As Broad & Pattison Turns: Superbowl XLVIII Edition

Broncos vs Seahawks  6:30 PM (FOX) – For this one, they should bring back the Kingdome and Mile High Stadium.

Bring back Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn and Steve Largent.  Bring John Elway out of the executive box and Tom Jackson out of the ESPN booth.

Bring back Chuck Knox and former Penn State great Curt Warner.  And while you’re at it,  bring back Karl Mecklenburg, the “Three Amigos”, and the “Barrel Man” (RIP Barrel Man).  And for a goof, bring back Brian Bosworth…

While the Seattle Seahawks played in the NFC west in their inaugural season of 1976 (and reside there now), they were actually in the AFC West from 1977 till the start of the 2002 season, where they faced the Broncos twice on an annual basis as division foes.

Ironically, their first ever playoff appearance came at home against the Broncos in the 1983 AFC wildcard game when, leading by 10-7 at halftime, the Seahawks exploded for 21 unanswered points, leading to the franchise’s first playoff victory.  Did I know that info. by researching the internet?  No…I actually remember watching that game in my parents’ family room as a little tyke growing up in Northeast Philadelphia (while I frequently struggled just to get a C grade in elementary school due to lack of interest, I can recite where I was watching random NFL games from childhood with relative ease….go figure).

With all of the history then, this is, in essence, a “Back to the Future” sort of Superbowl.   And while Peyton Manning would do an admirable job of playing “Biff” the bully, it would be his brother Eli, instead of Seattle QB Russell Wilson, that would be a better fit to play the role of “Marty McFly”.

While the main focus in the NFL usually centers on the quarterbacks, the conference championship games showed us that football is still a team sport, and losing one piece of the puzzle on your team can lead to devastating consequences.

In the AFC Championship game, New England seemed to keep Peyton Manning in check until Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib went out with a knee injury.  After that, it was as if the border patrol went out to lunch and never returned, as Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas suddenly began to get open against a mismatched secondary, ending with seven receptions for 134 yards.

In the NFC title game, even with all the talk of Russell Wilson & Colin Kaepernick, it was Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman that made the defining play, followed by a defining rant that has gotten more played out than those annoying Progressive Insurance commercials with “Flo” (personally, I prefer “Jan” from the Toyota commercials).

So who wins this Sunday?  Peyton Manning was lucky to play in 63-degree weather at home in the AFC Championship, but it will most likely be much colder than that come kickoff Sunday night.   The Seahawks are used to playing in dreary weather in the Pacific Northwest so the conditions should suit them just fine.

The matchup pitting Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas against Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman will be the most intriguing one to watch.  Unless the Broncos get lucky again by way of the opposing cornerback going out with an injury, think the Seahawks will take this one and win their first ever Superbowl.

Superbowl XLVIII will also be one of “firsts” – the first one where the price of admission gets you the sight of your own breath for three plus hours, plus a set of handwarmers and lip balm (as opposed to sunscreen given to attendees in Tampa a few years back).  Considering the price of the ticket, hope that it’s at least Chapstick brand…

The Last Word:   Superbowl XLVIII will be the first in 19 years featuring two teams that reside west of the Mississippi River, and the first in 14 years that will not have a participant from the Eastern Time Zone.

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As Broad & Pattison Turns: Conference Championship edition

After a thrilling 1st round playoff weekend where three of the four games were still in doubt going into the final two minutes, the Divisional playoff round seemed to leave a lot to be desired.  Actually, it was, to paraphrase a 16-year old girl, “Like…BORING!”.

The Saints and Seahawks contest, which many thought could be a blowout, actually ended up being one of the more competitive games, with the Saints having a chance to at least throw a hail mary into the end zone on the last play of the game to possibly tie it.   That is, until Saints receiver Marques Colston had a brain freeze, lost track of time, or just decided to play hot potato with the football, resulting in a New Orleans penalty and the end of the game.

The Saturday nightcap between the Colts and the Patriots looked to be one which could go down to the end and go either way, but the Patriots had the game well in hand relatively early in the 4th quarter.  Luckily, due to the exciting life I lead,  yours truly was already snoozing on his couch by then.

