Another seasons is now behind us with the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII. They went out and proved all the doubters wrong by beating three excellent (some may say superior) teams on the road to the title. They battled their way into the post season, after some disappointing losses (blown out at home by the Broncos, defeated by the Charlie Batch led Steelers and an end of the season loss to the one and done Bengals). Entering the post season, many analysts wondered if they were playoff material, let alone championship worthy. But just like the winning teams that preceded them, they were able to heat up just in time. No one could argue that the Ravens made plays to win. Whether it was a timely tip by Cary Williams or Joe Flacco extending a play with his legs before making a third down completion, they executed a game plan and succeeded.
On the other side of the field, the San Francisco 49ers came up just short. They looked nervous to start, which was reflected in back to back drives ending in turnovers. And just when it seemed like the Niners couldn’t get up from the mat, we get one of the most unexpected occurrences in sports history. Jacoby Jones’ kick return for a touchdown seemed to knock out San Francisco. The team was on its last legs. And as if some executives realized the rout was on, the lights went off. And 2 quarters worth of time elapsed. And then it seemed like the brothers and their respective teams’ roles reversed. Though they failed to convert on third down when play resumed, Colin Kaepernick and the Niners displayed the poise of a championship caliber team. Kaepernick made all the right reads and throws. He got his team to within a two point conversion of tying the game. But where the Ravens made plays to win in the 4th quarter, the Niners didn’t. Vernon Davis had a ball slip out of his reach during a pivotal moment. Linemen and tail backs were unorganized forcing Jim Harbaugh to use one of his time outs. And Kaepenick’s play reminded you that while he has been a wunderkind, he still has started less than a dozen games in the NFL.
Looking forward, the Niners appear to have a brighter future. They have a quarterback who has the all world skills and talent to run the very popular spread option offense. On defense, they remind you of the Ravens’ squad from the early 2000’s. They have a fearsome defender in the middle (Patrick Willis) and several playmakers on the defensive line and in the secondary. The Ravens will go into next season a team full of veterans that is another year older. With Ray Lewis making his expected move to sports analysis, and several players with contract issues (Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin and Joe Flacco), it might be a transition year. But even I’ll admit it is too early to wonder who will be playing in New York for the title in 2014. To the victor go the spoils and the time to enjoy them.
A lot has changed since the last RG3 post I made. Amidst a weekend where the playoff games weren’t particularly exciting and each favorite won by a touchdown or more, the biggest news was the status of Griffin’s knee. It seems like everyone has an opinion for what Mike Shanahan should have done. On one hand, the team rode Griffin to the playoffs with spectacular results. He gives the team the best chance to win. However, a hobbled Griffin who is at best 60% of what he normally is might not. And that’s where the coach has to decide what’s best not only for this year, but for the future.
Now the counter argument was presented by Drew Magary earlier today. In a well written article for GQ, he talked about the memory of Willis Reed helping the 1970 Knicks win the title in Game 7. He had been considered out for Game 7 with a torn thigh muscle that prevented him from playing in Game 6. Magary talks about every kids dream of not only winning a meaningful game, but doing so while incapacitated. You can also look at Michael Jordan’s Flu game during the 1997 NBA Finals. It’s considered one of his finest moments in a career defined by excellence. So at what point is that will to play detrimental? With the worry from DC that Griffin’s sophomore season is over before it begins, I think we can now define it. Pencil me down as one of those that thought he should have been pulled right after he fell awkwardly in the first quarter. Hopefully he can come back 100% this upcoming season, because frequently he was the most exciting player on the field on Sunday. To see a bright prospect with all the talent in the world sapped of the trait that makes him special would be something tragic. Call it a gift and a curse.
It’s this type of weekend that has people sitting in front of a TV for about 12 hours. Football in both the college and the pros was exhilarating. This past Saturday illustrated a reason for the upcoming 4 team playoff system. Both the top seeds went down, one handily and the other closely. Other story lines emerged like Johnny Manziel aka Johnny Football becoming the clear favorite for the Heisman. Pro prospects vying for the number one spot emerged like Geno Smith and Manti Te’o, while others like Matt Barkley faltered.
Though the NFL didn’t have any compelling matchup going into Sunday, by the time the day ended, you were happy things like Red Zone existed. The Texans, Buccaneers and Cowboys needed overtime to fend off mediocre teams and the Falcons and Packers went into the final minutes to seal their victories. The Jets also put the Tim Tebow talk to rest for at least an afternoon, taking care of the Rams in St. Louis. It is the league of parody, where no clear favorite for the title has been established. You must keep watching this season.