published Monday, January 14th, 2013

5-at-10: NFL winners and losers and the best coach ever

  • photo
    Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith watches the action from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Wow. Mike Smith said it entering the postgame news conference after his Falcons won in dramatic fashion Sunday. Ray Lewis exuded it after his Ravens pulled off a miracle Saturday evening. The entire nation uttered it time and time again as Colin Kaepernick torched the Packers with the zone-read option that buckled knees and Cheeseheads across the country.

Simply put this was the best weekend of NFL football we can remember. Each of the four playoff games was compelling. Each was well-played, even if two of them were double-digit victories. Each included a slew of winners and losers on each side. Each left a career-altering or even career-defining question on the outcome. Each opened the door to the possibilities that the conference title games this Sunday may be just as special.

Trying to breakdown every big play or significant moment of each game would be like naming the sand grains in Destin. So let's take a top five from the NFL weekend in the following categories.

From the "Talks too much studios," let's kick the tires and light the fires.

Playoffs winners

— Matt Ryan and Mike Smith: The Falcons were impeccable in the first half in all phases. In the fourth quarter, they were completely peccable. And with as much heat and head-scratching as Ryan and Smith have received and generated by their high-level success in the regular season and their empty postseason showings before Sunday, if the Falcons had not rallied in the last 31 seconds for their 30-28 win the wake could have been complete and all-encompassing. Think of it this way, this Falcons' season is now a success because they have won a postseason game. If they had lost Sunday after the Seahawks scored 21 fourth-quarter points to take a 28-27 lead, the doubts about Ryan in big games would have been on a Chia-Pet type growth schedule. Now, he has a big-moment win — two huge completions — and the Falcons have a money kicker in which they can believe. As great as this game was, the win is more meaningful because of what an Atlanta loss would have potentially meant, if that makes sense.

— Joe Flacco. Talk about picking your moments. Dude was money Saturday night and made a big-time, big-boy throw — 50-plus yards in the air to hit Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard, game-tying touchdown. And you want even better timing? How about delivering an 18-for-34, 334-yard, three-touchdown showing on the road in a playoff win and consider that Flacco is about to be a free agent in a league in which a third of the teams are starving for a quarterback? If the Flacco family was the most happy Saturday night, the family of Flacco's agent was close behind.

— Colin Kaepernick. Wow. Think anyone is second-guessing Jim Harbaugh about switching quarterbacks this morning? Kaepernick, who we still believe looks like Humpty Hump from Digital Underground, looked like a cross between Michael Vick and, with his elongated delivery and spiraling strikes across the middle, Randal Cunningham. Dude was that impressive.

— The NFL viewer: Raise your hand if after the Patriots finished their win Sunday evening you clicked up and down the dial looking for more football. (And keep your hand up if you stopped on some of those replays in mid-320-330s on your cable dial? Yeah, us too.)

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Playoff losers

— Denver safety Rahim Moore. Rahim fell victim to one of the classic blunders — the most famous of which is never get involved in a land war in Asia. Rahim tried to make a play on Flacco's Fling to Jones and the ball floated over his hand and became a game-tying touchdown with 31 seconds left. If Moore runs straight at Jones and tackles him at say the 15- or 20-yard line, the Ravens would have had to sprint to the ball and clock it. Without any timeouts, maybe they get one or at most two shots at the end zone. Instead, Moore tried to deflect the pass and the Broncos are packing their gear this morning.

— Anti-spread guys in the NFL. It's coming gang. Colin Kaepernick. Russell Wilson. RG III. Each had big-time success this year, and yes, RGIII's injury magnifies the risk aspect of a running QB. This is especially true if more and more college teams go spread and fewer and fewer "pro-style" quarterbacks are developing at the college level.

— Folks who took the 5-at-10's entertainment suggestions: We went 1-3 on the games and 2-0 on the over-unders, so technically we went 3-3, but man it felt like a lost weekend. Maybe it was the fact that the Falcons turned a sure cover into a betting loss (they were laying 2.5 when we picked last Thursday) with a fourth-quarter fit of nervousness. Or that the Broncos felt secure until they didn't. That said, we nailed our "Honey, where's our mortgage payment, we need to invest some entertainment" lock of the week with the Pats, and we're now 8-4 for the playoffs.

— Green Bay punt returner Jeremy Ross. In a game that was closer than the final score, Ross's fumbled punt inside the Packers' 10 was monumental.

