EAGLES 27 - FALCONS 10
The Philadelphia Eagles have finally done it. In their fourth consecutive attempt to win the NFC Championship game….they come through, with a 27-10 beating of the Atlanta Falcons. Their only other Super Bowl appearance was in Super Bowl XV…in a loss to the wildcard Raiders. I called the game, 20-17....just move the 7 a little to the left.
The Eagles, the only NFC East team without a Super Bowl victory [the others all have at least two], did it the ol’ fashioned NFC East way….punishing defense, ball control and a nice running game.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH. February, when the Super Bowl will be played, is Black History Month. Donovan McNabb will become the third black QB to start a Super Bowl…joining the Redskins’ Doug Williams and Titans’ Steve McNair.
KEEPING VICK IN CHECK. I said it. You can hear me say it on Pigskin Bloggers Live [AOL Sports: NFL Fan Central]. If the Eagles hold down Michael Vick…they’ll have no problem. That was the case. Just 26 yards rushing for Vick and just 133 yards passing. He was hit quite a bit…sometimes very, very hard. And when they hurried him, he looked panicked in the pocket…which resulted in bad passes or sacks. On the other side, McNabb used his running ability to stay alive in the pocket and find guys down the field….or he got a few yards. Very rarely did he lose any yardage due to his legs.
KEEPING DVD IN CHECK. Vick is the “V”….Duckett and Dunn are the two “D”s. Neither had a stellar game. Dunn did do some damage…59 yards and a TD….but Duckett couldn?t [7 car. 14 yds].
EAGLES FLYING LONG. Who needs Terrell Owens? Well, Philly still doeswant him to show up in Jacksonville?..but they did nice without him. Eight different guys caught passes?.including Greg Lewis? 45 yarder with a great adjustment by him with the wind. Chad Lewis, the Eagles? TE, caught both of McNabb?s TD passes. Those big plays were key to their scores.
DEFENDERS TACKLE. One noticeable difference for the Falcons between this game and last week?s game against the Rams was the fact that the Eagles will tackle you. The Rams missed tackles?.the Eagles made excellent tackles. Open field tackles. Run stopping tackles. Jeremiah Trotter was everywhere on Sunday. They hit Vick hard at times?and it really looked like it affected him. The secondary laid out some huge hits, big tackles and didn?t give up a big play?.something Atlanta desperately needed.
FINDING BRIAN. The Falcons dominated the ball in the first half?.but the Eagles turned that around in the second half. Mainly because of Brian Westbrook. Westbrook got only 6 touches in the first half?.15 in the second?.for a total of 135 yards. The Eagles as a whole rushed pretty well. Philly had 154 rushing yards for an average of 4.7 per attempt.
VICK?S PICK. The game really came into focus for Philly when Brian Dawkins picked off Vick?s pass deep inside Falcons territory. The Eagles came away with only a FG?.but the momentum was clearly Philly?s.
KICKING PROBLEMS. The kicking game was huge Sunday. Especially the punting. With the winds gusting, Atlanta?s Chris Mohr struggled punting?.with a 26 yard average on 5 punts.
LOOSEY GOOSEY. One thing that really surprised me was how loose Philly played. Sure, they were very disciplined with their play?.but they certainly weren?t tight. McNabb?s passes looked very crisp?.the defense played their zones and stuck to their men?and the play calling was anything but conservative. Even when things went rough [Dunn?s TD; interception cancelled by a penalty], they still just kept their cool?no pun attended.
So on to Jacksonville the Eagles go?.where they will most likely be an underdog to either the Steelers or Patriots. But if they performed like this when the pressure was clearly on them?.how loose will they play when they are the one?s playing with the house?s money?
Congrats Eagles fans. Cheese steaks all around!!!
PATRIOTS 41 - STEELERS 27
The New England Patriots are AFC Champions for the third time in four years. Two of those times, they went into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers in the title game. They mauled the Steelers 41-27 [I called a Pats 16-13 close win].
