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Monday, January 23, 2012

Two For The Ages

On Thursday, the Hat Trick previewed the AFC and NFC Championship Games. I anticipated a great day of football between two sets of very evenly matched teams. Sometimes I am right in my predictions and sometimes I am wrong. From a standpoint of competitiveness, I hit the bullseye.


While I am busy tooting my own horn, let me also mention that I said to bet the farm on the Ravens +8 points. The horn tooting stops here, though. I also said that Baltimore would win the game. Baltimore lost the game.

Note that I did not say that the New England Patriots won the game. The Pats, in fact, had the higher final score and advanced to Super Bowl XLVI. They did chalk up a win in their won-loss record. But they did not win. Baltimore lost.

Trailing by three points in the final minutes, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco guided the Ravens down the field, inside the Patriots' red zone in the final minute. Flacco fired a pass on 2nd down to Lee Evans in the end zone.  The ball hit Evens in his bread basket. Evans' first foot came down. His second foot came down. The ball squirted out. Cornerback Sterling Moore of the Patriots grazed the ball and exerted just enough force on the ball to force it from Evans' grasp.

Two plays later, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff came out to attempt a chip-shot 32 yard field goal in the final 20 seconds to likely send the game into overtime. Cundiff had not missed any kicks of under 30 yards this season and only two kicks of under 40 yards. It stood to reason that a 32 yard attempt was almost automatic.

"Almost" was not good enough. From my vantage point, the snap appeared to ever-so-slightly slip out of Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox's grasp to holder Sam Koch's grasp. But the placement appeared to be timely. Cundiff owned the stunning miscue and said there was no excuse for the miss. Perhaps he was rushed; perhaps there was some slippage between the snap, hold, placement, and kick. Regardless of the cause, Cundiff missed a very high percentage kick and it ended his team's season.

Lee Evans lets the ball, and the Ravens' season, slip away in the final seconds. 1


The Giants and 49ers met in the NFC Championship Game for the second time. The first was in the 1990 NFC Championship. The epic game ended with Giants kicker, #9 Matt Bahr, delivering a game winning field goal as time expired. The winning drive was set up by a costly fumble by 49ers Hall of Fame nominated running back Roger Craig.
January 1991 3
In the 2011 NFC Championship Game, the two teams engaged in an epic back-and-forth battle that could not be resolved in the first 60 minutes. Forty Niners punt returner Kyle Williams fumbled a Steve Weatherford punt. Jacquian Williams of the Giants recovered deep in 49ers territory. The giveaway set up the  conclusion of the game. New York advanced the ball to the 49ers' 14 yard line to set up the game winning field goal by Giants kicker #9 Lawrence Tynes.

The element of deja vu may have had no bearing on the actual outcome of the game. Nonetheless, it added an additional element of drama to an already dramatic championship game. Yesterday's 2011 NFC Championship Game, like its 2011 AFC and 1990 NFC counterparts, was decided by inches, not yards. The differences in the games were set up miscues and mishandled opportunities.    

January 2012 2


In two weeks, the Giants will attempt to extend their run of repeat history. The Giants squared off with the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, winning in dramatic fashion by scoring the winning points in the final minute of the game. The Patriots are intent on correcting history. The Giants left the Patriots 35 seconds away from a perfect 2007 season. While perfection is not on the table, and some of the role players have changed, many of the key players - Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin, Tom Brady, Bill Bilichick, among others - are the same.The Patriots, I am sure, would relish earning the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title at the expense of the franchise, and the quarterback, that denied them the first, ever, 19-0 season in NFL history.  

To be settled in Indianapolis.... 4
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