AFC Wrap-Up: The Kick Heard Round the World!
Well…it’s over. And no – I’m sorry, folks – this should not have happened. We should have had two games go into overtime yesterday and the outcomes of BOTH should have been different.
Yes, I know, I know – New York and Massachusetts are all very excited this morning – but the rest of the country with the exception of a few relocated folks wanted the Ravens to stop Brady. Which, actually, they did. Brady didn’t look all that grand yesterday – not exactly the ‘elite’ that everyone keeps yapping about when his name comes to mind. The Baltimore Ravens went into Foxborough beyond hungry for this win, and whether anyone likes it or not that field goal kick should have been made and the Ravens SHOULD be meeting the 49ers in a Super Bowl that would have been a whole heck of a lot of fun to watch.
The Ravens were devastated. The look of pure shock that registered on each and every one of their faces on the sidelines were the same faces that the world had when Johnny Depp announced his split from his longtime girlfriend. Every living room was stunned across the country. In fact, most people had gone to the fridge to get some more beer, seeing as that they were about to go into overtime and it was still anyone’s game.
Wounded is an understatement. This was not a loss, this was a devastating 23-20 loss to the top-seeded Patriots, and it was beyond wrong. Why? Because a quarterback named Joe Flacco had gone into Foxborough and silenced every critic he had by absolutely out-dueling the star of the NFL, Tom Brady. That’s right. Of course, having his receivers actually hold on to the ball after they caught it would’ve helped him a great deal more.
Kicker Billy Cundiff is beyond crushed. And perhaps, beyond fired. In fact, if this was back in the Roaring 20’s, the headlines would most likely be whether or not Cundiff had sold the game to the other side. This was not a difficult field goal. I mean, for Cundiff, a 32-yard field goal try is routine to say the least. But with 15 seconds remaining while trailing by three points, hooking it wide left and costing the Ravens a chance to tie the game and send it into overtime was a veritable nightmare. Even Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was looking down at his clipboard, and Brady was walking around with his head down – both just waiting to hopefully win the coin toss so they could receive.
In the locker room everyone was speechless. Cundiff was beyond upset saying: “It’s a kick I’ve kicked a thousand times in my career, there’s really no excuse for it.” And you can’t even lay the blame on Morgan Cox who snapped the ball, or the hold from punter Sam Koch – these were textbook perfect. Cundiff simply missed a kick the Ravens absolutely had to have.
But let’s be honest here, Cundiff can’t take the entire blame. Two plays before Cundiff missed the big kick, Evans was unable to secure the ball on a potential game-winning touchdown pass from Flacco. (Although there are a great many who see that play as: Boom! The right foot went down. Boom! The left foot went down. And THEN the ball was knocked away.) No offense, but that was a touchdown. NFL replay officials in the press box quickly concluded there was no clear visual evidence to overturn the call, which was simply wrong.
Brady was shaking his head more than a couple of times – which was nice to see. The cool, collected demeanor of that guy is starting to remind me of the zombies on AMC’s The Walking Dead. But the man who seems to be one of the undead advances his team to their seventh Super Bowl to play the New York Giants in Indianapolis. Despite Brady being intercepted twice with no touchdowns, and Flacco throwing two touchdown passes with one interception, the ‘elite’ returns to take on Eli Manning.
This marks the second time in the past four years that the Ravens’ season came to a dead halt just one game away from the Super Bowl, losing four years ago in the AFC Championship game to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But oddly enough, the only thing the television and those lovely ‘experts’ are talking about this morning is that the game-winning touchdown was scored by…Brady, when he jumped over the top of the Ravens’ defense for a one-yard TD with 11:29 in the fourth quarter to retake the lead. Seriously guys, remember the whole, “There is no I in team?” Brady said the Ravens looked vulnerable on fourth-and-goal at their one-yard line. “I thought it looked soft in there, so I tried to take advantage of us getting an easy touchdown,” Brady said. “I don’t do that very often. I’m glad we had a chance to score there. That was important.” See? Even Brady says ‘we.’
After that score, the Ravens squandered opportunities to either retake the lead with a touchdown or tie it with a field goal. After Flacco was intercepted by linebacker Brandon Spikes on an ill-advised throw over the middle, the Ravens got the ball right back when rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith intercepted Brady in the end zone off a pass deflection from strong safety Bernard Pollard.
Rather than have Cundiff attempt a potentially game-tying 50-yard field goal, the Ravens had Flacco attempt a pass on 4th-and-6. Big mistake. Something tells me Cundiff would have nailed that one.
Flacco was criticized heavily in the week before kickoff, but this one was definitely not a ‘bad mark’ on his career. “I don’t know if I ever will prove anything,” Flacco said. “I just play the same way. We lost, someone has to, but we laid it all out on the field.”
In the end, it was the classic game of a great defense vs. a great offense (that really didn’t show up yesterday), but the winners were not who they should have been.
One of the biggest headlines this morning comes from Slate Magazine. It reads: “Bill Belichick and Tom Brady stank their way to the Super Bowl.” I have to agree.
Until Next Time, Everybody.