So it's a passing league, huh? Apparently, New England and Seattle failed to get the memo. Both relied heavily on the run ... yes, the run ... to make it to Super Bowl XLIX, and the envelope, please: Each gained 397 yards in offense, with 194 of Seattle's total via the run and 177 of New England's. So what? So, in each case the winning team in Sunday's conference championship games had more yards rushing than the loser. Seattle's 194 eclipsed the Packers' 171, and the Patriots' 177 were more than Andrew Luck and the Colts' 126. Oh, yeah, one more thing: Seattle ran 35 times and passed ... or tried to pass ... 35 times. New England ran 40 times and passed or tried to pass 36. Next time someone tells you running doesn't matter, point them to Super Bowl XLIX. It does.
2. Richard Sherman says he’s “100 percent” certain he’ll play in Super Bowl XLIX. OK, and I’m 100 percent certain Tom Brady and the Patriots go after him – because that’s what happens when you're a cornerback playing with one arm. Either way, I want to see what happens. The last time these two met, Sherman had some not-too-nice things to say about Tom Terrific. Trust me, Brady and the Patriots remember.
3. A year ago, people said that a Super Bowl victory might make Peyton Manning … ahem … “the greatest quarterback of all time.” So what does a victory in Super Bowl XLIX make Tom Brady? It’s his NFL-record sixth Super Bowl and a victory would tie him with his boyhood idol, Joe Montana with four Lombardi Trophies. All I know is that you’re going to hear a lot about Montana and Brady the next two weeks, and heads up, Joe. This might be a good time to go underground. Or stay in the bunker at Papa John’s with Peyton.
4. So the NFL is looking into the Patriots possibly deflating footballs Sunday? It should look into who deflated the Colts.
5. Prediction: Super Bowl XLIX will be won in the second half. Seattle allowed one fourth-quarter touchdown in its last eight games and outscored opponents 124-26 – including 83-13 in the fourth quarter and OT. Better yet, the Seahawks allowed just one touchdown after the third quarter in its last eight starts. And New England? The Patriots outscored playoff opponents Baltimore and Indianapolis 49-10 in the second half.
6. So much for parity. This is the first time since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff in 1990 that the top seeds in each conference meet in back-to-back Super Bowls. A year ago, it was Seattle and Denver. Now it’s the Seahawks and New England. Somewhere, Pete Rozelle is having a bad day.
7. Seattle opened as an early 3-point favorite for Super Bowl XLIX, and it should have. Reason: Defense. Great defense trumps great quarterbacks. Plus, Russell Wilson is 10-0 vs. Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and 1-0 vs. Tom Brady – with Brady completing 36 passes for 395 yards in a 24-23 loss.
8. Wilson isn’t, however, as good with history as he is with opponents. He said that improbable defeat of Green Bay “could be the best in NFL history.” Sorry, Russell, they’ll disagree in Buffalo, where the Bills overcame a 32-point deficit in the second half … without Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas. And they’ll disagree in Indianapolis, where the Colts bounced back from a 28-point deficit to overcome Kansas City 45-44 in last year’s playoffs. And they’ll disagree in New York where the Jets stunned Baltimore, 16-7, in Super Bowl III. And they’ll disagree in Baltimore where the Colts beat the Giants in the 1958 championship game … otherwise known as – listen up, Russell – “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” I’ll stop there. I think you get the idea.
9. Brandon Bostick, please report to the principal’s office.
10. Not sure who gets the Seattle game ball: Bostick for muffing that on-side kick or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for playing spectator on that all-important two-point conversion. Seahawks’ owner Paul Allen and coach Pete Carroll want to credit the 12th man, which is fine, provided that Man is Bostick or Clinton-Dix.
11. Fourth-and-26 just moved over in Green Bay lore.
12. To quote former Chargers’ defensive end Burt Grossman: That’s what we call a discount double-choke.
13. On behalf of New England fans everywhere, let me say … Thank you, Mike Tomlin, for LeGarrette Blount.
14. In case you’re wondering, yes, Blount has two career 100-yard playoff games, and both are against the Colts.
15. Good news, Andrew Luck: Tom Brady turns 38 next year. These beatdowns can’t go on forever.
16. Let’s see if I have this right: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry can make it to Foxboro for a playoff game but can’t make it to Paris for an international day of mourning? Someone please explain.
17. Biggest loser Sunday: Reporters at Super Bowl XLIX. It’s another week for Marshawn Lynch to show them ... and the league office ... who's boss. Or a jerk.
18. Those Russell Wilson tears were nothing compared to what was going on in Green Bay. Only that crying hasn’t stopped.
19. Seattle had 14 turnovers all year. The Seahawks had five Sunday … and still won.
20. I’m no Marshawn Lynch fan, but there's a part of me that would’ve liked him not to change cleats – just to see if the NFL would have followed through on its threat to sit him down.
21. Just wondering how many of those New England fans – the people owner Robert Kraft and quarterback Tom Brady congratulated afterward – thought the sky was falling after the Pats were waxed by Kansas City, Brady was benched and the team fell to 2-2? Answer: More than are willing to admit to it.
