Comeback Kids By Kevin Faris
Apparently, there was some basketball going on this past weekend. The University of Kentucky played in Cincinnati, or something like that. Who knows? That's because this past weekend featured some of the most amazing football ever. Period. College and pro football showed once again why it is the most popular sport in the nation. Enough of this stupid intro, let's get into the games.
Ohio State v. Miami-The Fiesta Bowl-NCAA Championship. Not being a fan of the Bowl Championship Series, and preferring a playoff format like every other level of NCAA football, this game, according to Beano Cook, was the best college football game since the '71 Oklahoma v. Nebraska game. And when it comes to college football, you cannot argue with Beano Cook. Miami owned a 34-game winning streak, a deep lineup of potential NFL players, the fastest collection of material this side of the '99 St. Louis Rams, and were almost a two-touchdown favorite. Ohio State, on the other hand, could barely beat the University of Cincinnati and won squeaker games all season. Their offense could barely string together more than two good drives a game and they were considered more lucky than good. A lot of people thought maybe Iowa or even the University of Southern California would have a better chance of beating Miami. So, what did Ohio State do? They simply proved, much like Patriots did in last year's Super Bowl, that speed is not that fast when you knock it to the ground, and beat Miami in double overtime 31-24. Miami was outplayed, outtoughed, and outcoached. Ohio State beat the best team in college football and their quarterback only completed seven passes! Seven freakin' completions! Star running back Maurice Clarett had only 47 yards rushing, in fact his biggest play was ripping an interception out of the arms of a Miami defender. Ohio State won all year with smoke and mirrors, so why should the championship game be any different? To quote Clarett after the game, "That's crazy." Hats off to our neighbors to the north and a special "Hang On Sloopy!" to Nick and Rob.
New York Jets v. Indianapolis Colts-AFC Playoffs. This was the one football game all weekend that played out exactly as everyone expected. Colts quarterback, and former UT Volunteer, Peyton Manning did his best "Peyton Manning in a big game" impression and choked exactly like Peyton Manning in a big game. 14-31 for 137 yards and two interceptions, leading his team to a grand total of zero points. Meanwhile, Jets QB Chad Pennington finished 19-25 for 222 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. As the young fan in the stands held his sign aloft, the words rang incredibly true. "Don't get Mad. Get Chad. Jets are on fire."
Atlanta Falcons v. Green Bay Packers-NFC Playoffs. Do you know the teams that have beaten Green Bay at Green Bay during the playoffs? Zero. That's it, that's your list. The Packers had never, ever lost at home in the playoffs. Ever. But Brett Favre, at 33, can no longer be a one man gang, and with his best receiver at less than 100%, the Falcons' defense excelled. Atlanta QB Mike Vick did not have an outstanding game, but he did enough. The guy who had a real "Manning-esque" aura around him Saturday night was Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman. Some really bad play calling on a first and goal and the incomprehensible decision to not challenge a call on a special teams turnover sealed the defeat for the Packers.
Cleveland Browns v. Pittsburgh Steelers-AFC Playoffs. ABC had some sort of deal with the devil concerning the OSU/Miami game and were handed two blowouts on Saturday. CBS and Fox were a bit luckier. The trend Sunday was big comebacks. The Cleveland Browns exploited the Steelers' porous pass defense all afternoon to the tune of 429 yards passing for Kelly Holcomb. Holcomb, by the way, has probably sealed the fate of injured Browns QB Tim Couch. The fans do not like Couch, Couch doesn't seem to really like them, and despite four years in the league, he doesn't seem to have developed into the caliber of quarterback many predicted. He also did not help himself by spending the entire playoff game in the warm comfort of the coach's box as opposed to being on the sidelines cheering and encouraging his teammates. Couch was criticized in the pre-season for not being a leader. At this point, that is hard to argue with. Between him and Manning, it was not a good weekend for former SEC quarterbacks. Meanwhile, back on the field, the Browns gave up 22 points in the fourth quarter to a quarterback, Tommy Maddox, that was selling insurance a few years ago. And so a new chapter is written in the extremely thick book of the Browns blowing it in the playoffs. It's nice to know when Art Modell skipped town a few years back, he left this ability to give up game-winning playoff drives.
San Francisco 49ers v. New York Giants-NFC Playoffs. This game appeared to be a blowout on par with the Saturday games, as the Giants jumped out to a 38-14 lead. Then, the New York Giants remembered they were the New York Giants and simply decided to stop covering Niners All-Pro Terrell Owens. This led to 25 second-half points and a 39-38 San Fran victory. This game had the strangest ending as the snap on a potential game-winning field goal was bad, and the holder wound up heaving the ball into the end zone as time expired. Flags flew, as they are wont to do, and the eventual call was ineligible man downfield, instead of the pass interference the Giants initially hoped for, and the game was over. Monday afternoon, the NFL stated that pass interference should have been called, as well as an ineligible man downfield, and after the offsetting penalties, the Giants would have had one more chance to kick the field goal. Sorry New York. Better luck with the Jets.
After a weekend of football like that, and suffering from one bad football hangover, this was, without a doubt, the greatest three-day weekend of football ever. The NFL will have trouble matching the past weekend, but for the sake of argument, here are some fearless predictions, for entertainment purposes only. On Saturday, Tennessee will give 4 to Pittsburgh, and Atlanta will get 7.5 at Philadelphia. For Sunday, take the Jets getting 6 over Oakland and, if Brad Johnson plays, take Tampa Bay giving 4 against San Fran. No Brad Johnson, then flip it. Oh, and unless your plans for next weekend involve watching a lot of football, cancel them.