NFL Conference Championship Reviews

With two minutes left in the AFC Championship game last week, the national televised audience was presented with two images of opposing quarterbacks. One had just led a drive down the field to put his team ahead, which although impressive, was aided by a crucial fifteen yard late hit that even CBS was too ashamed to replay because of its absurdity. The other quarterback faced a daunting task, needing to drive the length of the field for a touchdown in less than two minutes. Yet despite these opposite situations, it was Tom Brady, the quarterback who had stared impossible down numerous times before as a sixth round draft pick, who strode confidently down the sidelines. On the opposite sideline sat Peyton Manning, with his face buried in his arms, looking much like I did during my third grade little league championship game. This former first overall pick, 230 pounds, with a laser, rocket arm as he likes to advertise himself, was too afraid to cheer, let alone watch the very defense that had propelled the Colts through their first two playoff games. The Colts did indeed prevail, as the Indy defense, much to Peyton’s surprise, stepped up and intercepted one of Brady’s passes over the middle. While some credit deserves to go to Manning, as he did make some big plays in key situations, this game far from settles the Manning/Brady debate. Whereas Peyton entered the game with future hall of famer Marvin Harrison and Pro-Bowl caliber receiver Reggie Wayne on his side, Brady threw to Jabar Gaffney, who was released by two teams this year, and Reche Caldwell, who exemplified the “deer in the headlights” look every time the ball was thrown towards him. While the Patriots defense had let up an average of 18.5 points in their first two playoff games, the Colts defense yielded an average of seven points. Furthermore, the game was played in the RCA Dome, where Peyton Manning went undefeated for the year. Now, if these odds were reversed in Brady’s favor, given Manning’s history, how do you think he would perform? As I mentioned before, Manning does deserve a good deal of credit, however, lets see him do it one more time in the ultimate game before we stack him with the Joe Montana’s and Tom Brady’s of the world.

As for the NFC Championship game, the Bears defense was too good for the Saints team and Rex Grossman’s arm to overcome. Much like the entire season, the Bears triumphed despite Grossman, and the Saints Cinderella season came to a sudden halt. The Bears defense forced three turnovers and a safety, and held the Saints to a paltry 37 rushing yards. Despite the loss, the Saints season should be characterized as no less then an unbelievable success. After a four win season a year ago, with no stadium to call home, the Saints returned to the Superdome and claimed the AFC South with a ten win season. This turnaround was in part due to the Saints rookies, phenom Reggie Bush and sixth-round sleeper Marques Colston both had outstanding years and shockingly competed for the same rookie of the year trophy. Credit also goes to Joe Horn, who should be better known for his great humanitarian work and play on the field, rather than his cell phone celebration several years back. Also, Drew Brees, runner up for league MVP, and perhaps the classiest player in the league, played a crucial role in the Saints turnaround. Finally, just as the fans of the Saints fed off of the players’ success, the players were inspired by the fans, whose undying loyalty for the team could not be broken even when their homes and stadium were.