Monday, January 24, 2011

AFC-NFC Championship Recap

Much to the chagrin of every Dallas Cowboys fan, including myself, none other than the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers earned their record tying 8th Superbowl berth on the Cowboys' home field for a chance at their also record 7th Superbowl title. Bleh. Their opponent, another storied franchise with its fair share of NFL titles, will be the red hot Green Bay Packers, another Dallas rival. Granted there are barely no teams that are not rivals with the Cowboys. Anyway, enough doom and gloom. On to the recaps!

NFC Championship: Green Bay defeats Chicago, 21-14
This fierce rivalry game lived up to every bit of its billing. In the face of a tenacious and motivated defense, Aaron Rodgers was not as hot, but played extremely tough. The opposing quarterback however, did not play so tough. Following a sub par performance in the first half, Jay Cutler sat out the second half due to an apparent knee injury. However, the knee received no treatment of any kind on the sidelines, leading to controversy that Cutler quit on the team. Regardless of Cutler's suggested wimpiness, it was Chicago's third string Quarterback, Caleb Hanie, who had the game of his life and almost brought the bears back to win in the second half. Despite a pick-six for defensive lineman, BJ Raji, that was almost reminiscent of Leon Lett's Superbowl blunder, Hanie was surprisingly accurate and rallied the Bears. Chicago was in position to tie the game on the final drive of the 4th quarter, when Hanie's magic faded on 4th down, as he threw a second interception to Sam Shields. That closed out the game for the Packers.
As was expected, both the Packers and Bears played very tough on defense. Ground was surrendered sparingly and Aaron Rodgers threw 2 interceptions compared to the Bears' committee effort which threw 3 total. Even though the Bears had a late surge, the Packers had a pretty firm control over the game from the opening drive.
My Offensive MVP: Greg Jennings
On a less than jaw-dropping statistical day for Aaron Rodgers, Jennings was his go-to guy. With 130 yards receiving on 8 passes, Jennings accounted for more than half of Rodgers' passing yards. Although he didn't score, he was a crucial factor in moving the ball in critical situations for the Packers. Rodgers does deserve some credit though. He made great decisions, as always, with pinpoint accuracy. Also something must be said for his spitting out blood and staying in the game after taking a shot from Julius Peppers. Nothing motivates a team like that kind of toughness from your Quarterback. *cough cough* Jay Cutler...
My Defensive MVP: Sam Shields 
Might I just say that this guy is a ROOKIE?! Great defensive performance by this guy! He sacked Jay Cutler, forcing a fumble, and had 2 interceptions on 2 different quarterbacks, including the game-winning INT. That's a great day for any safety, especially one that plays in a 3-4 scheme.

AFC Championship: Pittsburgh defeats New York, 24-19
Had the Jets decided to play 60 minutes instead of just the second half, they very well could have won this ball game. But the Steelers came out fast and hard rattling off 24 unanswered points. Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger played typically stellar games, creating plays and showing visible toughness. The Steelers' defense looked steel curtain-esque stuffing the Jets in the first half and holding them to 1 yard rushing. This was the stat of the game in my eyes, as I emphasized in my last posting the importance of the Jets' running game. Following that vomit-endusing first half, the Jets played inspired. For the first time, I was genuinely impressed with Mark Sanchez. He was accurate (what a concept), made good reads and was a leader on the field. The Jets played their hearts out on both sides of the ball to rally from 24-0 to 24-19. In the end, however, it was not enough, as Ben Roethlisberger (as he often does in the playoffs) was able to close out the game, sustaining a long drive to run out the clock at the game's end.
It hurts to come up short for the second year in a row after a magical run to the AFC Championship, but the Jets cannot expect to win if they don't leave it all on the field for 4 quarters. The Steelers are an incredibly talented team, and as much as it kills me to compliment them, they played like a team deserving of a Superbowl berth. In the words of Jimmy Johnson, when your fighting a gorilla, you can't just mess around and hope things go right, you have to run into its home screaming and punch it square in the mouth. The Jets decided to fight too late. The gorilla won this fight.
My Offensive MVP: Rashard Mendenhall
This was a tough decision between Mendenhall and Roethlisberger, as both had solid games. I'm choosing Mendenhall because on a night when the Jets rushing game was non existent until Shonn Greene decided to show up late, Mendenhall was consistent and ran hard the entire game. He was throwing guys off and would not go down. He finished with 121 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. Not a bad day, and certainly what the Jets would have hoped for their own backs.
My Defensive MVP: William Gay
This was truly a team effort, but I'm giving it to Gay because of his fumble return for a touchdown. Granted, if Tom Brady had been in the game, the refs would have called it an incomplete pass, but that's a rant for another blog. Gay also had 3 tackles, so outside of the touchdown, his game wasn't all that amazing. As I said, it was truly a team effort on defense. Everyone did their assignments, were in the right place,  and stymied the run. Gay put up points though, and that's a very important contribution in any case. So congrats William, you won MVP from a college student whose blog no one reads.

My standing blog pick 'em record: 1-1
Go Packers

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