Saturday, February 05, 2005SB: Top 5 Games
Sometime tomorrow I’ll have the Top 5 Things You’ll See in Super Bowl XXXIX and my prediction.
On We Go.
Grading the Top 5 Super Bowls in an impossible exercise. It’s different strokes for different folks. Super Bowl XXXVI was a close game, a great upset and it came down to the wire, however it was not a well-played football game. The Rams turned the ball over four times and the Patriots basically played chicken-ball on offense. What about Super Bowl XXXIV? Close game, came down to the final play but the coaching decisions throughout were poor.
As it is my criteria is pretty simple.
-- Historic Value. Did the game have a moment that was etched in NFL history? Did the game change NFL history?
-- Great Performances. Behind every great game there are several great performances.
--No Blowouts. Super Bowl XVIII, XX and XXIV are some of my personal favorite games because the dominant team actually dominated, but they weren’t good for 99% of the people yearning for some more excitement.
Here we go.
1) Super Bowl XXV (N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19): A coaching exhibition and a very entertaining game with some notable efforts by Thurman Thomas, Ottis Anderson and Jeff Hostetler of all people. The Giants were a substantial underdog expecting to get blown out by the super offensive machine in Buffalo. Instead it was a grinding contest, a battle of wills and field position. Jim Kelly was game to lead the Bills to a title but Scott Norwood couldn’t come through.
2) Super Bowl XXIII (San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16): Two great performances (Joe Montana, Jerry Rice) and a great ending as Montana orchestrated a 92-yard drive with 3:08 remaining to give the Niners the victory. Cincinnati provided a much-better-than-expected opponent and Stanford Jennings kickoff return planted the seeds of an upset in the heads of many. Only bad thing was that San Francisco out gained Cincinnati 2-to-1.
3) Super Bowl XXXVIII (New England 32, Carolina 29): Five lead changes in the final quarter, a 37-point quarter at that. Two great QB performances, the longest touchdown play in Super Bowl history and a wardrobe malfunction. It’s safe to say that last year’s Super Bowl had a little bit of everything including a game-winning field goal with no time remaining.
4) Super Bowl III (N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore 7): The historic value of this game should never be denied. If the Jets didn’t look good there would not have been a merger. The AFL owners met during the week with that in mind. Matt Snell and George Sauer were great for the Jets, but more than any one play we remember Joe Namath holding up the one finger and Bobby Orr waving frantically to get Earl Morrall’s attention.
5) Super Bowl X (Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17): Not as offensively stimulating as the game they would have three years later, but the most violent Super Bowl game the league has seen. The sheer brutality of this game led to one of the nasty feuds of the 70s between the NFL’s two most popular teams. And no one will forget the great concentration Lynn Swann showed on his catches.
SB: Top 5 Performances (WR)
-- Time Limit in effect. Unfortunately this kicks Max McGee's performance in Super Bowl I off the charts.
-- TDs are mandatory, but timing is the key. Gotta give the edge to the game winner.
-- 125-yard minimum. It's a little higher than the running backs.
Here we go.
1) Lynn Swann (Super Bowl X): Six in one, half dozen in the other. Hard to choose between Swann and Jerry Rice but the athleticism involved in Swann's catches and the game-winning 64-yard touchdown score put him over the top. Only four catches, but they were all big, all graceful and he averaged 40 yards per. Game MVP.
2) Jerry Rice (Super Bowl XXIII): The greatest receiver of all time had the greatest Super Bowl receiving day of all time in January of 1989. Rice caught 11 passes for 215 yards and actually got MVP nods over Joe Cool. This was classic Rice too, running the slants, hooking the ball over the orange pylon, blocking downfield and selflessly taking the double team to free up John Taylor for the game-winning touchdown.
3) Isaac Bruce (Super Bowl XXXIV): Highly underrated performance that was overshadowed by Kurt Warner's 414 yards and Mike Jones' game-saving tackle. Bruce caught six passes for 162 yards but none more important than the 73-yard touchdown catch over Samari Rolle with two minutes remaining.
4) Ricky Sanders (Super Bowl XXII): Since I couldn't get Doug Williams on the QB list, Sanders gets to enter here. Nine catches, 193 yards and two scores. Classic speed receiver, vastly underrated, great balance and speed. He abused Denver's Steve Wilson. Not a game-winning reception but his 80-yard touchdown catch cut Denver's lead to 10-7 and the rout was on.
5) Deion Branch (Super Bowl XXXVIII): Strong game throughout. Caught the first touchdown pass of the game and had a key reception on the game-winning drive. I think Branch could have another big game on Sunday, he's a big-time receiver.
Fun With NBA Stats...
And they lost 101-89 to Portland. Such the perils of an expansion team that shoots 36% from the floor.
Moving on. Did you know Kyle Korver has scored double digits in 11 of his last 12 games? He's also the only guy Allen Iverson really talks to on the team.
