Ok, so I blew it last week. I'm woman enough to admit that. I predicted the Titans would demolish Baltimore, and my Cards would fall to Carolina. Jimmy and the boys agreed with me, as did most of the money in Vegas. Who could have predicted that the underdogs would rise to the top? But, I should have taken my own advice last week. Those who play with heart stand alone.
"I just bought a Fitzergerald jersey! It took me forever to find one," my friend texted me from my hometown yesterday. Arizona is a buzz with the Cardinal's first divisional playoff win in franchise history. In their crushing victory over the undefeated-at-home Carolina Panthers, the Cardinals "stunned the world," as they like to say. Once again, it was their knowledge of pass routes and snap counts that propelled them into the NFC Championship game.
Head coach Whisenhunt, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, and offensive coordinator Todd Haley had their work cut out for them against the top seated Panthers. They apparently did their homework, however. Arizona defense knew those Panther pass routes better then the Panther's themselves, intercepting birthday boy Jake Delhomme an astonishing five times. And once again the Arizona defense stuffed any chance of a running game. One might think they've pulled a play from the New England Patriots playbook and secretly recorded their opponents' practices. All I can say is good luck Sunday, when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles at home.
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Speaking of playing with heart, the Eagles did just that in their win over previous Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants. Young Manning just didn't have that fire on Sunday, throwing two interceptions and just 169 yards. It wasn't all Manning, though. Earth, Wind, and Fire (Jacobs, Bradshaw, and Ward) played their part in this fiasco, rushing for a combined total of under 150 yards. When the Giants took fate into their own hands and went for it on fourth-and-short and were denied, twice, the true fates simply weren't in their favor. Philly QB McNabb did manage to toss two interceptions, but his heart remained in the game as did his leadership. I can assure you, Coach Reid is thinking that benching McNabb midway through the season was the best thing he's ever done for his team. Maybe it is good for relationships to take a short break sometimes. McNabb returned more fired up than ever, and has secured his team a place in the NFC championship game.
I suppose we'll find out if the going-on-a-break idea truly works after Sunday's afternoon game. McNabb might have been fired up for the Giants, but that fire after a break usually doesn't last long. In my experience, the after-break-relationship is intense for a few more days, maybe weeks if you're lucky, until laziness and apathy settles in again. Before his benching, Philly was on rough terms with Coach Reid, and McNabb was facing a team transfer. His relationship options were quickly moving to Minnesota or Chicago. However, the break allowed all members to cool down, and come back with a vengeance. We'll see if that fire doesn't fizzle out before Sunday.
But I digress. Another team that was favored to get swamped was the San Diego Chargers. Without famed running back Ladainian Tomlinson again, who is still suffering from a groin injury, the Chargers couldn't quite outrun the likes of Willie Parker, who rushed for two touchdowns in the Steelers 35-24 win. Sunny San Diego stood in stark difference to the snowy fields of Pittsburgh on Sunday, leaving little room for error on either side of the ball. The Chargers allowed QB Rivers to be taken down four times, and though he managed to throw for an astonishing 308 yards and three touchdowns, it just wasn't enough. The jet-lagged Chargers were in poor shape to face off against the rested and snow adapted Steelers. Willie Parker was simply too much to handle.
And then there were the Tennessee Titans, who let me down, and the Baltimore Ravens. Honestly, I didn't care who won this game, however I had my money on Tennessee. Veteran quarterback Kerry Collins, who took over for Vince Young, couldn't pull together his 14 years of experience in the NFL, overthrowing and under throwing his receivers, and handing the ball to the Ravens on their own ten yard line. Before the game, CBS Sports aired a nice little bio about Collins, where he explained how his current situation as starting quarterback was due to a combination of hard work and the experience of knowing how to control his emotions. Apparently his emotions got the best of him, and his experience went right through the window as he simply stumbled under the pressure.
I know, my SheWired football fans out there can feel the sting of a season that is nearly complete. The creeping of excitement is upon us, and the agony of a summer without our beloved game. However, it's not over yet, and in my embarrassment at making such awful predictions last week, I have to give it all to the Cardinals. Maybe it is in their fate to play in the big game. They are a better team at home, and I truly believe that can beat Philly, especially if McNabb's break-up fire dwindles. I'm also going to give Pittsburgh the game over Baltimore. The odds are stacked against them, but let's give the Super Bowl to the underdogs this year.