Thursday, January 31, 2013

The AFC Championship Game Timeline: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of The AFC Championship Game Timeline (click here for Part 1). When last we left our heroes, they were on the Patriots' 3 yard line at the end of the 3rd quarter leading 14-13. Let's see what happens next:

14:56 - Joe Flacco steps away from the center, changes the play at the line of scrimmage and then exploits the physical advantage that Anquan Boldin has over every defensive back in the league (and most armored vehicles) for a touchdown and an 8 point lead.*

14:56 (cont.) - They have posts by the benches (that I assume are heated) where the players put their helmets while on the sidelines. Brady just put his pom-pom hat on one. Not sure there is anything I can add to improve that visual.

This is probably a time when you
would like to have at least one foot
on the ground to change direction.
12:51 - The Patriots have some momentum after a pass to Brandon Lloyd and then on first down Stevan Ridley has a nice six yard run goin . . . BOOM!!!! Oh my God someone just hit Ridley in a Ford F150 and the Ravens recover the fumble.** CBS cuts to commercial after just one replay so they can convene an impromptu support group to discuss the emotional letdown of not having Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Jim Nantz bursts into tears, buries his head in Phil Simms' chest and says, "I already miss him so much."

12:11 - Flacco goes right to work completing an 18 yard pass to Torrey Smith and then running for 16 more. That run is incredibly significant because there are some (me) who believe that Cam Cameron discouraged Flacco from leaving the pocket which not only led to numerous missed scrambling opportunities, but also some of the hideous strip sacks caused by him holding the ball too long.

11:15 - On 2nd and 4 from the 11, Flacco delivers another perfect pass to Boldin for the touchdown. That drive went 47 yards in 4 plays. Flacco was 3 for 3 for 31 yards passing and added a 16 yard run as his agent just inserted a telethon scoreboard into his next contract demand so he doesn't have to keep updating the dollar amount.

11:04 - They just showed the Bernard Pollard - Patriot Killer montage. The hit on Brady was suspect but legal at the time*** while the others were all clean plays. He didn't even touch Welker and I think we're getting to the point in this game where Welker might fake an injury to avoid one more shot.

9:46 - Too late. Welker gains 6 yards on a screen play before Cary Williams absolutely lowers the boom on him. This is going to be an uncomfortable film study for the 49er receivers.

9:20 - Fact #1: Shane Vereen graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA. Fact #2: Vereen just ran out of bounds with Pollard still three yards away. I'm pretty sure those two facts are related.

8:39 - The Patriots defense looks utterly despondent on the bench despite the fact that they have Brady in the red zone and they're only down by two scores. Maybe they know something we don't.

8:35 - Pollard drills Welker on an incompletion and Welker gets up bitching. I swear there has to be more than one #31 out there.

Um, who's foot is that sticking
out of Haloti's shoulder pad?
8:27 - Yet another pivotal play as Brady throws it to nobody on 4th and 4 when it sure looks like he could have outrun Haloti Ngata for the first down. Then again, maybe this image flashed in his head.

7:34 - The Ravens go three and out including two incompletions so they use less than a minute of clock. Security is called and Cam Cameron is quickly removed from the coach's booth.

6:50 - Welker jukes Corey Graham on a play that goes for 36 yards. Suddenly the stadium is alive as the Patriots rush to the line keeping the Ravens' defense on their heels. Brady's next pass is promptly tipped by Pernell McPhee and intercepted by Dannell Ellerbe. Ed Reed immediately dives on top of Ellerbe and every Raven coach and fan thinks the same thing, "DON'T GIVE IT TO HIM DANNELL!!!"

5:17 - Ray Rice powers for 2 yards and converts a 3rd and 1. We're getting close and we just got a great shot of Rob Ninkovich's plumber's butt on the sideline. (Not sure that's relevant but it really cracked-up FGK2 who is nine years old so I thought I'd throw it in there. I was going to say that I miss having the sense of humor of a nine year old but the fact is, it cracked me up too).

