February 02, 2009

One for the (other) thumb

What a game! One of the best Super Bowls I've watched. Can I take back what I said in yesterday's post about Arizona having no shot in this game??

We've had two really good Super Bowls in a row (three if you're a Colts fan). I feel like the NFL has gotten into a good rhythm with these Super Bowls. They were always blowouts when we were kids, but the vast majority of Super Bowls in the last decade have been competitive/great games. That's about all you can ask for as an NFL fan. A good game. Parity is really working wonders. I'd actually say that the Super Bowl has become the "best" championship series these days in terms of competitive games/series. We've had a lot of bad/uncompetitive games in the Final Fours, BCS title games, NBA Finals, etc.

How does this one stack up with Giants-Pats from last year?? I think I'd still probably put Giants-Pats a notch above this one just because of the Pats undefeated element and the Helmet Catch, but last night's game was right up there. When you have 2 great QBs leading back to back "gamewinning" drives, that's not bad. The 4th quarter was as exciting and intense as it gets.

I could not have been more wrong about Zona AGAIN. I've come to terms with the fact that Warner and that offense are just plain good, and they can pretty much move the ball and score on anyone.

Amazing how legacies were literally tipping in the balance over the last five minutes of that game. Warner was on the verge of becoming an NFL legend who engineered one of the greatest comebacks in Super Bowl history, and the Steelers come right back down and score. Roethlisberger went from a possible goat who was going to get crucified in the Burgh all offseason to a 2 time Super Bowl champ at the age of 26.

That game was EERILY similar to the end of the Ohio State-Texas Fiesta Bowl from this year. When Zona scored, you just knew that there was a little bit too much time left on the clock. Give Roethlisberger two minutes to take them down the field, and he can get it done.

Quick thought about that last stretch of the game: How was there not a longer review of that Kurt Warner "fumble"?? Isn't that the Tuck rule right there?? Do they still have the tuck rule?? His arm was definitely moving forward. Plus, the Steelers picked up that 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Cards definitely would have had time to throw one to the end zone if they had overturned that fumble call.

I thought the officiating was really lousy, which is pretty much par for the course in the NFL these days. The randomness of the NFL holding penalty is one of the more frustrating things in sports, and it seemed like there were several calls on the field that were reversed or should have been reversed. Plus, there were so many cheap pass interference calls and roughing the passer other silly tickytack stuff. There is nothing more frustrating as a fan than a bogus holding penalty that completely takes you out of a drive. NFL officiating is the worst of any sport. They have waaaaay too much influence on the game.

The Steelers are the most amazing franchise in sports. It is impossible not to have respect for what they have done, and everything about the Steelers franchise is a class act. A family owned franchise that doesn't really make a splash on free agents and relies on homegrown talent (hmmm, sounds familiar to another franchise in Cincinnati), and yet they are good every single year. They always make the right decisions and hire the right coaches and personnel people. 6 rings in the last 30 years. I would kill just to see the Bengals win ONE ring or even ONE playoff game for that matter.

One of these years, I would love to see the Bengals have a three year stretch where they try to be exactly like the Steelers. Just draft a bunch of tough, physical, intelligent players who love to play the game. Go all 8 picks with linemen, linebackers, and physical safeties, and commit to signing those types of guys in free agency. I'd love to just see what happens. What do they have to lose?? It's not like the Bengals' current formula (we're at almost 20 years and counting and still don't know what that is) is working.

Some player thoughts:

--Santonio Holmes- Amazing game by Santonio. What a catch to win it. Seems like he is officially on the radar as a superstar, but now I'd like to see him do this type of stuff in the regular season. He has the talent to be a star. Tomlin should be in his ear this offseason about making the Pro Bowl next year.

By the way, for the Buckeye fans who read this blog, is Santonio the most underrated Buckeye of the last 25 years?? He was always sort of a quiet star at Ohio State, and no one really talks about him even now even though he's 5th all time in catches and receptions and 3rd all time in tds at Ohio State. He kind of fell in between two OSU legends at WR (Michael Jenkins and Ted Ginn), but he's turned out to be a better pro than either of them. Is it just because he's from Florida?? Or that he was never really on a truly great OSU team??? Where is the love for Santonio (or Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantonio as Bob Davie used to call him)??

Kurt Warner - ok, can I take back that "Warner is not a Hall of Famer" talk?? I'm not fully on board with the idea just yet, but I can live with it if it ever happens. I thought he played a phenomenal game against the best defense in the league. Heck, I thought he outplayed Roethlisberger.

