Getting wired up for Super Bowl 50

1. AFC: Broncos 20, Patriots 18: Denver won this game with defense. The Broncos’ relentless pressure on Tom Brady was remindful of Super Bowl 42, when the Giants stormed past the unbeaten Pats. Linebacker Von Miller played like a man possessed, and would have been the game’s MVP if the NFL awarded conference championship honors. The missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski haunted New England all game. Gostkowski had made 523 PATs in a row since having one blocked in his rookie year, 2006.

2. NFC: Panthers 49, Cardinals 15: Cam Newton’s roll continued with a tour de force that squashed the Cardinals. Passing, running, theatrics, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn stole the show. Carolina set a new record for most points scored in the NFC Championship game, bettering the 41 scored the Giants in 2001 and the Redskins in 1992. BTW, I wouldn’t trust Carson Palmer to fold my laundry, much less play championship-caliber football.

3. On to Super Bowl 50: Now get ready for two weeks of hype. We do know that this is the fourth straight year that the No. 1 seeds from both the AFC and NFC have advanced to the Super Bowl. And Cam Newton joins Joe Namath and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win a college football championship and play in the Super Bowl.

4. Back to the beginning: Super Bowl 1: The Lost Tape was a fabulous watch on the NFL Network. Both CBS and NBC carried the game between the Packers and the Chiefs, This was the only Super Bowl that was carried on two networks, yet the tapes were lost and the game was reassembled from existing video. Although tickets were priced between $6-12, plenty of good seats were still available in the Los Angeles Coliseum that day. Although players today are much bigger and faster, it would be tough for any team to beat coach Vince Lombardi’s club.

5. Good reads: Been test-driving David Baldacci lately. His fast-paced mysteries match the style of other best-selling novelists like Ken Follett, John Grisham and Nelson DeMille.


Impress your friends with AFC, NFC title facts

1, We’re back: The Steelers have 49ers share the record for most appearances in a conference championship game with 15. Pittsburgh, the Patriots and the Cowboys have won eight championship games apiece. The Raiders (1973-1977) and Patriots (2011-present) share the record with five consecutive title game appearances.

2. The very first time: The first AFC and NFC championship games were held following the 1970 season. That year the Cowboys beat the 49ers 17-10 for the NFC crown and the Colts stopped the Raiders 27-17 to win the AFC championship. Prior to 1970, the NFL and AFL held separate title games.

3. Giant killers: The Giants hold the record for most appearances in the NFC championship game without a loss – 5. The Seahawks are 3-0 in NFC championship games, and the Bengals top all AFL teams with a 2-0 mark.

4. Longest droughts: The Bengals last appeared in the AFC championship game in 1988, 27 years ago. The Redskins defeated the Lions 41-0 in the 1991 NFC championship game. Neither team has been back since. That’s 24 years if you’re counting.

5. Long, long time: The Texans, an expansion team that entered the AFC in 2002, are the only NFL team never to reach the conference finals.The Browns, Jaguars, Jets, and Chiefs, along with the Texans, have never won at AFC title. However, both the Jets and Chiefs previously won AFL titles and both won the Super Bowl. The Lions are the only NFC team never to make it to the title game.

5.


It’s the month the music died

1. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: January has been a rough month for musical artists, highlighted by the passing of David Bowie,who graced the cover of TIME magazine. Other notables have included Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Dale Griffin of Mott the Hoople and the unforgettable Natalie Cole. The talent may be gone, but the music will always be with us.

2. Bonus cantos: Fans at Madison Square Garden are certainly getting their money’s worth this week, with feature events the last three days all going into overtime. The Knicks held off the 76ers in a double overtime win Monday afternoon, then stopped the Jazz in overtime last night. The Rangers edged the Canucks in overtime on Tuesday.