— The NFL viewer. As great as the product, Fox and CBS need to develop a better No. 2 announcing team than the cartoon show that is Moose and Goose or Dan Dierdorf and whichever Gumble (it may have been Harpo). Seriously. In truth we listened to Wes Durham do most of the Falcons game, and that guy is aces.

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Playoff takeaway/future story lines

— We know that masked in the beauty of this weekend is that football has become the ultimate team game. One through 53, you need people to contribute, and whether it's a safety (Moore) or a punt returner (Ross) or the guy that started the season as your back-up QB (Kaepernick) or your kicker (Matt Bryant), you never know who will be the story line or the season savior.

— We know that the NFL's timing could not be better as it tightens its hold as the clear favorite professional sport out there and there's no close second. As the NHL watches its season burn with labor issues and the NBA languishes unless it's LeBron or Durant or maybe the Knicks, the NFL is a power ballet of physicality and finesse. As baseball's old guard flips the bird at fans, leaving them some what hopeless, with their Hall of Fame ostrich-like, head-in-the-sand stance that if they don't vote in alleged steroid users then PEDs didn't happen, the NFL is leaving fans breathless.

— We know that Tom Brady is two more wins from being the best NFL quarterback ever. Yep, we said it and we mean it. And yes, maybe we tie winning too much to quarterback value, but if Brady wins a fourth Super Bowl that's going to be enough of the blend of individual performance, team performance and stats and numbers. Heck, if he gets to his sixth Super Bowl, that could very well be enough in the free-agency era of today's NFL.

— We know that watching Ray Lewis play with the passion of a warrior poet and the enthusiasm of a an 11-year-old is good for the soul. This is not to dismiss that night in Atlanta 13 years ago, this is merely to say that after 17 years in the NFL, Lewis — a first-ballot Hall of Famer who may be the best ever to play his position — embraces the game like a rookie covering kicks or the 53rd-man on the roster. We'll miss watching him play. (And can you name some one that looks the part more than Lewis on Sundays? Wow, with that dark shield and the pads and the arm protector, dude looks part Terminator, part Darth Vader and part Dick Butkus... only scarier.)

— We know that we'll spend a bunch of this week discussing the conference championships, but we'd be remiss if we did not recap the final minute in the Georgia Dome that capped the Falcons' head-scratching, jaw-dropping win. Consider the following: Seattle scored the go-ahead TD when their stud-duck running back fumbled into the end zone (and Seattle recovered). You can make an argument that Atlanta having two timeouts was the best thing the coaching staff did in the second half. Pete Carroll tried to ice Matt Bryant's game-winning field goal with a timeout, but as the ref was blowing the play dead the ball was snapped and Bryant kicked the ball. He missed of course on the one that didn't count, and as every golfer who has ever taken a swing knows, Bubba can flat play. Bryant was true on his mulligan. Which set up the worst squib kick in the history of the free world that traveled like 20 yards and gave the Seahawks a chance at a Hail Mary, which of course was picked off by the Falcons best wide receiver. Wow.

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This and that

— There are no more unbeaten college hoops teams after Duke and Michigan fell this weekend.

— The SEC looked a little more balanced with Texas A&M winning in Rupp and Ole Miss topping Missouri. While the Rebels' win makes them look the part of a tournament team (despite losses to Indiana State and MTSU), the story of the weekend has to be the Aggies. Think of it this way — as an SEC school Texas A&M is unbeaten at Bryant-Denny and at Rupp. You like apples? How about them apples?

— The PGA Tour's Sony Open was dominated by Georgia golfers.UGA rookie Russell Henley cared a 24-under to win in his PGA Tour debut (he also earned a Masters invite and collected a smidge more than $1 million, which means he's averaging $1 million per event as a card-carrying PGA Tour member which is likely a record). Augusta-born Charles Howell III was tied for third, former Georgia Tech star Matt Kuchar was tied for fifth with former Georgia player and Woodstock native Chris Kirk. Harris English, who was born in South Georgia, prepped at Baylor at went to UGA was tied for ninth and made $145,600 for a weekend of golf in Hawaii.

