good, but in much better shape than his legs. Mentally, he was probably thinking along the lines of “one pass and we’re out,” and running never crossed his mind, because his legs were spent, and thus out of the equation. But he was also probably thinking a few more yards to shave off makes an easier field goal and a better chance of winning.

    As for Buck, oy, when the game fired up and I heard that voice, and saw that stupid Elf face of his, I wanted to switch over to figure skating. Even like 12 beers later, I still couldn’t stand it, and there were still 3 quarters to go.

  7. Dan   January 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    haahahahahahaahha…. once again Bill, self-deprication is laugh out loud funny…

  8. Chas   January 26, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I don’t have a problem with Buck disagreeing with Aikman. Just because Aikman played the game, is a Hall of Famer, etc. doesn’t mean he’s better at recognizing, via instant replay, what is and isn’t a roughing the passer penalty. That said, Buck was wrong and Aikman was right.

    Along the lines of Casey’s Buckner-Favre comparison, what about comparing the guy who left Buckner in the game and didn’t pull Schiraldi a little quicker (McNamara) to the coach who was “playing it conservative” to setup a 50-yard field goal? But, the 12-men in the huddle penalty takes the cake. I don’t claim to watch as much football as you guys, but I can’t remember ever seeing that penalty.

    Which begs the question, what’s the deal with that rule? How many times have we seen the 12th man on the defense trying to run off the field before the ball is snapped? Is the defense cut more slack than the offense with that rule?

  9. Dan   January 26, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    The deal with that rule is…

    Imagine the offense had 20 guys in the huddle, and when they broke, 9 of those guys scrambled to the sideline.

    The defense would not know who was eligible for the play.

    If the offense set up and snapped it once everyone left the huddle and the proper people jumped out of bounds at the last second, it would cause chaos for the defense.

    Obviously I’m being extreme, but that is the main reason for the rule.

    Defensively, most teams don’t have a formal huddle, and yes, there is leaway there.

    I’m throwing this out there…I don’t mind Buck!! (Please be merciful, just a humble opinion).

  10. bill r   January 26, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Dan, don’t worry, there is help available for those who mistakenly think that Buck is okay. We can use the petty cash fund here for either meds or therapy or heck, a bottle of Jack and a case of jalapeno poppers. Rest assured, you can be cured.

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