Two games to decide who reps their conference in the Super Bowl. One game went down to the wire while the other got uglier and uglier as the game continued.
Every kid in Charlotte now has an official NFL football thanks to the Panthers, while Tom Brady is scheduling a massage today to ease the pain from the pounding he took at the hands of the Denver defense.
NFL Grown Man of the Week: This award should go to the entire Denver Broncos defense. These 11 grown men made life miserable for Tom Brady on Sunday, leaving no pass uncontested and Brady battered after 23 hits. Von Miller had 2.5 sacks, and the Broncos intercepted Brady twice.
There will be a lot of talk about Wade Phillips’ gameplan today. The defensive coordinator deserves that credit. Just know that it was the execution from the 11 defenders on the field that held Brady and company to just 18 points.
NFL Child of the Week: I hate to pile on a guy who just had the worst day of his professional career, but Carson Palmer left me no choice. I know the man’s finger was jacked up, leaving one of the most consistent quarterbacks of 2015 a hot mess…but six turnovers? Unforgivable.
Winner: Cam Newton keeps rolling and having a hell of a time while winning. Arizona had no answer for the Carolina quarterback as he dominated the game with 382 total yards and four touchdowns. Wade Phillips has his work cut out for him.
Loser: Tom Brady will not get the chance to rub DeflateGate in Roger Goodell’s face at the Super Bowl presentation. Brady looked average as he was pressured and knocked around all game long. The defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots made a hell of a run in 2015 in the face of numerous injuries but fell short in the Mile High City.
Winner: Ron Rivera. Memo to NFL owners: A Super Bowl trip is what happens when you have patience with your coaching staff. Rivera could have been canned when things got rocky, and a rebuild started, but Mr. Richardson stuck with his guy, and now it has paid off. Take note bottom dwellers of the League. It takes more than two years to create a championship team. Rivera had losing seasons his first two campaigns, yet now stands to win a Super Bowl for his club.
Loser: Stephen Gostkowski. Kickers ruin seasons. We know this yet it is no easier to swallow when a guy gags on a simple extra point. I find it ironic that it was Belichick who was very vocal a couple of years ago about the extra points being meaningless since they were nearly automatic, leading to the rule change to move the kicks back.
There were plenty of plays that New England could have made to erase this miss though to be fair to the kicker.
Winner: Peyton Manning survives to see another Super Bowl after a rough season. He’s not as good as he once was but only needs to be good once as he ever was comeFebruary 7th. He is now 3-1 versus Brady and Belichick in AFC Title Games. We shall see if he can improve his Super Bowl record from 1-2.
Loser: One of the best receivers to ever suit up missed out on another shot at the Super Bowl. Larry Fitzgerald made his mark on the postseason versus Green Bay, but may never get this close to the big game again.
Winner: Greg Olsen was the rock that Cam leaned on early in the year as chemistry was developed between the QB and the rest of the receivers. Olsen, who had 113 yards in the NFC Title contest, said after the game that his franchise, “Built this thing the right way.” No question that one of the best foundation pieces came when Olsen arrived from Chicago in 2011.
Loser: Bruce Arians is an easy guy root for. It took most of his football life before he got a shot at running an NFL team as the head coach and he seems to be a players’ coach, believing fully in his guys. What makes football so great is the finality of the playoffs. It’s still hard to see a guy like Arians get bounced unceremoniously with a thumping like Arizona received on Sunday.
Loser: NFL fans who have to sit through two weeks of Super Bowl hype as the game morphs into an ever-expanding event. Get ready for player interviews from other teams that involve pimping various products. Steady yourself for endless analysis as the talking heads fill air time for the next 336 hours.