— Lance Armstrong is ready to speak "candidly" to Oprah. Hmmmm, Lance, let us speak candidly. Go ride your bike of a short dock. You're going to lie, hide, play in the shadows for decades and then wait to speak "candidly" to Oprah. Anyone want to take odds his story? We'll say it involves a heavy dose of pressure, and not wanting let down his fans and the occasional cancer reference. Is there any way this ends well?

————

Today's question

It's Monday, so knock yourself out.

Hit us with your NFL reaction. Deliver the goods.

Need a question? Here you go:

We said earlier that Brady will go down as the best ever with one more Super Bowl win and maybe even just one more trip. How about this: Bill Belichick will go down as the best NFL coach ever with one more Super Bowl stroll.

Thoughts?

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
chas9 said...

YES! Best ever NFL weekend. Not to take away from the great performances, but it seemed there were too any peccable defensive efforts against some long passes. Has Julio been used on defense before? Great idea.

How much did the six-degree weather affect Peyton?

Colin Kaepernick sounds like a Dickens character, or an accountant. But don't tell him I said so.

The SEC basketball picture is coming into focus. Both Ole Miss and A&M are better than we expected, and not just because The Aggies smashed KY. They also looked tough demolishing The Razorbacks. Their offense attacks aggressively and intelligently, passing well, rebounding with authority and shooting the lights out. Turner's 40 is the best Rupp show since Jodie Meeks smeared 54 all over The Vols.

Since The Rebel Bears are better than I thought, I'm raising my estimation of UT back to bubble territory, along with Mississippi and the Aggies.

And hard as it is to admit, I now think The Cats are also only a bubble team. Not many teams will bring the fire like A&M did, but Kentucky isn't supposed to lose serve at home. It's evident that Wiltjer can't play ball at the elite level, so the squad has too short a bench. Even without injuries, and assuming the chemistry improves, UK will only get its act together by mid-February. They'll probably be a low seed and a dangerous opponent in the tournament, but their streak of elite eights is probably over.

January 14, 2013 at 10:37 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay,

New DMN Sports (in sectionals) this week. As noted in the email, most are columns centered around Jerry's World. Needless to say, the Rob Ryan haters(including Dr. B wannabe Galloway on 103.3 FM) were "load'd fer bear" Friday along with the "analysis" of Monte Kiffin's hiring. Basically the fact a) he's 72 and b) he's affiliated with that who shall not be named.

Haven't followed the post-season. No dog in the hunt but will probably watch the NFC Championships now that the Falcons are back in it (for obvious reasons).

Greatest coach of all-time: Wade Phillips*

*just kidding

But since the Texans are now officially out of the post-season, he can head back to Golden Corral for the "Elvis Special" with Rob Ryan.

"chomp, chomp, argh, chop" "We need more fried shrimp" "burrrrrrrppp"

Saw Lady Mocs vs GSU via streaming online (hadn't seen a Lady Mocs game since before Christmas). Thank you GSU. Yes, you may have another. Thanks to Lambert, they got some sore, sore fannies.

January 14, 2013 at 11:07 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

I shoulda said this Friday, but the divisional playoffs round is the best weekend of football in the National Football League. In fact, this weekend may have been the best weekend all year, including college. New Year's Day, aside from the South Carolina-Michigan really wasn't all that great, Otter.

Pet peeve of the week, besides the weakness of the secondary announcing crews and Phil Simms saying the Texans could kick a field goal on their possession with a minute to go (um ... Phil? ... yeah ... uh, the lead is, uh, 13. Not 10. Patriots just kicked a field goal to make it a two-touchdown lead. Quit looking for Flutie's daughter in the Patriots cheerleading crew so you can pull a Musburger. Yeah ... hi ... I'm gonna need those TPS cover sheets ...yeahhhh ....) is announcers calling it the read option. Every option is a read option. Dunderheads. (That's not as fun to say as wrestleback. But I like it irregardless).

January 14, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.
Todd962 said...

Internal dialogue: "Haha, he referenced the Princess Bride and Braveheart. Today is going to be a good day. Its still a little early to decide if I will have to use my AK."

Colin Kaepernick sounds like a window licker in interviews. Someone also needs to tell him to bend his hat bills and shave his chin. Aside from that he is fun to watch. He is deceivingly fast. Its like watching a giraffe run. Once he gets his legs untangled, he is gone.

