published Monday, January 20th, 2014

5-at-10: NFL glory, UT/UTC hoops and Kiffin sings Skynyrd and Saban does the Electric Slide

Happy MLK day to everyone. Here's hoping you got the day off. If you didn't, well, here's hoping you enjoy this mid-morning distraction.

From the "Talks too much" studios, what a great Sunday. Good times.

NFL conference title games — AFC

  • photo
    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, left, holds the trophy after the AFC Championship NFL playoff game against the New England Patriots in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 26-16 to advance to the Super Bowl.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

That was an entertaining Sunday with Denver beating New England 26-16 and Seattle beating San Francisco 23-17. Peyton Manning's Broncos will face the Seahawks in the Super Bowl in 13 days. We know this.

What else do we know from the AFC title game?

We know that Manning was nearly perfect, going 32-of-43 for 400 yards and leading his team to points on six consecutive drives. We know that this game will be a major feather in the cap of Manning's legacy, considering he did that against his nemeses Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and he did it in the AFC title game. If Manning and Co. can win the Super Bowl, well, the argument that Manning is the best ever will be tough to counter.

We know that Manning, regardless of what happens in NYC in the Super Bowl, has had the greatest single season for a quarterback ever. In fact, if Manning and Co. win the Super Bowl, here's saying that this will be the best single season for an individual in football history and on the Rushmore of individual single-seasons in team sports history up there with Wilt averaging 50 a night (dude scored a lot... Thank you, thank you), Babe hitting 54 homers in 1927 (his total was more than every other AL team) and Gretzky (pick any of the early 1980s seasons, but likely 81-82).

We know that Tom Brady has played 26 postseason games and is 16-4 against teams with a non-Manning quarterback.

We know that the Broncos are a slight favorite in the Super Bowl and with Manning as the centerpiece, the hype will be monstrous.

————

NFL conference title games — NFC

The Seahawks will certainly be a small underdog according to Vegas and the official 'villain' team in this Super Bowl match-up for two reasons: 1) Peyton Manning; 2) The Richard Sherman smack-talk after Seattle's win over San Francisco.

Before we go any further, we must say the following facts in defense of Richard Sherman:

Point a: They shoved a microphone in his face moments after making the biggest play of the game — and likely in Seahawks history — that turned a potential game-winning TD pass into a Super Bowl ticket-clinching interception and we expected him not to be emotional? Really?

Point b: Everyone criticizes athletes and coaches for speaking in cliches and 'coach-speak' and now they are going to blast a guy for speaking with emotion and heart.

Point c: Sherman is a cornerback — the best cornerback in the league — and corners have to be a different bunch of geese when it comes to confidence. That is a group of cats that have to believe they are bullet-proof and 10-feet tall or they will get exposed and blistered in front of millions.

Point d: Sherman took to the Twitter afterward and said there was a ton of smack-talk before the game from both sides — which hardly seems like a stretch since these teams are division rivals and everyone this side of Jim Harbaugh mocked Cam Newton's 'Superman' move last week. (Side note: Sherman's Tweet, "A lion doesn't concern himself with the opinions of a sheep." was every bit as dominant as his play.)

Did Sherman go a step too far? More than likely, and certainly by touching Michael Crabtree after the game — surprised there was not a fight there all things considered. And yes, you can celebrate without rubbing the other guys' noses in it, so we are not endorsing Sherman per se, but we certainly are not going to blast him either.

AS for the 49ers, he fundamental truth is if those players do not like it, beat him. This is still sports and thankfully it is still more meritocracy than any other walk of life, so if you want to shut someone up, beat them. Period.

That said, the ups and downs of the 59:38 of the Seahawks win before Sherman made his amazing, game-saving, smack-talk-worthy play was great theater. The game was intensely physical and physically intense. It was dominated by defense, and that domination forced near-perfection for major offensive strides.

It also raised a slew of questions about whether Colin Kaepernick can be 'That' guy for the 49ers for years to come. He ran for 130 yards — 58 of that coming on one big first-half run — but managed just 32 rushing yards after the half. Forced to stay in the pocket after the adjustments at intermission, Kaepernick finished with three fourth-quarter turnovers that crippled the 49ers. In fact, Kaepernick finished just 14-of-24 despite not being blitzed once.

You have to wonder if the 49ers are willing to push in the $15-18 million that a bona fide starting QB demands considering it would cut into the team's salary cap and force major roster overhaul.

————

Hoops

The paths of the UT Vols and the UTC Mocs men's basketball programs are currently on opposite trajectories despite roughly similar records.

  • photo
    Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) shoots over Auburn center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum (0) at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville in this file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Vols are 11-6 and 2-2 in the SEC. They are confounding and plodding. The NCAA tournament appears within reach, but this is a senior-dominated team in a freshman-oriented game and that experience has helped the Vols only marginally. Here's TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's view of the Vols' close-but-no-cigar loss http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2014/jan/19/are-vols-just-good-enough-to-fall-short/#comments at Kentucky on Saturday.

The Mocs on the other hand are eye-poppingly entertaining. Here are reports from TFP Mocs hoops ace David Uchiyama after Saturday's win and looking at the Mocs' road success.

