Hey everyone, welcome back to the “Monday Heckle”. Today we are going to look back on the two epic Conference Championship Games that took place over this last Sunday. Both games had National interest. You were either a New England fan from the Northeast, or a Seahawks fan from the Great Northwest. Everyone in the middle was rooting for either Green Bay or Indianapolis (and in some case both). It was probably the first time that Packer Nation had so many people that were not Packers fans rooting for them so vehemently. Normally the Packers are the object of hatred from the Masses, but on Sunday they were the bandwagon of choice. They almost pulled if off too, but we’ll get into that later. As for the AFC Championship Game it was a battle between the “Neckbeard” and the Patriots. The Patriots dominated the Colts, and even managed to “deflate” their ego a little bit in the process ;). Anyhow, here is the recap of what happened over this last Sunday (and my priceless reactions to each event as they unfolded before my shocked and surprised eyes).
AFC Championship Game – Indianapolis Colts v. New England Patriots
This game was dubbed “The Battle of the 12s: Young vs. Old” by some of the talking heads leading up to this game. I for one was hoping that the Colts could pull this one out and advance to the Super Bowl. I really have no basis on why that would even be possible given the Postseason records of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, other than I dislike the Patriots and the fact that Andrew Luck can singlehandedly the Colts on his back and lead them to victory. The former outweighed the later in my mind though, because the Patriots are just that good when it comes to facing young QBs in playoff games. Belichick knows how to rattle QBs (young and old) with his defensive scheme, which allows the LBs to blitz or take up space so that the DL can hit the QB multiple times throughout the game. This only leads to the QB throwing the ball earlier than he wants to, which leads to more incompletions, and possible interceptions. Also the Colts defense wasn’t what you call, ‘stellar’ throughout the season. Sure they have stepped up at times against other playoff caliber teams, but these are the Patriots at home, with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. It didn’t bode well for the Colts, and it showed early on.
It was 14-0 after 1 quarter of play, and 17-7 at the halftime whistle. The Colts definitely had a chance, and they were in the game to be sure. Then the 3rd Quarter started, by the end of that quarter the score was 38-7. The Patriots added one more TD in the 4th to put the icing on their Super Bowl cake to make the final score: 45-7 NE smashes their way to the Super Bowl
Analysis of what lies ahead
Patriots: Obviously for the Patriots they are headed to the Super Bowl in search of their 4th Super Bowl Title in the Belichick and Brady Era. They have been stopped twice by stingy defenses and opportunistic offenses in their attempt at number 4. Luckily for them they aren’t facing the New York Giants this time around, but unlucky for them they are facing the “Legion of Boom” in search for the elusive Back to Back Super Bowl Titles. It is going to be weird for Tom Brady and Company though as they head into the two week hype machine that is “Super Bowl Week”. For the first time in their Franchise’s history, they will be a fan favorite. Usually (like the Cowboys, the Packers, and the New England Patriots) the haters are waiting in droves to call them all the names in the book. For the Patriots the name calling of choice is “cheaters”. I am not going to go into their history of cheating, or whatever, if you want to read up on that just click on the word and it will give you all the literature that you need on the subject.
Anyway, I am starting to digress. The Patriots are going to have more fan support than they are used to getting just because a lot of fans (including the majority of the NFC West fans) will be rooting against the defending Super Bowl Champs. I wonder how they are going to deal with not being able to use the “Us against the World” mantra, because the Seahawks will definitely try and use it to their advantage (but as I am going to write later, no one is going to be able to use this one as successfully as they have used it in the past).
Colts: The Colts put on a great run this year. They won the AFC South as was expected of them. Andrew Luck took another step in his progression as an elite Franchise QB. They have a good system in place with some of the pieces that they need in order to win a Super Bowl. Now they have to look themselves in the mirror during the offseason and address their real issues: The Running Game, and their Defense.
They will obviously look towards the April Draft but they should definitely keep their eyes open to the Free Agent Market that is about to commence. Especially if DeMarco Murray is cut free by the Dallas Cowboys (who could choose to keep Dez Bryant instead, and just look for a cheaper option at the RB position), or if Adrian Peterson doesn’t come back to the Vikings. Or in the “not our future but possibly or present” scenario, sign Frank Gore for a 2 year deal (2nd year being a team option). These and many more scenarios will undoubtedly fall at the feet of the Colts this offseason, because of the fact that Andrew Luck has proven he is the real deal and he is only a couple of running mates away from winning a Super Bowl (or two). All in all the Colts are in a great place for their Franchise moving forward, they just have to work on improving their weakness this offseason.
NFC Championship Game – Green Bay Packers v. Seattle Seahawks
Most people coming into this game didn’t really give Green Bay much of a chance in beating the defending Super Bowl Champs, much less with an injured Aaron Rodgers. The Packers tried their damndest to prove those people wrong, and for a glorious 57 minutes they were doing it; and they were doing it playing Seattle type of football. It was ugly, it was messy, it was grinding, it was a 19-7 lead with 3 minutes and change left in the ballgame. Then it happened, 15 points in 44 seconds. A two point conversion that was more a prayer answered than anything beautifully designed. A gutsy drive to force OT. Then the lost coin toss, and it was essentially over from their as the Seahawks clearly had the momentum at this point; the touchdown almost seemed inevitable. Final score: 28-22 Sea completes the biggest comeback in Championship Game history and advances to their second straight Super Bowl.
