The Playoffs that Time Forgot

Here’s the situation. The Martin Luther King holiday coincides with the weekend that my wife and I go to Asheville for a “romantic” weekend. This weekend also happens to be NFL Divisional Playoff weekend. It’s the last four-game weekend of the year. Each game has life and death (for NFL standards, anyway) consequences. The problem is I have to reconcile the romantic side with my wild, untamed football side. I compromised this year. I agreed to watch the Saturday games (no sacrifice there) in exchange for TiVoing the Sunday games and watching them upon our return to Atlanta on Monday.

My wife’s car died on the way to Nashville a couple of weekends ago. Because of that, we couldn’t take the relatively tame three-hour drive home. We had to traverse through the Smoky Mountains to Chattanooga, where her car resided, then convoy it to Atlanta. We left the Moose Café in Asheville at 9 a.m. and got home slightly after three in the afternoon.

With that in mind, I hit the TiVo button at 3:10. Let’s roll.

I started Rex Grossman, Bernard Berrian, and Cedric Benson in my playoff fantasy roster. Let’s just say that I’m taking chances. The Bears easily drive downfield for the score. Rex Grossman looked somewhat shaky. Jordan Babineaux missed an interception. Thomas Jones barreled in for a score.

The Seahawks got the ball back and Hasselbeck threw it right to Charles Tillman on third down. Tillman inexplicably tipped it backwards to Darrell Jackson who almost got the first down. The Bears forced the punt.

The Bears might run the ball 90 times today. Grossman hits Muhammad for a short gain on third down. Nice. With the Seahawks’ street-dumb secondary the Bears should be able to control the game. We’ll see.

Babineaux came in on a safety blitz and Jones was on the other side. Grossman gets sacked and the refs throw him a bone by giving him credit for an incomplete pass. That was fumble city.

If the Bears and Patriots win today, I only have Drew Brees left in the playoff fantasy pool. My league is pretty lame when it comes to postseason contests. In week one ten of twelve owners participated. We were down to seven after Week Two. The “prize” for winning is a penalty-shot-free 2007 draft. Penalty shots are shots of alcohol served up by our most sadistic owner. Getting out of that is the equivalent of being a Giants fan and finding out that Tom Coughlin turned down his contract extension.

Two Bears defenders crushed Hasselbeck on a nice pass to Darrell Jackson. If that had been Tom Brady, both players would have been banned from the NFL for life.

Due to the two-hour premiere for 24, I didn’t set up any extra time to tape the Chargers/Patriots game. If that game goes over the 3.5 hours, I’m really screwed.

Just for laughs, instead of watching NFL football yesterday, I watched the following:

Chariots of Fire: When I hear the score from this movie, I think of the final scene of National Lampoon’s Vacation. Early 80s synth music and a tale of British runners doesn’t quite mesh.

Last week’s Grey’s Anatomy: It’s weird to watch “taped” TiVo stuff on the laptop.

Ray: I enjoyed Jamie Foxx’s portrayal, but I feel like I saw this movie before when it was called Walk the Line.

Hasselbeck hit Burleson for a TD. Two plays later, Grossman hits Berrian stride for a 68-yard touchdown. That’s double points for my fantasy team.

I don’t think it’s too hard to be an NFL coach. If you’re facing the Colts, run it down the middle. The Ravens gave Jamal Lewis 13 carries on Saturday. The Cowboys didn’t test the Seahawks with that secondary.

Also note that the Colts ran out the clock with Dominic Rhodes, the veteran, instead of Joseph Addai, the rookie. The Saints used McAllister on their final drive, but when Reggie Bush got a carry, he muffed the pitch from Drew Brees. In the stat sheet (I’m doing the playoff stats manually), Bush didn’t get credit for the fumble. The NFL loves Reggie Bush.

Urlacher made a nice play on a pass way down the field. If it weren’t for Ray Lewis tipping the ball away, the Ravens would have had four interceptions on Saturday. Peyton Manning has one touchdown and five picks and the Colts might host the AFC Championship game. Ben Roethlisberger had one of the worst Super Bowl performances in history and he still got a ring. It’s a team sport.

High-school gym coaches would be embarrassed to wear what the refs have on today. The tops are bad enough, but the black pants look so out of place.

