- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What did I think of the NFL’s divisional playoff games? Oh, there are 14 things I could say:

1. There’s virtually no difference between the NFC’s six postseason teams — as the scores (21-20, 23-20, 27-24, 27-24 in overtime) clearly indicate. They’re all equally, uh, above average. How’s that for damning with faint praise?

2. The coaches had an absolutely horrific weekend, the worst I can remember.

• The Eagles’ Andy Reid, trailing by three, was nuts to punt with 1:56 left. (The Saints ran out the clock.) His defense had already given up more than 400 yards and, playing on six days’ rest, was totally gassed. How could he not sense that standing on the sideline? Sure, converting a fourth-and-15 is a long shot, but his club had a better chance of doing that than of stopping Drew Brees and Co. in the late going. Did some Voodoo Lady in the French Quarter cast a spell on poor Andy as he was mulling his decision? It just doesn’t make sense.

• The Chargers’ Marty Schottenheimer was equally crazy to waste a timeout challenging something or other after a bizarre interception/fumble with six minutes to go. As the replays plainly showed — even before Marty threw the red flag — Patriots receiver Troy Brown did indeed strip safety Marlon McCree of the ball before he hit the ground. San Diego desperately needed that timeout in its last series; without it, the Bolts could get no closer than the New England 36, and Nate Kaeding’s 54-yard, “Hail Mary” field goal try fell short.

• The Bears’ Lovie Smith, meanwhile, was fortunate to dodge disaster after inexplicably calling a timeout with two seconds left in regulation — even though the Seahawks, who had possession at their 46, were content to go to OT. This enabled Matt Hasselbeck to launch a last-ditch pass to Nate Burleson that could have had all kinds of catastrophic outcomes (touchdown, pass interference, etc.) But hey, at least Smith admitted he goofed. The other two goofballs didn’t.

3. Memo to Lovie: You don’t want to do anything to provoke the Saints and their rabid fans this week. So if defensive end Alex Brown makes a noteworthy play in practice this week — and cameras or microphones are in attendance — try to avoid saying, “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job!” You’ll thank me for it later.

4. Instead of a sideline reporter, the networks should have a lip reader at every Seahawks game so he/she can tell us what Mike Holmgren is muttering to his players and coaches. It ain’t “gee whiz” and “good golly,” that’s for sure.

5. If NFL Films ever wired Holmgren for sound, it would have a terrific silent movie.

6. On the first play of OT, the Seahawks’ Shaun Alexander slammed up the middle for 10 yards to the Seattle 40. On the next play, though, he took a breather and his substitute, Maurice Morris, lost 2 yards. The ‘Hawks wound up punting, never to see the ball again. Could someone please explain to me why Alexander, the game’s leading rusher with 108 yards, would ever, ever, ever come out in that situation?

7. If you want to call the Patriots “the luckiest team since the invention of the rabbit’s foot,” I won’t argue.

8. I will point out, though, that one of the reasons the Pats are so successful is that they’re a true 60-minute team. Consider: In the last 1:58 of the first half and the last 6:16 of the game against San Diego, they drove for two touchdowns, a two-point conversion and a field goal — 18 of their 24 points. Try that sometime.

9. Losing brings out the worst in just about everybody, even LaDainian Tomlinson. Can you believe his caterwauling about the Patriots’ postgame celebration — about their doing a tap dance on the Chargers’ helmet logo and mimicking Shawne Merriman’s “Lights Out” gyrations? What, they should have paid Merriman a royalty first?

10. I love how, according to the AP, Tomlinson “had to be restrained by more than one Patriots player from going after another New England player.” This is a guy who had his way with the Pats’ defense all day, racking up 187 yards from scrimmage on 25 touches, and suddenly he’s being restrained? Whoever was doing the restraining should immediately be named to the Pro Bowl.

11. I mean, it wasn’t like one of the Patriots mocked Merriman by whipping out a hypodermic needle and shooting himself full of steroids. But I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had.

12. Speaking of the Pro Bowl, what a joke that game has become. Nine Chargers make it but only one Patriot? The fickleness of players/coaches/fans these days knows no bounds.

13. The best thing about New England’s tricky two-point conversion, which involved a direct snap to running back Kevin Faulk (who plowed into the end zone): Neither announcer misidentified it as a Statue of Liberty play.

And finally …

14. The folks at ESPN should take a glance now and then at the “ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia.” They might learn something. The network ran a list Sunday night of the coaches with the worst postseason records — and lumped Schottenheimer (5-13) with Paul Brown (4-8). Pardon me, but three of Brown’s wins (and four of his losses) came in NFL championship games. Marty hasn’t even gotten to the NFL championship game. There’s absolutely no basis for comparison between the two.

Oh, wait, I just thought of one: They’re both males.

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