Initial reactions from the NFC and AFC Championship games…
· As it turns out, I was glad Seattle staged their epic comeback to beat the Packers in the NFC Championship game. I believe the Seahawks can…and will…beat New England in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1 in Glendale, Arizona. I don’t think Green Bay’s defense would have been able to stand up to Tom Brady and the Patriots offense.
· The Packers were a plus-3 in turnover ratio. They picked off Russell Wilson four times and recovered a fumbled kickoff return by Seattle. Between 2008 and 2013, NFL teams that were plus-3 in the turnover department had a .933 winning percentage. Yes, Seattle was in a position in which teams won .067 percent of the time in a five year period. Yet they were able to overcome.
· One of the reasons they won is because Pete Carroll and his staff were able to essentially steal two possessions from Green Bay. The fake field goal call early in the fourth quarter was brilliant, and the recovered onside kick after Marshawn Lynch’s 24 yard TD run just before the two minute warning was lucky. The fact that Seattle lost five possessions with turnovers but got two back allowed them to pull this one out.
· We were at the Ameristar Casino for the 101 ESPN Championship Bash, and as soon as Russell Wilson threw the overtime touchdown pass to Jermaine Kerse, I went to D’Marco Farr and asked him “if you could take one player off the Seahawks roster and put him on the Rams, who would you take?” And he said Wilson. I agree. I think if Wilson were on the Rams, they would be a Super Bowl team and Seattle would be 6-10. That’s how much I think of the Seahawks quarterback.
· I’m shocked that, with Wilson at quarterback, so many Seattle fans gave up on their team and left Century Link field with five minutes left and a double digit deficit. If anyone can bring his team back, it’s Wilson…and he did. I guess Seattle didn’t even need the 12th man to win the game.
· Aaron Rodgers said after the game that “We were the better team today and we played well enough to win and we can’t blame anybody but ourselves.” They played well enough to win, but Seattle is the better team. You don’t go to back-to-back Super Bowls and come back like Seattle did…and overcome the aforementioned turnover deficit, without being the better team. Seattle was.
· In the AFC, I was hoping against hope that Indianapolis could give the Patriots a fight, but I should have known better. Bill Belichick has a way of taking away what the opposition does best, and the Colts really don’t have much outside of Andrew Luck. When you keep him to 12-33 for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, the Colts don’t have a chance.
· The Colts had 209 yards of offense, and Patriot running back LeGarrette Blount had 148 and three TD’s all by himself. The Colts rush defense…a problem all year long…was exploited by New England all day long. Once the rain started pouring, the Colts couldn’t throw the ball had had nothing to fall back on. The Patriots just continued to pound on the Indy defense and eventually, as Phil Simms pointed out on CBS, they gave up. What would have happened in these playoffs had the Steelers not cut Blount when LeVeon Bell got hurt?
· Interestingly, the key play of the whole game may have been Adam Vinatieri’s missed 51 yard field goal midway through the first quarter. He hit 30-of-31 field goals during the regular season including 3-3 from 50-plus yards. He missed two during the playoffs. If he hits it, the score is 7-3 and the Colts would have figured they had a chance. Instead, Brady just had to lead New England on an eight play, 59 yard touchdown drive to make it 14-0, and Indy was behind the 8-ball for the rest of the game.
· Whether it was halftime adjustments or just being better, the Patriots outgained the Colts 167-22 and outscored them 21-0 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. New England ran eighteen plays, and the Colts had a three-and-out, and four play drive, and another three-and-out. Time of possession in the quarter, 10:39 to 3:06.
· There will be a certain St. Louis/Missouri flavor to the Super Bowl. Former Rams Danny Amendola and Michael Hoomanauanui will play for the Patriots, and 2014 sixth round draft choice Garrett Gilbert is on their practice squad. Marquette high product Dan Connolly is a fixture on the New England offensive line. For Seattle, Mizzou rookie tackle Justin Britt should be back for the Super Bowl…he was hurt on Sunday…and former Ram Nick Sorensen is their assistant special teams coach. Former Blues President and longtime Anheuser-Busch executive Peter McLoughlin is the Seahawks’ President.
· Seattle opened as a -2.5 point favorite on February 1. Depending on the health of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, at first blush I like the Seahawks.