I’m finally ready to discuss the NFC and AFC Championships. In other words, I’m sober now.
It only took 12 days.
Two days ago was National Signing Day, when high school football players commit to colleges. I’m sure I’ll write about that at some point, but if you’re looking for late-breaking news here you’re at the wrong place. I’m more of a bottom-feeder looking for the overlooked morsels.
So. Has anybody talked about special teams yet?
I’m a dyed-in-the-Bay-Area-polyester 49ers fan. I won’t lie. The loss hurt. Here’s how it happened.
First, Eli Manning played tough. He got beat up all day long and still hung in.
Second, on the 49ers last possession they did not dance with who brung dem. They should have given the ball to Frank Gore and let him run, run, run. Beat them in the trenches and tick tock down the damn clock.
Jim Harbaugh made a mistake in game management, in my opinion. Yes, I held that opinion before the call as well as afterward.
The biggest problem? Kyle Williams played. Not his fault. Ted Ginn Jr. was injured, and that turned out to be the difference in the game.
Williams mangled two punt returns, the second one a fumble leading to the game-winning field goal. Enough said.
Still, I feel bad about Williams and all the death threats he’s endured. He doesn’t need that.
He just needs to be traded.
And so does Michael Crabtree. Where was he? He couldn’t get open during the game, not once. Throughout the playoffs, he could barely catch the ball and rarely produced. Who does he think he is, LeBron James?
When Crabtree got drafted, I jumped up and down on the couch like Tom Cruise on a daytime talk show. I saw Crabtree play at Texas Tech, and he was amazing. I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do for San Francisco.
But then he turned diva with his holdout salary demands. And then he went missing during the NFC Championship.
Here’s the plan: Trade Crabtree and pick up Justin Blackmon, a solid first-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State. Like Crabtree, he’s also a two-time Fred Biletnikoff winner for best receiver in college football.
Then cross your fingers and hope to hell he doesn’t go T.O. like Crabtree did.
Tom Brady sucked, but Billy Cundiff sucked more. The end.
The Niners won, just like I said they would. The Patriots blew out the Broncos, just like I said they would.
Can I get an amen?
So far, my NFL revelations look a lot better than my one college prediction from last week, when I picked LSU to win the BCS over Alabama.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
But two days ago, I preached (probably to the choir) that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots would crucify Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos by 21 points.
That turned out to be a conservative estimate, as the Pats exorcised Tebowmania with an old-fashioned asswhooping, 45-10.
Brady threw six touchdown passes in the game and tied an NFL playoff record, putting him alongside Oakland’s Daryle Lamonica and San Francisco’s Steve Young.
Lamonica threw six TD passes in a playoff game against the Houston Oilers in 1969, and Young did it against San Diego in the 1995 Super Bowl.
Oddly, Brady had a chance to surpass the record early in the fourth quarter, but Belichick called for three straight running plays. It’s hard to say if it was sportsmanship, gamesmanship or just plain old divine intervention.
I wasn’t surprised by the blowout, although the fear of god was put in me early in the second quarter when Denver scored a touchdown to trim New England’s lead to 14-7.
But my prayers were soon answered when Brady threw for three more touchdowns and secured a 35-7 lead at the half.
You could see this route coming, couldn’t you?
You have to believe that all of the Tebow talk this year stuck in Brady’s craw just a bit. You have to believe that the New England QB wanted to make a statement. You have to believe that every other player on the Patriots was sick of hearing the name TimTebow, too.
Since you have to believe in something, why not Brady? Ain’t nothing mystical about that, just talent, skill, and good old American know-how.
Score one for the non-seculars.
Besides, the real miracle came earlier in the day when the 49er Faithful watched the Niners sneak past the New Orleans Saints by a, 36-32.
They won with offense. They won with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. They won with Alex Smith and Vernon Davis for crissakes.
Can I get an amen?
The competent but normally workmanlike Smith turned into an avenging angel Saturday, connecting on three touchdown passes and a surprising 28-yard TD run—the longest playoff run by a quarterback in SF franchise history.
Hell, I didn’t even know Smith could run at all.
The defense played as expected, forcing six turnovers and pressuring Saints QB Drew Brees all day long. Running back Frank Gore turned in a solid performance, including a 42-yard run that led to a fourth-quarter field goal.
But the miracle happened on the 49ers final offensive play, when Smith hit Davis for a touchdown with nine seconds to go, reminiscent of Steve Young’s pass to Terrell Owens to defeat Green Bay back in 1998 and on the 30-year anniversary of “The Catch,” when Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the end zone to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in 1981.
In the end, not even a Hail Mary could save the Saints, so they didn’t even try.
I don’t know exactly what to make of this. A born again 49ers offense puts the NFC on notice and adds a new wrinkle to my playoff predictions.
If the NY football Giants can somehow upset the Packers at Lambeau Field, I think the Niners could beat the Giants at Candlestick and go on to the Super Bowl.
But I do not think the 49ers can beat the Packers in Green Bay. I know. Me of little faith.
I’m sticking with my earlier predictions. I’ll be rooting for the Texans and the Giants this afternoon, but I still think Baltimore and Green Bay will meet in Indianapolis.
Sure hope I’m wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Can I get another amen?
[UPDATE at 8 p.m., Eastern Time]
Well, what do you know. The NY Giants defeated the Green Bay Packers, 37-20. That means the 49ers get to play the NFC Championship at Candlestick.
Yeah, my BCS predictions were all wrong. Hope you learned something. Here’s what I learned.
If I say it. And if I say it with passion and conviction. It’s probably a lie.
“I’ll never live in the South.” Or how about, “I’ll never own a truck and a pit bull.” And then there’s always, “I’ll never write for free on the Internet.”
I also learned that as much as I despise OK State, the Cowboys and Stanford played a much more exciting game at the Fiesta Bowl than ‘Bama and LSU did at what I now call the Bigass Bore Bowl.
No excuses though. I was wrong, all wrong, so congrats to the Crimson Tide.
Now. Let’s move on to my NFL playoff predictions. First, the San Francisco 49ers vs. the New Orleans Saints. I like the 49ers.
In the interest of full disclosure—I’m a 49ers fan. But I don’t think that influenced my pick, I just like the match-up. Saints QB Drew Brees will have to throw, throw, throw and do it perfectly, because I think the ‘9ers will shut down the run.
For the ‘9ers to win, running back Frank Gore will have to be on his game and Alex Smith just has to do his job and not screw up. No heroics there.
San Francisco by three in Saturday’s matinee.
The night cap on Saturday features Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos vs. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It’s difficult for any NFL team to beat another NFL team twice in a season, but that’s what the Patriots will do.
In fact, Brady will hand Tebow his ass. Not even close. Patriots by 21.
Sunday’s games are tougher to read, but I think the Baltimore Ravens easily and evenly defeat the Texans by a touchdown. The afternoon game is the biggest chance for an upset. But it won’t happen.
I take the Packers over the Giants by ten.
I’ll probably have to rewrite this next week, but I see the 49ers losing to Green Bay in the NFC Championship. Too damn cold.
And Baltimore will grind it out against the Patriots for the AFC Championship.
But that’s not what I want to happen, that’s just what I think will happen. I want the 49ers to beat the Packers and New England to beat the Ravens.
Then I want the ‘9ers to beat New England in the Super Bowl.
But I just don’t see that happening. Too bad for me.