Monday, January 22, 2007

Playoff Pleather

Oh, what a weekend! If I were a radio talk show host, I would say that I don't know if we are going to have time to cover everything that happened. Especially when you throw in the two-hour, one inch of snow, school delay this morning.

Let's start with the NFL. For a while in the first game, I thought I was watching a snowy rerun of the Ravens-Colts game the week before. Then I guess somebody told the teams they were allowed to score touchdowns, and the Bears listened a little better than the Saints. Pretty impressive watching Chicago run Thomas Jones eight straight times for the first TD of the day late in the first half, but equally impressive seeing Drew Brees march his team right back down the field to answer.

Reggie Bush strutted his stuff just a little too much for my liking when he turned to taunt the Bears' defense at the end of his fabulous 88-yard touchdown catch and run in the beginning of the third. And his flip into the end zone reminded me of the showy Superman TD dive he took just over a year ago against Texas in the Rose Bowl. His opponent got the last laugh in that game and this one as well.

The Saints wisely stacked their defense against the run in the second half and Chicago QB Rex Grossman failed to take advantage, going two-for-eight, until he caught fire late in the third period and completed four straight to put the Bears in the end zone and up by nine. The defense took over from there, forcing a fumble, an interception and two turnovers on downs. Thus endeth the Saints' magical journey.

Game Two gave CBS announcer Jim Nantz almost more drama than he could handle. I won't rehash the details, but when Peyton Manning broke the huddle to start the Colts' final drive, Nantz intoned, "This drive could change Peyton Manning's life," as if we hadn't been listening to the proclamations of every other pigskinhead for the last two weeks. Not much to say about Manning other than he rallied his team to the biggest comeback in playoff history and delivered in the clutch.

So the games were fun even if they didn't exactly stick to Hollywood studio scripts. The Saints couldn't continue to heal their battered and abandoned hometown, and the winning Colts' score wasn't Manning's or Adam Vinatieri's but Joseph Addai's. For me the greatest drama was whether Bill Belichik's trademark cutoff sweatshrt would survive. The way he kept clutching at the collar, I thought he was going to rip it right down the middle (okay, substitute hoped for thought, to make that last sentence more accurate).

So, who's ready for two weeks of mind-numbing Super Bowl overcoverage? As I wrote earlier, we got a dusting of snow yesterday and more is supposed to be on the way later in the week, which sets up two of my most hated media phenomena: local news team snow hype and Super Bowl mania.

The matchup is almost perfect for the media machines. The white-hatted heroes led by their heroic quarterback versus one of the most venerable franchises in NFL history, personified by the All-Pro middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Seriously, what's the over-under on Dick Butkus references for the next two weeks, about a billion? Which is also the number of emails Bill Simmons is going to receive this week.

Next up, college basketball, including this week's Top 10 Poll.

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