It was one hell of a Championship Sunday. Here are ten things we learned last weekend. Check back later this week for more Super Bowl coverage!
Let’s start with the game between the Broncos and Patriots.
#10 – Brady vs. Manning has more to do with teams and locations than individuals.
As is always the case when Peyton and Tom Terrific meet, the media focused all week on Manning v. Brady instead of Broncos v. Patriots. While everyone knows by now that Brady now holds a 10-5 record against Manning, Sunday showed that the two all-time-greats don’t have full control over whose team ends up victorious. Sunday, we saw a Broncos team that was replete with offensive weapons – probably the best weapons in NFL history – and a Patriots team whose offense was decimated by injuries and murder charges. Peyton used his much more reliable teammates to lay a pretty good smackdown on a Patriots team whose only star for most of the game was their sixth option last year, Julian Edelman. Naturally, the Broncos won pretty easily.
The Brady v. Manning argument has been incredibly even since 2005, with Peyton going 5-4 against Tom in the last nine matchups. Location has played a bigger factor than either quarterback’s supremacy, too: the QB whose team played at home is 5-0 the last five times these HOFers have squared off. Yes, Brady OWNED Manning early in his career…but those Patriots teams were excellent teams in the middle of a dynasty, winning the Super Bowl 3 of the 4 years in which the first six Brady-Manning duels took place. Plain and simple, those Patriots TEAMS were better than those Colts TEAMS.
Brady and Manning are two of the greatest ever, but honestly, as this Sunday showed, the better TEAM usually wins.
#9- LeGarrette Blount is still, at the end of the day, LeGarrette Blount.
SO much was said in the week leading up to the AFC Championship game about that alleged Patriots’ power running game, and the emergence of former “bust” LeGarrette Blount. As I said before the game, I wasn’t too impressed. The Broncos had a great run D all season long, even with several key injuries, and Blount’s recent string of competence obscured his career of plodding mediocrity.
So how did LeGarrette and the rest of the Patriots’ “Power running game” respond? Well, Blount piled up a tantalizing 6 yards on 5 carries. The Patriots as a whole rushed for…64 yards, led by third-down receiving specialist Shane Vereen, who, needless to say, is NOT a power back. The Patriots only started competing in the game when they eschewed the running game and let Tom Brady let ‘er rip. The Pats had a nice string of games running the football, but at the end of the day, they rely on Tom Brady’s arm, NOT LeGarrette Blount’s legs…or fists.
#8 – The Broncos’ offense is pretty close to unstoppable.
As has been the case for most of Peyton Manning and his Broncos’ record setting season, the Bronco offense looked like an efficient, unstoppable force last Sunday. The Patriots had no chance of stopping PFM and his arsenal of weapons, especially once Aqib Talib went out with an injury. Manning completed 32 of his 43 pass attempts, including a stretch where he went an absurd 14/15. Thomas and Thomas dominated, Welker and Decker did their respective parts, and hell, even Jacob Tamme scored a touchdown. Very few teams have been able to slow down the Broncos this year, but Seattle might be the only unit able to do so. Time will tell.
#7 – The Broncos’ defense can rise to the occasion.
While most talking heads will chalk up the anemic performance by the Patriots’ offense to their depleted personnel, the Broncos’ defense really stepped up in the game, too. Denver’s defense has been every bit as riddled by injuries as the Patriots’ offense – this season the Broncos have lost their best defensive player in Von Miller, their best interior lineman in Derek Wolfe, a key run-stuffer in Kevin Vickerson, one of their best cover corners in Chris Harris…and the list goes on.
Between the Patriot O and the Bronco D, you could have filled up a pretty good-sized rehabilitation center. But while the Patriots’ offense sputtered behind a weak running game and a passing game that didn’t find itself until the fourth quarter, the Broncos’ defense rose to the occasion. Terrance Knighton and his amazing mass did his best Vince Wilfork impersonation, harassing Brady and stuffing the run game. Danny Trevathan flew around the field making plays all game long. Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers did a good job trying to replace Von Miller’s pass rush. The Broncos’ D looked like a competent unit for the first time since they lost Miller. It was a promising sign for Denver.
#6 – There is still NO love lost between Wes Welker and Bill Belichick.
