Playoffs Third Round
by Tony Medley
came within 9 seconds of having another perfect 4 for 4, putting my
record so far at 7 for 8 this year. However, the only game I missed on,
the San Francisco-New
Orleans game, had such a wonderful ending it will probably be remembered
as one of the five best games of all time, so I just sat back and
enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it was marred by a dirty, but legal, helmet
to helmet hit by 49er Donte Whitner on Saints Pierre Thomas on the 49er
two yard line that knocked Thomas out and caused a fumble at the
beginning of the first quarter. San Francisco took the ball and drove
down the field for a touchdown. That completely changed the momentum and
tone of the entire game. But with all the concussions in football, all
helmet-to-helmet hits should be illegal, not just when the runner is
"defenseless." How serious is the NFL about head injuries?
someone took my advice and put a bundle on the Giants taking the points.
That game should not have been as close as the 37-20 shellacking
indicated. In the first half Green Bay fumbled and it was first ruled a
fumble, then overruled. The Giants appealed. The replay showed a clear
fumble. The ref refused to overrule and Green Bay drove in for a
touchdown. Then later when Green Bay was behind with time running out in
the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers threw an incompletion on fourth down.
But the referee threw a flag, alleging a hit to Rodgers head. There was
no hit to his head. This led directly to another Green Bay touchdown.
But for the inept or corrupt refereeing, the score would have been 37-6,
league should look into these calls because they weren't just wrong,
they were blatantly wrong. Combined with a terrible spot the second time
the Giants had the ball in the second half forcing them to kick and
relinquish the ball, when a true spot would have given them a first
down, and several late hits on Eli Manning that weren't called, it's
incumbent on the league to investigate and release a full, honest report
instead of the normal rubber stamp of the officials' actions that they
generally release in such instances. There is too much evidence of
wrongdoing by the officials in this game not to take action. At the
least the officials should be openly chastised and suspended for several
games next season, if not fired. The league's reputation is at stake.
predicted, Baltimore beat Houston. But Houston was not only the better
team, it played the better game. It was turnovers that killed them not
their inexperienced quarterback, T.J. Yates, giving Baltimore a 17-3
lead in the first quarter. Yates was no worse than Baltimore's Joe
Flacco, who threw a few good passes, but held the ball far too long and
took some really harmful sacks when he could have thrown the ball away,
one time taking them out of field goal range on third down (although it
could be argued that Flacco did the right thing to hold onto the ball
and not risk an interception or turnover). Despite his interceptions,
Yates played a better game than Flacco. Houston is the AFC team to watch
next year when they get their starting quarterback, Matt Schaub, back.
Houston completely outplayed Baltimore both on the offensive and
defensive lines, and that's generally where games are won. They made two
bad turnovers, one truly horrendous fumble trying to field a punt on the
first bounce with a defender right in his face, that gave Baltimore 14
points its offense didn't earn.
Sunday's championship games are relatively easy to call, at least the
AFC game is.
over Baltimore: New
England's defense really stepped up against Denver, not a big chore
anyway, and Tom Brady is at the top of his game. Good as Baltimore's
aging defense is, it's unlikely to stop Brady and all his receivers like
Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has recently been well-nigh
unstoppable. Further, Baltimore's offense is nothing to scare New
England's worst-in-the-league-rated defense. I say "rated" because I
think they are better than the statistics show. Unless Flacco finally
steps up and plays a consistent game, New England will be able to flood
the box to stop Baltimore's running game headed by pint-sized (5'8") Ray
Rice. If Flacco can produce a good passing game, utilizing wide receiver
Anquon Bouldin, who showed against Houston that he's recovered from his
knee surgery, Baltimore could have a shot at this. But that's a real
San Francisco: Since I've
been saying that the Giants are playing the best football in the NFL, I
can hardly pick San Francisco to beat them, even if they are playing at
home. The 49ers got a lot of breaks, as indicated above, to get a big
lead against New Orleans and still blew the lead, so how good could
their vaunted defense really be? Their defense couldn't hold a 17-0 lead
and New Orleans scored 32 points! That's a great defense? San
Francisco's offense was terrible from the end of their opening drive
until the last 2-1/2 minutes.
the accolades being thrown the way of their quarterback, Alex Smith, if
you look at what he did it's not impressive. He couldn't even throw a
simple out at any time during the game after the first drive. In fact,
except for the opening drive, he's getting all this praise only because
he threw two passes, a long pass with a half minute left and then a
short pass over the middle for the winning TD, both to Vernon Davis, a
very good receiver, and made one long run for a touchdown. Both were
perfect passes, so you have to give Smith credit for making perfect
passes under tremendous pressure. When Tim Tebow plays a horrible game
only to pull it out at the end, all the talking heads take shots at him.
But all these same talking heads ignore Smith's horrible game for 50
minutes, and give him oodles of accolades for two passes.
Giants have a much better defense than New Orleans, probably the best in
the league now that their secondary has improved so much. One of the
reasons Rodgers had to run so much was because his receivers were
covered. If Smith couldn't move the ball against the Saints' pitiful
defense, the 49ers don't have much hope against the much better Giants.
The bad news for the Giants is that they apparently lost one of their
best defensive linemen, Chris Canty, on the last defensive play of the
game. He was helped off the field and it didn't look to me like he'd be
able to play in a week, but I was, after all, 2,500 miles away.
so, even without Canty, the Giants' defense is much, much better and
stronger than the Saints' defense. The chances of Smith and the 49ers'
weak offense moving the ball against them are slim. And only a few weeks
ago, in a big game, Baltimore beat the 49ers at Candlestick in San
Francisco. Of course that was two teams with inept offenses with weak
quarterbacks and good defenses. Past isn't prologue in football, but I
don't think the 49ers have much of a chance against the Giants, who are
playing the best football in the league (have I said that before?).
Without turnovers, how are they going to score since their quarterback
is mediocre at best (two passes do not a career make, although I guess
it's possible that these two passes will turn his career around; he was,
after all, the number one pick in a draft seven years ago that included
Aaron Rodgers) and they don't have much of a running game. Their
defense, while good, isn't good enough to keep Eli Manning and Co. out
of the end zone.
January 17, 2012