Phil @ AZ
Throw ball in air, touchdown Larry Fitzgerald. It is apparently the unstoppable play.
There are two stories coming out of Arizona that lead to this team's success. Larry Fitzgerald's out of this world play is one of them. "But Chris, Fitzgerald is awesome in general. He's had a dominant season, remember?" How good/different has he been this post-season from the regular season?
This regular season, Fitz has caught 96 passes for over 1,400 yards and 12 TDs. If you project his post-season numbers out 16 games, this season he'd have 123 catches, 2,234 yards, and 27 TDs. This is against the (chronologically) #21, #16 and #3 pass defenses in the NFL. Not all awesome defenses, but it's not like he's bottom-of-the-barrelling here. He's playing big-time, which is what big-time players do in big-time situations, and it's not hard at all to see this guy in the Hall of Fame some day.
ESPN had an interview between him and Cris Carter on Sunday before the game. There was a great piece in there about his time as a ball-boy, back when the Vikings were in control of the Atlanta post-season game, and saw it slip away. He said he didn't want to become that guy...that he didn't want to see his team be so close, and have it slip away. And so it went that after the Eagles climbed their way back into a game that Fitz had absolutely dominated in the 1st half, and the Eagles finally seemed to shut him down in the 2nd, Fitz caught three balls for 39 yards, two of them for first downs.
The other story has to be the Arizona defense, which has other than one quarter this post-season, been completely different than they were in the regular season. A team giving up 332 yards and 26.6 points per game has thus far given up less than 270 yards twice, and haven't given up more than 25 points against three top 10 regular season offenses.
This team actually reminds me a good bit of the Colts team that won the Superbowl a couple years ago. Naturally the difference is one guy with the Colts made all the difference on that team. But the comparison is still fairly valid. The Cards defense had a lapse in the 3rd quarter of the Eagles game, but otherwise has played very well against some tough offenses. They're giving up fewer yard (other than the Eagles), fewer points, and they've gotten 12 turnovers.
It's that difference that's put them into the Superbowl. The defense has played adequate football, and their offense is good enough to overcome lapses like in the 3rd quarter.
The next test is the toughest they'll have faced, but this team has to be feeling like they're a team of destiny. And they're being led by a QB who's been there before. It's going to be a tough test, but you have to think this team will be up to it.
Balt @ Pitt
You know, it was a great game. It was a terribly sloppy game by both teams, but it was a great one.
But the ending of a game like this really makes it difficult to feel good about it. I've been a very harsh critic of McGahee this season. But he played like a warrior yesterday. He ran hard, and he was simply spectacular on blitz pick-up.
An injury like this can be a career ender. They say he is "neurologically intact." He has movement in all his limbs. But the way his neck snapped back, and what I'm sure he's going to go through over the next ... however long ... it wouldn't entirely shock me if he couldn't come back from that. I think he will, but it wouldn't be shocking if he couldn't. Best wishes to him.
This is one of those ugly games that the Ravens look like they're getting blown out in, but just hang around until the end for a shot at the win. Like the Titans, the Steelers really kicked them up and down the field. And yet with just under 7 minutes to play, the Steelers punted the ball to the Ravens, who took it at the 39, needing a FG to take the lead, and then a defensive stand to pull off another ridiculous upset in a game they'd for all intents and purposes lost.
And then Daren Stone committed the worst penalty in the history of penalties in the NFL. Literally about two yards out of bounds, and well after the play had ended, he took the defender he was grappling with, and hurled him to the ground. And like that, the Ravens are backed up, needing 50 yards to even have hope at a FG when they hadn't driven more than 44 yards the rest of the night. Five plays later, Polamalu was dancing in the end zone.
The Steelers look like a dominant football team right now. Their offense is playing good enough, and their defense is playing out of this world. They look better than the team that won the Superbowl a couple years ago.
This Superbowl match-up looks like it should be a lot of fun. A prolific offense up against a fantastic defense...the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. The Steelers have only given up more than 21 three times. The Cards have only scored fewer than 20 three times. The questions that will answer who our next Champion will be, are "Will the Cardinals offense be able to overcome the defensive force the Steelers field?" and "Can the Cardinals defense continue to play above what it played in the regular season?" Terrifically interesting.
I love this league.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Phil @ AZ