Sunday brought us the Niners and the Panthers in what was billed as an intriguing defensive matchup, but Carolina was done in on three drives: Two 1st half drives in which they scored a total of only 3 points while having 1st and goal both times, and a 3rd quarter, 8-minute plus drive that yielded a big fat zero on the scoreboard.   The Niners took over the game in the 2nd half and never looked back, as they now head to the NFC Championship game for the 3rd consecutive year.

The Broncos and the Chargers finished up the Sunday playoff brackets, and for the 1st three quarters it looked like San Diego was ‘California dreamin’ as they looked fast asleep and lifeless in falling behind 17-0 after three quarters.  The Chargers also seemed to think that the word “Omaha” was a new synonym for “hike”, as they had a number of offside penalties caused by Peyton Manning’s signal calling (do Broncos fans play a drinking game where one drinks every time Manning says Omaha?).

So we are now down to the final four, and the teams that are still alive are who we thought they would be (to paraphrase former Vikings and Cardinals coach Dennis Green).

Conference Championship Sunday (all times in EST):

Patriots at Broncos 3:00 PM CBS – For the 15th time, future hall-of-famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will face off, and while it is the Broncos vs. the Patriots, there is no denying that Brady is Manning’s “daddy”, having won 10 of their 14 meetings.

While Peyton’s passing numbers are historically astronomical, the playoffs for Manning are like falling asleep in one of those old Freddy Krueger “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies – a nightmare.  He has a 10-11 career playoff record, and generally doesn’t play well in cold weather either.

The plus side for Peyton?  Sunday will be a balmy 60 degrees in Denver and the one time he beat Brady in the playoffs was playing at home for the Colts.

On the New England side, Bill Belichick continues to make weekly trips into his mad scientist laboratory to conjure up ways to win, and Tom Brady might as well be throwing to a CPA, an electrician, and a hot-dog vendor with all the injuries the Patriots have accumulated.

The Pats, like the Niners, will also be playing in their 3rd straight conference championship game, and I give Belichick and Brady a lot of credit for keeping the Foxboro machine going all these years (with the caveat that they haven’t won a Superbowl since Spygate was uncovered).  I’m not bitter or anything…really.

So who wins?  I was giving the nod to the Patriots initially, but Peyton Manning playing at home in spring like weather and I have a feeling he’ll manage not to choke this time.  Broncos advance…

Niners at Seahawks 6:30 PM CBS – These two teams match up so well that if this game was played on a neutral field, it could possibly go to double overtime (in which case, I vote that it be decided by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Niners coach Jim Harbaugh duking it out at midfield).

These two teams really do hate each other and for the last two seasons, the victor has been the one playing at home.  But while that does not bode well for San Francisco, trends are meant to be broken (for reference, see the Bengals losing at home in the wildcard round and the Saints winning outdoors in the cold against the Eagles).

Seattle didn’t play particularly well against New Orleans last week but managed to hold on for the win.  A similar game against San Francisco and the Seahawks will find themselves eating pizza and wings at home during the Super Bowl instead of actually playing in it.

While the 12th man gives Seattle a distinct advantage, Harbaugh will have the Niners ready to play and win.  Niners and Broncos in the Superbowl peeps…

The Last Word – Now that Chris Wheeler is no longer on the Phillies broadcast, I vote for the term “no doubles defense” to be banned from the broadcast as well.   On a serious note, with the removal of “Wheels”, the last link from the original 4-man Phillies broadcast team that many of us in the Delaware Valley grew up watching/listening to are either off the air or are no longer with us (Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn, Andy Musser, and Wheeler).

As Broad & Pattison Turns: Divisional Playoff Weekend

In the end, the car that could speed down the track at a frantic pace was left idle on the side of the road, its tires slashed and battery disconnected, with no time left to catch up.

When New Orleans started their drive inside Eagles territory, dark ominous clouds had already begun to form over the Linc, a sign of what was to come.  And as the Saints got one first down, then two, then three, leading  to what would eventually be a chip shot field goal to win the game 26-24, they were astute enough to bleed every remaining second off of the game clock to ensure that the Eagles would have no time to counter.

