In a boxing title fight, the combatants take a few rounds to feel each other out. They poke and prod until they find an opening, then exploit it. In Sunday’s conference title games, the winning teams chose a different game plan…come out throwing haymakers until the opponent hits the canvas.
- Pittsburgh grounds down New York. The Steelers running game was the big punch early, posting 46 yards on the opening drive touchdown that set the tone. They ran for 133 yards in the first half en route to the 24-3 lead they never relinquished. By the end of the game, Rashard Mendenhall had run for just 12 fewer yards (121) than Ben Roethlisberger threw (133).
- Maybe they can’t count. Meanwhile, the Jets looked nothing like the confident and cocky team from the previous week. They were emotionally flat and couldn’t tackle anybody. It was as though they thought the win over the Patriots was the Super Bowl instead of just a playoff game. Memo to NY…when you’re a wild card team, it takes three victories just to reach the big game, four to actually win it.
- Once again, he did it when it counted. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have a stellar game, completing a mere 10 passes and throwing two interceptions. But when the Steelers needed to run the clock out, he connected with Heath Miller for one first down and then Antonio Brown for the clincher. I don’t think he’s the best in the game, but I do think he’s the best in the clutch.
- A hot hand on a cold day. Aaron Rodgers wasted no time seeing how well he could throw in the cold. On the first play, he completed a pass for 22 yards. On the second play, he completed one for 26. After a run, he completed two more for 28 yards and capped the march with a bootleg TD run. The Bears had no clue what hit them and never recovered.
- The Cutler didn’t do it. Jay Cutler wasn’t the reason Chicago lost, but he didn’t help them either. He was just 6-14 for 80 yards before he left with an injury. His replacement, Todd Collins, was 0-4 before being yanked. Amazingly, it was Caleb Hanie who nearly pulled off the miracle, driving the Bears down the field twice for TDs in the 4th quarter, only to be picked off on the final drive to end it.
- He hung around long enough. Some critics ripped him for his endless summers of indecision and coming back to play too many years. But I say bravo to The F-Word, who stuck around one last time and was rewarded with a Green Bay trip to the Super Bowl. What? He doesn’t play for the Packers anymore? That’s a shame!
THERE IT IS!