Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and his family waited around for an hour and a half after the game to congratulate retiring Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Photo by Baltimore Ravens Media Director Chad Steele.
The Divisional Weekend (just concluded) is the favorite weekend of the year for many fans of American football. Four games, two each day, and the eight best teams of the season—no bums or pretenders left standing. NFL.com called this "one of the most exciting playoff weekends in history."
Got that right. I had no energy left by the time the last game was winding down—a conventional thrashing of the Texans by the Empire Storm Troopers of the League, the Yankees of Football, the Boston-based New England Patriots.
My Green Bay Packers (Wisconsin being true football country) sadly got both outplayed and out-coached (sorry, Dom Capers, but you got owned). San Francisco's new quarterback, some mope named Kooperninck or Kappernuck or something like that, hung right with Aaron Rodgers in passing. But—whoops—he also set an all-time NFL record in rushing for a quarterback—first in a playoff game, then in all games, playoffs plus regular season. Okay then: it's Colin Kaepernick. We know the name now. Wish I still didn't.
(More subtly, the game featured the best and worst O-lines still in contention before the weekend. As an old Redskins fan from the Gibbs-Beathard era, I still think the O-line is the bedrock of a solid team. I can only hope that's how the Pack will spend its picks in the next draft. Why waste the best QB in the League behind a rickety, rattletrap offensive line?)
The two best games of the weekend both featured improbable defensive breakdowns in the closing seconds of regulation, to the heartbreak of fans in the losing cities and the wild delight of fans in the winning ones. Seattle completed another remarkable comeback with only a few seconds left to go, and by rights should have won—but it's a tradition in the NFL to stop playing defense when something big is on the line. They used to call it the "prevent," pronounced pree-vent. The singular feature of the prevent defense is that it doesn't. Anyway, the Seahawks promptly allowed Atlanta to march right up the field and kick a long field goal to steal the game back right after it got stolen from them.
The best game, however—and one of the best games ever—was a running gun-battle by two teams at the absolute top of their respective forms. The lead between Baltimore and Denver seesawed back and forth all day, until Denver wrapped it up—only they didn't. Needing a touchdown to stay alive with just seconds left in regulation, the underrated Joe Flacco pulled off a miraculous long bomb to Jacoby Jones that will go down in gridiron history as "the Flacco Fling." Baltimore finally won on a field goal in double-overtime, sending 2012's most impressive powerhouse down to unlikely defeat and putting an unhappy cap on the sparkling comeback of the great Peyton Manning. Condolences, Colorado. Congratulations, Marylanders.
If you missed the game the first time, NFL Network is re-broadcasting a full 3-hour summary tonight.
Good thing I've got a week to recharge my football-watching batteries. I'm footballed out for now. No post next Sunday, just so you know.
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
A DVD of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Ken Jarecke: "Peyton Manning is a class act. This photo gives me a (painful) reminder of an image I failed to make.
"Manning lost his last college game, against the Cornhuskers in the Orange bowl. After the game, I was following Tom Osborne (another class act) looking for an image that showed it was his final game as a head coach. I'm watching Osborne through the open locker room door, Peyton (once again wearing a suit) walks into Nebraska's locker room to congratulate Osborne and shake his hand. Another photographer whispers to me to not make the photo, cause Osborne wouldn't like it. Foolishly, I kind of listened and the hesitation caused me to miss the moment.
"It's true what they say, it's the pictures you miss (or the games you lose) that you remember the most."'
David Bostedo: "I'd just like to add that I think most people's take on the prevent defense 'preventing you from winning' or it's main feature being that is 'doesn't' are mainly a case of selective memory. No one remembers the hundreds of games where the prevent kept a team from making a big play that would have one the game, because those games turn out boring, without a comeback. Everyone remembers the few that do result in some kind of great comeback. And no one ever sees the additional comebacks that would likely have happened without the prevent defense."
Mike replies: If you say so.
psu: "The Denver game was really more decided by a bone-headed play by the safety. It never should have gotten to a lame duck throw on the run that got picked off. The Pats/Yankees comparison is perhaps apt in terms of national perception (evil empire, all that) but the cost structure of the NFL and MLB are so different that that's really as far as you can go with it. In the modern era the Yankees have won with money, the Patriots with reasonably savvy management and the luck of having drafted Brady."
SHJ: 'Just a crucial point of clarification: Foxboro is closer to Providence RI that it is to Boston, so the geographically correct designation is 'Providence-based New England Patriots.' :-) "