There were several things to take away from an exciting weekend of NFL conference championship games. Here are some tidbits.
Peyton Manning flat outplayed Tom Brady with highest stakes
There is no way detractors can argue any differently. The fact of the matter is that when the chips were down and everything was on the line, Peyton Manning simply and overwhelmingly trumped Tom Brady in the AFC championship game. The stat lines alone tell the story. Manning finished with over 400 yards passing, two touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s not counting another potential touchdown that was just plain dropped by Julius Thomas late in the second half. Meanwhile, Brady finished with 277 yards, a touchdown pass and a touchdown run. However, those are mortal numbers for him and most of them came in the second half when the Broncos went to a prevent defense to hold their big lead. On top of that, too often during the contest Brady’s passes were off target, often sailing too high for his receivers to get. Manning, aside from one or two dangerous throws, appeared crisp and in total control of the game. If it indeed is his last hurrah, then he gets the last and perhaps biggest laugh on Brady and the Patriots.
Jack Del Rio deserves a huge game ball for AFC title performance
As great as Peyton played though, the game ball for the AFC title bout absolutely has to go to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. It must be kept in mind that even before the game started the unit had lost key cornerback Chris Harris and defensive end Derek Wolfe. They already were coming in without star pass rusher Von Miller. By the end of the game three other defenders were hurt as well. Yet, somehow, someway, Del Rio managed to hold New England in check for three critical quarters while Peyton was able to calm his nerves and seize control of the game. His well timed blitz calls and ability to elevate reserve players to make key sacks or tackles were undoubtedly a difference. Everyone expected the Patriots to come in and dissect an injury-riddled defense. Their coordinator had a different idea and he deserves all the credit in the world for it.
Richard Sherman is the Reggie Miller of pro football
Anybody who got a chance to see basketball Hall of Famer Reggie Miller play saw a guy with ice water in his veins. He was tall, lanky, athletic and had a devastating three-point shot that shattered the dreams of many opponents. What many might forget is he was also one of the most notorious trash talkers in professional sports history. He didn’t mind saying whatever he felt like, ticking off the opponents the whole way while backing up his bravado. It is clear now that pro football has the new Miller, and his name is Richard Sherman. Nobody speaks his mind on and off the field more than the Seattle Seahawks cornerback and his game-saving play in the waning seconds of the NFC championship, followed by a blatant unsportsmanlike conduct penalty encapsulated who he is, as well as who he has come to emulate.
Russell Wilson must play better to win the Super Bowl
Having home field advantage and a number of fortunate calls from the official saved Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson from one of the uglier games he’s had this season. He does deserve credit for throwing the go-ahead touchdown in the second half but it also overshadowed two bad fumbles that could’ve proven very disastrous if not for the play of his defense and the even great number of blunders by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Make no mistake. Wilson has leaned on his running game, defense and 12th man all year while making some nice plays in the process. In the Super Bowl though, he can’t afford to play that sloppy and expect to win.