Getting The Chills

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , on January 16, 2011 by thelasthonestman

One other thing I wanted to comment on now and not tomorrow was the stirring rendition of the National Anthem by Jim Cornelison heard at Soldier Field before the Bears-Seattle game today.  It definitely set the tone, and it got this Bears fan ready for action — not to mention a little misty-eyed (EDIT — I finally got the link, so here it is if you didn’t see it already.)

It reminded me of the anthem sung before the 1991 NHL All-Star Game — also in Chicago — which took place shortly after the beginning of the first Gulf War.  That one is available for viewing, however, so take a look if you’re looking for some goose bumps — and don’t forget the Kleenex.

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The Worst Part Of This NFL Playoff Weekend Is That We’ll Have To Listen To The Jets Talk About How Great They Are For Another Seven Days

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , on January 16, 2011 by thelasthonestman

I don’t have any idea what happened to New England today against the Jets.  It’s pretty obvious that the Patriots and Bill Belichick had no idea either.

Oh, no ... not another week of this

I’ve picked against the Jets two weeks in a row, not because I have any distaste for the franchise or anything — as a Bears fan, I save my venom for the hated Packers, though I won’t let that cloud my judgment when it comes to picking the upcoming NFC Title Game — but only because I think they’ve been overrated all season, and that they’re more bluster than actual results on the field.  That said, I have to begrudgingly give them credit for their victory against New England in their 2nd round playoff game — unlike last week, the Jets were the better team on the field for all four quarters at Gillette Stadium.  Now as to how that happened, it’s not quite that simple.

The MVP of the game for New York was their quarterback Mark Sanchez, who grew up in a hurry with a huge performance against the Pats.  Sanchez threw for 194 yards and three touchdowns — but most importantly, he avoided turning the ball over.  That’s something that can’t be said for the Patriots, who after being the undisputed leader in the NFL this season in holding onto the ball, turned it over on a crucial pick in Jets territory in the first quarter, the first interception thrown by quarterback Tom Brady since October.  And there was arguably the turning point of the entire game, a botched fake punt at the close of the first half (that might as well have been a turnover) that set the Jets up for their second touchdown of the game, a score that put them up 14-3 at the half.

New York’s defensive effort was spectacular as well, holding the Patriots in check for most of the day and keeping New England’s vaunted offense from even advancing past midfield for nearly two quarters.  Brady was under pressure all game, and nothing ever seemed to be available for him — by the time the Pats finally started to move the ball with some consistency late in the 3rd quarter, finally scoring to cut the New York lead to four points, it was too little, too late — especially since the Jets were able to immediately answer with a touchdown of their own, the Sanchez TD pass to Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone reminiscent of the wide receiver’s game-winner in the Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals (though the replay looked like he was out-of-bounds — his elbow hitting on the white after only one knee had hit in-bounds, but the play wasn’t reviewed).   Shonn Greene’s journey into the end zone in the final two minutes to put the final score at 28-21 was simply icing on the Jets cake (the score was closer than it should have been thanks to a last-second touchdown by New England).

New York teams have been bad news in the playoffs for New England of late

As the game progressed, I thought for a minute that I was watching a repeat of a Pats performance against another New York team that they should have beaten but didn’t — their loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl that ended their unbeaten season.  That was another game in which they looked flat and out-of-tune, and just like that season, their otherwise tremendous 2010 season ends in a mammoth disappointment.  The Jets will march on to Heinz Field and a rematch against the Steelers, who they beat in Week 15.  My only hope is that we’re spared another week of the histrionics the Jets have often engaged in — which isn’t a futile wish, since I doubt we’ll see the level of hostility that the Jets and Pats have for one another to draw out all of the trash-talking.