3. There’s a first time for everything: When the Panthers host the Cardinals this weekend in the NFC Championship game, it will mark the first time in NFL history that Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks meet head-to-head in the playoffs. Carolina’s Cam Newton won the Heisman at Auburn in 2010, and Arizona’s Carson Palmer took college football’s highest honor at USC in 2002. That’s similar to what happened in last year’s World Series, when the Royals and the Mets staged the first Fall Classic encounter between two baseball expansion teams.

4. A Cespedes for the rest of us: Can’t fathom why the Mets don’t bite the bullet and at least try and retain Yoenis Cespedes. Without Cespedes, the Mets would not have made the playoffs last year. Be a shame to waste all that young pitching for lack of a big bopper in the middle of the lineup. And it will be tough for Met fans to swallow if Cespedes goes to the Nationals as rumored.

5. The people’s choice: Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, tabbed a precocious neophyte by New York’s legendary guard and broadcaster Walt Frazier, is a popular guy. Already sales of KP’s #6 jersey rank fourth in the NBA, behind only Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and ahead of Kevin Durant. Porzingis is now a favorite of Knick fans, who booed his selection on NBA draft night and now cheer his every move.


Browns, Lions fans know the worst of it

The Lions score en route to a rout of the Browns in the 1957 NFL Championship game.

Already, three of every four NFL teams are home for the season, eliminated from the playoffs. The Vikings and the Bengals suffered the cruelest fates. Minnesota, which went to the Super Bowl four times in the 70s and lost each time, missed a golden opportunity when kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal that would have giving the Vikings a win over Seattle. Undisciplined mistakes in the fourth quarter cost the Bengals, who lost in the first round of the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.

It could be worse, Vikings and Bengals fans. You could be rooting for the Browns or the Lions, neither of which has ever been to the Super Bowl.

Back in the 50s, the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions were the two best teams in the NFL. The Browns joined the NFL in 1950 after winning four straight championships in the old All-American Football Conference (AAFC), and went on to win NFL championships in 1950, 1954 and 1955. The Lions beat the Browns in the title game in 1952, 1953 and 1957, a 59-14 rout that remains Detroit’s lone NFL title. The Browns crushed the Lions 56-10 for the 1954 NFL championship.

Those teams were blessed with Hall of Famers like Otto Graham, Jim Brown and Lou Groza of Cleveland and Bobby Layne, Doak Walker and Joe Schmidt of Detroit.

The Browns did manage to beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in 1964, the city of Cleveland’s last championship in any sport. The Browns lost the NFL championship the following year to the Packers and later suffered heartbreaking AFC Championship defeats to Denver in 1986 and 1987. The Lions lost to the Redskins in the 1991 NFC title game.

The Lions made their last playoff appearance in 2014, a loss to the Cowboys. The Browns last made it in 2002, when they were knocked out by the Steelers.

 


Coughlin hearing echoes of ‘Goodbye Allie’

Way back in the mid-60s, New York Giants fans at Yankee Stadium serenaded coach Allie Sherman with taunts of “Goodbye Allie” as they expressed their displeasure with the team’s performance. Although fans are not nearly as vocal about Tom Coughlin these days, many feel it’s time for the Giants to make a change.

Coughlin will always be revered in New York for winning a pair of Super Bowls, twice beating the Patriots in dramatic fashion. But after yet another fourth quarter meltdown Sunday, this one against the Jets, it’s apparent that Coughlin’s coaching days are numbered.

The Giants have blown fourth-quarter leads in five of their seven losses this year, and some of the blame needs to come down on the coach. Clock mismanagement, bad coaching decisions, questionable play-calling, lack of execution and pure dumb luck have cost the Giants wins against Dallas, Atlanta, New Orleans, New England and the Jets.

The Giants have failed to make the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, finishing 9-7, 7-9, 6-10 and currently 5-7. That doesn’t look pretty in a line graph, never mind in the NFL standings. Amazingly, Big Blue could still make the playoffs if the Giants win the woeful NFC East.