Finally, Cedric Benson gets some carries. I’m feeling sheepish about trading him for Deion Branch, T.J. Duckett, and a third-round pick in my dynasty league last year.

What size are those giant jackets that players wear over their pads? It’s probably the same size as Tony Siragusa wears.

It takes about six Seahawks to stop Cedric Benson.

I love instant replay. It allows us to see Mark Bradley’s ankle turn 180 degrees in the wrong direction. He feels like I felt after doing the Billy Blanks Boot Camp DVD with my wife yesterday.

Yeah, I’m still waiting for that Husband of the Year trophy. I hear it’s pink.

The Bears haven’t figured out that the Seahawks all but have to blitz. Grossman made a weird turn and Julian Peterson swept the ball away.

Shaun Alexander looks slower than Eddie George, but he’s getting solid chunks of yardage. He made a nice second effort on a third and three play. Most short-yardage plays have been runs today, and just about all of them have worked. Are you paying attention, NFL?

Fourth and inches. Touchdown Shaun Alexander. Let’s see if Rex Grossman shows his true color with another inexplicable turnover.

Grossman moves the team down the field nicely. On third and ten Grossman hits Muhammad for nine. It’s fourth and a yard from the ten. It’s probably field goal time.

One benefit for TiVoing both game is that I can fast forward through two timeouts in a row. Jones enters the end zone untouched. It’s a high-scoring affair.

Matt Hasselbeck’s going to have to will his team to victory in the second half. I made fun of Rex Grossman but he did have 178 passing yards in the first half.

The Seahawks have a nice drive but stupidly run Shaun Alexander outside on third and one. Don’t they still have Walter Jones? That run was to the right. The field goal is good and it’s 21-17.

Grossman gets sacked twice on the next possession. At this point in the game, any fans of the Bears have to be quite tense.

The outside run worked so well last time that the Seahawks tried it again. At least they went to the left this time. One yard. Hasselbeck hits Branch twice in a row and gets a first down. Boy this Bear defense looks second-rate. On third and ten Shaun Alexander takes it in for the touchdown. The hole was about five yards wide.

My man Berrian catches a ball twenty yards downfield. When Bush had his big fumble, I didn’t think the Saints would make the big plays to stop the Eagles. I was wrong. The Seahawks are going to struggle to hold this lead. A questionable pass-interference call is followed by Berrian catching the ball apparently short of the first down. The refs gave it to him. Grossman throws the always useless one-yard out on third and four. Seattle gets called for a random penalty and gives the Bears a first down. The screen pass caught by Thomas Jones at the 17-yard-line on second down somehow fails to bring the Blue Men to their knees. Muhsin Muhammad tips a third-down pass into Pete Hunter’s arms. That penalty actually worked out in Seattle’s favor.

Hasselbeck throws an interception on the following play. I can’t see any NFC team hanging around in the Super Bowl with this kind of play. Berrian drops a touchdown on second down. The ball was a bit behind him, but you have to expect this from Grossman. The Bears pass on a long field goal try and punt.

Seattle goes three and out and punts. Devin Hester takes it to the house. An early penalty flag will put a stop to that. The Bears start at their 30. Benson is in the game. All of my fantasy guys are at least on the field. Benson made a great effort on a second-down reception around the 30. He’s stopped short on third down and it’s decision time for the Bears. He’s about two feet short. With six minutes left the Bears probably need to kick. I’ve been wrong before.

During the short break the refs gave the Bears a first down. That’s the second time they’ve been given the “spot of the Gods.” The Bears get nothing after that and have to try the field goal. The kick slices just inside the upright and we have a tie game with 4:30 to go.

It would be amazing if the Seahawks won this after they finished the final quarter of the season 1-3. Having an experienced playoff coach really makes a difference. At the two-minute warning it’s fourth and one for the Seahawks just inside the Bear 45. Play action would work. Alexander is hit in the backfield after Hasselbeck stumbles. The Bears need to move about 30 yards in the final two minutes.

It’s third and seven. If the Bears don’t make a play, we’re probably going to overtime. I have about 35 minutes left on the TiVo’d broadcast, so I’m hoping for a first down. Grossman gets the ball batted down for the second time in the series. Ugh.

