Home field a disadvantage for Atlanta and Patriots
Houston Texans fans were very disgruntled when their team lost three of their final four regular-season football games and missed out on having the home field advantage for the entire National Football League playoffs.
But if they watched the conference championship games Sunday, they found out real fast that the home-field advantage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Both the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots earned the right to host the entire playoffs at their respective home stadiums, but both teams fell flat on their faces in their game to determine who would be playing in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 at New Orleans’ Superdome.
Besides not taking advantage of playing in front of the friendly fans at their home park, neither the Falcons nor the Patriots could even muster a single point after the halftime intermission.
And as a result of their inadequacies, this year’s Super Bowl will feature the Harbaugh Brothers leading their respective teams into battle for that coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy that is presented to the winning team.
The San Francisco 49ers, led by their coach Jim Harbaugh, journeyed across the country from the West Coast to Atlanta as a four-point favorite and did just that—beat the Falcons by four points, 28-24, Sunday afternoon in the National Football Conference championship game.
A few minutes after that game ended John Harbaugh, who coaches the Baltimore Ravens, journeyed a couple hundred miles northeast to Foxborough, MA. as 9 ½-point underdogs and overpowered the New England Patriots 28-13 in the AFC title game at Gillette Stadium as the loyal fans watched in disbelief.
Atlanta had the same problem against the 49ers that it had in last week’s semifinal game against the Seattle Seahawks—the Falcons rolled to a huge lead in the first half and then began playing not-to-lose instead of continuing to pound the opponent for the entire 60 minutes.
The Falcons were fortunate that Bridge City’s Matt Bryant rescued them from the brink of defeat against Seattle after they watched their 28-6 lead disintegrate into a 29-28 deficit with 11 seconds left. Bryant calmly booted a 49-yard field goal for a 30-28 victory which enabled them to host the 49ers last Sunday.
But a couple of costly turnovers and a tenacious San Francisco 49ers defense sealed Atlanta’s fate in the second half and turned the Falcons early 17-0 lead into another playoff loss which has plagued the franchise ever since Mike Smith became their coach and Matt Ryan was named as the starting quarterback.
The 49ers (13-4-1) now will face Baltimore in New Orleans Feb. 3 looking to join Pittsburgh as the only franchises with six Super Bowl titles. But the Ravens will have a lot to say about that.
Baltimore reached its first Super Bowl in 12 years thanks to three touchdown passes by quarterback Joe Flacco and a sterling defense led by17-year veteran Ray Lewis, who will retire after the game against the 49ers.
It was the sixth road win for Flacco which are the most in playoff history. He also is the only quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.
The Ravens seem to play their best football as the underdogs on the road and will get another chance at it in the Super bowl where the Las Vegas Boys had the 49ers as a five-point favorite, which has already dropped to 4 ½ points in less than 24 hours. This Korner believes that by kickoff San Francisco will be favored by only a field goal or less.
New England quarterback Tom Brady was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime, but the Ravens’ defense completely shut down the Patriots in the second half. It also marked the first time for the Pats to lose an AFC championship game at home.
By the time the Super Bowl kicks off in New Orleans football fans will be tired of hearing about the game being the first battle for the NFL World Championship between brothers.
And I’ve refrained over the last 50 years of suggesting how one should bet on an athletic contest, but this time I can guarantee that if you put some money on the team whose head coach has the initials “J.H.” you won’t lose.
KWICKIES…Wonder how much this “dead girlfriend hoax” will hurt Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s chance of being a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft? Perhaps the team that drafts him might throw in a blow-up doll as part of his signing bonus to keep him company while he’s off the football field.
And while on the subject, a record 73 underclassmen, including six first-team All-Americans, were approved last week for the NFL draft. LSU led the way by losing 11 players. Florida State, Tennessee and Florida had four while Michigan State, Stanford, Georgia and Oklahoma each lost three.
The passing of one of my favorite baseball players—Stan “The Man” Musial brings back a lot of memories when I was growing up. Musial was the most popular player in the Polish neighborhood where my grandparents resided. Fortunately, I never tried to copy his unique, but awkward, batting stance.
It difficult to understand the treatment Tim Tebow has received ever since he turned pro, especially from the New York Jets who seemed to need all the help they could get. Perhaps his mechanics throwing the football aren’t up to some NFL standards, but when he’s on the field all he seems to do is win. Tebow still has two years remaining on his contract with the Jets, who plan on trading or releasing him.
It seems as if the Texas Longhorns, Texas Aggies, the University of Houston Cougars and Lamar Cardinals all suffered from the same malady on the basketball court last weekend. They all blew big leads and then came up short on the final score. The ‘Horns led No. 4 Kansas by 11 points in the second half only to watch the Jayhawks rally and win 64-59. The Aggies blew a 14-point lead at Alabama as the Crimson Tide slipped past them 50-49. And the Houston Cougars fell apart by committing three straight turnovers in the closing minutes of regulation and lost to Central Florida 79-75 in overtime. Lamar led McNeese 31-24 at halftime in the tough-to-win Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles and then got out-scored 51-19 in the second half and lost 74-50 for their sixth consecutive Southland Conference setback in six league outings.
Let’s hope Chip Kelly knows what he’s getting into by leaving the cozy confines of Oregon to coach the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly is so knowledgeable about football that New England coach Bill Belichick sought counsel from him about some of his personnel for 2012. But Kelly must have forgotten that it was the Eagles fans who booed Santa Claus when he appeared at the stadium several years ago.
To avoid arbitration the Houston Astros agreed to low-risk, one-year contracts with shortstop Jed Lowrie, left-handed reliever Wesley Wright and starting right-hander Bud Norris. Wright signed for an undisclosed sum while Lowrie signed for $2.4 million and Norris got $3 million, making him the Astros’ highest-paid player. The Astros’ March 31 payroll—estimated at $30 million—is expected to be the lowest in baseball. So don’t be surprised if they once again have the worst record in baseball. The two seem to go hand-in-hand.
JUST BETWEEN US…Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and his defensive coordinator Orange native Wade Phillips both agree that defensive end J.J. Watt has had the best defensive season of any linemen they’ve ever seen and should be considered as the NFL’s MVP. “He had the best season ever,” Phillips told the Houston Chronicle last weekend. “I mean, nobody has had a season like that. Nobody has made that many tackles, that many sacks, that many pass breakups and that many tackles for loss or tackles for no gain in the history of football. Nobody has had a year like that. It’s the best I’ve ever seen, for sure.”