And with that, one of the more fascinating and entertaining Eagles seasons in recent history came to an end, as the Saints came marching in and will go marching on to face the Seahawks this weekend, instead of the Eagles facing the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Almost four months ago to the day, my father and I sat in what was a gorgeous Sept. night at FedEx Field watching Chip Kelly stand at midfield perceptively eyeing the Redskins practice before their Monday night opener with the Birds, as if through osmosis, he could figure out what they were doing.  And I never recall, in my many years as an Eagles fan, the anticipation that I felt that night before kickoff, if only for the fact that there was a sense of newness not having been felt in these parts for….well, about fourteen years.

And though Kelly and his Eagles started off slow, they did not disappoint, going 7-1 in the 2nd half of the season en route to a 10-6 record and their 1st NFC East title and playoff berth in three years.

In the preseason, Chip Kelly was still a novelty, but there was still the chance that he could fail miserably faster than a dot.com company after the turn of the century.  Instead, Kelly grew into a bona-fide NFL coach, and with him, a young quarterback named Nick Foles came of age as well.

But while the offense seems to be as potent as advertised, there is still work to be done.  The defense, while somewhat of a pleasant surprise, is not Superbowl caliber by any means, and a new safety, along with a stud on the defensive line who can wreck havoc on a quarterback, would be #1 on my draft/free agency wish list.   And oh yeah… a kicker with ice in his veins a la Adam Vinatieri would probably not be a bad stocking stuffer either.

In the meantime, two months of winter still await us before the warmth of Spring arrives, which coincides with the start of the Fightin Phils and hopefully, a possible Flyers playoff run (keep your fingers crossed).  At least we still have some playoff football to keep us entertained, so without further ado, here is a preview (and my predictions) for this week’s divisional playoff games:

Saints at Seahawks 4:35 PM FOX – The Saints continue their scenic route through the playoffs, moving from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall to the Space Needle and the Pike Place Fish Market.  Seattle is trying to get to the Super Bowl for the 2nd time in its history, and the 1st time since the 2005 season.   And with the #1 seed in the NFC and the “12th man” in the form  of their fans, they have as good a chance as ever.

However, now that the Saints have overcome the ghost of “playoff road games past”, they are primed to continue the scenic tour for at least one more week, and are seeking revenge for the 34-7 spanking they took in Seattle in Week 13 of the season.  Saints upset the Seahawks this Saturday, much to the disappointment of the Pacific Northwest.  You heard it here first peeps…

Colts at Patriots 8:15 PM CBS – Another cold winter and another playoff season of watching Bill Belichick on the sidelines looking like the emperor from Star Wars in his Patriots hoodie.  And while Brady may be the old school veteran, there’s a new “jedi” in town in the form of Colts QB Andrew Luck (though he looks like a character from “Planet of the Apes” with that awful looking beard).

Colts win to advance and the Patriots go another season not having won a Super Bowl after they were caught cheating.  Coincidence?  I think not Sherlock…

49ers at Panthers 1:05 PM FOX – The Niners played a tough defensive minded game against Carolina at home in Week 1o, losing 10-9 (when was the last time you saw an NFL score so low?).  This time, the stakes are much higher, and the Panthers will be pumped at home and come out victorious.  Sorry…I know that the Niners fans in the family don’t want to hear that….

Chargers at Broncos 4:40 PM CBS – “As Broad & Pattison Turns” reader Sean Z. reminded me that the team that the Eagles played in their home opener the last four seasons has gone on to win the Superbowl that year (Saints, Packers, Giants, & Ravens in chronological order).  Well, don’t look now, but the 2013 Eagles home opener opponent, the San Diego “Superchargers”, are still alive and well in this year’s playoffs.

Add to that the fact that Broncos QB Peyton Manning doesn’t play well in cold weather and generally comes up short in the playoffs, and you have the makings of an upset (one of many I’ve picked this week I know).  Bolts win, bolts win…

The Last Word – RIP Shashi Maushi…a big Eagles fan and an all around great lady.  Your warm personality and nature will be greatly missed.