Hasselbeck goes deep on first down. Incomplete. Alexander gets a first down on a draw. He runs another one on the following play to get the ball past the 40. Could it be Josh Brown time? They went to the well one time too many as Alexander is stopped on a conventional run. Time out means that the Seahawks want to go for the win. Jerramy Stevens sets up a third and one. Alexander gets it this time. Hasselbeck is sacked and the Bears call a time out with two seconds left. It’s fourth down but the Seahawks have the Hail Mary option. Why did the Bears call time out?

The pass is incomplete. It’s overtime. I have about 18 minutes left on my TiVo. The Seahawks win the toss. In playoff history the team that wins the toss is 7-4. Hasselbeck is 0-1. Alexander breezes for another ten yards. I sure blew it on my RBs this week. Hasselbeck throws incomplete on third down near the 50. I have almost zero chance of seeing this finish.

Just when I think that Grossman is done, he hits Rashied Davis for 25 yards. Benson fumbles on the next play but the refs rule down by contact. Benson goes for four and it’s third and six. Grossman throws it away. Gould kicks a knuckler for the win. The Bears escape.

I finish the first game in less than two hours. Due to the late finish, the second game is delayed for 15 minutes. I’ll need a similarly fast game to get it in.

Pats/Chargers

It’s a lot nicer in San Diego than Chicago. LT takes the first handoff and gets 11 yards. Rivers hits his first pass for a first down.

Chad Scott makes a nice tackle on Gates to prevent a first down. The Chargers punt from their 42. The Pats get the ball just inside the ten-yard-line. Clinton Hart drops the easiest interception in history and the Chargers get the ball at the 50 after the punt.

The Chargers are struggling. Eric Parker dropped a sure first-down reception earlier and drops another one on second down. It’s third and ten. Gates is sandwiched and we see another punt. The Pats start at the seven. After Tom Brady complains about the play clock twice, he completes his first pass to former Charger Reche Caldwell. The Pats go five wide on third down and Brady’s hit. Oh joy, another punt.

The Chargers are going to get LT to the outside early and often. He gets about 15 yards. Rivers hits Eric Parker on third down. There was nice protection on that play.

Is there any NFL groundskeeper who can properly maintain a field? Parker slipped on a reverse on a newly sodded field. Vincent Jackson was wide open deep but Ellis Hobbs tipped it away. They’re at the 30-yard-line, it’s San Diego, and the Chargers go for it on fourth and 11. Rivers gets sacked. Not only was this galactically stupid, the Pats finally get good field position.

Could the NFL buy Belichick a pair of sun glasses? Get Reebok on this. It’s too much to ask for sleeves.

Brady misses his new favorite receiver, Jabbar Gaffney. Troy Brown catches the ball two yards short. It’s fourth down and the Pats will kick. Gostkowski makes it.

Tomlinson has 50 yards and it’s the end of the first quarter. On third down Tomlinson can’t bring down a curl. Bruschi was all over him. This is looking like every Patriot Super Bowl win. Brady has time but misses Caldwell. How ‘bout that, another punt.

The Chargers are beyond the 50 for the third time today. Can they take advantage? On third and one Neal gets the ball and he’s short. The Chargers need to make a play. Michael Turner gets the ball and gets almost 20 yards. The hole was huge.

Antonio Gates catches the ball at the two and fumbles. This is what the Patriots do. I’d review this one. Heck, Gates just fumbled the ball. The defender didn’t do anything. The ball came out as he landed. The review could go either way. At least we get another shot of “too cool for sunglasses” Belichick.

The Chargers get a break as the pass is called incomplete. Gates gets the ball on the next play and is close to a first down. The Chargers run a QB sneak for the first down. Neal catches a pass at the one and LT scores on the next play. Talk about relief.

The Patriots always strike back. A face-mask call gives them great field position. Brady throws the second play right to Donnie Edwards. That was a Peyton Manning throw.

The Chargers can’t take advantage and have to punt. Marty Schottenheimer hasn’t coached a playoff winner in 14 years. That has to be some kind of record.

Tom Brady needs to march into Scott Piloi’s office this offseason and demand some NFL-caliber receivers.

Tomlinson takes a screen and gets down to the five yard line. Turner takes the next snap for the touchdown. If the Chargers hadn’t futzed about earlier, this could be a blowout.

Kevin Faulk has three nice rushes, but a holding call pushes them back. The Pats need a score before the half.

