NFL Championships 2-0. Playoffs 6-4.
Carolina rushed for 155 yards, just as I expected, and saw excellent results from keeping the middle lanes closed so Donovan McNabb couldn’t run. John Fox did a great job of sticking to his game plan, running the ball right down the Eagles’ throats and refraining from the temptation to get unnecessarily cute. I was sure that Carolina would win when he told the halftime reporter that Carolina needed to run the ball more when they already had a 60-40 run-pass ratio. McNabb played tough, like he always does, but anyone looking for reasons why Philadelphia has dropped three straight NFC championships has to look at this reality: “In three NFC championship games, McNabb is 54-for-101 for 514 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions, and just nine rushes for 53 yards.”
But football is a team game, of course, and there’s nothing I despise more than the media assigning all glory and blame to the quarterback. Last week, the receivers came through; this week they didn’t. The way I saw it, Philadelphia’s luck ran out and their not-so-secret weaknesses were exposed by a team led by a coaching staff that knew how to exploit them.
As for the other game, it was a perfect example of the sports media hyperventilating about a hot quarterback and forgetting that great defense paired with a serviceable offense usually wins championships. Yes, we all remember the 1999 Rams, but that was an all-time great offense with three dangerous receivers, not one, and a better RB. Peyton Manning isn’t easily taken out of his game, but it can be done, and the hard-hitting in the secondary reminded me of when the Ravens beat up the Raiders in the AFC championship game. The Patriots offense is boring, but it works and Tom Brady throws the bravest five-yard outs in the league. I saw two passes that, if thrown by a less accurate quarterback, would almost certainly have gone the other way for six. Fantastic OL line protection too.
Both games were a pleasure to watch even if the outcomes were never really in doubt, reminding you that professional football is not just a display of raw speed and power but also the world’s most intellectually intriguing sport. Only one game left… I’m already day-dreaming about August.