A Day of Football
Posted Dec. 28 at 10:44 PM
Last regular-season day of football, which is always kind of sad. Some of the games, at least, were fantastic. Focusing only on the ones with playoff implications, here are the ones I was able to see some or most of....
Patriots at Bills: This was not one of the fantastic games, but it seemed important at the time I wasted a couple hours watching it. Winds were so bad in Buffalo -- up to 75 mph, reportedly -- that when the Bills tried an early field goal, Rian Lindell started it out way to the left and it missed way right. Stephen Gostkowski drilled one straight at the middle from only 26 yards, and the wind blew it almost backwards. One of the goal posts was leaning like the Tower of Pisa, so prior to Gostkowski's short attempt, play was stopped so the Stadium staff could bring out a step ladder and a rope to try and straighten the thing. It was crazy. Just before halftime the teams had combined to attempt only 6 passes. And then the Bills somehow butchered even attempting a short field goal, apparently because of a skirmish at the end of the half when they needed to get their kicker on the field. Kind of a big play considering that was a field goal they might actually have made. Anyway, New England wins, not unexpectedly, to keep its playoff hopes alive -- for a while. Ultimately they miss the playoffs, but Bill Belichick still looks like a genius and Matt Cassel will soon be rich. (By the way, maybe I wasn't paying attention closely, but Peter King kind of lost me talking about Cassel on the NBC highlights show, saying something about the Patriots maybe trying to drive up his value by spreading rumors about Brady needing a second surgery. Cassel's a free agent and the Patriots can't really franchise him, right?) Neither here nor there, but Dan Dierdorf is really a horrible announcer. Also, if you watched this game, you had to feel that Dick Jauron and his coaching staff will be fired. There's a reason they're losing all these close games, and the coaches are definitely part of it.
Giants at Vikings: The Vikings coming back from 9 points down in the fourth quarter was one of the more impressive accomplishments on Sunday. Helped by a blown coverage on Bernard Berrian (guy fell down) and a field goal miss by the Giants, plus the Bears lost anyway, but the Vikings didn't know that at the time. A 100-yard day (including a 67-yard TD run) by Adrian Peterson; think he'll get some promotion by the networks leading up to the first week of the playoffs? Little bit of an easier sell than Matt Forte and the Bears. The Vikings aren't a great team, but they've got some great playmakers, a clutch kicker, and an opportunistic defense. They're probably going to get beat by the Eagles next week, but Peterson (who fumbled again) is a special player, so maybe he carries them to a win. Tarvaris Jackson played well enough down the stretch that the Vikings will enter the offseason uncertain whether they need to upgrade at quarterback or not. As usual. My vote: they still do.
Saints at Panthers: Wow. You could get an entire column out of just the fourth quarter of this game. It was 30-10 Panthers thanks to another huge game from DeAngelo Williams and a defensive touchdown; looked like easy sailing for the No. 2 seed, and the only reason to keep watching was to see if Drew Brees could make a run at Dan Marino's record for passing yardage. Suddenly, the Saints had rolled up 3 TDs and taken a 31-30 lead, plus Brees was within 16 yards of breaking the record. Unbelievable. Then Jake Delhomme got clobbered but still somehow completed a huge pass to Steve Smith, who made a spectacular catch between two defenders, and the Panthers got into field goal range to kick a field goal to win the game. No record for Brees, right? Well, not only was there still one second on the clock, but the Panthers then proceeded to kick the ball out of bounds, letting Brees attempt one more pass. That was probably the point at which Dan Marino put a brick through his TV. Anyway, Brees threw one 40 yards downfield at the feet of a wide-open Lance Moore. Ball game, and no record. Wild finish. Panthers get the No. 2 seed, and since they're unbeaten at home, maybe we'll get a rematch of one of the best games of the year at Giants Stadium last week.
Dolphins at Jets: Speaking of Giants Stadium, this was not one of the best games of the year, not for us diehard Brett Favre fans. (Or Patriots fans, for that matter.) Jets, as they did so often over the last month, came out with a pretty good looking start and then just meandered around for the rest of the game, failing to pick up big 3rd downs or make big stops. It was almost like their quarterback retired last March or something. Anyway, Favre and the Jets had some good moments (taking a 17-14 lead) and bad (blowing it, plus dropping an easy pick 6 from Pennington, who fate obviously decided to smile on this year). I watched the guy's postgame presser and it sounded like he was saying goodbye, but I'm not so easily fooled anymore. Probably about 50-50. (I'm reminded of the old Steve Martin joke: "Would you say it's 50-50?" "Well, I don't know if it's that high..." "You either are or you are not, right?" "Well, yes..." "Well that my friend is 50-50.") Anyway, maybe he'll come back, but the team was 8-3 and leading the division with a favorable remaining schedule, and it finished 9-7. Even the biggest Favre or Jets fan would have a hard time arguing that things will be better next year. As for the Dolphins, pretty amazing. It's amazing what playing good defense and not turning it over can do for you. I think they'll lose to Baltimore, but I'm not sure about it. Probably 50-50.
Cowboys at Eagles: I don't think there were a lot of Eagles fans that actually thought the Bears (at Houston) and the Bucs (home to the Raiders) would both lose, which is what they needed to make the playoffs. I thought the Eagles would smack the Cowboys around anyway, but it was a virtual given once they could suddenly make the playoffs with a win. Ultimately the game was more about the Eagles defense, and Dallas' various mistakes, than anything else; Donovan McNabb and company could just sit back, watch the Cowboys implode, and do a little sideline dance. I can't think the Vikings are excited to be playing them next week (obviously, former Eagles coach Brad Childress is well aware of what Jim Johnson's defense is capable of). Nice game from Correll Buckhalter, who's a great story -- the guy seemed sure to be out of football after suffering serious knee and leg injuries in three out of four years a while back. Eagles wide receivers combined to catch only 4 passes; don't invest in them in your playoff leagues.
Broncos at Chargers: You kind of figured something like this might happen. Two terrible defenses, but one team had all the momentum and was home and hadn't put eight different tailbacks on injured reserve. LaDainian Tomlinson looked reborn, Philip Rivers looked dominant, his receivers made some sick catches, and the Chargers are 8-8 division champs, while the 11-5 Patriots are staying home. There's your focal point for the discussions the next time talk of realignment comes up. Fortunately for the league the Colts will probably knock the Chargers out next week and they'll just be a footnote. As an aside, NBC's cameras seemed to pay a lot of attention to cheerleader cleavage. I guess that happens when the home teams scores almost every time it touches the ball.
And so the season is over, but the playoffs begin. And maybe I've just been sucked in by those "Bad Day" commercials with the funny team names (1st and Ted, heh), but I think I'll do a playoff league. Most people I know don't, but I think I'll talk it up and get some of my league regulars into one. It might not ease the pain of a Super Bowl loss in my main league for a second straight year, but it couldn't hurt.
If you've never done one, consider it. Once upon a time, there weren't that many people playing fantasy football during the regular season, either. And yet here we all are.
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