Season ends for Earl Thomas, Bill Belichick
When the sun set Sunday evening National Football League playoff teams from both ends of the spectrum had been eliminated. What we’re referring to is that the team with the longest odds of winning Super Bowl XLV and the one most favored to win the world championship of pro football both were bounced from the NFL playoffs Sunday.
The Seattle Seahawks, who the Vegas Boys placed 30-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl, ran into a buzz-saw at Soldier Field in the form of the Chicago Bears, who jumped out to an early 21-0 lead and then hung on to finally win 31-24.
And the highly-favored New England Patriots, who were a 1.2-one favorite to win the Super Bowl, fell victim to the boisterous New York Jets, a nine-point underdog, 28-21.
This meant the end of a great season for rookie free safety Earl Thomas of West Orange-Stark High and the University of Texas Longhorns football programs, who earned a starting position with the Seahawks and played in all 18 games.
The season was virtually learn-as-you-go process, and Earl certainly held his own among the free safeties in the NFL. The entire Seattle team got better as the season progressed, winning the NFC West Division championship on the final game of the regular season and then upsetting the world champion New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Each Seahawk player earned $19,000 for the first round and an additional $21,000 in Sunday’s game at Chicago. But the players who felt like they got short-changed out of some additional playoff money were those on the New England Patriots, who figured they would cash in on some of the Super Bowl payoff. However, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan spouted off all week about having a game plan that would defeat the Patriots and he delivered as promised.
Ryan was almost as brash as Jets’ quarterback Joe Namath was before Super Bowl III when he guaranteed a win over the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts and then led his team to a 16-7 victory.
The Jets seem to enjoy battling against the odds and will have that chance again Sunday when they travel to meet the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the 5:30 p.m. AFC Championship game. The Jets are 1-7 all-time at Pittsburgh and 0-3 all-time on the road in AFC Championships. They lost in 1982, 1998 and 2009.
And on the other side of the coin the Steelers will be making their 15th appearance in the AFC championship game, which is the most in NFL history.
Pittsburgh trailed its nemesis the Baltimore Ravens 21-7 at halftime and then scored 17 unanswered points before Billy Cundiff booted a 24-yard field goal to tie the score at 24-24 with 3:54 left in regulation.
With less than two minutes to got Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass as far as he could downfield that rookie Antonio Brown ran under and grabbed inside the 10-yard line.
Four plays later battering ram Rashard Mendenhall plowed into the end zone from two yards out for the decisive touchdown with 1:33 left, giving the Steelers a 31-24 lead which turned out to be the final score and putting Pittsburgh into the AFC championship game.
Green Bay reached the NFC championship game with a convincing 48-21 victory over three-point favored Atlanta Saturday night in the Georgia Dome. The Packers’ win coupled with Chicago’s 35-24 victory over Seattle on Sunday set up the 182nd game between these two old rivalries that dates back 90 years, but the first-ever for the NFC championship.
Chicago leads the series 91-83-6 and won the only time in the postseason over Green Bay 33-14 in the Western Division playoffs on Dec. 14, 1941 at Wrigley Field.
The early line on the Conference championship games has Green Bay favored over Chicago by three points in the NFC while Pittsburgh is a 3 ½-point favorite over those amazing New York Jets in the AFC. Last weekend Green Bay was 4-1 to win the Super Bowl, both Pittsburgh and Chicago were 5-1 and the Jets were 10-1.
This Korner has been just a mesmerized by Rex Ryan’s optimism as his 53 players and believes the Jets will pull off still another upset, beating the Steelers 19-17 at Heinz’ Field in Sunday’s 5:30 p.m. game.
In the NFC game at 2 p.m. we like the Packers to keep right on rolling into Super Bowl XLV at Jerry Jones Stadium after a 41-23 win over the Bears in Chicago.
KWICKIES…Our alma mater McNeese State is the only basketball team still undefeated in Southland Conference play with a 3-0 loop record in the East Division. The Cowboys, 11-5 overall, play at Southeastern Louisiana tonight (Wed.) The Lamar Cardinals, the nation’s second highest-scoring team, are on their heels with a 2-1 SLC mark and 8-8 overall.
Former West Orange-Stark basketball star Brittney Scott continues to show excellent senior leadership at the University of Houston with the Lady Cougars tied for first place with Tulane in the Conference USA standings with 4-0 records. Scott poured in 15 points Sunday as the Lady Coogs downed UTEP 70-62. Houston visits UAB Thursday for a 7 p.m. contest.
An editorial in Sunday’s sports section of the Houston Chronicle by Richard Justice challenges the Houston Texans to offer a contract to former Texas Longhorn star quarterback Vince Young much like the Philadelphia Eagles did with Michael Vick. Justice explains that Young won’t be competing for Matt Schaub’s job but could be used in Wildcat formations as a runner, passer or even a receiver and would force opponents to account for him before every snap which would take some of their focus off Adrian Foster, Andre Johnson and Schaub. It could give Young a new start in the NFL to get his good name back. And it certainly couldn’t hurt the Texans.
After the Philadelphia Eagles gave up 377 points this season—the most since 1974—a team spokesman on Saturday confirmed the firing of defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who replaced longtime coordinator Jim Johnson after he died of cancer in 2009.
JUST BETWEEN US…Dallas Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett along with Idiot Owner Jerry Jones hired Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator. Rob, who is just as much a loose cannon as his brother Rex of the New York Jets, held a similar position with the Cleveland Browns. But his future was in jeopardy after the Browns fired head coach Eric Mangini last week. Let’s hope Rob Ryan and Jerry Jones don’t try to “out-flake” each other along the way.