All in all, though, even with the Pats flame-out it wasn’t a bad week for my picks:  I ended up 3-1 overall picking winners (2-2 against the spread) — and I didn’t jinx the Bears chances by picking them to win against Seattle.  I’ll take that and move up happily to the biggest week of football for this Chicago fan since the Colts beat the Bears back in Super Bowl XLI.  And yes — I’ll be picking against the Jets again.  There’s no way they beat two better teams in the Pats and the Steelers back-to-back on the road — though frankly, they’ve already advanced further than I would have expected them to.  So in a postseason where under .500 teams are beating Super Bowl champions and both number one seeds lose at home, I’d say nothing should be expected.

I’ll be back late tomorrow with my thoughts on the other three playoff games from the weekend.

2011 NFL Playoff Predictions, Round 2, Part 2

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2011 by thelasthonestman

If you’re looking for my picks for the games on Saturday, click here.  And now, on to Sunday’s action!

New England (-8.5) over N. Y. Jets

Like their AFC counterparts in Saturday’s game, the Patriots and the Jets will be meeting for the 3rd time on the season this week.  And much like the Steelers and the Ravens, familiarity has bred nothing but contempt for the two AFC East rivals.

The loudest coach in the NFL -- along with the best coach in the NFL -- meet for the 3rd time this season on Sunday

New England split their meetings with New York this season, and the two games were polar opposites; in their initial meeting, the Jets put on an impressive offensive show, rushing for over 130 yards while quarterback Mark Sanchez threw three touchdowns as New York erased a 14-10 halftime deficit to win 28-14.  Their second meeting, however, was a debacle for the New Yorkers, as the Patriots scored early and often in a 45-3 trouncing of the Jets on Monday Night Football.  The results seemed to be a microcosm of the direction both teams were taking as the season wore on.  While the Jets started out great at 9-2, they struggled down the stretch, while the Patriots took off following the trade of malcontent Randy Moss from the roster, going 11-1.

The Patriots were truly remarkable in 2010, defying the experts who predicted offensive collapse following the departure of Moss by finishing with the top-ranked offense in the NFL.  While there’s no one left who can argue with a straight face against the greatness of Tom Brady and his head coach Bill Belichick, what may surprise people is that New England finished with the 9th-ranked rushing attack in terms of yards gained (while averaging 4.3 yards per carry on the ground), a better performance than their record-setting offense managed in 2007 when they went 16-0.  A huge part of that was the emergence of “The Law Firm”, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who rushed for 100o+ yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010, becoming the first New England rusher to attain that yardage mark since Corey Dillon did the trick in 2004.

The best quarterback in the NFL just keeps getting better

But make no mistake, the Pats are still Tom Brady’s team, and the future Hall-of-Famer put up one of the best seasons, not only of his career, but of any quarterback in recent memory.  Brady posted a ridiculous 36 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions, breaking his own NFL record for TD-to-INT ratio (his last interception was way back in October when he threw two picks against the Ravens, while his other two picks came in the first loss against the Jets) — and he did it all while throwing to a cast of seemingly thousands (eight different receivers caught touchdown passes for the Pats in 2010, and four receivers had more than 40 receptions and 500 yards).

The Patriots fatal flaw could be their young defense — but they did rank 8th in the NFL for fewest points allowed.  New England doesn’t need to completely shut their opponents down to win — not with their potent offense racking up points — they only need to contain their opponent.  What could help then to do that against the Jets is the potentially mistake-prone nature of their starting quarterback.  The second-year starter Sanchez threw only one touchdown and seven interceptions over the team’s five losses this season, and if the Jets’ quarterback can’t avoid mistakes on Sunday, then the Jets could get blown off of the field the way they did at the start of December.

For a team that barely escaped from Indianapolis last week, the Jets have continued to talk, talk — and talk, some more.  They’ve talked about the Patriots, Antonio Cromartie has whined about Tom Brady (when Reggie Jackson of all people tells you to “shut up and play ball”, you know you’ve acted the fool), and even normally mild-mannered Wes Welker got into the act, using foot references numerous times in his media session on Thursday in a subtle jab at the foot-fetish controversy surrounding Jet coach Rex Ryan and his wife (I could have spiced this piece up with my own foot references, but I never could have topped Welker’s act, so I didn’t even bother to try).

