Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:New England Patriots
Posted on: January 15, 2012 8:14 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 9:27 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Best Super Bowl matchup?

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Listen to the Pick-Six Podcast Divisional Round recap below and don't forget to subscribe via iTunes.

Ranking the Possible Super Bowl Matchups

Although there were some fairly drama-free games in the NFL playoffs thus far, there's no question we've been treated to some serious story-lining; Alex Smith's redemption alone was worth the price of admission. And with only three games remaining in the NFL season, we've narrowed the group of teams down a group of four elite squads that should produce an action-packed storyline.

But how do the matchups stack up in terms of watchability, entertainment value and general awesomeness? Here's my ranking:

1. Patriots vs. Giants
It's impossible to underscore how dramatic this matchup would be: after the Giants lost to the undefeated Packers 38-35, there was chatter of how this season looked eerily familiar to 2007 ... when the Giants upended the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in a game that was one of the most memorable Super Bowls in NFL history.

That was the last time the Patriots made the Super Bowl and since then, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have come under fire for not winning playoff games. The Pats won't be worried about their perfect season anymore, of course, but the Giants look very similar to the team that won the Super Bowl in 2007, thanks to a dominant pass rush and Eli Manning truly elevating his game.

The storyline, which would consist primarily of the word "revenge," might get a bit stale, but there would be an incredible amount of players with stories from that year and an ax to grind.

If you root for drama, star power and some trash talk, this is the matchup you want to see.

2. Ravens vs. Giants
The last time these teams faced off in the Super Bowl, Ray Lewis was Super Bowl MVP and the Baltimore defense had their way with Kerry Collins, picking him off four times en route to a 34-7 blowout.

Also: Tiki Barber was relevant, if that tells you anything about how long ago that was.

From a football perspective, this could be a high-scoring game that will go either way; a good game from Joe Flacco would probably result in a Ravens win, but no one will bank on that, so the Giants will be favored (maybe 4.5 points?).

Both teams are explosive enough on offense, but even more explosive on defense. We'd see points, but we'd also see plenty of smashmouth football. If someone got out to a big lead, the game wouldn't necessarily be over -- seeing Eli lead a comeback against the vaunted Ravens defense would be entertaining as all get-out.

And the chatter leading up to the game would be simply amazing. Jason Pierre-Paul, Antrel Rolle, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis? If you're a media member, you should be drooling at the quotability factor for this one.

3. Patriots vs. 49ers
The fact that these two teams play such contrasting styles could set the Super Bowl up for an interesting and perplexing matchup, but it's hard to believe that the Pats would be favored by less than a touchdown in this scenario.

Maybe San Francisco could pull off the upset: we've already seen that they can keep Drew Brees and the Saints down if given two weeks to prepare. And they'll absolutely be given the "no one believes in us" card if such a matchup takes place.

Here's the problem though: as good as Alex Smith looked on Saturday late, he didn't look like Brady did later that night. The 49ers are one of the few teams in the NFL that can, theoretically, match up in their base formation against the Pats tight ends.

But if Angry Brady show up again (and, we have to assume he showed up against the Ravens if they're here), this game could look like the last time the 49ers made the Super Bowl, only in reverse.

4. Ravens vs. 49ers
In terms of pure on-field entertainment value, this is a nightmare situation. Both the 49ers and Ravens succeed by running the ball and playing defense so it makes zero sense for this matchup to actually happen, given the importance of quarterback play in the NFL and the high-powered offenses we've seen so far in 2012.

Yes, their coaches are freaking brothers and there's no question that Harbaugh Bowl 2.0 -- the pair dueled it out on Thanksgiving night -- would provide an incredible amount of entertainment in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

But how quickly would the "They're Related!" storyline get old? It might take a day, maybe two tops. Trust me, with that much free time you'll be sick of it before media day even happens, and don't even get me started on the players.

There's some star power here, but it's primarily on the defensive end with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith (if anyone knows who he is anyway) and the like.

