Steelers vs. Packers: an old-timey Super Bowl
Regardless whether Sunday’s NFL Conference championship games came out the way you wanted or not, the two teams that were favored to win did just that in freezing cold conditions, setting up a match-up between two of the long-time franchises in the league.
Both the 3 1/2-point favored Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers scored touchdowns on their opening drives and then hung on for victories against two other teams that have been around the league for quite a while too, the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets.
The Packers and Bears were playing each other for the 182nd time, dating back to the early1920’s when both teams were members of the American Professional Football Association. Actually the Bears franchise began in 1920 as the Decatur Staley’s. Green Bay came in the following year.
But as many times as they played against each other, Sunday’s game, which was won by the Packers 21-14, was the first time for the National Football Conference championship.
The two teams, whose stadiums are located only 200 miles apart, played in 1941, a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Chicago won 33-14 in the Western Division playoffs.
The Green Bay defense protected the first-half 14-0 lead and punished Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, forcing him out of the game on the first series of the second half.
His backup Todd Collins lasted only two series, before emergency quarterback Caleb Hanie, who played at Forney High School near Dallas, came in and finished the game for the Bears.
Hanie led their second-half rally with a pair of touchdown passes that nearly overtook the visiting Packers, reducing the deficit to 21-14 late in the fourth period. He had a chance to win the game but threw a game-sealing interception on a fourth-down play that was picked off by Sam Shields with 37 seconds left in the game.
After traveling to Indianapolis and defeating quarterback Peyton Manning and then New England and unseating quarterback Tom Brady, the boisterous and brash New York Jets visited Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in Sunday’s second game for a bout with the Steelers, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.
The brilliant Jets defense that had unseated both the Colts and Patriots didn’t show up in the first half at Pittsburgh as the Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage and rolled to a 24-0 first-half lead. But the New York offense put up 19 unanswered points in the second half as the Jets plotted a third-straight upset victory.
With 3:06 left in the game, Jets flamboyant coach Rex Ryan decided against an on-side kick and depended on his defense to make another stop. Ryan figured with three time outs and the two-minute warning, this was the best strategy.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had other ideas and instead of running the football and eating up the clock, he passed for two key first downs and then ran out the clock to punch his team’s ticket to Super Bowl XLV in Jerry Jones’ new stadium in Arlington on Feb. 6.
Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin, who is going to his second Super Bowl in his four- year tenure, analyzed his team’s 24-19 victory over the Jets. “The first 30 minutes were conference-championship worthy,” the 38-year old coach pointed out, “but we kind of limped home. We’re not going to complain about style points.”
It appeared to this Korner that Tomlin had his Steelers more ready to play a really physical football game than Rex Ryan did. For his effort, Pittsburgh is in its record-tying eighth trip to the Big Dance. The Dallas Cowboys have also played in eight Super Bowls.
The Green Bay Packers, who are the first No. 6-seed to win the NFC Conference championship and the 10th different team to do it in the last 10 years, will be playing in their fifth Super Bowl. The Packers are a slight favorite over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV based on their popularity among bettors during the past few weeks.
KWICKIES…Physical fitness guru Jack LeLanne died early this week at the age of 96. The devout vegetarian, who never ate processed foods, continued his rigid workout routine right up until the time of his death.
This Korner has a hard time understanding why the University of Houston Lady Cougars are not included on the Associated Press’ Top 25 Women’s Basketball Poll. The Lady Coogs, led by senior Brittney Scott of West Orange-Stark, are leading Conference USA with an unblemished 6-0 record and are 15-4 for the season. Ohio State is No. 25 with a 12-6 record, Iowa State is 13-5 and No. 20 and Georgetown is No. 16 with a 15-5 record. The Lady Coogs’ next game is Thursday at Central Florida.
And while on the subject, the Lamar men’s basketball team slipped into first place in the Southland Conference East Division standings after walloping Central Arkansas 107-72 Saturday night and improving their loop mark to 3-1. The Cards next game is today (Wed.) against the Northwestern State Demons.
Houston native Carl Crawford, who recently signed the 10th largest contract in major league baseball history, a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, works out at 7:30 a.m. daily with trainer Lee Fiocchi at Houston Christian High School. At age 29 Crawford is the youngest player in major league history to hit 100 home runs, 100 triples and 400 stolen bases. Second-place Lou Brock did it when he was 32 years, 11 months. Ty Cobb was 38 years, 4 months when he accomplished the feat.
After Martin Kaymer won the golf tournament in Abu Dhabi last weekend, he moved into second place in the world ranking and Tiger Woods slipped down to No. 3. Lee Westwood is No. 1. Tiger begins his 2011 season Thursday at Torrey Pines, where he seldom loses.
Several Orange area running enthusiasts are looking forward to the 40th annual Chevron Houston marathon Sunday where more than 22,000 participants are expected to compete in the 26.2 mile run.
JUST BETWEEN US…Although New York Jets mastermind head coach Rex Ryan claims his team will pick up next season right where they left off in the playoffs this year, his first order would be to make sure he can re-sign those 17 free agents on his current roster. The front office will have to decide what they want to do with veteran wideouts Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes plus mouthy cornerback Antonio Cromartie and wide receiver/kick-returner Brad Smith who signed a one-year tender last summer.