NFL Conference Championship breakdown
Monday, January 19, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I usually don't recycle graphics between posts, but this one was worth posting a second time.

"Hi, this is the world. Consider us sufficiently shocked." After last week's victory over the Carolina Panthers, Kurt Warner urged his team to "shock the world", and that's just what they did this weekend, stunning the Philadelphia Eagles and winning the NFC Championship. The FOX analysts correctly pointed out that this week's game was shocking because it wasn't like the Eagles were handing the Cards the game. The Cardinals were simply just playing perfect football for the first half of the game. Philly, though not particuarly sharp looking, was decent on offense, driving far enough for 3 FGs (one of which missed) in the first half, and then exploding in the second half of the game to even take the lead at one point.

Larry Fitzgerald has played like a man possessed in the playoffs, and yesterday was perhaps his finest performance yet, as he ran wild and caught 3 TDs. Right now, it's 99% assured that Fitzgerald will win a one-on-one matchup, and a pretty solid 75% that he's going to make the catch even when he's double-covered. In the middle of all this, however, we cannot overlook that fact that Kurt Warner is still the MVP for this team. While Fitzgerald deserves all the praise he gets, it's still Warner who has to stand in the face of all those nasty blitzes (with his ancient 37 year old body) and deliver the strike. More importantly, for a young team like the Cards that has a history of epic failure haunting the franchise, he brings a legitimate winner's attitude to the huddle that inspires the rest of the team. The final drive Warner led the Cardinal offense on, down by 1 point, was the definition of poise under pressure, as he calmly marched them down the field, threw the go-ahead TD to Tim Hightower and then made the 2 point conversion. He did that while eating up 8 critical minutes, leaving the Eagles in a difficult clock situation.

Phreaking Phickle Philly Phans. Consider the following quote from my boyfriend: "It's McNabb's fault the Eagles lost. When other quarterbacks go to the bench, you see them studying pictures and talking to the coach. Donovan doesn't do any of that, he just goofs around. Plus he smiles too much." That, along with quotes like "Can we go ahead and call that the worst 375-yard, three-touchdown performance ever?", is why poor Donovan can't get a break in that insane town. Again, I'm not sure how Donovan gets to be held responsible for the loss, since he wasn't on the field when Larry Fitzgerald was allowed to catch 9 balls for 155 yards and 3 TDs. Nor am I sure how it's his fault that after the Eagles gained the lead in the 4th quarter, the Cardinals were then allowed to drive down the field, eat up 8 minutes of clock time and score a TD and 2 point conversion that then forced the Eagles offense to take chances trying to go for the TD themselves on the next possession. Lastly, I'm not sure why it's Donovan's fault that the Eagles couldn't stop Edgerrin James from running all over them in the first half - despite his allegedly "fresh" legs, he's still not that great of a runner anymore.

Frankly, Donovan deserves a chance somewhere else, to see what he can do in another franchise, with better receivers and a city that won't burn his figure in effigy just because he can't complete 100% of his passes every single game.

Ugly football. Was it me, or did it feel like the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game would never end? I swear, that game just went on and on. Part of the problem was that both teams were so fierce on defense, and both offenses are fairly low octane, grind-it-out affairs, that it was going to be a bit of a letdown from the aerial fireworks of the Arizona/Philly game. I mean, if you like big hits, you loved last night's game. But otherwise, the game just seemed to drag. I suspect that playing 18 straight weeks with no week off simply took its toll on the Ravens in the end (they were forced into an early bye week due to the hurricane early in the season that postponed their game with Houston) - too many key players were out or not playing at 100%.

Super speculation. Right now, it looks like Pittsburgh is just too good to beat. I'm not sure Warner's going to be able to stay upright long enough to get the pass off, and even if he does, you've got Troy Polamalu just lurking out there hoping he DOES throw, so he can pick off the INT and run it back for a TD. I'm also not sure Arizona's defense has the tools needed to stop the run game with a healthy Willie Parker, or to keep Big Ben from rolling out of the pocket to pick them apart with the passing game.

Also, because you know the Steelers are going to be focusing on Larry Fitzgerald, the Cards will need other players to step up. Unfortunately, it seems that Anquan Boldin has picked a pretty bad time to start throwing tantrums all of a sudden....
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On 10:46 PM , Brownie said...

I couldn't agree more with your thoughts about McNabb. Frankly, he's been a top-tier quarterback most of his career. He's put up big numbers with quite a bit with less than his peers. Has he ever had a pro-bowl WR beside T.O.? Come to think of it... that's something McNabb and Tom Brady have in common. Brady's has had average to above average WRs most of his career except 2007 with Moss. Brady is praised for this and is talked about in the same breath as Joe Montana (must be the Super Bowls). Just imagine how awesome McNabb would seem if he played for Belichick!