Joe Flacco versus Alex Smith? Yuck. We'd be treated to a defensive battle along the likes of that 16-6 Ravens victory on Turkey Day. Or the BCS Championship Game.

On the bright side, at least the teams would've gotten there through a playoff. (Read: legitimately.)

Winners

Alex Smith: Sports are funny, because moments -- not careers -- ultimately tend to define certain players. Smith is one of those players and a pair of moments on Saturday -- his 28-yard touchdown run and then "The Snatch" in the end zone -- redefined his career. He could blossom into one of the next great NFL quarterbacks or he could sign a big contract and become a bust again. It won't matter, because Saturday's game will always remain a turning point of some point. Smith likely won't ever justify his draft slot or being taken over Aaron Rodgers, but Saturday was an unbelievable redemption story.

Eli Manning
: Manning was, in my brain, approximately 145 for 146 on third down on Sunday night against the Packers. Every time Green Bay got him in a bad spot, the dude sat back in the pocket, waited until things opened up, and drilled a beautiful pass to a wide-open receiver. He's had an amazing season that could've been even better, and he's finally getting the credit he deserves.

Marques Colston
: Colston's set to be an unrestricted free agent, and the lasting memory he provided potential suitors was an outstanding effort, as he caught nine balls for 136 yards and a toe-tapping touchdown that was basically the only time a Saints player got deep in the first half on Saturday. If the Saints don't reach a long-term deal with Drew Brees, they'll have to franchise him, and that means Colston can get loose on the market and make a pile of money.

Bill Belichick: All season long the chatter was that Belichick's defense would hinder the Patriots from winning a Super Bowl. Maybe that's true -- we'll find out next Sunday against Baltimore. But the the Broncos were supposed to have a physical running game right? And the blew up the Steelers defense? Right? Belichick showed why he's a defensive genius and one of the all-time great coaches in that blowout.

Hakeem Nicks: Thanks to Victor Cruz' breakout season in 2011, Nicks kind of got loss in the shuffle. He shouldn't have: his performance against Green Bay was stunning, and broke off a 66-yard, gazelle-like touchdown run and then broke the Packers spirit with a Hail-Mary catch at the end of the half. His final line? Seven catches, 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Jenkins got abused by Davis all day long. (Getty Images)

Losers

Malcolm Jenkins: You might want to pick on Roman Harper for getting worked over by Vernon Davis in the end zone on the final touchdown, but Jenkins is the reason the Niners even had a shot. First there's the teardrop Alex Smith dropped over Jenkins into Davis' outstretched arms before his now famous touchdown run. Then there's Jenkins coverage on Davis across the middle when he picked up 47 yards on the 49ers final drive. Burnt toast anyone? (Screenshots via Dave Cariello of Canal Street Chronicles.)

Jacoby Jones
:
Dude tried to field a punt off a hop inside his own 20 on the Texans second possession of the game, didn't field it cleanly, got rocked, fumbled the ball and gave the Ravens a free touchdown. In case you missed it, the Ravens won by seven points.

Cam Cameron
: With the Texans holding two timeouts, 3:04 left in the game and the Ravens up four and in the Texans red zone, Cameron called for two pass plays. Both passes were incomplete and the Ravens kicked a field goal with 2:56 left. They burned eight seconds and didn't make the Texans use a timeout. Then on third and a half-inch with 1:38 remaining, Cameron called for a Vonta Leach run, instead of having his fullback block for Ray Rice. There never should've been enough time for a second possession for Houston in the first place.

NFL Officials: For two consecutive weekends, the NFL officiating has been, quite simply, terrible. The guys in stripes have a really difficult job, made even more difficult in today's world where jerks take pictures of their televisions and post them to Twitter. But during the NFL playoffs, the quality of work done by the zebras has really highlighted some of the flaws in the way in-game rules are applied in football. Something's gotta change.

