Wow, what a great round of football last weekend! Much better than the first weekend, when all the games were snoozefests. The Litterbox went 2-2 in the Divisional Round, making my playoff total 5-3. Should have been 3-1 except for an incredibly stupid coaching decision, but oh well.
Actually, I’d like to take a few words to rant about that mistake, which is one of my pet peeves about the NFL. Specifically, any coach that uses a timeout to try and “ice” a kicker should have the football…or maybe the goalposts…shoved sideways up his butt.
Let’s face it; this play just does NOT WORK anymore. Maybe when it was new, it got a few good results. But now that kickers have gotten used to it, it’s pretty worthless.
In fact, the kickers are now turning it to their advantage. Because coaches wait till the last possible millisecond to call the timeout, the kicker goes ahead and boots the ball anyway. If he shanks it, so what? It actually gives him a chance to correct the problem.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the Falcons-Seahawks game last weekend. After mounting a marvelous 4th quarter rally to go from 6 points down to 1 point up, the Seahawks give up a couple of passes that put the Falcons in position to try a 49-yarder for the win with 13 seconds left.
The Falcons line up for the kick and just as the kicker boots it, Seattle coach Pete Carroll calls timeout. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant boots it wide right, they lineup again, and he drills it right down the center. The Falcons pull out a 2 point win, and Carroll costs his team a chance at the conference championship.
Sure, there were lots of things earlier that could have changed the game. But when it came down to it, a low percentage play that never should have been called costs them. NFL coaches, CUT IT OUT!
OK, enough said. On to this week’s games.
49ERS AT FALCONS: Well, this is a matchup of the two teams I was wrong on last week. For the 49ers game, I thought it would come down to quarterback play and I was right. I just put my chips on the wrong QB.
What 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick did last week was to show us football at the highest level. The Packers literally got run right over by him, as he amassed 181 yds on16 rushes with 2 TDs. But he still managed to have some time to pass, going 17 of 31 for 263 yds and 2 more TDs.
Kaepernick was not the only 49 running wild on the Pack; RB Frank Gore added 23 carries for 119 yds and a TD. The 49ers controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for more than 38 minutes and also won the turnover battle 2-1. Basically, they kicked the Packers’ butts.
The Falcons, meanwhile, did as much as possible to give their game away before Carroll gave them a gift. RB Michael Turner was going well, having 14 carries for 98 yds, but once they got a lead, they inexplicably stopped running him.
I’m sure it looked like the game was secure with a 27-7 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter. But the Seahawks showed once again that nothing is safe against them.
In the span of 12 and a half minutes, the Seahawks got into the red zone 3 times, and got TDs all 3. QB Russell Wilson ran for 1 TD, passed for another, and RB Marshawn Lynch added another. The longest of these 3 plays was the TD pass: a 3-yarder to TE Zack Miller.
Prediction: OK, Kaepernick has convinced me that he’s got the stuff to lead the Niners to the Super Bowl. Based on what I’ve seen in the playoffs so far, I don’t trust the Falcons at all.
49ers 34, Falcons 20
RAVENS AT PATRIOTS: OK, now on to the two games I called right last weekend. The Patriots’ game was a pretty easy pick for me, but I’d be willing to bet that I’m one of a few who picked the Ravens to go into Denver and upset the Broncos.
I know it’s a trite cliché, but I’ll use it anyway: the Ravens seem to be a team of destiny this year. They just seem to go out and do whatever it takes to win. Much as I hate the Ravens personally, last week’s game was one of the most thrilling games I’ve ever seen.
The Ravens only led once in regulation, 14-7 in the 1st quarter, after Broncos QB Peyton Manning threw a pick 6. But Manning brought them back to a 21-14 lead midway into the 2nd quarter.
After that, it was back and forth. The Ravens answered to tie it at 21; the Broncos scored next, and there were 3 more TDs after that…two by the Ravens…to end regulation in a 35-all tie. The last of these was a beautiful 70-yd bomb by Ravens QB Joe Flacco to WR Jacoby Jones, who got behind the Broncos defense and made his only catch of the game count.
It seemed that neither team would break during the first overtime, but finally with 51 seconds left in OT, Manning was picked off again. It took just 4 Ray Rice runs for the Ravens to get in position to kick the winning FG a little over a minute into the second OT.
The Texans also led just once in the game against the Patriots when they drove down the field on their first possession, but had to settle for a FG.
After that, it was pretty much all Brady and the Patriots. Even though they lost RB Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski to injuries, Brady just kept rolling along. He threw 2 TD passes to backup RB Shane Vereen, and another to WR Brandon Lloyd. Vereen had another TD on the ground; RB Stephen Ridley added another, and they tacked on two FGs for insurance.
Prediction: Once again, common sense and logic favors the Patriots. They’re at home, they have Brady and all his weapons, and they beat the Ravens in last year’s title game.
But not so fast. The Ravens beat the Patriots earlier this year 31-30, when Flacco rallied them and they kicked a FG with no time left on the clock. They nearly beat the Patriots in last year’s title game, a dropped pass and a shanked short FG cost them late.
When they’ve met recently, Flacco has outplayed Brady and is showing that he is becoming one of the best playoff QBs in the league. I also think that destiny factors in here again. So once again, I’ll go out on the limb, and predict an all-Harbaugh Super Bowl.
Ravens 27, Patriots 24