Out of Darkness(Super Bowl Recap)

The Super Bowl was certainly worth the wait this year wasn’t it?  It had a little bit of everything.  There were offensive explosions, big plays, a little bit of controversy, and definitely a whole lot of drama.  Let me start by saying congratulations to The Baltimore Ravens for becoming Super Bowl Champions.  This was a team victory that took every member of the Ravens to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore.

Just as I expected the Ravens jumped out to a lead, I just didn’t know they were going to grab that big of a lead.  Did anyone really expect them to dominate that much in the first half?  Now, I myself have underrated Joe Flacco up until this point.  I always thought he had a great arm, and physically he is built like your standard pocket passer.  However, I just never thought he was a guy who would take his game to the next level, and play as well as he did on the grandest of stages.  Boy did he ever, and prove all of his naysayers wrong in the process.  Joe Flacco in his 5th NFL season, outplayed 2 Canton bound QB’s on the road en route to his first Super Bowl appearance.  He played mistake free football throwing 11 TD’s to 0 INT’s in these playoffs.  His stellar play culminated in his first Super Bowl victory and the honors of being named Super Bowl XLVII’s MVP.  While Flacco continued to impress and quiet the critics, this was a team effort and we must give credit to all 53 men on the Ravens roster.  Flacco was the MVP of the game, but the two most crucial plays of the game were made by Jacoby Jones(a dazzling 56 yard receiving TD and a 108 yard kickoff return for a TD).  Anquan Boldin has played like a men possessed, matching his regular season TD total(4) in these playoffs.  The defense that everyone was calling too old to compete was able to contain Kaepernick when it mattered most.  Kaepernick did get his yards on the ground and a rushing TD, but it was the pressure applied from the outside that forced Kaepernick into traffic and caused rushed throws.  Once again the Ravens definitely outplayed their competition, but I saw the better team on paper(the 49ers) make numerous little mistakes throughout the entirety of the game; and that ultimately cost them.  Their long list of inexcusable mistakes began right from their first drive.  On the first play from scrimmage, Kaepernick threw a beautiful ball to Vernon Davis for a 20 yard gain.  On a delayed flag, it turns out that Davis was called for an illegal formation negating the completion and backing them up 5 yards.  This was a sign of things to come.  On the Ravens first possession, it appeared that the 49ers defense made a stop on a 3rd and 9, however Ahmad Brooks had jumped off-sides.  This gave the Ravens another shot at a much more manageable 3rd and 4.  What happened on the very next play?  You guessed it, a touchdown pass from Flacco to Boldin.

On to the 2nd quarter we go with a score of 7-3(Baltimore).  The 49ers started with the ball on their own 20 yard line.  Four plays and a quick two and half minutes later, they found themselves all the way down to the Baltimore 24 yard line, primed and ready to score.  On the very next play Lamichael James(doing his best Michael Vick impression), while attempting to turn a run for a loss into a small gain, FUMBLES THE BALL back to the Ravens.  They proceed to charge down the field and score another TD to make it 14-3.  At this point that score could easily be flipped had the 49ers taken care of the ball and avoided silly mental mistakes.  Now at the time I really hated the fake field goal try by the Ravens, and while I still don’t know if I would have done it, I only slightly dislike it after having time to think about it.  In hindsight it worked perfectly.  John Harbaugh kept the pressure on the great Kaepernick and challenged him to demonstrate his ability to overcome adversity in a 2-minute drill from his own 6 yard line.  He went 3 and out and gave the ball back to Baltimore with a short field.  You’ll never guess what happened next; oh wait yeah maybe you can, touchdown Flacco(am I sensing a theme here?).  I think you all know what happened next.  After what I thought was a pretty decent halftime show(we get it Beyonce, we think you’re hot, and you think you’re really really really really hot), Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the 2nd half 108 yards for a spectacular TD.  This made the score 28-3 and most of the sports world thought that was the nail in the coffin, but it wasn’t.

