Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The 2013-14 NFL Playoffs - Some Musings...

The Super Bowl has been set!  My beloved Denver Broncos are back in the dance against old AFC Rival, the Seattle Seahawks.  I haven’t written during the season, but figured it might be fun to put out some random thoughts from the playoffs.

- The most overlooked aspect of the Broncos this season has been the outstanding play of the offensive line.  Despite a new center and losing (arguably) the best left tackle in the game, Ryan Clady, they gave up the fewest sacks in the league.  Given that Peyton Manning attempted a league leading 659 pass attempts, the line only gave up 18 sacks.  To give you a little perspective, Matt Ryan attempted the second highest number of passes with 651 and was sacked 44 times.  Astounding.

- In the lead up to the Broncos-Patriots AFC Championship game, I was surprised that there wasn’t much made of Josh McDaniels returning to Denver for the first time.  While his tenure in Denver was rocky, at best, he was the individual that drafted three key pieces to the offense; Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno.  Those three players accounted for 288 yards, which is over half of the offense generated by the Broncos on Sunday.

- There’s a lot of chatter about Wes Welker hitting Aqib Talib early in the game.  Bill Belichick even went so far to call the play dirty, saying that it “was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib”.  Funny that he’s not mentioning that his offense just did the exact same thing to Broncos corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  It was a natural pick play, one run by both teams during the game, and not malicious.  Belichick just has sour grapes.

- Andrew Luck is an exceptional quarterback, but will need to work on his decisions.  The Colts tend to fall behind frequently due to this.  While it gives us exciting comebacks, including a tremendous AFC Wild Card comeback against the crumbling Chiefs, it’s not a recipe for long term success against quality teams.

- Every year there are a couple of teams that end the season with a great record, but once the playoffs hit, reality steps in.  The Panthers and Chiefs were the Illegitimate Champs this year.  For the Panthers, 9 of their wins were against non-playoff teams.  Their 3 wins against playoff teams were by a total of 9 points, including a controversial win against New England that should not have happened.  They simply got the benefit of football luck.  The Chiefs beat 1 playoff team, and that was the Eagles who had yet to switch to Foles at quarterback.  Then again, most of their wins were against back-up quarterbacks so this was par for the course.

- Is there a more dislikable coach in the NFL than Jim Harbaugh?  I am all for passion but how can the head coach, a leader of men, continue to throw temper tantrums and stay respected?  It’s clear from the players he’s coached and is coaching, that this sort of behavior is influencing them.  Don’t believe me?  Check the next bullet point.

- The world has completely lost their minds over Seattle Seahawks (and former Harbaugh player at Stanford) cornerback Richard Sherman.  In case you missed it, listen to his interview and come back.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Welcome back.  Entertaining, right?  Was he a bit out of control?  Sure, but he didn’t cross a line.  He just made a play that clinched a Super Bowl berth for his team.  He gave an impassioned speech just moments after making the biggest play of his career, against a team that is their biggest rival.  Emotions run high in these games.  He had time to calm down and was on the podium for Fox after and didn’t say anything crazy.  We’re focused on 30 seconds after the biggest moment of his professional career.

I constantly read that professional players don’t care enough.  Here’s a guy who clearly showed he cares and is getting racked over the coals.  You have to have a level of arrogance to play professional sports.  If you don’t believe you’re the best at what you do, then what are you doing there?

Look, we know maybe 5% of the story between him and Michael Crabtree.  These two have gone back and forth in the offseason, during games, and after games.  They clearly don’t like each other.  What we heard from Sherman is likely the PG version of what goes on between players during play in every game.  Don’t like it?  Change the channel.  Pretty sure, though, you’ll be tuning in to the Super Bowl whether you’re cheering for or against him.

I can’t help but wonder, why did Erin Andrews hunt him down for the interview?  Oh wait, I know why…because he’s a great sound bite!  In a world of boring sports clichés, he gave us some reality and true emotion.  We get bored hearing the same stuff over and over, but get angry when someone speaks his honest opinion.  Can’t have it both ways, kids.

- I said it months ago, and was surprised to see Mel Kiper agree, but the Houston Texans have to draft Johnny Manziel.  Is he the “best player on the board”?  Probably not, but sometimes intangibles need to come into play.  The guy is pure magic.  If this team based in Texas, drafts this kid from Texas, you’re looking at an increase in ticket and merchandise revenue.  Plus ESPN and NBC will come knocking and want to feature the Texans during primetime.  Manziel equals money, and above everything else, the NFL is a business.

- I really wish the media would stop harping on “legacies” while players are still active.  I hate to break it to them, but one game during their careers does not make or break the fans’ view of them.  If Peyton Manning would have lost to the Patriots, does that mean he didn’t have the greatest statistical season every?  Rings don’t define greatness.  If you don’t believe Peyton Manning or Barry Sanders or Dan Marino are some of the greatest to ever play the game, I will never understand you.

Is it February 2nd yet?  I’m ready for the Super Bowl and hopefully another Lombardi trophy in Denver.

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