January 24, 2007
The Super Playoffs
by Bob Hulsey
I hope that next year my teams make it to the playoffs, including the Texans. This year I got to be as close to a disinterested observer in the postseason as I can be and still watch.
As we await the Super Bowl, you are apt to get weary of the media storylines that have already developed. Will Peyton Manning get "the monkey off his back" and cement his credentials for Canton? Can Rex Grossman be the worst Super Bowl-winning quarterback since Trent Dilfer? Will the dominant Bear defense drown the Colts’ pass-happy offense? Who will suffer the almost expected pre-game arrest by Miami’s Finest (aka the "Eugene Robinson Award").
Oh, and in case nobody has mentioned it, the two head coaches are African-American. Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith are both considered class individuals who deserve the honor of leading a team to the ultimate game. However, I think it says more about race relations that both Art Shell and Dennis Green were fired this winter and there wasn’t the usual outcry about hiring black head coaches. Perhaps the day will come when blacks are hired and fired without anyone bringing up race, just as when white coaches are hired or fired. That would count as progress in my book.
Overlooked in all the storylines is that we’ve just witnessed arguably the best three weeks of playoff football ever seen. Let’s review:
Indianapolis 23, Kansas City 8
Probably the dullest game of the bunch, made interesting only in that the suspect Colts defense held the Chiefs without a first down until midway in the third quarter and limited Larry Johnson to 32 yards rushing. Manning was picked off three times, keeping the scoring down.
Seattle 21, Dallas 20
A classic for Cowboy haters as the Seahawks almost handed the game to the Pokes only to have a bizarre string of events lead to mini-god Tony Romo fumbling away the chip shot field goal attempt in the final seconds then get up and run only to be stopped short of six points on a great tackle from behind. What a sour note for Bill Parcells to end his career on.
New England 37, New York Jets 16
This had all the off-field intrigue going for it: Belichick vs. Mangini. The Jets trailed by seven at halftime but folded in the second half. Admittedly not a thrilling game. I spent the second half doing some post-Christmas unshopping. It was good day for New York haters because…
Philadelphia 23, New York Giants 20
…both Joisey Goils got their playoff pink slips within hours of each other. I sat at a restaurant next to two Giants fans and watched their elation as the Giants fought back from ten points down to tie the game and their deflation as David Akers won it for the Eagles at the final gun.
Indianapolis 15, Baltimore 6
This certainly wasn’t an aesthetic beauty to watch but it was close until Adam Vinatieri’s fifth field goal went through with :43 left. Manning threw for just 170 yards and two picks but the surprising Colts defense came up aces two weeks in a row.
New Orleans 27, Philadelphia 24
Cinderella in prime time? Believe it. The Saints had enough to outlast a stout Eagles bunch that landed some haymakers but had no knockout punch. It was probably the Crescent City’s most uplifting moment in over two years.
Chicago 27, Seattle 24
This was another see-saw game settled only after the Bears’ Robbie Gould booted a 41-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to tie it and a 49-yarder in overtime to win it.
New England 24, San Diego 21
This was the most bizarre game of the playoffs, which is saying a lot after the Romo debacle. San Diego could have won this game several times if they could only refrain from making dumb decisions. In the end, who would you expect to win a playoff match between Marty Schottenheimer and Tom Brady? The result was less surprising than the way it went down.
Chicago 39, New Orleans 14
Don’t forget the Saints were within two points of the Bears in the third quarter and within four going into the fourth before the Midway Monsters put Cinderella on ice. Nice touchdown, Reggie. Now act like you’ve been there before.
I caught the key part of this game at the same restaurant where a very loud Bears fan in his Urlacher uni yelled at the big screen as if he could be heard back in Chicago. His voice was a dead-on copy of Joe Pesci, complete with f-bombs inserted in every conceivable manner you can insert an f-bomb into a sentence. When the Bears were on defense he’d yell. "GET HIM! GET THAT F-ING F-ER! PLANT THAT F-ER’S FACE IN THE F-ING TURF! F HIM!" I’m glad I caught his act while he was in a good mood.
Indianapolis 38, New England 34
Admit it. You thought when the Patriots led 21-3 that Brady had punked Manning again. I did. But after 10 quarters of un-Manning-like production, Peyton rallied the troops and beat their postseason nemesis. I hope Reche Caldwell gets a thank-you call from Bill Buckner.
Far too often, the postseason produces duds with nothing to change the channel over to except women’s basketball. This year, 90% of the snaps took place with the game in doubt. In doesn’t get much better than that.
So whichever team wins in Miami, I hope it’s a close, exciting game with a good finish like so many of this January’s playoffs have been. The Colts are counting on that. Why else would they have signed Vinatieri?
Bob Hulsey congratulates Frank Bush for escaping Arizona. Here’s hoping the Texans finally have the right Bush on their sidelines. Lovie Smith Home