The 49ers came out for their first offensive possession in the 2nd half and what came next was exactly what everyone was expecting, right?  Eh probably not.  There was a power outage throughout the ENTIRE STADIUM.  This unprecedented turn of events caused a delay that lasted 34 minutes!!  This occurring on the biggest stage in the world is uncalled for, embarrassing, and down right inexcusable.  Needless to say I’m sure heads are rolling today.  Now all you conspiracy theorist out there can blame the power outage for the swing of momentum in the game, but the 49ers are way too talented to get blown out.  You are probably the same group of people blaming karma for Chris Culliver’s horrid performance last night.  For those of you who don’t know, Culliver is taking a great deal of flack for his anti-gay comments from media week.  Psssssst, Culliver isn’t very good, and the better Harbaugh knew that and took advantage of his opponents weakness.  Which brings me to my next point.  John Harbaugh clearly out-coached his little brother, Jim.  When it came to clock management, play calling, and overall scheme I found Jim to be outmatched in all areas.  Jim did give it his all though in pleading to the referees after Kaepernick’s 4th down try fell to the ground incomplete.  I’m not one to blame the referees for “costing” someone a game, but even my Grandma could see that was a hold.  The Ravens defender must have been childhood friends with Crabtree and really wanted to give him a huge; that’s all.  In retrospect the 49ers should only look at themselves for missed opportunities, not at the referees.

In the end, the play of Flacco, Jones, Boldin, and the Baltimore defense proved to be too much for San Fransisco.  It’s not all bad news for San Fran though.  If you saw that Jell-O commercial you’d know that the city of San Fransisco is getting 10,000 free cups of Jell-O’s chocolate pudding from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.  So keep your heads up guys, you get to have pudding today!!  In all seriousness, the 49ers should take the positives from last nights game.  I know it’s heartbreaking to be that close to victory and then have it snatched from you at the last moment.  However, this was a great experience for a young team led by a great young quarterback.  From what I’ve seen from Colin Kaepernick I believe that the sky is the limit for him and his squad.  Don’t be surprised if you see the 49ers being fitted for rings a year from now.  Finally, let us all be thankful there will be another NFL season next year, so Ray Lewis definitely doesn’t get the last word.

Oo Yea I almost forgot….The Super Bowl

Does anybody else hate the fact that we have to wait an extra week for the Super Bowl? Personally, I hate it. Now I know this will never change because god forbid we take money out of anyone’s wallet. That would be a crime. But, from a fans perspective it really irks me that we have football every Sunday for 20 weeks in a row, and then before the most important game of the year we decide to take a week off. The only thing in sports worse than this is the time they take off before the College Football National “Championship”. Now I get why they take the week off. It helps set the stage by building up the anticipation for the game, the players get to have time with their families and friends in a different city every year, and the NFL gets to grab its share of the prize through player appearances and media week. Also, the host city boosts its economy while the NFL is in town. With all that being said, I still wish they would do away with the circus that is media week.

Lets move past the things we can not change. However, I do think the week off has an effect on the outcome of the game. The Ravens have been riding this wave of “destiny” as some would call it. When people say that Ray Lewis is destined to win this Super Bowl in his last season, I say they are carrying momentum through the playoffs. Most of this momentum is due to getting injured players back at the right time and Joe Flacco playing out of his mind right now doesn’t exactly hurt either. In my opinion the week off definitely favors the 49ers. It gives some of the injured 49ers a chance to get healthy, most notably Justin Smith. And it could possibly slow the Baltimore train that steamrolled its way through New England(which feels like a month ago not a week ago). Now am I saying that I want the Ravens to win and it’s an unfair advantage for them to have an extra week off? No not at all. I actually want the 49ers to win, due to my slight dislike of Ray “I didn’t do it” Lewis. What the Ravens need to do to win this game is try to be the more physical team. That is not an easy task when playing San Francisco. If you have watched them play this year you’d know that Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, and Aldon Smith are beasts on the football field. So, lets assume that the 49ers are going to be the more physical team on Sunday. How else can the Ravens win this football game without divine intervention? Well, a heavy dose of Ray Rice would be a nice start, but that will only be effective if Joe Flacco starts the game by taking deep shots down the field. This will stretch the field, keep the 49ers secondary honest, and prevent them from creeping towards the line on running plays. Once a nice balance of run and pass has been established that should allow an opportunity for them to go play action to Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin throughout the game. This game plan should allow the Ravens to regain their momentum they’ve been carrying the past couple of weeks. While I believe this will work in the first half and the Ravens should jump out to an early lead, I don’t see them sustaining their offensive attack. Ultimately, I think the outcome of this game will come down to the team that is more physical and whichever QB plays better. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting for Colin Kaepernick to make a huge “rookie” mistake that will cost his team a game. It just hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not about to pick this game for it to start. I think he’ll play mistake free football and manage the game as he has done since he took the reigns of this machine 10 weeks ago. I see this being a close game where the Ravens jump out to an early lead. However, in the end I see the 49ers controlling the time of possession and just playing too physical a brand of football for the Ravens to withstand. Sorry Ray, your “path” ends in New Orleans. You’ll have only your own shortcomings to thank for losing this game. My prediction for this game is 27-23(San Francisco). Enjoy the game!