Tim Tebow: We'd also accept John Elway or John Fox here, because the offseason's going to be miserable for all three of them despite winning a division title and a playoff game. Tebow's poor showing against the Patriots means everyone's got to wonder if he can be a "real" quarterback for the Broncos and as such, every time Fox, Elway or Tebow get anywhere near a microphone, they'll be asked about Tebow's status. It will unquestionably be annoying by the time next season starts.

State Farm: You guys really going to keep running the "Discount Double Check" commercials for the next month? Because that's going to be more awkward than Pepsi Max running Rex Ryan halftime speeches after the Jets miss the playoffs. (Please don't raise my insurance rates though.)

The Big Questions

 
Plenty of questions still remain about Flacco. (AP)

1. Did Joe Flacco answer his critics on Sunday?
Nope. The playcalling was bad and the Texans have a really good defense, but Flacco looked pretty awful all things considered. His two touchdown passes were nice, but were it not for some sick catches from his receivers, Flacco's numbers (14 of 27 for 176 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) would've been much worse. It's not all his fault this game was so close, but an elite performance would've resulted in a blowout.

2. Should Alex Smith have fallen down before scoring late Saturday?
Yes. This debate livened up our Twitter followers on Saturday evening, but the reality is, with the 49ers down 24-23 and Smith should've fallen to the ground, let the Niners melt the clock, force the Saints to use their timeouts, and the kick a field goal with, in the best-case scenario, no time remaining. Instead, Drew Brees got the ball back with 1:51 remaining and had time to score. Of course, he also scored too quickly, giving Smith time to cement his comeback legacy in San Francisco, but that's beside the point. Smith going down could have iced the game away, we just wouldn't have gotten all that drama.

3. Is it time for Gregg Williams to get out of town?
Probably. Williams shouldn't be the scapegoat for New Orleans lack of success, because he called a heck of a game on Saturday against the 49ers. With the Saints offense struggling, Williams defense kept the Saints in the game by limiting the 49ers points off turnovers. But because Smith drove the Niners to two scores in the last 150 seconds, you can bet that Williams will get a lot of the blame. He's got an easy out by joining Jeff Fisher with the Rams and he should probably jump on that.

4. Do we need full-time referees?
NO. Wilson and I batted this idea around some on chat (and talked about it on the podcast), but why would giving referees more money and job security equate to an incentive for them to be right more often? It doesn't. Giving them more time to learn the rules and properly apply them? Yeah, that would be great. It would also be great if the NFL made applying the rules in a fashion that doesn't screw up the game more practical, but that's another story for another day.

5. Is being a wild-card in the playoffs better?
Maybe? I dunno. I do know this: you look at the Packers and you look at the Giants. One team basically got three weeks off and cooled down from an unholy hot streak. The other team squeaked into the playoffs and got hot, playing their best football at the right time. The latter team, the Giants, are still alive.

6. Is Tom Coughlin still on the hot seat?

LOL. Also, LOL at Giants fans who wanted Coughlin fired and/or put on the hot seat when the Giants were losing to the Saints-49ers-Packers in succession, with a surprising win against the Patriots mixed in. Give the dude an extension already, he deserves it.

7. Will you please provide a picture of Andy Reid in the Punt/Pass/Kick contest?
Thought you'd never ask. Every single time the contest winners are shown on television, I can't help but think of this amazing photo:



8. How good can the 49ers offense be?

Very good. I think -- the progression of Vernon Davis and Alex Smith over the course of the season leads me to believe Harbaugh would be smart to bring his signal caller back, keep some continuity and let the pieces on the offense grow into the system even more, like they did throughout the year. It's quite possible they could end up being potent.

GIF O' THE WEEK

Decent catch by Arian Foster here:

Worth 1,000 Words


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:38 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 1:38 pm
 

Despite blowout, Tebow/Brady 2.0 gets big ratings

The NFL denied Harrison's appeal of his one-game suspension(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Saturday night's Broncos-Patriots game didn't end in a climatic way: New England steamrolled Denver 45-10, and the drama was out of the game by halftime. But that didn't stop people from tuning in, as the CBS Saturday night affair brought in big-time ratings.