But like I pointed out last week, the Jets might talk the talk, but they’ve yet to show they can walk the walk when it counts.  And all of the colorful personalities and entertaining quotes don’t count for anything on the scoreboard — and it’s there where I believe the Patriots will be on the winning end come Sunday and possibly headed for another trip to the Super Bowl and their 4th NFL Championship in the Brady-Belichick era.

Seattle (+10) over Chicago

And finally, we get to the game I’m absolutely dreading.  It’s my Chicago Bears, a team I ripped into during the off-season for hiring Mike Martz, with a quarterback I’ve ripped into on numerous occasions for being a crybaby and a guy who I thought just wasn’t a winner, facing off against the now 8-9 Seattle Seahawks, a team that has absolutely no business being in the playoffs and who wouldn’t have advanced this far if they hadn’t faced a New Orleans team (particularly a defense) that looked like it had early off-season plans lined up already when they took the field in Seattle.  The Bears are a prohibitive favorite, and well they should be — so why am I so worried?

Where can I start?  First off, the Bears already played these Seahawks once at Soldier Field (way back in Week 6) — and they lost by a field goal, in a miserable performance in which quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked six times (though he didn’t turn the ball over).  It was a game where, much like New Orleans last week, the Bears managed to make a quarterback who’s seen his better days look serviceable again, as the current toast of the Emerald City, Matt Hasselbeck, threw capably and the ground attack of Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch proved effective.

Will the good Jay Cutler -- or the bad Jay Cutler -- show up for the Bears on Sunday?

And then there’s Jay Cutler, making his first playoff start of his career this Sunday.  I have been unmerciful at times in my criticism of the Bears QB — and there have been many moments when he’s deserved every bit of it — but the Cutler who’s taken the field from Week 9 to now has seemed to be a changed man under center (at least, most of the time).  Over that period, Cutler threw for 16 touchdowns against only 9 interceptions — a huge change for the man who had been a turnover machine for most of his first year-and-a-half in the Windy City.  The hidden downside there is, though, against arguably the two best teams he faced in that span — the Patriots and the Pack — Cutler threw four of those picks with zero touchdowns, while completing less than 50% of his passes.  If it’s that Cutler that shows up on Sunday, then the Bears chances of winning are toast.

And what to make of the Seahawks?  Head coach Pete Carroll obviously deserves a ton of credit for getting his troops up for their epic win against the defending Super Bowl champions last week, but they’re an entirely different team away from the comfy surroundings of Qwest Field (going 2-6 on the road).  And it’s not likely that they’ll be facing a team giving them the benefit of a mail-it-in performance two weeks in a row.  Still, Hasselbeck and company can’t be counted out — not after last week’s shocker — even if everything suggests that Seattle should get blown out in this game.  But, while fueling yourself with emotion and desire when your squad is outmatched can win a game against the right opponent, it’s not a consistent formula for winning in the NFL Playoffs.

Ever since the Bears committed themselves to running the ball, good things have followed for them

The difference for the Bears this time around may be the re-emphasis that Lovie Smith and Mike Martz have given to the running game, a key I’ve always believed had to take place if this Bears team was going to avoid catastrophe.  Prior to the team’s bye week, the Bears had rushed for over 100 yards as a team only twice in seven games (one of those totals barely made the mark at 101 yards), and the run-to-pass ratio was tilted way too heavily in favor of an air attack.  Since then, Chicago has rushed for over 100 yards in all but one of their games (the blowout loss to the Pats), and their number of runs-to-passes has been almost identical (an amazing reversal of form for Martz, and something he should be given due credit for).

