Stewing Over Conference Championship Weekend

I have to say I’m having a hard time keeping my enthusiasm up for this years NFL playoffs. This weekend we’re left with no truly likable teams, you’ve got Brady and the Hoodie vs Stabby Lewis and Handlebar Joe Flacco, and on the other side it’ss Manning Face and his endlessly talked about team vs the boring 49ers. I’m basically left rooting for Alex Smith and the Niners who have managed to fill the scrappy underdog role, despite being the number two seed in the NFC. Let the disappointment begin!

Kevin: My responses will be short as I was too busy (1) watching Illinois lose yet another game they should have won, and (2) shopping for $1,200 baby cribs. Ah, parenthood. From reading up on the games/watching replays last night, here are my thoughts:

Ravens/Pats

Burner: So this one was an odd one from top to bottom, starting with Steven (“no i don’t need to review the lyrics”) Tyler’s languid and screechy take on the national anthem. It wasn’t quite up there with Huey Lewis and the News a capella version on the WTF scale, but it was close. This one started with both offenses looking terrible and I started to assume that the Patriots would win in a war of attrition. Then the weirdness began, Brady threw the first of his two picks (he would have two more overturned by penalties) and Joe Flacco began to look like a professional quarterback, driving for a field goal and then matching a Patriots touchdown. The weirdness continued into the end of the second half when the Patriots took over on the 10 with a minute to play, two time outs, and Tom Brady under center. I fully expected the Patriots to attempt to drive the field and at least try a field goal, this combined with getting the ball to start the second half would allow them to try to expand their three point lead. Instead, Brady took a knee, the clock ran out and the Patriots jogged off the field. Huh?

The Ravens then took the lead in the third quarter, before giving it back in the fourth. Taking over with about eight minutes left the Ravens began to put a nice drive together mixing in runs from Ray Rice and Ricky Williams, with passes from Flacco. And then Flacco threw an interception. With all of his moaning about being under appreciated (accurate but not something he should be complaining about) this looked likely to seal Flacco’s reputation as a mediocre player. But then weirdness flared up again as Brady immediately threw an interception to give the ball back to Baltimore. Again Baltimore drove the field, getting to the red zone with one timeout and time running out. On second and one from the New England 14 Flacco put a pass right into the hands of Lee Evans, who caught the ball turning in the air put one foot down in the end zone and then had the ball batted out by a New England defender. This was apparently not a touchdown, despite the clear catch. A more competent broadcast team may have at least comentend on this but Pheel Sims and Jim Nantz just let it go by. One incomplete later the Billy Cundiff lined up for a 32 yard field goal on cold but calm day and shanked the field goal. The over time that seemed inevitable just moments before would not happen. The Patriots are on their way to their 5th Super Bwol of the Brady/Bellicheck era. I start rooting for the 49ers as hard as I can.

Kevin: So obviously the big play here was the Lee Evans catch/non-catch and the complete lack of review for what was, at the time, the single most important play of this entire NFL season. I understand that the officials are following the rules for catching the ball in the endzone, but this rule is asinine. How does this jive:

(1) a player can run along the goal line without any part of his body being in the actual endzone, and the millisecond that the ball crosses the goal line it’s a touchdown, even if he fumbles the ball a millisecond AFTER crossing the goal line; BUT

(2) a player catching the ball in the endzone, even if they have clearly caught the ball, must “complete the catch” before the ball being in the endzone matters….two feet, all the way to the ground.

How does this make sense?If a player can establish that he caught that ball, and he lands any piece of his body inside of the endzone (i.e., you can’t extend the field into the out of bounds area to make a catch…you gotta make contact with the endzone since you’re leaving the ground) then it should be a touchdown. This rule works pretty well in college. Why require this nonsense about catching the ball all the way through the ground crap? That’s fine if it were anywhere else on the field. But not in the endzone.

What’s worse IMO is the whole instant replay system has totally taken over the sport. It’s no longer “omg did you see that catch” it’s “omg let’s talk about the officiating/review that happened/didn’t happen.” Hell, Mike Pereria is becoming a household name simply for being a “Rule Anaylst” for the Fox broadcast team. Some people are calling for him to be in the booth next year! That’s how far we’ve come – from simple replays to make sure guys stayed in bounds to requiring a third/fourth member of the broadcast to explain the rules to use and give us his opinion about X play being reviewed. It’s too much. We’re giving the most important decisions in these games to a select few people. If making a correct call requires 14 things to happen, of course an official isn’t going to be able to make a proper call without the assistance of instant replay. So here’s a clue – change the rule. Make it easier. You got the ball? You touched the end zone? Touchdown. Simple.

Giants/49ers

Burner: Sigh. Two fucking weeks of hearing about ’07. I think I’m going to go on an NPR binge and avoid all sports media until the draft. I guess I should talk about the game since that’s why we’re all here but I really don’t want to. This was a pretty dull affair until the fourth quarter so we’ll just skip all the foreplay. The 49ers were up 14-10 when 49ers back up punt returner Kyle Williams got too close to a punt he had no business being around and the ball bounced off of his knee, making it a live ball. Rather than try to recover the ball Williams stood there like a lump, maybe hoping that if he pretended like it didn’t happen the refs wouldn’t notice the ball was live. The Giant’s Devin Thomas recovered the ball and ran down the field with it. Amazingly, Williams’ opossum strategy worked and the ball was awarded to the 49ers, this lasted right up until Tom Coughlin challenged the play and the ball went back to the Giants. Six plays later the Giants scored a touch down and took the lead. San Francisco responded with a field goal to tie the game midway through the 4th. After that it was a flurry of three and outs, a harbinger of what was to come in over time.

The Giants won the coin toss and took control of the ball to begin over time. They failed to score on their first drive and so sudden death rules took hold. This made things pretty exciting even though it was basically each team taking turns being incompetent on offense. Just as I was beginning to envision a second overtime and thinking to myself the loser would be the first team to screw up, Kyle Williams returned to our lives. This time he caught the punt but then fumbled it immediately upon being touched by a Giant. Giants recover the ball in field goal range. A few plays later Lawrence Tynes kicked the game winning field goal. And now we’ll be treated to a Giants/Patriots Super Bowl. New York vs Boston… I heard the collective orgasm coming out of ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT from here. I blame Ted Ginn’s gimpy knee. Had he been healthy Williams wouldn’t have been catching those punts and we would have been spared a rematch of the ’07 Super Bowl.

Kevin: I gave this game about 10 minutes, got bored and immediately went to my Xbox. Joe Buck’s voice has become nearly unlistenable for me, and I hate Eli Manning with a passion. He’s everything that’s wrong with the modern athlete. He’s Lebron James before Lebron James happened. His spoiled ass gave the big stink finger to an NFL franchise and took control of his draft process simply to get to a bigger market. It was basically The Decision minus Jim Gray and the Girls/Boys Club kids behind him at the draft table. Fuck this guy, I hope he gets hit by a truck.

I was hoping for San Fran to win just so we wouldn’t have to hear about 2007 ad naseum over the next 2 weeks, but prepare to be inundadated with the following storylines: (1) Brady/Belichick in their 5th superbowl together….greatest tandem in NFL/sports history? (2) Eli passing Peyton as best Manning QB (pun intended), (3) Some crap about the Pats getting revenge on the Giants, (4) Tom Coughlin being a Hall of Famer as a coach, and blah blah blah.

Guess what? I DON’T CARE. I will be attending a Superbowl party this year and my list of excitement goes as follows: (1a) food, (1b) beer, (3) commercials, (4) the game.

Is Derrick Rose healthy yet?

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