As Broad & Pattison Turns Wildcard Weekend: Saints at Eagles

A game that many predicted would be a one-sided affair turned out much closer than expected, as the Eagles took an early lead and held on by a thread, defeating the Dallas Cowboys,  24-22, to capture the NFC East and head back to the playoffs for the 1st time in three years.

Cowboys backup QB Kyle Orton played well for most of the game , until he finally developed a case of “Romo-itis” and threw an interception into the waiting hands of cornerback Brandon Boykin, eventually sealing Dallas’ fate with 1:43 left in the game.

With Sunday’s outcome, it is now three consecutive years that the Cowboys have lost a “win or go home” game on the last week of the regular season.  And with Jerry Jones as owner and Jason Garrett remaining as head coach for at least another year, it doesn’t look likely that anyone will be capable enough to perform the “Heimlich maneuver” to keep Dallas from choking anytime soon.

With the win, the Chip Kelly experiment has advanced much further than anyone expected in the span of one year, and with a wildcard playoff game at home looming against the New Orleans Saints this Sat. night, it truly is the “most wonderful time of the year” for Birds fans.

The carcass that was left over after last year’s disastrous 4-12 campaign has all been swept away and in its place, stands what could be the foundation for something special to be built over the next few years.   And while the Eagles are still a long shot to win the Superbowl this year, they are now playing with house money for the remainder of the season.

Come sundown Saturday night, like a vampire that survives in darkness by feeding on the blood of the living, a fan base that has not experienced a championship in 53 seasons will be thirsty for blood in the form of the New Orleans Saints.   And by kickoff (approximately 8:10 PM), the desire to be “fed” will be at an all-time high, with fans most likely having “fueled up” hours before the start.

The Saints, when playing in their climate controlled dome, with its Mardi Gras revelry, and its concession stand menus that poke fun at the visiting team, can be almost superhuman on offense, with QB Drew Brees driving the offense like a Ferrari.   But like most “hothouse” teams, put them outdoors in the elements of a northeast corridor or midwest winter, and the weather becomes a natural “kryptonite” of sorts.

For the Saints, it will begin when they first walk out on the field to be introduced, with a hearty Philadelphia welcome….BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

And the first time that New Orleans is faced with a 3rd and long, with the crowd noise deafening, and temps in the low 20’s, suddenly the football that is usually an asset to Drew Brees will be more like a frozen popsicle and a liability.

Play this game on a neutral field, and the Saints are clear favorites.  But in the outdoors, with the Eagles 12th man (and wo-man) on their side, there is no reason the Birds cannot come out victorious…as long as they don’t assume that the thermometer will be out on the field to make a sack or an interception on their behalf.

This game is clearly winnable as long as the Eagles play an error free game and remember, as Chip Kelly astutely pointed out, that even Tampa finally got a cold weather win in Philadelphia on their way to an eventual Super Bowl…

2 Street after the Mummers parade on New Years Day meets Mardi Gras, and 2 Street comes out victorious, 30-24.

Fly Eagles Fly, on the road to Carolina…

Wildcard Weekend (all times in EST and on Saturday or Sunday):

Chiefs at Colts 4:35 PM NBC (Sat) – The Chiefs started out 9-0, a stretch in which they played only one team with a winning record (the Eagles).  But as soon as their schedule got tough, they withered down the stretch, going 0-5 when facing playoff teams, including the Colts two weeks ago.  Andy Reid still has a “timeout” problem and it will rear its ugly head again as the Chiefs season ends in Indy.

Saints at Eagles 8:10 PM NBC (Sat)

Chargers at Bengals 1:05 PM CBS (Sun) – A rematch of the 1981 AFC Championship when it was 4 degrees fahrenheit and a wind chill of -29…or something like that.  While not in the forecast to be anywhere near as cold, not exactly San Diego weather in the Queen city this Sunday either..

49ers at Packers 4:40 PM FOX (Sun) – Speaking of cold, a high of ZERO in the forecast and wind chills in the -30 range in Green Bay this Sunday.  Guess I shouldn’t be crying about sitting in 25 degree weather at the Linc this Sat night.