Green Bay Packers 42, Seattle Seahawks 20:
I was about to praise Darryl Johnston for stating my exact thoughts as the game commenced with the Seahawks jumping out to a 14-0 lead. He said he didn't think the Packers would be rattled despite their inexperience, but admitted he was wrong, commenting that Seattle simply looked like it had been here before. The Seahawks qualified for the Super Bowl two years ago, which looked like it meant a lot in the early going.
Meanwhile, I felt so bad for Ryan Grant because it looked like he ran so hard after his first fumble. As he was trying to make amends for his mistake, he fumbled at midfield, allowing Seattle to score its second touchdown of the contest. Grant was greeted with a chorus of boos.
But you know what? Despite taking 7.5 points and watching my team go up 14-0, I didn't feel confident that Seattle would cover (check the forum for proof.) Maybe it was the extremely crappy week I've been having. Maybe it was the fact that Brett Favre was the opposing signal caller. Or maybe it was Matt Hasselbeck's bizarre belief that his squad would be able to run the ball on the Packers. Seriously, what was he thinking? Did he forget that Shaun Alexander spends more time hiding puffy Cheetos in his helmet from Mike Holmgren than practicing? Did he not remember that Alexander has looked like a 6-year-old girl prancing through a flower garden? Even the robotic Kenny Albert sounded confused. Poor Johnston had to press the Control-ALT-Delete buttons on Kenny's back.
It's amazing how much this game 180ed. The Packers went from fumbling and being inept on defense, to scoring on every single drive until the fourth quarter and shutting down anything the Seahawks wanted to do. Seattle even turned the ball over on a fumble leading to yet another Green Bay touchdown.
And one more thing - why were Albert, Johnston and the Goose so shocked that Marcus Pollard was dropping every single pass thrown to him? Pollard sucks. The only reason anyone even knows his name is because Peyton Manning made him. I was surprised that the Goose liked what he saw out of Pollard when he was with Indianapolis, but then I remembered that he probably wasn't paying too much attention, as he was undoubtedly pulling a Shaun Alexander. The only difference is that I see the Goose being a Crunchy Cheetos kind of guy.
New England Patriots 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 20:
Let's discuss two controversial plays on the opening drive of this contest. The first was a 4th-and-1 conversion by the Jaguars, which turned out to be a 34-yard completion to Marcedes Lewis. While impressive, it was nothing compared to the second controversial event. As David Garrard was being dragged down to the turf by Patriots defenders, he somehow heaved the football into the arms of Matt Jones, who was standing in the end zone. Replay showed Garrard's shin was on the ground before he let go of the football. Bill Belichick pulled the challenge flag out of his sock, thought about it, and stuffed it back in.
Why was that crazy? No, not the fact that Belichick would have won the challenge. It was his tube socks. Did you see them? They looked like they went up past their knees. Those socks were straight out of the 1750s. They were large enough that Belichick could have hid a camera in them. Not that he would do that sort of thing.
It's crazy when you go 12-of-12 for 120 yards and a touchdown in a half and your numbers don't even produce the best quarterback rating. Brady's stats were eclipsed by David Garrard's 12-of-14 for 149 yards and two scores. Garrard finished admirably, but Brady's first incompletion came on his 17th throw. He concluded the game with more touchdowns (3) than incompletions (2). This just in - Brady's sorta kinda good.
Anyway, let me summarize this game for you in a few words: "Touchdown. Personal foul. Touchdown. Personal foul. Touchdown. Personal foul..." No surprise that there was a lot of scoring, but there were like 450 personal fouls called. But if you're a reader of this site, you understand why this occurred. Head official Jerome Boger is far and away the worst in the NFL. It seems like he botches every single game he referees. But give Boger credit - he stepped it up in the playoffs and simply managed to call 15-yard personal fouls instead of phantom holds and pass interferences.
San Diego Chargers 28, Indianapolis Colts 24:
It's easy to figure out that Peyton Manning watched the Patriots-Jaguars tilt on Saturday night because his performance echoed Tom Brady's, as he completed his first 14 passes and finished with 402 yards and three touchdowns.
Unlike Brady, however, Manning threw a pair of picks inside the red zone. Marvin Harrison's injury definitely played a factor, and people will point that out, but remember that prior to this season, Brady never had anything better than a mediocre receivers at his disposal. This, in my opinion, is one of the reasons Brady is better than Manning, though you could make a case that the latter should be included in the top five signal callers of all time.
I can't really call Manning a choker though because he won a Super Bowl last year. Someone who does gag like Aurora Snow on camera is Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding. I'm shocked he hit his extra points; he can't make a postseason field goal to save his life. I wouldn't be surprised if Kaeding, who actually looks like he's always high, costs San Diego the AFC Championship. If he misses one more makable kick, the Chargers will need to start looking for someone to take his spot.
Speaking of ineptness, I nearly fell off my couch when I heard one fan in the RCA Dome yell, "You are the worst crew I've ever seen!" The officials were so horrendous it made me wonder if Jerome Boger kidnaped the head referee, painted his face white and took his place. The worst call of the bunch was on Antonio Cromartie's pick-six. Eric Weddle, who made a clean block, was whistled for a hold. If you're keeping track, the guy who threw the flag was back judge Phil Luckett, who was also guilty of a questionable series of events in a Steelers loss to the Titans a few postseasons ago.
Keeping with the referee theme, why did the officials review an obvious 8-yard catch at the end of the first half? It was a friggin 8-yard catch. Just let it go, and stop wasting everyone's time.
And finally, I have to mention that I completely spazzed out and started yelling after the third quarter. Why? Only the worst part of every football season - the moment they announce the winners of the Punt-Pass-Kick Competition. I never understood why the NFL feels compelled to announce who these kids are. Does anyone really need to know? Does anyone even care? I'm always shocked the drunk fans in the stands don't boo or throw beer bottles at them.
New York Giants 21, Dallas Cowboys 17:
I know I'm supposed to stay unbiased, but it was cool to see Eli Manning giddy and excited after his victory over the Cowboys. Every football fan and media member on the planet, especially myself, has bashed him over the past few years for looking so aloof and choking down the stretch. Well, by hanging with the unbeaten Patriots, and upsetting both the Buccaneers and Cowboys in the postseason, Manning has morphed into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Manning's signature drive took place at the end of the first half. Following a Cowboys touchdown with 53 seconds remaining, Manning was 4-of-7 for 56 yards and a score to Amani Toomer with 11 ticks left on the clock. I was actually pretty disappointed Tom Coughlin didn't let Eli throw the ball on a drive with eight minutes left in regulation when his squad was up 21-17. C'mon, Tom! You're not coaching a future Wal-Mart employee anymore! He's clearly hoping to get a gig at Sam's club.
Odd that Eli is the only Manning to advance to Championship Sunday. Even stranger is that the injury-ridden Giants were more organized down the stretch than the Cowboys. Dallas was guilty of horrendous blocking, numerous penalties and unnecessary timeouts. It's almost as like the entire team was tired from its trip to Mexico with Jessica Simpson. Clearly monogamy isn't their thing.