San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
Here's a riddle for all you sports fans ... What do you get when you combine a Pro Bowl Quarterback, a dynamic receiving core, and a head coach who doesn't have the balls to step on the throat of his opponent? Give up? You get the Atlanta Falcons sitting at home while the 49ers take their Super Bowl spot in New Orleans.
If you watched the game, you know what I'm talking about. For the second straight week, the Falcons built a huge 1st half lead (17-0 early in the 2nd quarter) and then found a way to squander it. Rather than stay aggressive and put the game away, Mike Smith went conservative and the "Dirty Birds" blew the advantage. And unlike last week, this time they couldn't recover. Once the damage was done, not even the magic of Matty Ice could save them in the end. Many Falcons fans would like to believe that the refs had something to do with the final outcome ... they didn't. Let's be very clear, the Falcons lost this game on their own.
A good friend of mine (you know who you are) told me today that Colin Kaepernick played like crap yesterday. Well, I whole-heartily disagree. In fact, I would say that Colin K was MORE impressive this week than last week. And why? Because this week, he DIDN'T run the ball. In short, he was brilliant. His passes were precise, his decision making was spot-on, and he played the hand that the Falcons dealt him. You can make any great athlete in a unique scheme look brilliant by tossing them in against a sub-par defense and letting them run around. But last night, Colin Kaepernick became a quarterback, and a darn good one if you ask me.
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
In an earlier post, I predicted the Patriots would win this game because of brains, not because of talent. What I failed to realize is that John Harbaugh is a lot smarter than I thought he was.
Now don't get me wrong, the coaching call of the game was the 4th down conversion for the Patriots where Tom Brady pretended to call out signals to a wide receiver while the ball was being snapped to the running back. Brilliant play design! But that was the only brilliant thing the Patriots brought to the field last night. Their opponents were more talented athletes than they were, and they did absolutely nothing to compensate for it.
Whereas the Atlanta Falcons lost their playoff game, the Baltimore Ravens absolutely won theirs. By the time the final whistle blew, there was no doubt who the better team was. The Ravens played harder, faster, more physical, and most importantly, smarter than New England. Joe Flacco had the second half of his life and the Baltimore defense once again lived up to its reputation. Congratulations to Ray Lewis ... he gets to enjoy 2 more weeks of employment before hanging up his cleats for good.