Monday, January 21, 2008

Championship Sunday thoughts

By Rick Morris

^ Norv Turner and Philip Rivers are the biggest goats of the day without any doubt whatsoever. Unlike LaDainian Tomlinson, Rivers did not have the good sense to pull himself from the game and Turner did not have the stones to step in and do the job that leaders are paid to execute. How was yesterday's scene any different than Grady Little failing to take the ball out of Pedro Martinez's hands in the 2003 ALCS when his pitcher clearly was gassed? Forget the 2004 baseball postseason, there's your cosmic payback for Boston-area fans yesterday as the shoe was on the other foot. Rivers was in pathetic physical condition, unable to push off at all on his passes. There was so much air underneath his throws that I was half-waiting for the Patriots to signal for a fair catch before making an interception. It is utterly shameful to hold the Pats, the best offense of at least the modern era, to 21 points on their home field and not win the game. Spare me the gaga about Rivers inspiring his team by going out there one leg and not wanting to put the game in the hands of a backup. Phil Simms was just being a homer for the quarterback position when he argued otherwise with no evidence to back up his moronic position. While imperfect, Billy Volek is far better than the average backup and proved his mettle at Indy last week -- and the team wouldn't have folded pathetically in the red zone every time with a quarterback that was physically able to play. I actually like Rivers as a quarterback, but make no mistake that his John Wayne Complex and the gutless non-response of his head coach were primarily responsible for the team's failure to win a game that it should have.

^ Why wasn't the CBS pregame crew on the scene yesterday? Since when is the studio utilized for a Championship Sunday game? CBS doesn't even have the Super Bowl this year -- this was the biggest day of their football season! Fox Sports sent their crew to Lambeau yesterday as they will for the Super Bowl in two weeks. Shame on CBS.

^ Contrary to the final score, the Giants actually dominated the later stages of the game yesterday. How else could Lawrence Tynes miss a game-winning field goal every ninety seconds? Mike McCarthy will have to answer for the fact that he so easily abandoned the ground game. Much like the previous week, you have to give credit to the Giants, but the Cowboys and Packers both made a ton of self-inflicted mistakes. Speaking of which, and my friends watching with me concurred, the game had much more the feel of a routine Week 9 game than a conference title clash. The mistakes, the up-and-down play of so many key performers on both sides -- it just seemed to drain some of the air of urgency out of the contest.

^ Yesterday's game reinforces the notion that even if Brett Favre had pulled off the improbable second Super Bowl win of his career, he still would be no better than a Top Ten quarterback all-time looking in enviously at the Top Five. Few other elite quarterbacks have been great for as long as he has, and few of them have the records that he does -- but few of them have the brutal tendencies that he does to this day of forcing the football and trying too hard to make things happen. You live by being a gunslinger, you die by it also and the flip side of the reality that makes him a folk hero and a legend also makes him somebody that you have to be just a bit conflicted about having at the helm of your team in the clutch.

^ In trying to anticipate the oppressive media crush of manufactured Super Bowl storylines, a few come to mind. Tom Brady will now be carrying on his famous battle with the Manning family against the other brother. Given the fact that New York tends to break down (in large part) with so many fans rooting for the Mets and Jets (the newer franchises in town) and so many fans rooting for the Yankees and Giants (the old-line teams in town), the Super Bowl is going to pit a great many Yankee and Red Sox fans against each other (can we root for Mutually Assured Destruction?). I'm hard-pressed to conjure up a scenario that gives the Giants a serious chance for victory, but I will address the Super Bowl matchup in more detail at a later date.

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