Analysis of what lies ahead
Seahawks: Obviously for the Seahawks what lies ahead is a matchup with the Patriots in Super Bowl 49. They will be looking to defend the Title they so dominatingly won last February over the Denver Broncos. This time around though they will be facing a team that is incredibly hard to prepare for. The Patriots don’t have what you would call a conventional offense. They barely use their running game in the traditional sense, having said that they did unleash LeGarrette Blount against the Colts (30 carries, 148 yards, 3 TDs).
Knowing the Patriots though they probably did this so that Seattle would have one more thing to watch on film. One more thing for the Defensive Coordinator to worry about leading up to the Super Bowl. On offense they will obviously need to do a better job in protecting the ball. The fact that they overcame 5 turnovers, while coming back from 19-7, to win the game and get to the Super Bowl is an accomplishment on to itself. Something tells me though that they will need to have less than 3 turnovers in the Super Bowl if they intend to go Back to Back. Another thing that the Seahawks are going to face is the same thing that the Patriots are going to face. They will no longer have the “Us against the World” mantra to use as they head into the Super Bowl.
No doubt that they will try and use it in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, but they are facing the Patriots. Regardless of how many NFC West fans, Packers fans, Panthers fans and Broncos fans, etc will be rooting for the Patriots to dethrone the Seahawks; there will be just as many AFC East fans, Rams fans, Panthers fans, and Giants fans, etc rooting for the Seahawks. This is because both these teams are equally hated across America. I look forward to watching two teams that are “the favorites” go against each other. No doubt Las Vegas is going to make the Patriots some sort of favorites (I’m guessing 6 ½ points) and the Seattle fans can say, “I told you so, we don’t get any respect.” The truth of the matter though is Vegas isn’t bias, they just lay down a betting number based on their own facts. I wonder how the Seahawks are going to deal with people jumping on their bandwagon during Super Bowl Week (including…….yikes……some 49ers fans that just hate the Patriots).
Packers: What do I even say here. The Packers should be making Super Bowl plans right now. They should be the ones talking to the media about their hard fought win at the home of the “12th Man”. There should be a two week lovefest with Aaron Rodgers, and how tough he is to have gotten the Packers to the Super Bowl on basically one leg. We should be talking about the opportunistic defense that played the Seahawks as well (if not better) as anyone as defended them…..for 57 minutes. Yeah…. and that’s the thing.
Most of the time (like 99.9% of the time) games are not decided by just a handful of plays. Games are decided by the culmination of a bunch of things that happen over a course of a “60 minute game”. This game was about that 0.01% that no one really discusses. This game swung on 4 (maybe 5) plays.
Packers failed to score on their first drive and was forced to settle for a FG
Packers get called for a personal foul leading to a 1st and Goal from the 18 yard line instead of the 3 yard line leading to another FG (instead of a TD)
Seattle gets a Fake FG for a TD to make it 16-7
Seattle recovers the onside kick attempt after backup TE Brandon Bostick (who is in to block) tries to gather the ball to no avail (Jordy Nelson was right behind him)
Obviously #4 is HUGELY important for the Seahawks comeback but if you look at the fact that Seattle scored 15 points in 44 seconds one would argue that it was still possible without having recovered that onside kick that the Seahawks would have still made that last scoring drive.
#1 and #2: If the Packers score a TD on either one of their first two drives, it is a totally different game with 3 minutes left to go in the game. The Seahawks would have been down by just too many points with juuuuust not enough time left on the clock.
#3 is important because instead of having to settle for 3 they got on the board for 7, that led to the thought that there was a comeback possible. If they have to settle for 3 the task becomes that much more difficult. That is also one of the gutsiest calls I have personally ever seen in an Championship Game. At that point in the game it was crucial for the Seahawks to get some points. If they fail to complete that pass the Packers are looking to put a stranglehold on the game with the next drive. Instead the play works, they get the TD, and well……Uncle Mo showed up for dinner after all.
While this was a devastating loss, there is room to build from here. Rodgers is still going to an MVP candidate. The running game rounded into form as the season progressed and if Lacy and Stark can coexist again the Packers ground game will be a force to be reckoned with next year. They just need to upgrade their defense and their receiving core a bit. Other than that though they are sitting pretty to repeat as NFC North Champs.
Final thoughts from the mind of a Madman
So we are set for Super Bowl 49 in Glendale, Arizona. I don’t know how I really feel about this one. I hate both teams, maybe not with the same passion that I hate…..say…..the Cowboys, or the Rams…….but it’s damn close these days.
I will no doubt have an Super Bowl article in the next two weeks, but for now I will leave you with this thought:
I will be bitterly rooting for the Commercials to be good this year.
Yeah that’s all I have to hold on to right now. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, see you either Wednesday or Thursday for my “Midweek Musings with The Heckler” where I start breaking down the two teams heading to Super Bowl 49. Cheers.