And how hard do you think Pete Carroll is kicking himself after his iceing-gone-bad. I was trying to figure out why he was yelling at the referee after making the call to ice him. Was he claiming he didnt call the timeout, claiming Bryant shouldnt have been able to try his "practice kick," or after watching the voided kick go wide, was he screaming "why'd you let me do that you idiot? I just likely cost my team the season! If you let me do something that boneheaded again, so help me...."? Couldnt have happened to a better guy in my eyes.

Dunderhead and wrestleback. Quality on both counts.

January 14, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.
orangeguy said...

Calipari, Saban, & possibly Brady/Belichick reigning champions of their respective leagues/sports... What did I do in a previous life to deserve this? Thank goodness the Yanks players are ancient.

January 14, 2013 at 11:52 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Thought about you when the UK score flashed. Still believe the Cats are going to get miles better.

And the events of the weekend — A&M and Ole Miss wins; UT loss at Bama — means the Vols fall to sixth in the SEC tourney chances. That's not a good thing considering there likely will be no more than five league teams in the dance.

JMC —

Your 'Boys hiring Monte "Abe Simpson" Kiffin is most definitely a head-scratcher. Especially considering dude was lost against the spread and as of now he's going to to see four games a year against Vick and RGIII (although Vick's time in Philly is likely done).

We'll be on the look out for the DMNs. Alwasy much appreciated.

Spy —

Concur on the quality of the action this weekend.

And we have always called it the midline option but what do we know?

Thought on Ted Roof?

Todd —

Any Ice Cube shoutout is welcomed around these parts good sir.

And if we were a special teams coach, as soon as the whistle blows snap the ball and take the freebie. Get the nerves out of the way.

That giraffe comparison is spot on. Well-played indeed sir.

Orange —

No doubt. Well, for us it's that the Sox stunk this year. Maybe the Mayans were on to something. Is this the Chinese Year of the Donkey?

— 5-at-10

Julio on defense was an excellent call (well unless he rolls an ankle on that play). Weather may not have alter Peyton; bone-headed play by the safety did though.

January 14, 2013 at 12:16 p.m.
TennFlyer said...

I would have included Peyton amongst the losers. Three turnovers including a brain cramp on the last possession that led to the winning FG were his undoing. He may go down as the greatest regular season quarterback of all time but a nine and eleven record (including 8 first round losses) play-off record keeps him from being the greatest ever.

January 14, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, much impressed with your opening. Macarthur would have appreciated your usage as he was a life-long Army football fan.

I've been away for a couple of weeks, but I did catch the three way interview of Coach Jones where his offense was characterized as "the power spread." Aside from the "power" nomenclature is there any indication the Coach feature a fullback or tight end, or will this be another four wide group like Oklahoma with tight end play at the end zone only?

January 14, 2013 at 12:51 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

"Your 'Boys hiring Monte "Abe Simpson" Kiffin is most definitely a head-scratcher. Especially considering dude was lost against the spread and as of now he's going to to see four games a year against Vick and RGIII (although Vick's time in Philly is likely done)."

Because I'm walking distance from Valley Ranch (Cowboy HQ), I already saw where Jerry is trucking in the oxygen tanks as we speak. ^^()

January 14, 2013 at 12:53 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5,

Roof didn't have a stellar resum-ay in his first go-round on The Flats. His D had good numbers in the Big Integer last year. But we're they good - or are the offenses in the Big Integer just that bad?

He's known as a very good recruiter, so that has to be a plus, yes? I think it will be an OK choice. Anything has to be better than the SS Groh-tanic.

And yes, A&M has their number.

January 14, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.
chas9 said...

I think theSEC is more likely to get three invites than six, but I agree that right now The Vols are around #6. But it's early and it's close enough that any team among #3 through #6 could end up in or out.

January 14, 2013 at 1:15 p.m.
fechancellor said...

TennFlyer, Peyton's playoff mark reminds of the under achieving Braves during their mostly fruitless record breaking run of Division Champions. Have to cut Manning some slack coming back from a year long injury in this first year with the Donkeys.

January 14, 2013 at 1:18 p.m.
chas9 said...

Leftover from Friday--In evaluating new SEC football staffs Friday, Jay mentioned UK's new offensive coordinator as a plus. Some of us think the new DC, D. J. Elliott is also a strong hire, though he hasn't been a defensive coordinator before. He helped the Seminoles play tough D.

January 14, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.
ordinaryguy said...