The average overnight rating/share for the game was 20.6/34, making it the highest-rated NFL divisional round game in primetime on any network in 11 years. (By contrast, when the two teams met in the regular season, the game drew a 19.5/36 overnight rating/share.)

It was the second-highest rated AFC divisional game in 18 years, trailing only the matchup between the Los Angeles Raiders and Buffalo Bills in 1994.

The peak ratings for last night game between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET, which shouldn't be a huge surprise. That's right about when the game was still competitive and right about when Tom Brady decided to unleash a pair of touchdowns to send the Pats into the locker room with a 35-7 lead.

Considering the vast differential in the score and the blowout factor, it's a real testament to the drawing power of Tim Tebow's Broncos and Brady's Patriots, especially when pitted against one another.

That, and the NFL's constantly growing popularity.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Casserly: NFL will look into Broncos-Pats fight

Brady's punt fired up the Broncos players on Saturday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Saturday night, as the Patriots were wrapping up a 45-10 blowout win over the Broncos, Tom Brady took the ball on third down and ... punted. That didn't sit well with the Broncos players; Von Miller got a shot in on Dan Connolly's back, Matt Light took umbrage and the result was a skirmish on the Patriots sideline.

CBS Sports Charley Casserly reported on Sunday morning that the NFL will examine the tapes of the fight on Monday and determine whether or not folks will be fined.

"I talked to the league this morning and they told me that tomorrow they're going to look at the tapes of [the fight] and decide who, if any of the players, should be fined," Casserly reported on The NFL Today.

Miller, the Broncos rookie linebacker, is almost a sure bet to be fined: he hit Connolly in the back and instigated the entire thing. It'll take a further look at the sideline action to determine if anyone else is getting fined, but it's entirely possible that some Patriots players could be fined as well.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 11:07 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 11:48 am
 

Nolan drafts deserve more credit than McDaniels'

McDaniels is now getting credit for taking Tebow and Thomas but Niners drafted better under Nolan. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

During the last month or so of the regular season, before John Elway and John Fox had committed to Tim Tebow for 2012 but long after Tebow believers were convinced that he was the second (football) coming, another young rising star was the unexpected beneficiary of Tebow's NFL success.

Josh McDaniels, the Broncos head coach for 2009 and part of 2010, was run out of town after winning six straight to begin his career only to lose 12 of his next 17. He left Denver amid another videotaping scandal (McDaniels was on the Patriots staff during the whole Spygate saga) and with a shoddy record as a personnel evaluator.

Divisional Round Recap
McDaniels had been responsible for trading Jay Cutler to the Bears in April 2009, and a year later, he traded three picks to move up and draft Tebow in the first round. Both moves were heavily criticized.

But as the Broncos and Tebow surged this season, so too did McDaniels' reputation. While his coaching abilities have never been questioned, maybe he knew how to put together a roster, too.  In addition to Tebow, the Broncos also drafted Demaryius Thomas (1st round, 2010), Zane Beadles (2nd round ,'10) and Eric Decker (3rd round, '10) on McDaniels' watch.

But after what the 49ers did to the Saints Saturday, CBSSports.com assistant managing editor Eric Kay tweeted this: "If McDaniels is getting credit for drafting Tebow, best we all tip our hats to Mike Nolan and his 2005 draft savvy."

It's a solid point, particularly since Nolan's tenure in San Francisco is better remembered for Reebok suits than anything the 49ers accomplished on the field. (The 49ers were 18-37 under Nolan from 2005-08, his best year coming in '06 when the San Francisco went 7-9.)