And in the nightly Dan Dickau watch -- 16 points, 5 assists. Not bad in a loss to Golden State.
Player of the night??? How about the highly-touted Matt Barnes, a 16 and 8 night for Sactown in a win over the Bricks.
Friday, February 04, 2005SB: Top 5 Performances (RB)
But for now, running backs. I have a criteria here too, it's debatable and the obvious (no fumbles is where it starts)
-- Must score at least one touchdown and gained over a 100 yards. Not very difficult, but it excludes an excellent game by Roger Craig in Super Bowl XIX.
-- Team must've won. That eliminates Thurman Thomas' gutsy performance in Super Bowl XXV.
-- No time discrepancies here. Mainly because I didn't want to exclude performances by Matt Snell and Larry Czonka. Besides 100 yards was much more important in the 60s and 70s than it is today.
Here we go.
1) Marcus Allen (Super Bowl XVIII): One of the best money performances of all time. The Raiders had to run with Allen to control the clock and keep the ball out of Washington's hands. They wanted to pound the 'Skins front four but there was a problem -- the Skins couldn't stop the run, so Allen just scored instead. His 74-yard reverse field touchdown run will forever by etched in my mind.
2) Terrell Davis (Super Bowl XXXII): Another special performance enhanced by the one Broncos touchdown he didn't score. In case you forgot the story, he was suffering from migranes but Elway needed him on the field for the playfake. He went on the field, blind, couldn't see the hand in front of his face. He felt his way through the fake and Elway scored on the bootleg. That play was as important as his 157 yards and three touchdowns.
3) Franco Harris (Super Bowl IX): Here's how bad the NFC was in the 70s (if the 8-2 AFC advantage during that time isn't enough for you) -- the Vikings were thought to be the baddest front four around and they gave up over 400 yards rushing in back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. As for Harris, nothing great, 34 carries, 158 yards and a touchdown. Typical Franco, the one guy who wasn't sure if he was black or Italian.
4) Matt Snell (Super Bowl III): Sue me. I have reverence for Super Bowl III and believe me YOU should too. If the Jets don't win that game, there's no merger, there's no NFL that we know today. In actuality Dave Herman was the MVP of this game because he beat down Bubba Smith like a punk. Still Snell gained 121 yards on 30 carries against a team that was known for holding teams under 100 yards total. His performance gets LOST in the annals of the NFL.
5) Larry Csonka (Super Bowl VIII): Bob Griese's injury meant the Dolphins could only throw seven times and that Czonka had to carry the load. His load went past 33 carries and 145 yards, he also had to carry Alan Page and Jim Marshall along for most of those yards. It was a bruising display of ability and proof that the AFC was running circles (Figuritively and literally) around the NFC.
No Timmy Smith didn't get included...Why not? Because Doug Williams was the star, it's easy to run on three-man fronts. And no one knew who the hell Timmy Smith was before, during or after that game. I'm convinced he won some "Win $10,000 and play in the Super Bowl" contest.
SB: Top 5 Performances (QB)
-- Turnovers are a MAJOR penalty. ESPN Page 2 said Tom Brady's performance last year was the best ever based on some scoring system. I say B.S. because he threw a goal-line interception with the Pats leading 21-16 and ready to go for blood. Three plays later Jake Delhomme hits Mushin Muhammad for an 85-yard score and a 22-21 lead. That's a 13-point turnover my friend. Unfortunately this also excludes Doug Williams' classic performance.
-- If wasn't around, it didn't happen. This is ok, because there wasn't much for great QB efforts until Super Bowl XIII anyway, so we're safe here.
-- 200 Yards Minimum. Can't throw for more than that, I ain't got time for you.
-- One Name Per List. Too easy to fill three spots with Joe Montana performances.
-- No Losers. Sorry Jake Delhomme, you'd be #5 if I could.
So with that being said. Here we go.
1) Joe Montana (Super Bowl XXIII): Yeah, I'm shocked I picked Montana first too. Joe Cool had three really great games and Super Bowl XIX or XXIV could've easily went here but XXIII was special because it combined everything great about Montana. The accuracy, the distance and the comeback. For the day he was 23-of-36 for 357 yards and two scores. What I'll always remember is the 92-yard drive to win the game. I knew he was going to do it, you knew he was going to do it, but watching it happen is special. He was a special player.
2) Phil Simms (Super Bowl XXI): To this date I'm not sure if this is a perfect QB game or not. 22-of-25 for 268 yards and three touchdowns has to be close to 158.3 don't you think? Nonetheless Simms didn't miss a pass in the second half. And when I say didn't miss a pass, he didn't -- 10-for-10 in the second half.
