Conference championship games provided great football

John
John Turner
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There is football and there is great football, and that’s what we witnessed in both the AFC Championship and NFC Championship games last Sunday.

You really hated to see anyone lose these games as all four teams played their hearts out. Both games were as dramatic and nerve-wracking as you could ever wish for, with so much on the line.

You could see the players on all four teams were exhausted, banged up, never lost the will to compete and they played with heart and determination.

Who would have thought that both games would come down to one play on whether they were going to play in the biggest game in football – the Super Bowl?

Speaking of pain, it must have been painful for Baltimore fans to see a dropped pass in the end zone, which would have won the game. Then, to make matters worse, a missed chip shot field goal that would have at least sent the game into overtime.

Once again a kicker, who sits on the bench for 59 minutes of the game, cost the other Raven players, who emptied their tanks throughout the whole game, their chance at the Super Bowl.

The Freak thought Coach Harbaugh should have called a timeout as the field-goal team looked rushed, and didn’t allow kicker Billy Cundiff to go through his pre-kick routine. It’s like golf, if The Freak doesn’t go through his pre-shot routine you will see a pull hook just like Cundiff’s kick.

The Patriots looked ripe to be upset at home as Tom Brady had an off-day, but Joe Flacco and the Ravens couldn’t take advantage.

Coach Belichick is the one guy who you can never count out; he will always figure something out to give his team the best chance for success, which is why he is the best in the business.

NFL Championship

Defensive, smash-mouth, physical football has lost its place in the NFL game over the past number of years, but it came back with vengeance in the NFC Championship game. It was nice to see such an important game be a defensive battle.

The 49ers’ defence was great all year. The Giants’ defence has really improved immensely over the last five weeks, and it showed against the 49ers. What an epic battle between the two teams as The Freak and family were on edge with every snap as either team was only one play away from ending it in dramatic fashion.

Then it happened!

San Francisco punt returner Kyle Williams was stripped of the ball by Jacquian Williams, and it was recovered by Devin Thomas. After a couple of stressful runs by Ahmad Bradshaw, all Giants’ fans must have had the same feeling of just hang onto the ball as these runs put the Gmen in better field-goal range.

After a deal of game, out trots kicker Lawrence Tynes, who has done this before in overtime in the NFC Championship game. Nervous might not be the appropriate word as we have seen Tynes miss some of these high-pressured field goals in the past. But at 11:35 p.m., after some four hours of the most physical football you might ever see, Tynes drills the football through the uprights to send the Giants to the dance for the second time in five years.

The Freak’s house explodes into a loud roar, which must have been heard across Summerside. Apologies to all the neighours if you were awakened by the craziness!

Rematch

Now it’s on to the Super Bowl and a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants beat the Patriots 17-14 in the biggest upset in history. Guess what?

New York is the underdog again, and can they pull off another upset?

Local Pats’ fans like Ahern, Chissy, Goat, Scottie M., Dave P., and others are calling it the "Revenge Bowl" after that painful loss. Giants’ fans Phil H., Pete R., and Harvey M. are hoping to see a replay of that same movie from four years ago.

No, it won’t be as shocking if Big Blue can close the deal again. Their mantra for the last part of the season and the playoffs has been "all in."

In the poker world, if you make this call you are feeling quite confident and you know there is no tomorrow. This is how the Giants are feeling right now.

How confident are the Pats fans?

The Freak has noticed they have really toned it down, and have become somewhat realistic after their last humbling experience.

Stat of the week

Eli Manning broke the NFL record for most road victories by any quarterback in the playoffs. Manning has five consecutive wins away from home.

Pet peeve of the week

The Freak can’t handle kickers deciding these big games. We all know it’s part of the game, but you hate seeing the players busting their butts for 59 minutes, for it to all come down to the foot of a kicker.

What really ticks you off is all kickers do at practice is kick balls, and when you really need them to make an easy kick they miss.

Coach Parcells quote of the week

"Losers assemble in small groups and complain about the coaches and other players. Winners assemble as a team and find ways to win."

Catch special bonus Super Bowl coverage in Friday's Journal Pioneer, along with regular coverage on Saturday.

Super Bowl questions

Super Bowl questions to think about:

1. The Pats had not beaten a winning team until last week. You can say you can only play the teams on your schedule, which is true, but how does a team react if you are not battle-tested throughout the year?

2. Deep down do the Giants have the Patriots’ number?  

3. Do you think Pats wide receiver turned defensive back Julian Edelman can cover Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz?

4. Can the Giants’ pass rush pressure Brady into bad throws?

5. What type of wrinkle will Coach Belichick put into the Pats’ game plan?

6. Can the Giants devise a game plan to slow down New England's tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez?

7. Will the Patriots try and throw the ball outside the numbers to Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco?

8. What team will benefit the most on the fast track inside Lucas Oil Stadium?

9. What type of game plan will the Giants have for the Patriots’ no-huddle offence?

10. When the Giants beat the Patriots in Week 9 24-20, both teams had significant injuries. New York played without wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw while New England did not have safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes. With all these players now healthy, what team will benefit most?

11. Do you believe Eli Manning is better than these quarterbacks – Mark Sanchez, Tyler Palko, Vince Young, Dan Orlovsky, Tim Tebow (twice), Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Joe Flacco – who have faced the Patriots in the last nine weeks?

Picks

A look at The Freak’s picks:

Last week: 2-for-2 (100 per cent).

Playoffs: 8-for-10 (80 per cent).

Season: 92-for-129 (71.3 per cent).

John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to the footballfreak84@yahoo.ca.

Organizations: Giants, Ravens, Big Blue Deion Branch

Geographic location: Baltimore, Summerside, New York San Francisco New England Lucas Oil Stadium

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