Well, these guys didn’t get along even when they were on the same side. Nothing has changed since then. Wes Welker and Bill Belichick might have shared a quick handshake in postgame, but anyone who thought the two dudes were on good terms were proved wrong pretty quickly. In Belichick’s Monday press conference, he quickly threw some hate at Wes, as not even ONE MINUTE into the session, he called out Welker for hitting Aqib Talib on a pick-route in “One of the worst plays (he’s) seen.” Notwithstanding the fact that the Patriots, and nearly every other NFL team run variations of the pick play that injured Talib, Belichick made a point to single out Welker as an allegedly dirty player. Seems like some feelings might still be hurt over Welker’s escape from the “Patriot Way.”
Now, switching to what we learned from the Niners-Seahawks duel.
#5 – Colin Kaepernick might be the most volatile player in the league.
There are a handful of quarterbacks in the NFL that can singlehandedly win or lose a game. Colin Kaepernick just might be the captain of that group of quarterbacks. Last Sunday, Kaepernick was the sole reason that the 49ers were in the game in the first place; he ran ALL over that vaunted Seattle defense, to the tune of an absurd 130 yards. That helped to offset an absolutely horrendous performance by Frank Gore, who totaled all of 14 yards on his 11 carries. Awful.
Kaepernick also made the most ridiculous play of the game, with THIS insane throw. BUT, he also took San Francisco out of the game when the going got tough. He lost a fumble and threw two interceptions at pivotal moments in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick was simultaneously the 49ers’ only hope for winning the game, and a big part of why they ultimately lost.
#4 – The Legion of Boom is legit.
While Kaepernick struggled to throw the ball much of the day, it wasn’t necessarily his fault so much as a credit to the ridiculously good Seattle secondary. They’ve been the #1 defense all year for a reason: nobody throws with much success against Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas, and Co. But defending passes isn’t the only thing this unit does flawlessly; they JACK dudes up. Poor Vernon Davis, who is likely still fighting PTSD from this hit last year got victimized by Kam Chancellor again on Sunday. As did anyone else wearing red and gold. This group is going to get a tough test with Denver’s stable of stud receivers, but if they’re not up to the task, nobody is.
#3 – Seahawks vs. 49ers is hands-down the best rivalry in the NFL right now.
I mean, there really isn’t even a close second right now. This rivalry has become what the great Steelers-Ravens matchups of the last few years had been: brutal, hard-hitting, a legitimate mutual hatred, and a game played at least twice per season. The players hate each other. The coaches hate each other. The fans hate each other. It’s an even rivalry, as this year the home team won each time. I can’t wait to watch these teams play twice next season, especially after what Richard Sherman had to say. Which brings me to my next observation…
#2 – Richard Sherman needs a filter…or a muzzle.
My opinion of Richard Sherman changed a lot on Sunday, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. We all knew Sherman was a big-time sh*t talker, as ESPN made abundantly clear by having him mic’d up a few times. But there’s a difference between talking trash and being classless. There’s also a difference between talking trash and coming off as a “me-first team-second” kind of guy. In his much-discussed postgame interview, Sherman made any neutral fans into Broncos fans for Super Bowl Sunday. Other than calling Michael Crabtree “mediocre” ad nauseum, Sherman also spoke much more to “look at me, I’m the best evarrrr” than to “the Seahawks won a big game today.” Say what you want about Sherman, but if you didn’t know anything else about him, you’d certainly think he was some selfish, locker room cancer instead of a well-respected Stanford graduate. Dude needs to learn that there’s something to be said for letting your PLAY do the talking. Even Pete Carroll, Sherman’s coach, addressed the comments by saying “We all make mistakes.” Take a hint from the boss, dude. And good lord, Richard, if you try to get up in Peyton Manning’s face and talk that trash, you’ll lose the respect of real NFL fans everywhere. Plus, Peyton will probably just smirk and say “Child, please.”
#1 – We are in for a hell of a Super Bowl.
At the end of the day, what we really learned from last weekend is that February 2nd will give us a game to remember. Two #1 seeds for only the second time in the last twenty years. The #1 offense against the #1 defense for the first time since 2002. Peyton Manning’s quest for a second ring vs. the Seattle Seahawks quest for their first in franchise history. Old school class vs. new school swag. The legend vs. the kid.
Get ready, boys and girls. This Super Bowl has all the makings of an all-time classic.
Tags : AFC Championship Game, Bill Belichick, Bronco, Broncos, Championship Sunday, Colin Kaepernick, Denver Broncos, featured, football, Jacob Tamme, Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount, Niners, Patriots, Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, sports, Sports Takes, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVIII, The Big Game, Tom Brady, Wes Welker