3) Kurt Warner (Super Bowl XXIV): Forget the average completion percentage for a second (24-of-45) and look at the 414 yards and then forget the low touchdown number (1) and look at when it happened: The Titans had scored 16 unanswered points to tie the game with two minutes remaining and Warner completed a bomb to Isaac Bruce for 73 yards and the game-winning score. An MVP performance by the league's MVP.
4) Steve Young (Super Bowl XXIX): If six touchdowns doesn't get the monkey off your back nothing will. We knew this game was going to be a blow out because San Diego was only there due to the fact that Bill Cowher is the biggest choker in this generation of football. However, Steve Young made sure it was a blowout with four first-half touchdowns.
5) Troy Aikman (Super Bowl XXVII): His best game of his three titles (22-of-30, 273 yards, four touchdowns). Isn't much to say about a game that was such a terrible blowout, but it lifted Aikman to the elite level of quarterbacks. He was as good as it gets for a 5-year span.
Thursday, February 03, 2005Where Does Emmitt Rank?
My opinion is simple, forget how he looked in his last three years and remember a small, deceptively quick back with an inordinate amount of injuries. He was a great closer, a player the Cowboys could rely on to hold small leads. Rarely fumbled, but was the recepient of several walk-in touchdowns thanks to Michael Irvin's failure to get the extra yard.
So where does Emmitt stand. Well he's behind Jim Brown and Walter Payton without a doubt. O.J. Simpson is probably the most talented running back in league history, but Emmitt had a stronger work ethic. Gale Sayers was the original human highlight reel and Barry Sanders took his throne.
So I'd put Emmitt at five all-time, ahead of Sayers and barely behind O.J. Emmitt has earned the right to be place with the elite. Detractors say he's run behind some of the best lines in league history (they are correct) but he's been among the best at every level.
Bracketology 201: The Devil Is Due...
With last night's loss to Wake Forest, the Blue Devils have dropped two out of three and face six ranked team in their final nine (4 home, 5 road) games.
This has been a difficult Duke team to figure out, they are once again too relient on the 3-pointer when feeding the ball inside to Shelden Williams would be more effective. Right now this team has to get tournament ready, that means calling more inside sets for Williams and the more healthy Shavlik Randolph and allowing them to set the stage for the outside shooting exhibition.
My prediction is Duke will finish this nine-game stretch 6-3 with losses at home to Wake Forest and on the road to Georgia Tech and North Carolina. A semifinal loss in the ACC tournament will not stop them from a #2 seed.
My Final Four: Wake Forest, Illinois, Louisville, Pittsburgh (Syracuse falls off for now)
Overrated: Gonzaga, Florida, Wisconsin
Best Unknown: Old Dominion
On the Rise: Georgetown, Villanova, St. Joseph's (7-1 in conference)
SB: Top 5 Best Coaching Performances
1) Weeb Ewbank (Super Bowl III): One of the great underrated coaches of our time, Eubank completely revamped his gameplan to coach the Jets, an 18-point dog, past Baltimore. The AFL was always viewed as a JV league, a gimmick league, and Eubank knew that if his Jets were to have any chance they had to achieve physical equity with the tough Colts. The result, 43 carries, 143 tough rushing yards, mostly on the left side. Matt Snell (30 carries, 121 yards, touchdown) probably should've won the MVP. It was a classic effort.
2) Tom Flores (SB XV & XVIII): A little bit of a surprise here, but hear me out. Two games as pretty substanial underdogs and two blowout victories. The Redskins in 1983 were the most prolific scoring machine in NFL history and the Raiders held them to nine points. Flores never got the credit he deserved because he wasn't much on talking or self-promoting, but he was a hell of a game manager and he knew how to focus those two talented, but unpredictable Raider teams.
3) Bill Belichick (Super Bowl XXXVI): Another massive underdog pulls the upset. The only reason this isn't higher is because I believe a goat could outcoach Mike Martz. That being said Belichick introduced the Rams to a defense unleashed and stopped one of the best offensive machines in league history.
4) Bill Parcells (Super Bowl XXV): How do you stop the run & shoot? Hold the ball for 40:33 minutes, a Super Bowl record. Parcells never hid his game plan, with backup QB Jeff Hostetler starting, the Giants coach wanted to go big and shorten the game. Despite falling behind 12-3, Parcells stuck with his plan and thanks to an efficient day by Hostetler (20-of-32, 222, 1 TD) everything worked. Oh yeah they needed a little help from Scott Norwood, but still a great job.
5) Mike Shanahan (Super Bowl XXXII): John Elway had the pressure and he rightfully got the credit due to his previous disappointments, but Shanahan knew that if the Broncos were to upset the Packers, they couldn't rely on Elway's right arm over Terrell Davis' strong legs. Behind a lean, mean offensive line, Davis punished the overweight Packers front four into exhaustion in one of the best Super Bowls ever. Elway only completed 12 passes and Mike Holmgren admitted to letting Davis scoring the go-ahead touchdown, but let's be honest, the Packers didn't have a choice. They couldn't stop the run.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005SB: Top 5 Worst Coaching Performances
On with the list.
