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Tuesday Morning Overreactions

The divisional round of the NFL playoffs are not usually as wild as the first round. This year was no different, as the four higher seeds all managed to advance thanks to some fortuitous bounces, a little coaching genius, some crazy legs, and two missed field goals in two and a half minutes.

Four more fanbases found their teams' season suddenly ended. They are left to ponder what now. The next five months will be long for them. On the other side four more teams are now two wins away from holding the Lombardi Trophy high in the sky, when they can proudly proclaim They are the greatest team in all of Footballdom.

Which way did he go George, Which way did he go?

The Atlanta Falcons ran over the St. Louis Rams on Saturday for a total of 339 rushing yards. They had two players with over 100 yards rushing in RB Warrick Dunn (142) and QB Mike Vick (119). By the end of the first quarter the Falcons had run for their two longest postseason runs in franchise history, including a 47 yard rush by Mike Vick during the first series of the game.

They also had their kick returner Allen Rossum set an NFL record for most punt return yards in a postseason game with 152 yards. He also had another 80 yards on four kickoff returns.

Needless to say it was a good old fashioned butt kicking in the Atlanta Dome as the Falcons won 47-17. The Falcons were not rusty after having played their starters very little the last two weeks of the season. In fact the Falcons reported nobody for their injury report during the week.

The St. Louis Rams meanwhile have given up over 540 yards rushing in the last two divisional playoff games. This just in, the Falcons have rushed for another 50 yards.

For whom the crossbar clanks.

In the other Saturday game there was a bit more tension, as the Jets made Ben Roethlisberger have his second worst game of the season. His worst game of the season also game against the Jets during the regular season.

The Steelers took a 10 point lead but saw the Jets come back and take the lead on a Roethlisberger interception that sailed right into the hands of Jets LB Reggie Tongue, who proceeded to run it all the way back for a TD and a 17-10 lead.

Later the game was tied, and winding down the Jets made it to the Steelers 30 yard line. Realizing how well the "don't try to get closer" technique worked so well for the San Diego Chargers, they didn't try to hard to get closer for their kicker. This all despite the fact it was going to be a 47 yard field goal with 2:35 left, and no opposing kicker had kicked a successful field goal from beyond 46 yards all year at Heinz Field.

They should have gotten closer. The kick would have had the distance from 46, but instead it clanked off the crossbar no good.

On the very next play Big Ben threw a very ugly, very horrible, and very high pass that sailed about 3 feet over his WR Plaxico Burress, who was his intended target, right into the waiting arms of a Jet defender.

This time the Jets got a little closer to attempt a 43 yard field goal with 4 seconds left on the clock. It wouldn't have mattered how close Brien was as this one sailed wide left. Brien had now missed 2 field goals in 2 minutes and 35 seconds, and the Jets were headed for their 3rd overtime game in a row (A first in NFL history).

In OT the Pittsburgh defense forced a punt by the Jets, and then the offense took advantage of the pounding the running game had been doing on the Jets all day. Their kicker Jeff Reed would not miss and the Steelers escape the Jets with a 20-17 victory.

Sometimes the better team just wins

Peyton Manning went into a snowy Foxboro with a career record of 0-6 in New England. He had also just had the greatest regular season in NFL history for a QB. New England coach Bill Belichick decided to try and relive the past.

In Superbowl XXV Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, who were facing the favored Buffalo Bills. The Bills had a high scoring offense, considered one of the best in the league, and few thought the Giants could hang in the game with the Bills. Giants coach Bill Parcells went into the game with a grind it out gameplan. The Giants held the ball for 40 minutes compared to 20 for the Bills as the Giants would win the game.

It turned out this was the same mentality Belichick would use. He knew his defense was banged up, and was vulnerable so he went into a ball control mode. After all, the best defense against a high scoring offense is to keep it off the field. The Patriots had 3 scoring drives of over 7:00, and allowed the Colts to have the ball for just over 8:00 the entire second half.

Not that the Colts didn't help out. During the first two drives of the game for the Colts, they were forced into 3 and outs. On both of these drives there were 2 dropped passes each. If the Colts could have held onto the ball things could have been different.

Despite everything though the Patriots were up only 6-3 at the end of the half, thanks to a half ending drive by the Colts that went 67 yards in 1:50. Thus giving the Colts belief they could move the ball. As the second half started the Colts forced a 3 and out of the Patriots offense. The Colts had the ball and were going to start a drive to take the lead.

On 3rd and 4 Manning threw a pass to Brandon Stokely who dove for the first down. But he dove too short and it was now 4th and 1. Manning got his team together to get ready to go for it. But alas his coach told them to come off the field. At this the Sideshow began screaming at the TV, "Don't be dumb Dungy you are giving the game away if you kick!"