In the exact opposite of their meeting on Halloween, the Patriots jumped on the Steelers early. After getting a FG off of a Big Ben pick?..they forced a fumble from Jerome Bettis and Brady hit Deion Branch for a 60 yard TD on the very next play. Roethlisberger drove the Steelers down the field?but he was picked and had it returned for a TD?..bringing the score to 24-3 at halftime.
The Steelers made a valiant effort in the second half?.getting to within 11.?but just kept making mistakes that ended up costing them a shot at the Super Bowl.
HE IS JUST A ROOKIE. Today, I saw the good and bad of Ben Roethlisberger. He came out horrible. His first pass was picked off?then he threw a pass to the flat that was picked off by Rodney Harrison and returned for a touchdown. He played bad?.and it showed on his face and on the scoreboard. But then the good came out. He wasn?t tentative in the second half. He came out firing?and did hit Ward and Burress for some big plays. He passed for 2 TD?.and another pick. How hard is it to be a rookie QB playing in the AFC Championship game?? A game Marino won only once [Kelly and Elway were winning them all]?.and Manning has yet to topple. I will say this?..Ben showed more stones than Manning did last week.
TOM BRADY DOES HIS THING. That says it all. Tom Brady rarely does anything extraordinary on the stat sheet. He?s good for 220 yards and a couple of touchdowns per game. On Sunday, 207 yds and 2 TD. But, watch the game and you truly see Brady?s mettle. When they need a big pass?he delivers it. And he could send it anywhere. Unlike most teams that focus on one receiver for a big play?.the Pats can have anyone showing up. Branch, Givens, Brown, Fauria, Patten or Graham. Oh, Faulk and Dillon can get it too.
RUN, RUN, RUN? Coming into the game?we all figured it to be a smash mouth game where Dillon and Bettis would be in the limelight. Well. It wasn?t really the smash ?em up game everyone was predicting. Both did get their touches?.but it was the pass game that truly was the story. Big plays offensively and defensively were determined by the pass. Either Brady?s 60 yard bomb?.or Roethlisberger?s interceptions?.it was the passing game that seemed to be the difference.
WIN STREAK SNAPPED. The loss ended Pittsburgh 15-game winning streak. Amazing for a team that wasn?t thought to be that powerful when the season began. They hadn?t lost since mid-September?.which was the game Maddox was knocked out and Big Ben came in. Thisalso puts Bill Cowher 1-4 in the AFC Championship game?.all of those games were played in Pittsburgh. It also eliminated the possibility of an ?All-Pennsylvania? Super Bowl against Philadelphia [it would have been the first all-state Super Bowl in a decade when San Diego and San Francisco met in Super Bowl XXIX].
WIN STREAK CONTINUED. Whomever doesn?t think the Pats are a dynasty [especially if they win SB 39] are crazy. This team has won 8 straight postseason games and are 33-4 over the past two seasons. Brady has a 8-0 career playoff mark?passing Troy Aikman for most QB playoff wins to start a career?and trails only Bart Starr  for most consecutive playoff wins overall. They play well in big games [which explains losses to the Dolphins and Redskins in that span] and seem to have an ability to choke team?s strengths and force them to work from their weaknesses.
HISTORY. As I said?the Pats could ascend into the history books. They are the first team to go to back-to-back Super Bowls since the Broncos in 1998-1999...that?s also the last team to repeat as champs. A third Super Bowl title would give them three?.only the Cowboys, Niners, Steelers, Packers, Raiders and Redskins have that many. That third Super Bowl ring would give them 3 in 4 years?.something only the 1990s Cowboys ever accomplished. They are going to their 5th Super Bowl?only Denver and Dallas have been to more. If Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl MVP?he?ll tie Joe Montana?s [ya know, the guy he is compared to] record of three. This will also be the Patriots first Super Bowl
Congrats Pats fans. Chowder all around!