Assuming that the Bears don’t change up what’s been working for them for some bizarre reason, then this result should be a different one than the one we saw back in October.  I expect the Bears to win (which, if my other picks hold to form, would see them hosting the Packers for the NFC Title in a game for the ages next week), but ten points are a lot to cover in a game of this magnitude.  I expect Seattle to play them close for a while — that pesky “emotion” thing and all — but I can’t picture the Seahawks playing for a trip to the Super Bowl, no matter how badly they all want it.  The Bears fan in me certainly hopes that, if I’m right about nothing else this weekend, I’ll be right about this.

2011 NFL Playoff Predictions, Round 2, Part 1

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by thelasthonestman

We’re ready for Week 2 NFL playoff action, and there’s a number if intriguing match-ups on the slate for this week.  Unfortunately, due to a heavy work schedule, the only way I’ll likely be seeing any of these games will be courtesy of my DVR after they’re already over.  Considering that my team, the Chicago Bears, are playing in one of these games as a heavy, double-digit point favorite — that may not be such a bad thing.

But let’s not dwell on my concerns about the chances of Chicago possibly blowing what looks like a gift invitation to the NFC Title game in the form of their opponents, the (somewhat less this week than last) hapless Seattle Seahawks, and instead move right into my 2nd round selections, shall we?

Pittsburgh (-3) over Baltimore

Expect a hard-hitting contest in the latest clash of the war that is the Ravens-Steelers rivalry

In case you somehow missed it, the Steelers and the Ravens don’t like one another.  They really don’t like one another.  And that’s made for some tremendous games between the two bitter division rivals over the years — this week’s contest should certainly join the list as another memorable match-up — and much like took place the last time these two hooked up in the playoffs at Heinz Field, the 2008 AFC Championship Game, I expect the Steelers to come out on top again.

There’s no doubt that the Ravens looked awfully good last week — but that was against the paper tiger Chiefs, and not a legitimate Super Bowl contender like they’ll face in Pittsburgh this week.  Baltimore is pretty much the same team we’ve seen for much of the decade — they’re led by an outstanding, turnover-inducing defense, a running game headed by the still-underrated Ray Rice and the John Harbaugh-overrated Willis McGahee, and a still-wet-behind-the-ears QB in Joe Flacco.  What has changed, however, is the threat that Anquan Boldin brings to the team.  I mentioned last week that I thought he would be a major factor if the Ravens made a Super Bowl run, and he paid dividends against the Chiefs with 5 catches and a touchdown — along with Todd Heap (who added 10 catches for 108 yards).

Will the Ravens be able to move the ball as successfully against Pittsburgh?  Not very likely.  The Steelers gave up fewer points in the regular season than any other team, and they were particularly stingy against the running game, allowing only 3.0 yards a carry on the ground (best in the NFL) and only 5 rushing touchdowns all season (tied for the best in the league with, ironically, the Ravens).  Only two other teams since 2000 have given up fewer yards rushing than Pittsburgh did this year (the 2006 Vikings and the 2000 Ravens), so if Baltimore is going to put up points in this game, they’ll likely have to rely on Flacco and his receivers to move the ball.

One quarterback starting on Saturday has proven he can lead a team in the playoffs -- and it isn't Joe Flacco (at least not yet)

Pittsburgh is in a similar predicament — they’re not likely going to be running the ball effectively either, with the Ravens defense also giving up fewer then 4.0 yards a carry.  But Ben Roethlisberger inspires far more confidence in me than Flacco does — two Super Bowl wins and an 8-2 playoff record will do that for you — while the Ravens QB has yet to put his stamp on a signature win in January worth mentioning (in four of his postseason starts, Flacco has failed to throw a touchdown pass, and he was picked off three times in that 2008 title game in Pittsburgh).

In this game, with two opportunistic defenses that will be ready to pounce on any miscue, the outcome may well be decided by the offensive player who makes a mistake a crucial time and turns the ball over.  It’s my guess that said player will end up being Joe Flacco — and it will be the Steelers advancing to the AFC Title Game for the 4th time in the past six years.