We live in a world where the latest is often confused for the best; maybe time has helped repair McDaniels' reputation in Denver but we could be focusing on the wrong former head coach. Yes, Tebow and Thomas are good young players, but some of the names San Francisco drafted under Nolan now serve as the foundation for not only the NFC West champs but legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

(Note: below we've included players taken in the top four rounds as well as notable late-round selections)

Josh McDaniels, Broncos head coach 2009-2010 (GM: Brian Xanders, 2009-present)

2009
RB Knowshown Moreno (Round 1, pick 12)
DE Robert Ayers (1.18)
DB Alphonso Smith (2.37)
DB Darcel McBath (2.48)
TE Richard Quinn (2.64)
DB David Bruton (4.114)
G Seth Olsen (4.132)

2010
RB Demaryius Thomas (Round 1, pick 22)
QB Tim Tebow (1.25)
G Zane Beadles (2.45)
C J.D. Walton (3.80)
WR Eric Decker (3.87)
DB Perrish Cox (5.137)

Thomas, Tebow and Ayers have played well, but critics thought Moreno was drafted too high and those sentiments haven't changed after two seasons. He struggled with effectiveness and injuries before the Broncos eventually gave most of the carries to 30-year-old Willis McGahee. The Broncos traded a 2010 first-round pick to select Alphonso Smith who was such an unmitigated bust that he was shipped to the Lions for the other Gronkowski, Rob's brother Dan.

Mike Nolan, 49ers head coach 2005-2008 (GM: Scot McCloughan, 2005-2010)

2005
QB Alex Smith (1.1)
G David Baas (2.33)
RB Frank Gore (3.65)
T Adam Snyder (3.94)

2006
TE Vernon Davis (1.6)
LB Manny Lawson (1.22)
WR Brandon Williams (3.84)
RB Michael Robinson (4.100)
LB Parys Haralson (5.140)
TE/FB Delanie Walker (6.175)

2007
LB Patrick Willis (1.11)
T Joe Staley (1.28)
WR Jason Hill (3.76)
DE Ray McDonald (3.97)
DE Jay Moore (4.104)
S Dashon Goldson (4.126)
CB Tarell Brown (5.147)

2008
DT Kentwan Balmer (1.29)
DB Reggie Smith (3.75)
C Cody Wallace (4.107)
WR Josh Morgan (6.174)

Nolan, McCloughan, and the personnel department hit on a ton of talent -- from first-rounders to late-round picks. Of the players drafted from 2005-08, 14 are still on the roster and 10 started against the Saints Saturday. Amazingly, Nolan never managed to do anything on the field with a roster he helped build (and neither could Mike Singletary) but Jim Harbaugh certainly has. And now the 49ers are one game away from returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 season.

As luck would have it, McDaniels, back where it all started in New England, is on his way to a conference championship game, too. The Broncos, meanwhile, are headed home with plenty of questions.


Harbaugh on wild win: Alex Smith completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis with nine seconds left after Drew Brees had put the high-powered Saints ahead, and the 49ers capitalized on five New Orleans turnovers for a thrilling 36-32 playoff victory Saturday.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 9:59 am
 

Brady's punt: disrespectful or pretty darn cool?

By Josh Katzowitz

As CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman pointed out in the immediate aftermath of the Patriots destruction of the Broncos on Saturday, the fact that Tom Brady punted late in New England’s 45-10 win seemed somewhat disrespectful.

Even though it was cool to see Brady take the shotgun snap and then use the short punt in such an old-school manner – plus, the punt went 48 yards and was downed at the 10-yard line! – was Patriots coach Bill Belichick trying to insult Denver with the maneuver (especially since the punt incited a short brawl between the squads)?

Pats dominate Denver
Not exactly, Belichick said in his postgame presser.

As ESPN Boston writes, “Belichick explained the team didn't want to face the various punt rushes the Broncos had on fourth down, so the call was for the unusual quick kick.”

Brady said the team has been practicing the play for seven (!) years and the hope was to land the ball inside the 5-yard line, especially since the surprised Broncos defense didn’t have anybody back to receive the punt.

The only other time Brady punted occurred in 2003 when his punt was actually downed at the opponent’s 1-yard line. That was nine yards better than Saturday’s attempt. So, basically Brady is regressing as a punter.

“I’m disappointed we lost that field position,” Belichick joked. “It’s funny, I mean that’s the kind of play we work on forever and you never know when it’s going to come up.”