Afterall it was only 6-3. The Patriots have already shown that they were going to eat the clock. You ended the first half by driving 67 yards and showing you can move the ball. Plus the Patriots have beaten you before. If you go for it, it shows that you are not afraid. Alas Boom goes the punt. The Patriots knew they could win. The Colts had now told them that they were fraidy cats and were unsure of themselves. The Patriots drove down the field and got a TD, and Indy never threatened again until the game was already over. It's sometimes hard to believe that a punt in the third quarter of a 3 point game can be the difference between winning and losing. But momentum is a fickle thing. So is confidence. The momentum of the game was starting to head to the Indy side, and their confidence was building. By kicking the punt all the momentum left, and N.E. was reinforced with the confidence that comes from knowing they can win.

Unfortunately for Manning, the media immediately started calling this a choke job on his part. This is unfair, as Manning did not play to his normal superhuman level, but he did play well. Sometimes the Better team just wins, and the Patriots were by far the better team. Belichick is the better coach, he knows how to win in big games, and he knows how to get into teams heads.

He's overcome injuries and has put a team of few egos together. I think it's high time we take the Genius tag away from Bill Parcells for the Giants Superbowls. It's obvious who the great coach of that regime was.

Haven't we seen this before?

The Philadelphia Eagles played their first meaningful game in 6 weeks. Unlike the Falcons who didn't really show any rust, the Eagles were less than impressive in their victory.

In what was a game of "No I don't want to win", the Eagles outlasted the Vikings despite many attempts by both to give the game away.

If not for fortuitous bounces the Eagles would not have made it back to the NFC Championship game for the 4th straight year. Leading 14-7 McNabb completed a pass to about the Vikings' 5 where the WR was drilled by a Vikings CB. The Ball popped out of the WR's hand into the waiting arms of Eagle RB Brian Westbrook in the endzone.

Later in the game The Vikings were at the Eagles goal line, It was 4th down and they lined up for a field goal, instead it was a fake. Only problem is, somebody forgot to tell Moss who was supposed to be on the side of the field to catch a TD pass. Instead he walked off the field and the fake failed.

Both teams had turnovers (either by down or fumble) in the opponents redzone. Both teams looked sloppy but in the end the Eagles moved on. Although without answering any of the doubts that have surrounded them the past few weeks.

The Eagles of course have lost the last three NFC Championship games, and must now deal with a week of what ifs.

Clash of the Titans

This week the Patriots will face off against the team that stopped their 21 game win streak, the Steelers. However during the first matchup the Patriots were without RB Corey Dillon. Also the Steelers will be playing at home. This may not be a good thing as Steelers are 1-3 in AFC Championship games at home in the Bill Cowher era. Will Dillon make a difference? Will the pressure be too much for the rookie Big Ben? Can't wait to find out.

Meanwhile the Eagles find themselves in the most uncomfortable, if familiar, surroundings. This is their fourth straight NFC Championship game, and their third straight at home. They will have the chance to face not only their demons but the Michael Vick Experience. Can't wait to see what happens.

Sideshow's Playoff Rankings

Below is a ranking of the playoff teams chances to go all the way. Slots 5-8 were determined by margin of defeat with OT games getting precedence. So here are this week's rankings.

Rank (LW)


Last Week's Result

Up Next


1 (2)

New England

Won 20-3 vs. Indianapolis

@ Pittsburgh

Bill Belichick's genius is enough to make up for patchwork defense, while....

2 (1)


Won 20-17 vs. N.Y. Jets

vs. New England

...Rookie QB, and 1-3 record at home in AFC Championships could haunt Steelers

3 (4)


Won 47-17 vs. St. Louis

@ Philadelphia

Can't expect 300 yards, but if able to run, should be able to advance.

4 (5)


Won 27-14 vs. Minnesota

vs. Atlanta

Here come the old ghosts and a week of hearing about past failures

5 (7)

N.Y. Jets

Lost 20-3 (OT) vs. Pittsburgh

Figuring out that whole winning in regulation thing.

3 Straight OT Games, All on the Road, finally got to be too much.

6 (4)


Lost 20-3 vs. New England

Construction of Bellichick Voodoo dolls continue. This time with better Shamans.

Patriots are in their heads, as evidenced by another self-destruction. Patriots usually beat Colts by forcing Colts to beat themselves.

7 (8)


Lost 27-14 vs. Philadelphia

Figuring out the whole discuss the play in the huddle concept.

A sloppy team all season, loses by playing sloppy and dumb.

8 (6)

St. Louis Rams

Lost 47-17 vs. Atlanta

Cleaning the footprints off the back of their jerseys.

Porous defense lets team down at worst possible time. Played like the 8-8 team they finished the season as.