Revisiting the 2014 NFL Championship Games
Ah, the two weeks before the Super Bowl. It’s a simple recipe: a few days recapping the Championship Games, a few more days dissecting the biggest stories from those games, and then a little over a week of analyzing the Super Bowl matchup. In other words, the rest of the media has already moved on to the Super Bowl. I understand the temptation, but now that we have the benefit of the teensiest bit of perspective, let’s examine the Championship Games one more time.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
There are certain things you lose when you jump to judgment before knowing all the facts. Today, journalists are eager to be the breaker of breaking news, and as a result, sometimes lead with their impressions, leaving background research for follow up reports. The current breaking news and national obsession involves Richard Sherman and his post game interview with Erin Andrews, and while journalists and fans attacked Sherman in a myriad of ways in the hours after the game, the consensus might be best summed up in four words: Sherman is a thug.
As often happens once people cool off after an emotionally charged event, journalists then began to examine the circumstances leading up to Sherman’s loud, impulsive rant, and they responded in a chorus of reproach, complicating the “thug” narrative with reports about Sherman and Michael Crabtree from the previous summer, and quotes from Sherman’s coaches reaffirming the quality of his character. Both sides preferring to view the issue in black and white, they squared off.
Finally, grey entered the picture. NFL.com released the “Sound FX” from the 49ers-Seahawks game, complicating both narratives of Sherman. On the one hand, there’s no question about Sherman’s boastful demeanor after the game – he thinks he’s the best cornerback in the NFL, and he wants you to know it. Yet, when Sherman approaches the sulking Crabtree after the game, he doesn’t seem to be mocking him. What I had suspected was taunting might well have been heartfelt, his hand extended as he tells Crabtree, “helluva game, helluva game.” That’s when Crabtree pushes Sherman with a hand to the face, and that’s when Sherman goes off.
Should Sherman have gone off like that on Crabtree in the post game interview? No, but channel that passion in a more productive way, and I’m all for it. It’s not often we get interviews that don’t toe the line of humdrum monotony – don’t forget that. I thought it was refreshing. And the whole argument that he bullied Erin Andrews? Please. He just pulled a Howard Dean, circa 2008: It’s loud where he is, so he shouts. No harm, no foul. One thing’s for sure, Richard Sherman’s no thug.
What more is there to say about the actual game? Well, Colin Kaepernick’s not getting a fair shake, that’s for sure. Playing the NFL’s best defense, he saw blanket coverage on his receivers and carried the 49ers on his back, rushing for 130 yards on 11 carries. For much of the four quarters, he did what he could, when he could. Yes, he was stripped and threw two interceptions, but after throwing a TD to go up 17-10 with six minutes left in the third quarter, his defense let him down and he was on the wrong end of an incorrect call on what should have been a NaVorro Bowman fumble recovery. That happens – the game’s rarely called perfectly – but the blame for that hardly falls at Kaepernick’s feet.
My prediction for the game: “It’s going to be a close one. I’ll say 20-17, Seahawks.”
Actual score: 23-17, Seahawks. Pretty much nailed it.
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
Here’s what I wrote for last week’s column:
“The Broncos top ranked passing attack vs the Patriots 18th ranked pass defense. New England’s 10th ranked passing attack vs Denver’s 27th ranked pass defense. If only it were that simple. The real story of this match-up, of course, is Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning. Never on the field at the same time, the two are nevertheless pitted against one another in the competition for this generations’ best quarterback. It can only be one of them, fan logic dictates. There has to be a best and second best.”
A couple things. First, it really did end up being about the passing attacks, both teams struggling with their run games throughout. Knowshon Moreno was more successful than Blount and co., but his 59 yards on the ground were paltry compared to Manning’s 400 yards through the air. Manning showed up in a big way, throwing precision passes all afternoon, finishing a remarkable 32 of 43. For all you Peyton haters out there, that segues to my next point.
Aquib Talib’s injury. What did Mr. William Belichick call it? Oh yeah: “It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aquib…It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen.” Yeesh. Love how he refers to Wes Welker, a receiver who played for Belichick for six years and had a record five 100 catch seasons during that time. You know, it’s casual. Whatever you wanna call him. That receiver guy, over there. That whatcha-ma-call-it. If you’re a Patriots diehard, here’s your chink in the armor: The Broncos didn’t beat the Patriots fare and square – they cheated. Only after they took out our best defensive player with a cheap shot could they run roughshod over us like that. Uh huh, pull the other one. The media might be making this all about Belichick’s comments and reviewing the play, but the truth’s the truth. On this day, at least, Manning was the best, and Brady the second best. Leave it alone.
My prediction for the game: “Patriots win, 27-24.”
Actual score: Broncos win, 26-16. Oops.