When the Bills took the lead with 13 seconds remaining in the game Sunday night; to me, it sure looked like all four road teams were going to win in the divisional round. Has that ever happened before? Moot point, as the Chiefs did not blink, and scored twice more against an excellent defense to advance to the AFC title game.
Those folks that do analytics possibly can explain why each of the four teams won, but still, have my way of evaluating how each team won, and there is no common thread? Yards gained rushing, efficient passing on offense, pass protection, turnovers, or from the defensive perspective—"takeaways", and of course defensive passer rating.
Maybe some of you who read this column will respond, and tell me what the common thread was for the winning teams? Wild-card weekend had some exciting football games, yet has there ever been a divisional round weekend better than this one?
Had more than one Dr. Pepper, and devoured my smokehouse almonds! Of all the games though; was gripped the most by the Rams going to Florida and beating the Bucs.
The Rams were 2-0 against Buccaneers in NFC title games, and facing the defending champions and Mr. Brady. Have read that so-called expert were surprised/shocked that Bowles blitzed Matt S.? Ok, all you Monday morning quarterbacks...tell me what defense you would have had Tampa Bay in?
As a high school defensive coordinator many, MANY years ago made calls with the game on the line that I sure wish I had back! Then there are calls I made that were just what the Doctor ordered, yet humbly that was why I was paid the big money, to make the right call.
No matter what happens in the rest of Cooper Kupp's career he will be able to shut his eyes, and envision that well-thrown ball by Stafford coming down to him and making the catch. Yes, I literally jumped off the couch when that happened. Mr. John Turney is looking savant as his choice for MVP had another sparkling performance.
Years ago helped Allan Barra when he wrote for the Wall Street Journal on research, and at one point in history had what I believed was the definitive stat for Championship Sunday. Oh, you want me to tell you what the stat was? Ok, the team that scored the first touchdown won at an incredibly high percentage, but over the past fifteen years that stat does not ring as true as it did back when I first did the research.
So, this Sunday the Cinderella Bengals look to win their first AFC title on the road, while the Chiefs are looking at going to the big dance for the third straight season, and not many teams can say that! Have stated in the past that my favorite rivalry is the 49ers vs. the Rams, and for just the second time they square off in the playoffs.
Looking back at history there are not many seasons where both teams made the playoffs, let alone play each other. We will all read about the "keys" to victory online or on cable football shows, but if you want the real story go to my favorite football show: NFL MATCH-UP with Cosell and Bowen, those two men couple strategy with insight to give a clear picture.
Now onto our history lesson for today. During the 2004 season, the Steelers looked to be a juggernaut with another silver trophy on the horizon. Standing in their way was the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots. Am gonna subtract the game earlier in the year that Pittsburgh won over New England, so tell me all of you fans who savor playoff history, when is the last time you had a 14-1 regular season team (the Steelers) playing a 14-1 regular season team(the Patriots)?
Yes, they both add to the win column with playoff victories setting up the rematch in southwest Pennsylvania. Big Ben cannot get the Steeler engine started, and on their first possession the Patriots begin with an end-around by Deion Branch for 14 yards, and Vinatieri puts the visitors on the scoreboard first. Tom Brady is still in his youth (has that changed?)and lofts a pass for Branch for 60 for the first touchdown of the game.
Remember my stat, yes in those days was a key to victory. Late in the half down 17-3 Big Ben has second and six on the New England nineteen-yard line, and throws towards Jerame Tuman. Was honored by Steve Sabol to be on his "blue ribbon" panel to pick the twenty greatest SB champions, and as I again watched "America's Game" this morning with my oatmeal listened again to coach Belichick and his famous line..." trying to take away the patterns that they were running at the sticks".
Well, Bill your hard-nosed strong safety Rodney Harrison jumped the route, pilfered the pass, and dashed down the field for 87 yards with the help of a key block by Mike Vrabel(he earlier recovered a Bettis fumble)on the most significant play of the first half. New England 24 Pittsburgh 3.
Though the Steelers fought back to close the gap to 31-20, the Patriots could feel their grip tighten on another silver trophy (yes they have to beat Philadelphia to do that) as they scored ten straight points. Coach Weiss again calls for Branch on an end-around, and this time he scores to seal the game. Pittsburgh entered the game with a defensive passer rating of 68.0, which ranked #2 in the league, and Mr. Brady was his usual efficient self as he posted a passer rating of 130.5!
Wow, Big Ben and Tom Brady in January of 2005, and still playing in 2021. In closing, and shifting gears to the horsehide game—January 23rd is also the anniversary of Willie Mays being voted into the Hall of Fame. The "Say Hey" Kid received 409 of 432 votes, though cannot imagine anyone leaving him off their ballot?
Have been blessed to see so many of the great ones play, and will go to my grave knowing no one, and I mean NO ONE was ever better than Mays in centerfield.