Allie Sherman experienced a similar fall-off in the 60s. After taking the Giants to three consecutive NFL Championship games beginning in 1961, all of which they lost, the Giants failed to make the playoffs for 18 straight years. Despite marks of 2-10-2 in 1964 and a club-record worst 1-12-1 in 1966, Sherman clung to his job until 1969, when after a terrible pre-season he was replaced by Alex Webster. Overall, Sherman was 57-51-4 with the Giants.

This is Coughlin’s 12th season with the Giants, and his teams have compiled a 101-87 record. He has coached more games and earned more victories than all but one other Giant – Hall of Famer Steve Owen who finished 151-100-17 between 1931 and 1953 and won a pair of championships.

If the Giants do decide to part ways with Coughlin, they should look outside-house for a replacement. Steve Spagnola’s defense is a mess, one of the worst outfits in the league. And despite some talent, Ben McAdoo’s offense is terribly inconsistent. (Memo to Ben: running back by committee doesn’t work, at least not with this offensive line.)

Is Coughlin a Hall of Fame coach? He did win those two Super Bowls, and his overall playoff record with the Giants is 8-3. He also coached the Jacksonville Jaguars, an expansion team, to a 68-60 mark, and took them to a pair of AFC Championship games. He will certainly receive strong consideration for a bust in Canton.

Only one eligible coach – Tom Flores of the Raiders – has won two Super Bowls and is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But even Hall of Fame coaches lose their jobs.


Oh wow, 1969 was just amazing

The year was 1969, a landmark year, perhaps the most incredible year of the 20th Century. Rob Kirkpatrick wrote all about in in 1969: The Year Everything Changed.

Here’s a Top 10 list of accomplishments, events, trends and happenings of 1969:

1. Man on the Moon

2. Woodstock

3. Amazin’ Mets

4. Nixon and Vietnam turmoil

5. Movies – Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

6. Rock and Roll – Beatles last concert, Led Zeppelin, Altamont and the Rolling Stones

7. Joe Namath and the guarantee

8. Student demonstration time

9. Chappaquiddick

10. Charles Manson and the Zodiac Killer


Tom Brady always wins…except vs. the Giants

Tom Brady always wins – except against the Giants. That adage will be put to the test on Sunday when the unbeaten (8-0) Patriots visit Met Life Stadium to face the 5-4 Giants.

“We’ve always had a hard time beating these guys one way or another,” Brady said. “So hopefully we can get over our struggles and finally go out and play well and beat them”

Super Tom Brady, the quarterback who squeezed the air out of the NFL in Deflategate and won, has lost his last three meetings against the Giants, all decided by four points or less. In 2008, the Patriots came into Super Bowl 42 unbeaten (18-0) and huge favorites, only to bow to the Giants 17-14. That Super Bowl, one of the most famous in history, featured David Tyree’s helmet catch and Plaxico Burress’ game-winning TD catch with 35 seconds left – both on passes by Eli Manning.

Years later, Brady told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, “I remember after the game I was trying to think, ‘Man, am I dreaming?’ Let me wake up and then start the day over. I just didn’t think we could lose.”

Four years later, the Giants again beat the Pats, this time 21-17 in Super Bowl 46. Manning led the Giants to another last-minute, go-ahead touchdown drive that featured an amazing pass and catch by Mario Manningham.

The Giants also beat New England 24-20 in a 2011 regular season game at Foxboro, a game the Giants won on a Manning touchdown pass to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds remaining.

Brady has a pair of wins against the Giants in his career. The Patriots edged the Giants 38-35 in the final game of the 2007 campaign to finish the regular season unbeaten. And in 2003, Brady led the Pats to a 17-6 win over the Giants and QB Kerry Collins when Eli was still at Ole Miss.

Overall, Brady is 2-3 against the Giants, averaging 226 yards, 1.4 touchdowns and 0.6 interceptions per game. Rather pedestrian numbers for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.


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