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:52 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 12:37 pm
 

49ers, Patriots pulling hard for upsets on Sunday

The 49ers and Patriots know who they'll be rooting for Sunday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Patriots and the 49ers advanced to their respective conference championship games on Saturday. San Francisco did it with defense and a heroic effort by Alex Smith, while Tom Brady simply eviscerated the Broncos. And on Sunday, both teams will be rooting for upsets in a big way.

For the Patriots, it's hard to imagine that anyone can beat them if they play like they did on Saturday; Brady threw five touchdowns in the first half and that game was never really close.

Divisional Round Recap

And they're already locked for home-field advantage. Regardless of whether it's the Ravens or Texans they play in eight days, the game will take place at Gillette Stadium.

But given a choice between the Ravens and the Texans, it's hard to imagine the Pats wouldn't prefer facing rookie passer T.J. Yates.

Yes, the Texans defense is stout and, yes, the Texans running game is explosive and dangerous and two-headed.

But the Ravens are a brutally physical team that provides a tougher matchup and potentially nightmarish memories of the 33-14 loss to Baltimore in New England during Wild Card Weekend in 2009. Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith would at least, presumably, keep the Pats defense honest enough to let Ray Rice run wild.

The Patriots would have a much easier time bottling up Arian Foster and Ben Tate with Yates providing minimal damage.

As for the 49ers, neither option for the NFC Championship Game is great. Both the Packers and Giants present problems. But if the Giants were to upset the Pack in Lambeau on Sunday, that would put the path to the Super Bowl squarely through Candlestick Park.

For the 49ers, getting a second home game would be absolute gravy. They've been nearly unstoppable in Candlestick this year, with their only loss a 27-24 overtime nailbiter to the Cowboys in Week 2. Once this season, San Francisco's beaten the Giants there. It's a clear-cut advantage.

And, of course, there's the quality of opponent. The Giants are terrifying if you're the 49ers because of their fierce pass rush and the problems that could pose for Alex Smith.

But the Giants actually allow more rushing yards per game than Green Bay (121.2 to 111.8) though the Packers are the preferred defense if you're the 49ers. They're not the preferred offense though: while Eli Manning's elite, the Giants simply can't cause the kind of matchup problems that the Packers present.

And the 49ers already stopped Drew Brees and the Saints. They can stop anyone, clearly, but if they're picking between a the pair of opponents they could end up against, they would absolutely rather see the Giants in San Francisco than the Packers in Green Bay.

Which is why they, like the Patriots, are pulling for an upset on Sunday.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:26 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 2:07 am
 

Tom Brady's play emphasizes Tim Tebow's flaws

Brady's play and the Pats big lead exposed Tebow's biggest flaws. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

This isn't breaking news, but it really helps to have a good quarterback if you want to make a deep playoff run. And Tom Brady, in dismantling the Broncos defense during New England's 45-10 beatdown in Foxboro on Saturday, proved just that.

Brady wasn't perfect, per se, because he threw an interception and he "only" completed 26 of 34 passes.

But Brady did just about everything else, setting an NFL record with five touchdowns in the first half and tying an NFL record with six touchdowns in the win. If the Broncos had been remotely competitive, Brady would've destroyed any number of NFL postseason records while he piled on statistics at the end.

Instead, he had to settle for a 48-yard punt, the second of his career.

"We’ve been practicing it for seven years; a situation came up," Brady said after the game when asked about the punt on third down. "I was trying to get it inside the five but I needed a penalty to do that. I was happy about the call."


Brady punted because the Broncos couldn't generate anything remotely resembling a comeback, which is a direct result of having Tim Tebow under center. That's not to attack the Broncos quarterback; he had a fantastic storyline of a season and we assume there'll be some chatter about between now and the start of the 2012 season.

But Tebow's not built to hang with a guy like Brady in the playoffs. This is Tom Freaking Brady: he has 36 passing touchdowns in 20 career postseason games and has thrown for over 4,750 yards.