AFC Championship Recap

Let me be the first to say that I was wrong.  I tried to pick this game with my brain rather than my heart(my heart bleeds green when it comes to football), which seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  As I wrote in my preview, I figured that the Patriots offense would be too much for the Ravens to handle.  Boy, was that not the case.  It turned out that the Ray Lewis driven defense was too much for Tom Brady to handle.  They put pressure on Brady and forced him to throw 2 interceptions.  Everyone is blaming the Patriots loss on continual small mistakes like the drops they had throughout the game.  If you watched the entire game, you would have seen that it was more than that.  The Patriots were completely outplayed and supremely OUT COACHED.  I don’t put out coached in that it looks like I’m yelling font because of my strong dislike for Bill Belichick.  I say it like that because he was simply the 2nd best coach on the sidelines on Sunday.  That is a rare occurrence for someone considered to be the best coach of his generation.  And, while that might be true, let’s delve into the mistakes that he made that cost him another trip back to the promised land.  Now we all know there was no Gronk, but we’ve known that for some time now so that’s not part of the problem.  For me it all started with their decision to run the ball on a 3rd and 2 on their second offensive drive.  This possession was the first of many trips to the Ravens red zone that did not end in a touchdown(The Patriots were 1 for 6 in terms of touchdowns inside the Ravens 25 yard line).  I think Ridley is a nice little back that should be successful for years to come, but what they should have done was play action to him and allow Hernandez to delay across the middle.  I mean all they needed was 2 yards and an inch.  Now let us move on to what I would call Bill Belichick’s worst blunder of his career.  Let me paint a picture for you of where they were.  The Patriots got the ball back on the ravens 43 yard line, with 2:32 on the clock in the 2nd quarter, and all 3 timeouts.  That kind of time on the Ravens side of the field is an eternity for Tom Brady, usually.  So they proceed to get a first down on a really nice 4th and 1 play where Tom Brady pretended to be getting a new play called in to his headset and Woodhead take a direct snap for a 1st down.  They were then forced to use their first timeout.  This play caught the Ravens completely off guard, and they seemed to be heading for 7 points right before the half to extend their lead to 17-7.  This would not be the case, and here’s where everything went awry.  After two incomplete passes, Brady completed a nice pass to Hernandez going towards to the right sideline, and what does Hernandez do?  Instead of running out of bounds and saving their 2nd timeout, he spins up field and maybe gains 2 yards out of the play.  Here, at the ravens 10 yard line, the Patriots are forced to burn their 2nd timeout with 26 seconds left in the half.  Now, even after that first blunder, having 26 seconds left and a timeout would lead you to believe that Brady can still get off 3 plays and try to punch one in the end-zone.  This was also not the case.  On the next play, Brady gets forced out of the pocket to his left and rather than throw the ball away he runs up field for a lousy 3 yards, while throwing his leg up high in his slide and nearly catching Ed Reed in his “family jewels”.  This was clearly intentional and while I knew Brady had inherited that smug cold-hearted attitude from Belichick, I never saw Brady as a dirty player.  Anyway, the Patriots jump up, doing their best Dallas Cowboys/Tony Romo impressions and act like they are going to get back to the line and spike the ball.  Instead they let the clock run all the way down to 4 seconds.  This forces them to call their final timeout and kick a field goal on 2ND DOWN!  The words awful, horrifying, and horrendous just don’t do this 2 minute drill justice.  I haven’t seen a horror movie this bad since The Wicker Man.  Have you seen this movie?  Man, that is some bad stuff.  You would think that Nicholas Cage would still want to make good movies, since he’s broke and all.  “Yeah, I think I’ll buy another island today.”  Yeah good investment, buddy.  Anyway, back to the ineptitude of Bill Belichick.  So, instead of going in to the half up 17-7, the Patriots carried a 13-7 lead into the locker room.  Now this may not have mattered in the grand scheme of things but it was a microcosm of how this game played out.  Once Aqib Talib went down with an injury Anquan Boldin became the Patriots worst nightmare.  Talib’s backup made Boldin look like Larry Fitzgerald out there.  Can someone please get that man a QB in Arizona, I mean how bad do you feel for that guy?  The Arizona Cardinals’ general managers are actually depriving us of a chance to watch a great show and possibly history.  Fitzgerald was primed and ready to become the next Randy Moss, or better.  Yea I said it, but the guys just never had anyone to throw him the ball.  I digress, again.  In the end, the pressure was put on Tom Brady to throw, throw, and throw some more once they got down in the 2nd half.  I have to put a tiny bit of the blame on the drops and little mistakes(lets call that %10), some of it is on Brady(maybe 30%), but I leave most of the blame for Belichick to shoulder(the other 60%).   I must give credit to the Ravens defense though who hung tough with Brady.  Also, Joe Flacco seems to save his best for when he’s going up against the best.  He outplayed Brady, again.  Only this time there were no dropped touchdown passes.  This game was never in doubt once the Ravens took the lead.  Now it’s on to the SuperBowl for Joe Flacco and the Ravens.  So the question is, will Joe Flacco rise up against the stingy 49ers defense or will he fold and let this golden opportunity slip through his fingers?

