It will be a Packers-Steelers matchup in two weeks, giving America a pedigreed Super Bowl Sunday while Rex Ryan tries to outcoach his brother Rob on Madden NFL 11.
This splendid Championship Sunday began at Soldier Field.
It was so cold in Chicago, George Halas turned over in his grave and turned on the space heater.
This one seemingly came down to Aaron Rodgers vs. Jay Cutler. Couch Slouch was giddy - Rodgers feels like April in Paris, Cutler feels like nuclear winter.
If Cutler were a meter maid, he'd write parking tickets off his back foot.
Anyway, the Bears decided Matt Forte would be their go-to guy, akin to Subway's 1999 decision to make Jared its go-to guy. The Packers suffocated the Bears and, despite Rodgers making a Cutler-type mistake with a red-zone interception that Brian Urlacher nearly returned for a touchdown, led by 14-0 midway through the third quarter.
Cutler left shortly after that with a bad knee and Todd Collins came in, which is the NFL equivalent of closing your business for inventory. After Collins was less effective than a eunuch at the Playboy Mansion, the Bears called on Caleb Hanie. Yes, Caleb Hanie. I immediately Googled "Caleb Hanie" and it said, "Who?" I'm not even certain Hanie was on the Bears' roster when the game began.
Yet he turned out to be the best quarterback on the field, leading two improbable fourth-quarter touchdown drives before Shields's last-minute interception snuffed out the Bears' hopes.
Final score: Packers 21, Bears 14. It was so glorious, I shifted my timeshare next winter from Grenada to Green Bay.
(Column Intermission: How many of you watched the most bizarre bowling match in TV history Saturday? Mika Koivuniemi won the PBA's Tournament of Champions on ABC, but it was his semifinal against qualifier Tom Daugherty that was stunning spectacle. As Koivuniemi rolled toward a perfect game - he left the 10 pin on his final shot to be denied - Daugherty, in his TV debut, rolled split after split. It was excruciating to witness, but you couldn't turn away. Koivuniemi increased his lead every frame of the match, from 21 pins in the first, to 33 in the second, to 55, 76, 100, 121, 134, 157, 178 and, ultimately, 199. Final score: 299-100, Daugherty posting the lowest score in televised PBA history. Boy, the man could've used a Pabst.)
Onward to Heinz Field!
It was so cold in Pittsburgh, George Halas turned over in his grave again and switched the space heater from low to medium.
Let me first get the last word in on this recent Rex Ryan deification: His Jets don't win or lose with grace. They're big-city yokels, reflective of their leader. Rex might be a fabulous coach, but the only way I ever invite him to dinner at my home is if we build a drive-thru and he orders through a clown's mouth.
By the way, Rex, you haven't won anything. You've never won your division or conference, you've never been to the Super Bowl. This year, you lasted one more week than the Seattle Seahawks, which makes you a decent team with a loud mouth.
Uh, so where was the Jets' run defense? Actually, it is difficult to strut and tackle at the same time.
From down 24-0, the Jets battled back - and I have to acknowledge Mark Sanchez's big-game, big-play penchant - but they ran out of hot air and smash-mouth swagger.
Final score: Steelers 24, Jets 19. It was so glorious, I opened my tasting-room window and shouted out, "S-T-E-E-L-E-R-S, Steelers, Steelers, Steelers!"
Well, at least Rex now can concentrate on flipping off fans at the Pro Bowl for the second straight year.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Charles Barkley says he won't quit gambling. You know Vegas, Slouch - isn't he destined to go broke? (Rick Carlson; Indianapolis)
A. You are a wise, wise soul - indeed, you can't beat the house. I am reminded of an old Greek proverb, "The dice of God are always loaded."
Q. Ultimately, haven't you failed? (Stephen Simon; Montclair, N.J.)
A. The late film director Robert Altman once engaged in a jokey contest to create fake country-music song titles. He made up one that perfectly encapsulated his career, Keith Olbermann's career and mine: "I'm Swimming Through the Ashes of All the Bridges I Burned."
Q. When did the first Gatorade celebration take place? My buddy says it was after an NFL playoff victory; I think it involved your first or second wife on the courthouse steps when the divorce was finalized. (Art Donahue; East Greenbush, N.Y.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Have you considered corporate sponsorship of your Column Intermissions? (Chas Kikel; Cleveland Heights, Ohio)
A. Shirley, I've finally found an agent!
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