Tebow might have 316 working in his favor, but he doesn't have the pedigree, prestige or playoff performances of Brady. Although you wouldn't have known it heading into the game, when all the focus was on Tebow.

Pats throttle Broncos

After the game, Brady didn't directly say that said attention bothered him, but he came pretty close.

"I think that everyone focused on one player and I think all week we were focused on the entire Denver Bronco team," Brady said when asked about the attention Tebow got. "We knew what kind of challenges they presented. Tim is a very good quarterback, they have a good defense, great rushing team, make some big plays in the pass game like they did against Pittsburgh. We knew the threats; we understood the danger of not playing our best game. I thought we came out and really responded well."

That much is obvious: the Patriots had this game in the bag before the teams adjourned to the locker room. Tebow had three completions. Brady had five touchdown passes. What else do you need to know? Because it's not like this year's Patriots team is known for shutting down opposing quarterbacks.

But everyone knew there would be no comeback. And there would be no hope for a comeback. That's because of a clear difference between the two guys running the offense for each team. Tebow can do some crazy things -- and he did this year -- but coming back from a 28-point deficit just isn't on the old miracle to-do list.

Tebow might be the story everyone loves to hop on, but Brady's still the quarterback with a trio of rings on his hand. And he reminded everyone of that on Saturday night.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:08 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 12:21 am
 

Patriots serve championship notice in blowout win

Brady has three Super Bowl rings but had a record-setting performance against Denver Saturday. (AP)
By Will Brinson

Heading into Saturday's Patriots-Broncos game, there was plenty of concern about what kind of miracles Tim Tebow could work against a weakened Patriots defense. With a virtuoso, record-breaking performance against Denver in a 45-10 blowout win, Tom Brady and the Pats quickly dispelled that ridiculous notion.

Pats throttle Broncos

Speaking of ridiculous notions, we all need to get rid of the idea that the Patriots can't win a Super Bowl with their porous defense. Because they can. After winning eight-straight games to close the season, people still disrespected the Patriots; after all, they didn't beat a single team with a record above .500 in 2011.

And, of course, they had the second-worst defense in the regular season. But this isn't about the long grind of 16 games. This is about preparing for two more individual opponents and maximizing chances over the course of 120 minutes on the field, which is precisely what the Patriots excel at doing, as they showed on Saturday night.

"Once we found out who were were playing [after the bye week] I think these guys really did a good job of focusing on a target and they were obviously ready to go today," Bill Belichick said after the game. "I have to give the players all the credit in the world. They stepped up and made a lot of big plays."

In other words, once the Patriots figure out who they'll play in the AFC Championship Game, it would be foolish to believe they can't figure out a way to slow said team down. If you don't believe me, just ask the 2007 Indianapolis Colts.

That Colts team finished 29th in total defense. The idea that they could slow anyone down was laughable heading into the playoffs. But they did just that in limiting the Chiefs and Ravens to 14 points total, winning a shootout with the Patriots and then limiting the Bears to 17 points in the Super Bowl.

They gelled at the right time and it's possible the Patriots could be doing the same thing right now. No, the Broncos aren't the Packers. But you think the Patriots can't win in a shootout? Because they can. And if their opponent makes a mistake, they're infinitely dangerous -- we saw just that at the end of the first half against Denver when Brady tossed two (more) touchdowns in less than two minutes.


"That was huge," Belichick said of the two-touchdown swing to end the first half. "And then we got a stop to start the third quarter so that sequence there … was big for us. We had the lead but then the game got out of hand at that point. That was really well executed by our football team, especially offensively."

It's the kind of swing only a few teams are capable of pulling off, and the Patriots and Packers probably qualify as the only teams remaining with that much explosiveness. Broncos coach John Fox, given his comments after the game, likely agrees.
"They're better than us," Fox said after the game.

They are. And the Patriots are better than a lot of teams, even if the defense stunk all year and they didn't have a hard schedule.

Now they just have to be better than two more teams to get that fourth ring for Brady.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com