Conference Championships Part 2

Originally Posted on 1/19/13 @ 7:18 P.M.

Earlier I touched on what I thought would occur in the NFC Championship. Now it’s time to move on to the AFC Championship. Like I wrote earlier, I do believe that both games will be close, so if I were a betting man I would definitely take the 8 points the Ravens are getting. However, while I do enjoy Ray Lewis’ comeback and his energy on the field, I’m just not buying into the destiny the same way Mike Greenberg is. Big fan of Mike and Mike in the morning by the way(hey Mike…and uh Mike, please stop going on vacation, because besides Colin Cowherd or Scott Van Pelt, it gets difficult to watch the show when you guys aren’t there. Anyway, like I was saying, yes Flacco seems to find a way to play well against the Patriots, and yes Ray Lewis seems to be on a path of destiny. But, even with all that being said, it’s just not going to be enough. They are simply the second best team suiting up in Foxborough this coming Sunday. The offensive machine of Tom Brady even without TheSummerOfGronk is just too good. Did I say good? I meant spectacular. Tom Brady, as much as I don’t want to say it as a life long Jets fan, will be hoisting the trophy and having a ring fitted in 2 weeks. He might even get a call from A Mr. Montana asking him to stop playing so well. I think that seat atop the best QB of all time list is pretty comfy. I also doubt it has room for two. As usual I digress. Lets get Back to the task at hand. I think the best chance the Ravens have to control the game and the clock is one of my favorite players in the league under 6 feet tall, Ray Rice. For some reason they forget how good he is sometimes. In games they get away from the run guess what happens they lose. In games Rice has 15 or more rushes including the postseason, they are 12-2. In games they forget to hand Rice the ball 15 times, they are 2-4. Hmmmmm, what should Jim Caldwell do? I think we all know the answer to that. So, thanks to the media giving Joe Flacco a false sense of confidence that he will be better than Tom Brady on Sunday, the Ravens will air it out and forget to get Rice enough touches, and they will lose. For my final point I think New England’s front 7 has been overshadowed in these playoffs by their offense. Shane Vereen says sorry, but I don’t think he means it. I think their front 7 will add to the pressure that’s already on Joe Flacco and he will crumble in the clutch moment. Flacco throws a pick while trying to drive for the game winning score, and the ravens fall just short. 34-30(New England). Enjoy the games on Sunday!