3:08 - Vontae Leach slams his way for another first down as the crowd yells "LEEEEAAAACCHHH." Proud of the traveling effort. I can't wait to harass Red Sox fans at Camden Yards this summer.

2:20 - Ray Lewis starts to take his pads off way too early and you can literally read the lips of team media director Chad Steele explaining how many timeouts the Patriots have left and the likelihood that Ray is going to have go back in the game. He finally convinces him by saying, "God just told me he needs you in your shoulder pads right now." Ray buys it.

2:11 - The early celebration is making me very nervous. John Harbaugh needs to chill that until the ball is out of Brady's hands for good. Somewhere Jack Harbaugh is cursing his son's lack of focus. Looks like someone's getting a 50 minute timeout at the 4th of July barbecue.****

2:02 - The Patriots just ran the first ten yard play in history that only took 3 seconds giving them an extra snap before the two minute warning. Apparently Brady's mom was distracted and forgot to start the clock.
Mrs. Welker maintains a high
standard of class and expects
the same from the rest of us.

1:36 - After a couple of short passes and spikes get the Patriots to the Ravens' 33 yard line, Terrell Suggs blows-up the left tackle and gets a good shot on Brady leading to an incompletion. The fact that this playoff run is happening at the same time that the Ravens have a healthy Terrell Suggs rushing from one side and the soon to be wealthy Paul Kruger rushing from the other is not a coincidence.

1:31 - Pernell McPhee tips his second pass of the quarter leading to another incompletion. This is about when Mrs. Welker started digging for dirt on Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page to support her ill-conceived Facebook post.

1:06 - After another completion to the 22 yard line, Cary Williams intercepts Brady in the endzone and Ed Reed tells him to get down which means we've finally found the set of circumstances where Reed believes in playing it safe. What is now a Ravens crowd belts-out Seven Nation Army. Way to hang in there Pats fans. I can guarantee you that if the roles had been reversed, it still would have been wall to wall purple in Baltimore.

0:00 - Forget all of the Ray Lewis shenanigans and the coaches handshake. My favorite part of the post-game scene on the field was Harbaugh telling Pollard "you won that game" and Pollard shaking him off saying "no . . . no . . . no" even though he was probably the most valuable player.

Anyone who doesn't think this
was $15,250 well spent has their
head buried in the sand.
The only jersey I've ever worn with a player's name on the back was Rod Woodson's #26 because (a) he is one of the coolest mo fo's ever to play the game and (b) I always admired the way he switched from Hall of Fame caliber cornerback to Hall of Fame caliber safety without any friction because he knew it would give the Ravens the best chance to win which it did. Bernard Pollard is asked to make a different kind of sacrifice for this team as his job is to be the enforcer and take the punishment, the penalties and the fines that go along with that. Like him or not, he does his job and he does it well. I think it's time to invest in a #31.

Endnotes

* Any conversation about Anquan Boldin needs to begin and end with the fact that he took this hit which broke his nose and required his jaw to be wired back together and then came back to play one month later. He is the offense's answer to Bernard Pollard.

** I'm genuinely surprised they didn't throw a penalty flag on that hit even though hitting a running back helmet-to-helmet is legal. Then I was surprised that they didn't reverse the fumble call based on a lack of forward progress because I'm not sure I've ever seen forward progress stopped so abruptly before . . . except maybe here - Atwater - Okoye.

*** The play where Pollard hit Brady injuring his knee would be illegal today because it knocked the Golden Boy out for the season meaning that Pollard hits people so hard . . . he changes rules. Not hard to picture Roger Goodell giving him the Hal Holbrook to Clint Eastwood speech from Magnum Force.

"If I have my way Pollard, you'll never
make another hit as long as you live."
**** For those who have not had the good fortune to become parents yet, a timeout is what you give your kid when he or she is acting like a jerk. Basically you make them sit in the other room alone for a period of time equal to their age under the theory that they will ponder the error of their ways. Ironically, once you become a parent, you dream of sitting in a room by yourself for a period of time equal to your age to ponder anything.

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