Green Bay (+2.5) over Atlanta

Atlanta coach Mike Smith can't be happy at all to see Green Bay as Atlanta's opening playoff opponent

This is a tough, tough game to call — by far the hardest of the four games for me to come up with a feel for.  The only thing I’m 100% certain of is that Atlanta is being handled a major injustice by getting stuck with the Packers as their playoff opponent instead of the Seahawks, despite having the best record in the NFC and being the number one seed (in yet another example of “Every break that could go the Chicago Bears way in 2010-2011 continues”).  If there wasn’t a reason why a team’s record should be the determining factor for seeding once the playoff teams are decided, there is now (I’m not an advocate of going with the top-12 records regardless of conference like some people have advocated, but there’s no way a 7-9 team had any business getting a #4 seed and a home game over Green Bay and New Orleans, and there’s no way Atlanta should be stuck facing arguably the most dangerous team in the NFC in the semi-final round).

If you’ve forgotten, Green Bay and Atlanta met once already this season — back in Week 12 — a game won by Atlanta on a Matt Bryant field goal with nine seconds remaining in the game.  The Packers had rallied to tie the contest with under a minute to play on a Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson (who made a beautiful catch).  But a long kickoff return and a face mask penalty gave the Falcons the ball to start past midfield and it took little for Atlanta to get in range of the game-winner.

So what’s changed since then?  Not a lot, really.  Rodgers and his Atlanta counterpart Matt Ryan are still two of the best young quarterbacks in football, and both teams feature outstanding defenses; neither should be a surprise — after all, that’s why these two teams are where they are.  Both Atlanta and Green Bay feature big-time receiving threats on offense as well in Roddy White and Greg Jennings, respectively.  And with Atlanta playing at home (like in their first meeting), there shouldn’t be any reason to expect that this time will be any different, right?

Except — I’m underwhelmed with Atlanta’s last month of the season, in which they lost a big test at home against the playoff-departed New Orleans Saints (a game in which the Saints defense — yes, that maligned defense — shut Ryan and particularly Michael Turner down entirely), beat the Seahawks, and won two games against the worst team in football, the Carolina Panthers.  I never got the feeling watching them — the feeling I get when I watch the Patriots or the Steelers, for example — that I was watching a team that could make and win a Super Bowl.  To be honest, I’ve feel more that way about Green Bay at this point.

This Packer is the key to his team's chances of victory in Atlanta

The Packers’ year turned around dramatically after they lost to Detroit and Rodgers was injured back on December 12 — a low point when it looked like the team’s chances were gone and their season over.  Their effort in losing to the Pats on the following Sunday on national television was a statement game for the rest of the team that proved that Rodgers isn’t the only important part of the roster, and with their leader back in tow, they rebounded to destroy the Giants, beat the Bears in a war, and held off the Eagles.

That last game may be the key to what’s different about the Pack this time around against the Falcons.  In their first meeting, Green Bay had no rushing game at all (Rodgers led the team with 51 yards rushing).  Suddenly, the emergence of James Starks may have finally filled the void that was left when Ryan Grant went down — and any effectiveness the Pack gets out of the running game will make Rodgers and company all that more dangerous — and may be the difference in the rematch.   I think it will be, setting up Green Bay to face … who?  You’ll have to check Part 2 of my selections for Sunday’s games by clicking here to find the answer.

The BCS Title Game Should Have Been Called The Underwhelming Bowl

Posted in College Football, Rants, Sports with tags , , , , , , , on January 11, 2011 by thelasthonestman

I didn’t find out that Auburn had won until this morning.

That’s because I turned off the game midway through the 3rd quarter and headed off to bed.  Granted, I was tired and I’m looking at a long day of work today and needed the sleep, but that’s not something that ever kept me from seeing the end of a “title” game before.  So what was different last night?