UTC is 12-8 and has won eight in a row. The Mocs are 6-0 in a subpar SoCon, but that's way better than anyone expected and way better than anyone could have dreamed, regardless of the status of the league.

Both the Mocs and Vols play hard, but UTC in Will Wade's first year, seem to be the more efficient and confident team, which is a credit to Wade and his staff and puzzling for Cuonzo Martin and Co.

The Vols should be better and they should be mentally tougher. They are not.

The Mocs should be struggling in a lot of ways and they would get a pass because of the newness of the system and the staff. They have not accepted either fact.

Strange times indeed.

————

This and that

— As all-around TFP ace Stephen Hargis tells us here, the Mocs now have 11 football commitments with a little more than two weeks left before signing day. There is nice balance in the class, too, as of the 11, there are four linemen (a potential fifth, depending what the future holds for former East Hamilton tight end and UTC commit Bailey Lenoir), three defensive backs and a running back. We feel sure the Mocs would like to add a QB and at least one WR, but the class has a good look for sure.

— Vandy hired Derek Mason — no, not that Derrick Mason — as its next head coach. The former Stanford defensive coordinator won the news conference over the weekend for sure. But we all know winning the news conference does not count for much in the grand scheme of things.

— Southern man don't need him around any how. Holy buckets, according to reports, Nick Saban did the Electric Slide and Lane Kiffin sang "Sweet Home Alabama" during a get-together Saturday night with recruits parents at Saban's home. If there was video of this, it would melt the internet. As good as this Alabama recruiting class is — and it's one of the best ever — if Saban and Kiffin spend more than one season together, the Tide's 2015 class could be sick.

— Side point from the NFL: Are we ready for a football world in which Pete Carroll could have a could join some elite company, joining Jimmie Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only coaches to win a national title and a Super Bowl. And Carroll would be the only one with a BCS title and a Super Bowl. Yes Pete Carroll.

— That said, we know we can count on a few things in sports. And Phil Mickelson is one of them. Dude was in position to win the European Tour event he was in this weekend when he sprayed a driver wildly on the par-4 13th. It landed under a bush and Lefty tried to hit a right-handed punch out that he actually double-hit before taking a drop. He made a triple and lost by a shot. Afterward he said, "I've done some dumb s* in my career." Yes you have Phil, but in a sports world filled with craziness, you may be the most predictably unpredictable part of it.

—————

Today's question

Who won the weekend?

Did Manning's legacy change Sunday? Did Brady's?

How much would you pay to see the video of Kiffin singing Sweet Home Alabama?

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 ...

9
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.
jomo11 said...

Jay- looks like Thursday's UTC game vs. Elon ( the team picked to win the SoCon this year ) is stacking up to be a big game. And the crowd size is another test as to rather or not Chattanooga is a good sports town or not ? How do you see the matchups in this game ?

January 20, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.
chas9 said...

Is Richard Sherman the greatest Sherman ever?

If you can win by 8, even when WC-S goes 0 points/3 boards for the game and Randle goes 2 points/0boards for the second half, you're a pretty good team.

If you can beat Tennessee, even when Stokes goes for 20/15 and Barton gets 150% of his usual assists, you're a pretty good team.

I said UK would own the paint, but UT outrebounded the nation's best offensive rebounding team by a 15 or 16 margin. Shows what I know.

But the way you outbound The Cats is to pack the paint denser than a can of sardines. The Vols executed that well, but that leaves the three-point shot wide open.

So Kentucky had its best thee-point game in living memory, hitting 7 of 16. They can't count on consistently hitting 44% (they're #296 in 3-poiners/game), but it's good to know they have some shooters since other teams will try packing the paint to slow down their bigs.

Contrariwise, Counzo's charges are deficient at long range, and that hurts their chances.

The very young UK has tended to have lots of turnovers, but won the battle against pesky UT, 12-8. Good sign for the Cats. Their guard play is improving. And solid minutes from Dakari is a promising development, too. But better would be for Cauley-Stein to bounce back.

Yes, the Vols' experience helped them, but I think they didn't adjust as well as did the Cats. Credit to the smarts of the players and coaches.

Interesting stats: Stokes by his own self outrebounded UK for the first half. Randle and WC_S combined to grab a whopping 5 rebounds for the game.

January 20, 2014 at 10:58 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Even after Lefty's triple stumble, he birdied two more times coming in and had a putt for eagle to tie on the 18th. It wasn't a great eagle putt - about 50 feet - but a chance to tie nonetheless. And then there's Rory, whose two stroke penalty incurred Saturday cost him a chance at winning. Still, there were entertaining preludes to the conference championship games, with both Lefty and Rory in contention down to their last shots and a terrific Boston-Chicago matchup in a Stanley Cup Final reprise.

What the Spy saw from Sunday:

  1. I fully expected the next thing to be said after Richard Sherman (and poor Erin Andrews. She knew she'd be getting something. But that? She needs a comforting shoulder upon which to lean. I am here for her) went off, was Gordon Solie introducing our next match from Cobb County Civic Center, Mr. Wrestling II vs. Nikita Koloff for the U.S. Championship live on WCW on a Saturday afternoon on TBS.