I don't know what it is about Warner that makes him so good because it seems like a simple formula for other quarterbacks to emulate. He's accurate and he gets rid of the ball quickly to the right people. That's Kurt Warner. He doesn't have some rocket arm, he's not a bull like Roethlisberger who can break tackles, and he's not all that athletic or fast. He's always sort of played like an old man, but he knows what to do with the football. You would think more QBs would figure it out, but I guess that type of thing is instinctual.

Warner has now played really well in 3 Super Bowls, and he has some great career stats to go alongside his performances in big games. Is that enough?? It could be. Throw in the fact that he outplayed Donovan McNabb in the NFC Championship game, and maybe he sneaks in right behind Brady and Peyton from this recent era. It is strange to think that one game could really push him over the top, but I think last night was the type of game to do it. He did EVERYTHING that he possibly could to win that game, and I think that's what people will remember about Kurt Warner.

Larry Fitzgerald - Are you kidding me?? What an absolute superstar. He had the Steelers eyeballing him from start to finish and still managed to be the most dominant player on the field. Fitzgerald is the best WR in the league by far right now. Then again, Dick Lebeau, you are the man, but why are you playing prevent with your safeties that far out?? You were just asking for Fitzgerald to blow you up like that. I cannot stand prevent defenses.

Big Ben - He's rarely pretty, but he just finds ways to get it done. Ben's like the anti-Kurt Warner. He loves doing three pump fakes, avoiding a sack, and then throwing a bullet to a guy off his back foot with a guy draped around his leg. That's where he is at his best.

People in Cincinnati have been comparing Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer for years, but there is really no comparison. Carson has a great arm, but Ben is a playmaker. If you wanted one guy to win a game for you, you are taking Ben Roethlisberger.

I'm actually surprised that more teams don't let their QBs roll out and do some stuff on the run like Pittsburgh does with Roethisberger. One guy who I think should be doing a lot of rolling out and making "athletic" plays next year is Brady Quinn. Brady throws the ball well over the middle, but he is not the type of QB who can throw bullet after bullet to the sideline. He needs to be rolling out and making plays with his feet and arm.

I'm happy for Roethlisberger. It's hard to believe that he's already won 2 Super Bowls. And I have no doubt that yesterday was not his last Super Bowl. Great career so far.

Not a bad 2004 NFL Draft by the way. Here are some of the names from that first round:

#1 Giants - Eli Manning
#3 Cards - Larry Fitzgerald
#4 Chargers - Phillip Rivers
#5 Redskins - Sean Taylor
#6 Browns - Kellen Winslow II
#11 Steelers - Ben Roethlisberger

The Bengals drafted Chris Perry that year from Michigan. Good times!! Wonder if the Browns would have taken Roethlisberger if they could have done that draft over again. Roethlisberger was awfully lucky that he "fell" all the way to #11 that year.

Al Michaels - Al Michaels is an all-time great, but he's in the Brett Favre stage of his career at this point. Did he borrow those "YUUUUUUUUUGE" lines from Bob Davie??

Mike Tomlin - Is there a "cooler" coach in all of sports (maybe ever) than Mike Tomlin?? I was trying to think about it last night, and I don't think there is. It's still hard for me to believe that he's a head coach. If he had shoulder pads on, would anyone think he wasn't a player on that sideline?? I would love to see a picture of him from his football days at William & Mary. He probably looks exactly the same.

You can make an argument that he's essentially been a placeholder for Bill Cowher since he has the same staff in place and the same personnel department, but I've read some great stuff about Tomlin this week that convinced me that he really is one of the coaching stars of the league. It seems like he has a really good feel for motivation and the psychology of the game, and he knows how to handle players. In the NFL, that's what it's all about when it comes to being a good head coach. And I think it was smart to keep the same staff. Why would he not have done that?? The Steelers had a great staff in place when he arrived. If he had gone in and blown it up to put in "his system," they probably wouldn't be Super Bowl champs.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of Tomlin. It seems like the players love him and respect him, and that's really all you can ask for. The Steelers have always been on the same page as a franchise. One message. Tomlin gets that. I wish Marvin Lewis had those same opportunities.

Finally, can we ever get one game where a team DOESN'T come out as a team during the player introductions?? Every team is doing that these days. I almost think it would be funny if a team did the individual player intros and had a couple guys hot dog it.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Agree on all accounts. Especially about a review on the last play. How is nobody talking about that. That's a play that gets reviewed in a meaningless 49ers-Rams game in Week 2, but you're telling me that it doesn't get reviewed on the last play of the Super Bowl??!! If that got overturned, with the 15 yard penalty the Cardinals would have had at least one chance to throw it up to the best jump ball receiver in recent memory. Oh well...

Couldn't have been more impressed with Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. They proved everyone wrong the whole postseason. If they had any run game to go with that passing attack and defense, they can be right back in the playoff mix next year.