There’s certainly a lot of factors.  The lateness of the starting time (the clock was ticking towards midnight as the game struggled towards the finish line) certainly didn’t help.  But it would have been a lot easier to not steal glances at my clock if the game had been a better-played contest.  For two teams that were supposed to clearly be the best two in the country, the game was anything but exciting — at least what I watched of it before hitting the play.  Of course, if you like penalties, turnovers, mistakes on both sides of the ball, and failed drives — well, there were plenty of those to go around in the game’s first three-plus quarters.

The incredibly long layoff had a lot to do with that — you know, the thirty-seven days between their last games and the game last night (a travesty considering the hypocritical nonsense the NCAA uses about wanting to keep players studying as a reason to not have a playoff) — but what went through my mind on more than once occasion before I finally gave up on the game was — Maybe these two teams aren’t the best two in the country?

They definitely didn’t play that way.  Last night was just more proof positive as to why, so long as the mega-conferences continue to deny a true playoff and deny schools like TCU this year a chance to fairly and legitimately compete for a title, the idea of Auburn [Title To Be Vacated in 2014] as a truly deserving national champion is a bad joke.  I won’t even go into the whole mess surrounding Cam Newton and what the NCAA’s unwillingness to make a tough stand now regarding his entire eligibility does to the legitimacy of [Title To Be Vacated in 2014]’s claim to being the nation’s best — but I’d be lying if it didn’t give me one more reason to turn off the television happily last night.  (It seems I missed Cam Newton embracing his agent father at the end of the game, despite Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs telling reporters beforehand that Cecil Newton Sr. would not be in attendance by mutual agreement — another strong indication that, when it comes to the truth, neither the Newtons nor the school’s officials are going to be the place to find it).

Unfortunately, as long as the masses didn’t join me in abandoning the game sooner, true reform in the ranks of NCAA football won’t be anywhere on the horizon.  The good news for me as I get older, however, will be that there will be one less night I’ll have to worry about staying up late to see the ending of a game.

The NFL Wild Card Weekend In Review

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2011 by thelasthonestman

The first round of the NFL Playoffs are over, and after a sluggish start on Saturday, I rebounded on Sunday to go 2-2 over the weekend.  Some quick thoughts on the four Wild Card Weekend games:

— I think I already said all that needed to be said about the debacle that was the New Orleans loss against Seattle.  The defensive performance by the Saints was one of the worst I’ve seen in playoff history (considering the caliber of the opposition), and their upset loss ranks alongside some of the biggest in NFL playoff history.  It’s an extremely disappointing end for last year’s champions, and the possibility — as unlikely as it is — that Seattle might somehow force their way further into the playoffs has to be a major concern for the NFL at this point.  Can you imagine the league trying to sell a nine-loss Seattle team in the Super Bowl?  I thought not.

— In Saturday’s other game, the Jets escaped — again — to fight again another week.  They were all but dead when Adam Vinatieri nailed a clutch 50-yard field goal with only fifty-three seconds remaining in the game, but a special teams failure on Indy’s part led to a 47 yard return on the ensuing kickoff by Antonio Cromartie that would leave the Jets in perfect position for their own game-winning field goal.  When Nick Folk booted home the 32-yard field goal as the clock expired, the Colts were sent home with their 7th opening game exit in 11 trips to the playoffs during the Peyton Manning’s era.  It had to be a bitterly disappointing loss for Indy — I thought they were the better team on Saturday night.

— My Sunday picks got off to a far better start as the Ravens did exactly what I thought they were going to do, namely dominate the Chiefs.  The staggering stat of the game was the overwhelming edge on time of possession that Baltimore had over Kansas City — 41:44 to 18:16.  The game was never really a contest, as the Ravens forced five turnovers in the easy win.  While I think the Ravens’ playoff run will come to a sudden end in Pittsburgh next week (if there’s not a sequence against the Steelers, like on the first drive of this game, where Ray Rice is inexplicably on the sidelines while “Whatcha’ Talkin’ About Willis” is getting stuffed at the goal line, I’ll be stunned), for this week at least, the Ravens looked like a team that could beat anyone in the playoffs.

