Wild Weekends: Heading to Miami

The journey has now reached its final destination; for this year anyway.

This past Sunday saw this year’s special two book their trips to Miami the first weekend of February as the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints took home their respective conference titles. The wins not only propelled the Colts to their second Super Bowl in four years and the Saints to their first in franchise history, but also guaranteed that this year’s Big Game will be noteworthy before the opening kickoff. This will be the first Super Bowl contested between two dome teams, Jim Caldwell will become the first rookie head coach to coach in the Super Bowl since George Seifert (Super Bowl XXIV), and this will be the first Super Bowl to feature both one-seeds since Super Bowl XVIII.

Favre becomes subject of tragedy as Saints head to their first Super Bowl

Once again, it was a Brett Favre interception that lead to his opponent clinching a Super Bowl berth; except this time the interception prolonged the game—sending it into overtime—instead of directly leading to the game’s conclusion.

Favre’s interception came on a 3rd down play where Favre running the ball for five or so yards would’ve kept Minnesota in Ryan Longwell’s range (in terms of career longs) for a potential game winning field-goal. A penalty moments before for too many men in the huddle set up the play by putting Minnesota in a position where they needed yards and couldn’t simply run the ball forward.

The game was a statistical mismatch as it was Minnesota’s offense and not the home-town Saints’ that produced the big numbers. Minnesota out-gained New Orleans by 218 yards, the biggest differential for a losing team in a playoff game ever.

Favre went 28/46 for 310 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, with his second INT being the final pass of the game for Minnesota, and possibly of Favre’s career.

Drew Brees was able to keep up with Favre going 17/31 for 194 yards with three touchdowns.

Mistakes were aplenty as the Vikings committed five turnovers (three fumbles and two interceptions) along with three fumbles they didn’t lose. Bernard Barrian, Percy Harvin, and Brett Favre all lost fumbles in the game. Favre’s may have been the most costly fumble as it came on a handoff plays after Reggie Bush fumbled away a punt inside the New Orleans 20 with under two minutes to play in the first half.

Adrian Petersen finally transformed into Adrian Petersen after nearly half of his season was subpar. Petersen scored three times and ran for 122 yards on 25 carries in the game while also gaining 14 yards on two catches.

Colts win AFC in game of halves

It took 24 unanswered points and a dominating second half, but Peyton Manning lead the Indianapolis Colts to another Super Bowl.

With the notion that Manning couldn’t win a big playoff game left the minute he reached his Super Bowl, it still brought about joy and amazement when he shook off a slow start as if it were nothing, and dispatched of the Jets’ defense as if it were just that.

The number one defense in pro football was sent down a peg in the final thirty-two minutes of football, a period of time that saw the Colts score 24 unanswered points and end the Jets’ miracle run.

Manning finished 26/39 for 377 yards with three touchdowns, all coming in those final thirty-two minutes.

Manning’s favorite receiver throughout the playoffs continued to be Pierre Garcon. Garcon, who paid tribute to his family and all others of his native Haiti by displaying the Haitian flag below the AFC Championship trophy during the post-game presentation.

Garcon finished with 151 yards on 11 catches with a fourth quarter touchdown.

Like Joe Flacco last year, Mark Sanchez was a rookie quarterback playing in the AFC title game, and he didn’t play all that bad. While others may have expected more, Sanchez’s 17/30, 257 yard, two touchdown, one interception performance should be seen as a sign that this guy is going to be nothing but good for the Jets in the future.

The Colts defense of course deserves their share of the credit for this win. Possibly more impressive than shutting out the Jets for the final thirty-two minutes of the game was the Colts’ domination of Shonn Greene. Greene, a rookie himself and the player to rush for the most yards in his first two career playoff games, was held to only 41 yards rushing on 10 carries.

Thomas Jones didn’t prove any more effective against the Colts’ D in this one as he was only able to gain 42 yards on 16 carries.

While some wanted Manning/Favre, and some probably wanted the upstart and fun Jets to shock the world, I’m perfectly fine with a Colts/Saints Super Bowl. For me, it comes down to the fact that this will be a 1 v. 1 matchup as far as records go, and as far as most kinds of power rankings go. Not only that, but in a championship setting, it shouldn’t be a rarity that the best teams play against each other. I’m aware that parody and upsets are a way of life in sport, especially where the post-season is concerned, but at the same time, how is it even sensible for the two best teams facing off to be considered something weird or out of the ordinary? Luckily for me, I know the answer and it’s the same old story as far as this country and sport is concerned: the story suddenly becomes the gauge for who’s the best, and if you have the best story, you’re the best. That’s why the Cardinals were such a big story last year, not because they were the best team (they entered the playoffs 9-7 and on a winning streak), but because their run with an aging legend in the making made them the talk of the town. And I think that’s great, because when you don’t have the best teams in the title game, you may need a little story to add some excitement, but when it’s the two top dogs in the battle, then that is the story, and that is all there needs to be for there to be a story. And that is what I’m hoping to hear over the next week and a half: talk of this being a good thing for the NFL, a good thing for the Super Bowl, and a good thing for football. Because even if you don’t realize it, this is good for football. As much as people love the underdog and love a Cinderella story, it is the dominant teams and the dynasties that resonate the most in people’s minds, and those are the teams that sports need (baseball-Yankees, basketball-Lakers, hockey-Red Wings) to maintain some sense of tradition until a new force comes along. For an example, see the change in perception for the Patriots from the late 90’s to the 2007 near unbeaten season alongside the change in perception for the Cowboys during the same time period.

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