Could not agree more with flyer...but Peyton lack of big game wins is universally ignored especially by the tennessee media

January 14, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[If Moore runs straight at Jones and tackles him at say the 15- or 20-yard line, the Ravens would have had to sprint to the ball and clock it. Without any timeouts, maybe they get one or at most two shots at the end zone.]

Great point. This game was in the bag. Late in the game, clock winding down, trying to protect a lead, is not the time for the safety to be taking chances on an INT.

I was surprised to see that Manning's fumble in the 3rd quarter was not overturned via the Tuck Rule. The consensus among the experts and "experts" on the interwebs however suggests that fumble was the right call.

I like that the Falcons won but hate it for Russell Wilson who played phenomenal capped by his should-have-been game-winning TD drive.

Jay, what is your Rushmore of QBs right now and who is currently at the top?

January 14, 2013 at 1:33 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Flyer —

Manning's OT throw was a big-time mistake. That said, why did John Fox take a knee with 31 seconds left and two timeots? If Matty Ice can do it, you'd think Fox would let Manning take a shot.

FE to the C —

Not sure about the specifics. We do know that Cincy's offense used a tight end with great success — he was the guy that caught the 83-yarder to beat Duke.

And we were most impressed with Jones saying that no matter what system a new coach prefers, he must work with what players he has been given. Sal Sunseri and Scot Loeffler can each attest to that.

JMC —

Ha. And facelifts for everyone — Jerry included.

Spy —

Here's saying that even Sal — SAAALLLLL!!! — may have been an upgrade over the S.S. Grohss.

9er —

UK's staff may move up in our power poll since it looks like Randy Shannon may head to East Carolina as the D.C.

And we do not think there are 6 SEC tournament teams either. We'll set the over/under at 4.5.

— 5-at-10

January 14, 2013 at 1:35 p.m.
jgreeson said...

OG —

You're right. And since during the last two years Tebow is 1-1 in playoff starts and Peyton is 0-1, then Tebow must be a better QB, right?

Stew —

Rushmore of active QBs or all-time QBs at this moment?

— 5-at-10

January 14, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.
ordinaryguy said...

did not say that...just said peyton has a history of not performing in the post season...when it is a money game I think I would prefer a different signal caller...

January 14, 2013 at 1:41 p.m.
TennFlyer said...

5'er To follow up on OG, which four current QBs would you want to lead your team in the last 2 minutes of the Super Bowl if you are trailing by 4 and need a TD? I'm going Brady, Rodgers, Manning (Eli), ?????

January 14, 2013 at 2:06 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[Rushmore of active QBs or all-time QBs at this moment?]

I was thinking all-time QBs, but just for fun, can you do both?

Also, any chance for a contest this week for us to score some NFC Championship Game tickets? Just kidding...unless you're gonna do it.

January 14, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.
jgreeson said...

OG —

No you didn't say it. And we're not one of those guys that thinks Manning is the best.

We just think his postseason "struggles" are the perfect example of a QB getting too much credit/blame depending on the situation. Think of it this way: Manning's carrying the 9-11 postseason mark and three of those losses are two missed field goals that would have been game-winners by Vanderjagt and Saturday's example of the worst play by a safety in the history of football.

TennFlyer —

In the last four minutes, we take Brady, Eli, Rodgers, Peyton in order.

To win one game, we take Brady, Rodgers, Peyton, Brees, in order.

If we had the No. 1 pick in an NFL draft where all players were put into a pool, we go Luck, Rodgers, Ryan, Eli Manning.

— 5-at-10

January 14, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stewwie —

If we get our hands on some, we'll possibly throw open a contest. Wow, we haven't heard from Onetimer, but here's hoping the experience at the Dome was as much fun in person as it was on the radio/TV. Wow, what an enviroment.

Also the loudest we can ever remember the Georgia Dome was a playoff game between the Falcons and 49ers in the 1998 divisonal round. The other TV game went into overtime so the broadcast was delayed for the Falcons, but they already had the coin toss and were lined up to kick off. The Falcons special teams were on the field for like 5 minutes that felt like 50 with the intro to "Hells Bells" looped over and over as the joint was going nuts.

If memory served that was the game Garrison Hearst got seriously injured.

Contest ideas between now and then?

— 5-at-10

January 14, 2013 at 2:44 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

My Rushmore of today's QBs is ... Brady ... and that's it.

January 14, 2013 at 4:34 p.m.
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