— Finally, the Packers beat the Eagles and Michael Vick, sending them back to Atlanta for a rematch of their narrow Week 12 loss to the Falcons.  Philadelphia could have won the game if David Akers had made either of his two missed field goals (one from 41 yards out, the other from 34), but then again, the game might have been a bigger Green Bay win if James Jones had caught the easy touchdown pass right before the end of the first half or if Rodgers hadn’t fumbled on the Packers’ first series of the second half.   Green Bay’s defense contained Vick for most of the game, forcing him into a terrible pass on the final Eagles final series that resulted in a game-clinching interception, and not surprisingly, the Eagles made no real attention to run the ball — both factors which I thought would lead to the Packers winning this game on the road.  What I didn’t foresee was the emergence of James Starks (who ran for a Green Bay rookie playoff record 123 yards) and a running game — if they can duplicate that next week against Atlanta, Rodgers and company might be looking at a return trip to Chicago and a rubber match for the NFC Title.

My 2nd round predictions will be coming later in the week.  What bodes well for fans is that, with the exception of the Baltimore-Kansas City blowout, the games were all tightly-contested and exciting.  Next week will hopefully feature more of the same.

A Performance So Mind-Awfully Embarrassing — I Couldn’t Wait Until Monday To Comment On It

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , on January 9, 2011 by thelasthonestman

The Saints defense should invest in this look for the trip home from Seattle.

No, I’m not talking about my picking the Saints to win — easily — in Saturday’s early game.  I’m talking about the completely embarrassing, hide-your-face-in-eternal shame performance the New Orleans Saints put up yesterday afternoon in their “defense” of their Super Bowl Championship.

How staggeringly awful were the Saints?  How about 41 points given up to a Seattle team led by a banged-up Matt Hasselbeck and castaways Julius Jones and Mike Williams, easily the most points Pete Carroll’s team had scored all season.  Let’s think about that for a moment — 41 points scored.  By the Seattle Seahawks.  By Matt Hasselbeck, Marshawn Lynch, and Mike Williams.

Considering the level of their competition, this may have represented the worst performance by a defense in NFL playoff history since the Bears hung up 73 on the Redskins way back in 1940.  I’m only partly exaggerating here — this was the 23rd ranked offense on a 7-9 team racking up yards and touchdowns against the Saints like they were the 2007 Patriots instead.  It was a simply ghastly performance by New Orleans (though you can’t blame the offense — you score 36 points, you expect to win the game).

I’ll’ give credit where it’s due, though.  Seattle played as good a game as they were capable of playing, filled with emotion and heart and a sense of urgency — traits that New Orleans seemed to be curiously lacking for much of the game — and honestly, for much of the season.  New Orleans seemed like a team on a mission all of last year, while this year, there were plenty of moments when the team looked like they were in a haze, navigating their schedule on cruise control (their losses to far-inferior Cleveland and Arizona teams were no better examples of that).  The idea of a Super Bowl hangover never seemed more evident than at Qwest Field yesterday.

"Seattle winning the Super Bowl? So you're saying there's a chance ..."

The Seahawks win is also arguably one of the biggest upsets in NFL Playoff history, in many ways as unexpected as the Giants win over the Pats or the Jets win over the Colts (albeit on a much smaller stage).  The message to Seattle fans shouldn’t be to start booking their airplane flights for Dallas, however, but to enjoy this unlikely win while they can.  This blind squirrel isn’t going to find a nut two weeks in a row, and don’t be surprised to see them on the wrong side of the blowout they should have experienced this week to happen next week instead.  If Green Bay beats Philly like I think they will, that could leave my Bears (!) to host them in a rematch of their Week 5 match-up.   Oh, wait — Seattle won that game too.   Maybe,  just maybe …

Nah.