Jay Cutler's one game away from the Super Bowl? That's like Keanu Reeves being one block away from the Academy Awards. How does one make sense of such stupefying NFL success, plus Rex Ryan? Couch Slouch - despite a sore back and a slumping mind - manned the post over the weekend to file this playoff report:
Steelers 31, Ravens 24: So we go to a replay review on the opening kickoff. What's next - throw the challenge flag on the coin flip? I was in such a blind rage over this, I literally missed the first quarter-and-a-half.
When I resumed watching - as a Steelers fan - I was disgusted. Every time I looked up, Terrell Suggs was sacking Ben Roethlisberger. On several plays, it appeared Suggs was in the Steelers huddle, but the game was so poorly officiated, nobody noticed it.
Magically, my prayers were answered - for the sake of argument, let's pretend that I pray - in the waning minutes. Remember David Tyree's ball-pressed-against-his-helmet-with-his-right-hand 32-yard catch in Super Bowl 42? The Steelers' Antonio Brown executed his own ball-pressed-against-his-helmet-with-his-right-hand 58-yard catch, and as I popped open a PBR, I heard Ray Lewis's distant wailing deep into the ain't-the-beer-cold night.
Packers 48, Falcons 21: Let's talk about the Falcons' head coach first - okay, how many of you knew his name before the game? It's Mike Smith. Mike Smith? Isn't that how you sign the registry when you're checking into a motel for an adulterous affair? Mike Smith? Isn't that the guy who's shift manager at EZ Lube? Mike Smith? Aren't half the White Pages in Durham, N.C., filled with Mike Smiths?
Ah, but here's the name to remember: Aaron Rodgers. In three career playoff games, Rodgers is now 77 of 105 for 969 yards, 10 touchdown passes and one interception. It looks like the Packers made the right decision in 2008 - Rodgers is younger, healthier and maybe as good as Brett Favre, and I don't think he even has a text-messaging plan.
The Packers were so dominant, three of the 10 Punt, Pass and Kick winners on site were Wisconsin kids. Meanwhile, the Falcons were so bad, it was like watching a Seahawks game.
Bears 35, Seahawks 24: At the outset, Fox's Daryl Johnston offered that it would be "a chess match at the line of scrimmage." That ended the audio portion of the game for me.
On Cutler's first postseason pass ever, he threw a 58-yard touchdown to Greg Olsen. That ended the video portion of the game for me.
Johnston's first year at Fox, somebody told him: "You sound great. Give us more." Then, his second year at Fox, somebody told him: "You still sound great. Give us more." Then, his third year, somebody said, "You sound unbelievably great. Give us even more." We're now in Year 10 - Johnston starts talking Sunday at dawn and doesn't stop until Sunday at dusk. If he says grace before Sunday dinner, nobody ever eats.
My anti-Cutlerism is well-documented. He remains the Gen Y Jeff George: gunslinger arm, water-pistol head. And now he's 60 minutes from the Super Bowl - if he gets there, I'll watch the game with a helmet on and try to sack him from my sofa.
Jets 28, Patriots 21: The last time I rooted for Bill Belichick might've been late 1991, when his Browns played Sam Wyche's Bengals; well, it's going to be another 19 years before I do it again.
Maybe Ryan outcoached Belichick, maybe Belichick outsmarted himself. He briefly benched Wes Welker for wagging his tongue. He had Tom Brady blocking on a reverse. He called a disastrous fake punt. Plus his Patriots executed an excruciating 14-play drive to run out the clock in the fourth quarter - and they were trailing by 10 points.
I'd like to root for Ryan - he's a barrel of fun: loud, profane and blustery, masking a million insecurities (suddenly, I'm Dr. Phil!) - but I can't. I'd rather root for jet lag than root for the Jets.
I can only pray - for real - that Mike Tomlin outcoaches Ryan next Sunday.
Q. So Cam Newton declared he was going pro and would accept money to play football. Didn't his father already make that declaration for him last year? (Steve Van Tassell; Alexandria, Va.)
A. You know, my dad tried getting me work at T.G.I. Friday's. Big difference, though - it didn't threaten my "amateur dishwasher" status.
Q. Football announcers talk about the clock in the heads of quarterbacks for knowing when to get rid of the ball. Did your ex-wives have clocks in their heads telling them when to get rid of you? (Dave Bartels; Franklin, Wis.)
A. Actually, each of them wrote it down on a calendar.
Q. If Bill Belichick keeps the red challenge flag in his sock, what does he keep in his pockets? (Patrick Smullen; Mentor, Ohio)
A. Nineteen years worth of lint, and his Sam's Club card.
Q. Prior to the Steelers boarding a flight, should TSA agents be warned that James Harrison might spear them? (John Swope; Irwin, Pa.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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