  2. Wes Welker is a punk. Period.

  3. How in the world did that Patriots team ever get that far? Playing without an All Pro nose tackle, an All Pro linebacker, an All Pro defensive tackle, another starting linebacker, the best tight end in the league and a starting right tackle - not to mention another starter in the slammer - and they were in the conference championship game?

  4. Stories/takes/columns on somebody's "legacy" just bore the crap out of me. Sorry Weeds. Love ya big fella, but that kind of stuff just make go watch Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. And when are they ever gonna do Tubby's?

January 20, 2014 at 11:12 a.m.
fechancellor said...

Spy,

Sherman also reminded me of Nikita Koloff, "RIIIIIIIIIIIICCCC FlAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIRRRR, you no win RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIC FLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIRRR." I'm also a big fan of Mr. Westling No. 4, he's the love child of Tully Blanchard and Baby Doll, which is why he chose to wear a mask. Mr. Wrestling No. 4 was raised at the David Crockett, Sr. Home for Wrestlngs Orphans. Located in parts unknown, of course.

Yes, Payton won a big game, but it's only meaningful long term if he can win the Super one. Can Manning continue embarrassing defenses as he has all year, or will the Seattle secondary to jump some of Manning's favorite routes allowing time for the pass rush to take Manning outside his comfort zone?

More Sherman, here's a man on the make for a Wheaties Box and his own Head and Shoulders gig, if Crabtree's posse doesn't drive by first.

January 20, 2014 at 12:03 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

It will be interesting to see Thursday night — considering most UTC fans say, "there'd be more support if they'd win." Well, they are winning.

9er —

We're all in on Mr. Sherman.

The Cats looked very efficient, especially in the second half.

If Harrison plays like that in March, he'll be returning to Dallas in April.

Spy —

There was a wrestling feel to the Sunday nightcap. Would that make Erin Andrews Miss Elizabeth? Ohhh YEAH.

FE to the C —

Yes, the Super Bowl does carry super meaning now.

And Sherman's crazy like a fox.

January 20, 2014 at 1:29 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[Did Manning's legacy change Sunday? Did Brady's?]

Peyton, no. How can you be better than the best? Brady, probably not. One game won't change the fact that he's been a great QB. But he clearly got outplayed by his counterpart yesterday. And with no Super Bowl wins since Spygate, it makes you wonder if they're capable of going the distance without any extra illegal help.

This just in...Brady just overthrew another open receiver.

Sherman and Fox Sports are both to blame for the outburst after the Seattle win. Sherman is to blame because many other players can control themselves enough in an emotional moment to not use that 30 seconds to talk smack and look like a horse's behind in front of millions of viewers. (Seriously...I thought he was about to jump through the TV screen and try to choke somebody.) Fox Sports is to blame because they should have expected nothing less from the outlandish, self-absorbed Sherman. Next time, interview someone else. Don't give Sherman another outlet for his self-serving outbursts.

[The Mocs are 6-0 in a subpar SoCon, but that's way better than anyone expected and way better than anyone could have dreamed, regardless of the status of the league.]

I expected 4-2 or 5-1 to this point, but certainly not a clean sweep of the first 6. "Way better"? What was everyone else thinking...0-6? 1-5? Maybe I'm the only one who predicted 10 conference wins for this squad, but I don't think that was unreasonable. If we expect Wade to eventually get to 13 or 14 conference wins each year, then this year's bunch should have had no problem getting to 10. Wade has done very well preparing these guys for each game and also playing to their strengths.

January 20, 2014 at 1:37 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- its not really UTC fans, it's Chattanooga sports fans. If there are really sports fans in our fair city

January 20, 2014 at 1:57 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stewwie —

We had some high hopes before the year for these Mocs and especially for Wade.

We typed 'way better' mainly because after the non-conference schedule, we thought our preseason hopes were too lofty.

We don't think Peyton is the best ever, so that performance did improve his legacy in our eyes.

As for Sherman, we loved his reaction. Dude was truthful and real, and anyone who thinks he's a dumb street-punk, well know that he graduated second in his class in high school, got a communications degree from Stanford and is working on his Masters.

January 20, 2014 at 2:01 p.m.
Stewwie said...

For most people, Peyton's performance yesterday probably resulted in only a marginal improvement in his legacy. Yes, it was a big win over Brady/Belichick, but when folks look back on his career, they are still able to be critical (fair or unfair) of his overall unfavorable record against the Pats.

But Peyton has a chance now to do something no other QB has done...win the big one with 2 different teams. And after a record-setting year, a win in the big game would be huge especially since Brady didn't do it after a similar-type season in '07. And he can fully overcome the (fair or unfair) knock on him for not winning in the cold if he can win the big one in the elements in NY. Thus, for most folks, if he can win this next game, his legacy will take a huge step forward for those various reasons.

Sherman majored in communications? He certainly knows how to get his point across. As for being real, I'd prefer Jameis Winston's emotional response to a big win than Sherman's. One of those guys is happy for the team, and one of those guys is happy for himself and how good he thinks he is.

January 20, 2014 at 3:19 p.m.
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