22. Idina Menzel sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl XLIX, and Johnny Manziel hosts the pre-game party.
23. I see where Jeremy Maclin joined Ndamukong Suh and Demaryius Thomas in opting out the Pro Bowl. You don't think free agency has anything to do with it, do you? Just wondering.
24. Fox’s Joe Buck said Green Bay’s Tim Masthay had “an up-and-down year.” Yeah, well, don’t all punters?
25. Re-hiring Steve Spagnuolo is a good move for the New York Giants … provided, of course, that Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck come with him.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME SIZZLES
1. Seattle P Jon Ryan. In a game with the two top-rated quarterbacks in playoff history, he makes the best throw. For the record, Ryan is 3-for-3 in his passing career, with one TD.
2. Green Bay K Mason Crosby. Don’t blame him. All he did was hit all five of his field-goal attempts, including a 48-yarder with 14 seconds left to force the overtime.
3. Seattle QB Russell Wilson. He’s the first guy to make the Sizzle and Fizzles. OK, so he pretty much stunk the first 58 minutes. He made the only play that mattered, moving his record to 6-1 in the playoffs and becoming the first quarterback to start two Super Bowls in his first three NFL seasons.
4. New England RB LeGarrette Blount. Do the math: In two playoff games vs. Indianapolis he’s run for 312 yards and seven TDs.
5. New England WR Julian Edelman. There is nothing this guy can't do. He converted five third downs and one fourth. I just want to know how he lasted to the 232nd pick of the 2009 draft?
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME FIZZLES
1. Green Bay TE Brandon Bostick. OK, so Jordy Nelson told him to get ready to block. But that didn’t mean block the football. Just a suggestion, Brandon, but you might want to think about the witness protection program.
2. Green Bay special teams coach Shaun Slocum. Give me a call. I have a realtor you might want to contact.
3. Indianapolis receivers. At least they played to form. They dropped passes all year, and they dropped them again Sunday.
4. Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck. He’ll win a championship some day … after Tom Brady and the Patriots are gone. Not only is he 0-4 against New England; he has six touchdowns and 10 interceptions against them. Worse, the Colts have been outscored 189-73, with New England producing 42 or more points in each game.
5. Seattle QB Russell Wilson. How rare was that meltdown? Well, in 48 regular-season games he had just four multi-interception starts, and two of them were early in his rookie season.
FIVE GUYS ON THE HALL-OF-FAME RADAR
1. Seattle special teams coach Brian Schneider. First, it’s a fake-field goal-turned-touchdown. Then it’s an on-side kick which leads to a TD. OK, so there was a fumbled kick return. Schneider’s unit was responsible for getting Seattle back on track.
2. Seattle coach Pete Carroll. He could be the first coach since Bill Belichick in 2004 to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Belichick, remember, is the guy who followed Carroll to New England.
3. New England CB Darrelle Revis. Andrew Luck seldom went in his direction, and when he did … uh-oh. Revis Island is back in business, people.
4. New England QB Tom Brady. He becomes the first quarterback to reach six Super Bowls, extends his NFL playoff record to 49 TD passes and can tie Joe Montana with his fourth Super Bowl victory. Yes, Richard Sherman, Tom is Terrific.
5. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch. The Skittles must have kicked in. After a slow start, he runs for a game-high 157 yards, makes a critical 26-yard catch-and-run and carries the Seahawks on his back. Again.
WHAT WOULD LOMBARDI DO?
You’re ahead 45-7, it’s midway through the fourth quarter and your offense is about to take the field. So W.W.L.D.? Sit your first-stringers, of course, starting with the quarterback. You have one more game to play, and it’s the biggest of the year. So why risk an injury? Well, Bill Belichick apparently doesn’t agree, and he nearly paid the price for his stubbornness. Not only did he keep Tom Brady in the game; inexplicably, he had him throwing deep, with Brady taking a shot to the legs. Shortly afterward, Brady went to the sidelines ... as he should have.
JUST ASKING BUT …
Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis?
Whom would you rather tackle – Marshawn Lynch or LeGarrette Blount?
How can Aaron Rodgers say "we were the better team today?"
Who takes the hit for that come-from-ahead Green Bay loss?
Who gets the bigger contract extension – Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck?
THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME NOMINEE
New England coach Bill Belichick. Make that his 21st playoff win, more than anyone in NFL history, and his sixth Super Bowl appearance – tying him with Don Shula, the guy who last week called him "Beli-cheat."
THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME QUOTE
“They’re going to have to take more than our arms.” – Seattle CB Richard Sherman to S Earl Thomas.
2 – Career games for Russell Wilson with three or more interceptions
3-0 – Russell Wilson vs. Green Bay
0-4 – Andrew Luck vs. New England
8 – Super Bowl appearances by New England, tying the Pats with Pittsburgh and Dallas
8 – Straight NFC championship games decided by seven or fewer points, including four in OT
14-3 – Tom Brady at home in the playoffs.
23.0 – Andrew Luck passer rating
158.3 – Jon Ryan passer rating
1981 – Last time a conference championship game was won by a team (San Francisco) with at least five turnovers.