1) Mike Martz (Super Bowl XXXVI): Just terrible job and the scary thing is, I think he did it on purpose. Marshall Faulk was basically an unperson in XXXIV when Kurt Warner threw for 414 yards, so two years later Martz wanted to prove that he could win with Faulk doing even LESS. It didn't work and he looked like a fool. Needless to say the Rams haven't come back since.
2) Dan Reeves (Pick One): Dan Reeves is a heck of a coach and was a great NFL player. However, when it comes to the Super Bowl, he doesn't have a chance. Four times, four blowouts. We'll choose Super Bowl XXXIII when he allowed Eugene Robinson to play after spending the night in the slammer. Bad move as John Elway torched Robinson for an 80-yard score early and abused him often.
3) Bill Callahan (Super Bowl XXXVII): Well this gives you an idea of how bad Martz and Reeves were because I can say that at least they tried. Callahan was a terrible NFL coach and didn't bother to change anything during the week before the game to try and trick Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who coached the Raiders the year before. Needless to say every time Rich Gannon called an audible, the Bucs defense shouted the play and adjusted accordingly. Callahan was not only a bad coach, but he was lazy.
4) Bud Grant (Pick One): Another four games, four blowouts victim and its a shame because Grant's teams were loaded on both sides of the ball. The choice here is Super Bowl VIII when the Vikings vaunted front four was manhandled by the Dolphins power running attack. Miami only threw seven passes in the game, compared to 53 rushes.
5) Marv Levy (Pick One): I clinch my teeth at this pick because I don't think he put together such bad game plans, however he was surrounded by incompotent players when it mattered. Is it his fault Thurman Thomas lost his helmet in one game and fumbled twice in another? I guess he got outcoached in Super Bowl XXV, but who doesn't get outcoached by Bill Parcells? If I had to pick one I'll pick Super Bowl XXVII because it was one of the most embarassing performances ever.
Monday, January 31, 2005SB: Top 5 Goats..
It's a little overkill, but the Super Bowl is a little overkill. Speaking of overkill, ESPN Page 2 listed their Top 10 and Bottom 5 QB performances...The top pick is total BS, especially over Phil Simms'. I like Tom Brady, I hope the Worldwide Sports Leader isn't shoving him down our throats. I guess I'm the only one who remembers the goal-line interception Brady threw that half.
However props for Jake Delhomme's spot. His performance last year will be one of the most underappreciated through time.
So without further adieu, the top 5 Goats.
1) Scott Norwood (Super Bowl XXV): Yeah I know, too easy. First and foremost, I've always felt sympathy for Norwood...until the Doug Brien episode this season. Now I just realize the truth -- kickers suck and Norwood gets no mercy for blowing the Bills one legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl.
2) Earl Morrall (Super Bowl III): Was the fix on? Bubba Smith thinks so (Can't find story, here's a discussion board archive) and the Jimmy Orr play is still mind boggling. Conspiracy theory aside, five times inside the red zone with no points and four interceptions against a team that was 18-point underdogs is very bad.
3) Neil O'Donnell (Super Bowl XXX): Too many bad things came out of this. O'Donnell ruined a potential comeback for the Steelers, ruined the Raiders salary cap, and ruined a good game with two horrible passes. All wasn't lost as Larry Brown signed a huge contract with the Raiders and was never heard from again.
4) Thurman Thomas (Super Bowl XXVIII): Now this fool generally loves Thurman Thomas, especially the way he chopped up the Dolphins. However, the Super Bowl just wasn't his finest hour. In his fourth and final Super Bowl, Thomas fumbled twice, one led to a score, another was returned for a score. It makes me miss the days of him losing his helmet.
5) Jackie Smith (Super Bowl XIII): This was a long debate, after all it was just one dropped pass. However, the momentum switch was devastating as the Steelers scored 14 unanswered points to take a 35-17 lead. Sorry Jackie, you should've caught it.
For more elaboration, here's a Miami Herald story on the topic.
To the stat sheet:
FIU went with a short bench, only playing nine games and three of them logged less than 20 minutes. Ismael N'Diaye led the Golden Panthers with 34 points and Ivan Almonte added 24 points and 16 rebounds. Junior Matias scored 20 points off the bench, but I was more impressed with Byron Burnett for just missing a double-double by a point in 45 minutes (27 more than his average)
As for Arkansas-LR., Brandon Freeman scored 38 points and a whopping 61 minutes, but didn't bother to grab a single rebound? Zack Graber had the only double-digit assist game with 13. Zack Wright had 12 and 9 in an amazing 48 minutes off the bench.
I think these guys deserve Monday off.
EDIT: Thanks Jeremy...I originally had Arkansas St.