Brady is excellent at running the no-huddle offense. Gaffney catches two to get the ball into field goal range. They’re inside the 20 but out of time outs. Donnie Edwards is big-time offsides and the Pats are inside the ten. Jabbar Gaffney catches it and it’s 14-10. OK, that’s what the Patriots do.

TiVo alert: I’m at 2:07 of 3:30 as the second half starts. It’s going to be tight.

Tomlinson had 143 total yards in the first half. He got the first touch of the first half. On third down Rivers had all day, hit Vincent Jackson, who dropped the ball. Three and outs are killing me.

Brady throws another interception. Naturally he’s starting for my fantasy team today.

On third and short Rivers sneaks for the first. The Chargers have figured that out. Vincent Jackson is barely out of the end zone on a post pattern. The Pats blitz and the Chargers can’t stop it. Rivers cost his team a field goal attempt. He could have dumped it off to Jackson for a short gain.

Brady gets his team out of the shadow of their own goal posts. The Pats punt but Eric Parker fumbles. Brady throws it deep right to LB Stephen Cooper. Ben Watson strips the potential pick.

On third down Brady’s hit, the ball goes loose, and a lineman jumps on it. A flag comes down late. This is huge. The Chargers are charged and it’s a free first down and at least three points on the house. Brady missed a wide-open guy again. He may not be 100%. Gostkowski makes the field goal. It’s 14-13.

I expect a steady diet of LT pretty soon. They love to run him left. Rivers throws a moon ball to Roosevelt Colvin for the pick.

Brady gets one first down but on third and two the short out is incomplete. The Pats will go for fourth and two from the 41. They do the fake play and timeout. Punt time.

LT has had an excellent game but the Chargers haven’t been able to get one sustained drive all day. He got 13 yards on first down but will they keep it up? I have 31 minutes left on my clock with 13 minutes left in the game. A seven-minute drive would save my ass. LT left the field for a couple of plays but returned. Rivers hits Gates on third and seven. We’re getting down to ten minutes left. Vincent Jackson catches the ball at the two. LT takes the ball outside for the score on the next play. I thought about starting him this week. That might have been the smart play.

It’s an eight-point game. Why won’t a team go for two when they’re up by seven? The Pats get the ball back in good field position. Brady hits Gaffney and goes no huddle. Any short plays that run the clock are golden. I only have fifteen minutes of clock and the game’s at 7:30. Brady starts to run but can’t. It’s fourth and five. The Pats will go for it.

McCree intercepts the ball, but Troy Brown swipes it away and it’s Patriot ball. This is almost better than the Tuck Rule.

Schottenheimer throws the red flag, but the call isn’t overturned. Jabbar Gaffney catches a third-down pass. Ben Watson gets the ball to the four. I have seven minutes left and there are four left in the game. Brady rolls to his left and hits Reche Caldwell for the touchdown. Kevin Faulk gets the conversion. Schottenheimer tried to call a time out there but his efforts were futile.

Other than not being able to catch the ball, Vincent Jackson is a heckuva receiver. An injury to Ellis Hobbs and a time out by Rivers runs out my clock. There is 3:46 left and it’s third and four. I don’t want to miss the end but I’m getting no love from iTunes.

I finally gave up, but I’ll pretend like I’m watching the final four minutes with a play-by-play account.

Rivers misses Parker on third down. Should I write “Game over” now?

Brady hits Daniel Graham for 19 yards. After this it’s two incompletes followed by a time out. The time out goes well. Brady hits Caldwell downfield for 49 yards. Gostkowski makes the field goal with just more than a minute left. I thought the Pats would go for the kill but they took the points.

Two passes to Gates gets the Chargers to the 43. They need more than that. On third and six, season on the line, Rivers hits Parker for 21 yards. Wow, they still have a chance. Rivers misses one pass and it’s Kaeding time. This would tie his career high. Bet you wish that you went for the 48-yarder in the first half, eh Marty? Kaeding misses and it’s over.

Pats at Colts next week. Good googly moogly. Chargers fans, I know what you’re feeling. I know it better than you can imagine. I cheered for the Chiefs when Schottenheimer took them as far as they had gone since Super Bowl IV. He couldn’t do it then. I remember the Divisional game in 2000 when Baltimore beat the Titans. I knew that the Titans were better, and when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, I thought that it was the Titans’ trophy. Charger fans will feel the same way if Belichick is holding up the Lombardi Trophy once more.

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