Tag Archives: AFC Championship

Wilson Overcomes Early Struggles With Fantastic Finish!

19 Jan

“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too. … If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds’ worth of distance run…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and which is more, You’ll be a man, my son.“-Rudyard Kipling.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Russell Wilson launching his game-winning overtime touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to send the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of the StarTribune.com

Russell Wilson launching his game-winning overtime touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to send the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of the StarTribune.com

As the confetti flew all over Seattle’s Century Link Stadium, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had tears of joy streaming down his eyes as his teammates gathered around him. His touchdown pass in overtime had just put his team in the Super Bowl.

Thanks to his game-winning 35-yard touchdown pass to teammate Jermaine Kearse, Wilson pulled off the improbable mother of all comebacks in the NFC Championship with a 28-22 overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers.

“(Wilson) did a remarkable job with the finish of this game,” said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. “It took so long for the good stuff to happen. It was a long, hard day for him. We were throwing for nothing. I think 10 yards at halftime. It was a crazy game. But with the game on the line, this is what (Wilson) has totally believed would happen and he never thought that it wouldn’t.”

Seattle will head to Super Bowl XLIX take on the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Pats punched their ticket to the Super Bowl with an easy 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.

Wilson’s happy tears were perilously close to being somber and sad ones. He had been sacked five times, threw four interceptions including what looked to be a game-clinching pick for the Packers with 5:13 left. But out of the ashes of what was a terrible game for him, Wilson found a way to win.

“It was just staying the course, trusting the protection, trusting the routes, trusting the timing, trusting the preparation, trusting the film study…That’s where I went to, going back to the fundamentals of the game,” Wilson said. “The ball didn’t bounce our way the whole game but it bounced our way at the right time.”

Wilson fought through his mistakes and was great he needed to be, especially in the last 3:52 of regulation and in overtime. What was most impressive was the fearlessness Wilson displayed down the stretch. He wasn’t afraid to make a mistake after four picks and he kept firing until he got it right.

“If we’re going to down, I’m going to go down swinging, that’s for sure,” Wilson said.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin said Wilson’s performance reflected the heart and resilience of the team.

“Indicative of this team,” Baldwin said. “He never counted himself out. We never counted him out. We always believe in the guy in the next to us no matter what the situation is, no matter what he’s going through. He had a rough first half, we all did.

“But when you make a throw like that in the fourth quarter and when Jermaine (Kearse) comes through, I think he had two drops in the first half and I told him don’t worry about that, you’re going to have your opportunity and he comes and makes that crucial touchdown catch. That’s what this team is made of.”

Not only did Wilson believe in himself, he still had faith in his teammates, especially Kearse. Two of Wilson’s interceptions came off catchable balls that caromed off Kearse’s hands. Wilson never wavered in his belief that Kearse would come through with a big catch.

“Because I’ve seen him make so many plays before,” Wilson said. “That’s the first thing I told Kearse after that last interception. We’re going to win this game and I’m going to keep coming back to you, we’re going to find a way to win the game. …When I found a chance to hit Jermaine one-on-one on that deep post, we went for it and we hit it.”

During those times that Wilson and the offense struggled, it was the defense that kept the Packers from turning the game into a rout in the first half. Green Bay had the ball inside the red zone four times in the first quarter and came away with just one touchdown and three field goals to take a 16-0 lead.

The special teams came up with a pair of huge big plays for the Seahawks and put them in position to win the game. Seattle got their first score of the game in the third quarter on a fake field goal. Punter Jon Ryan threw a 19-yard to pass to tight end turned offensive tackle Garry Gilliam.

After a Wilson touchdown one-yard brought the Seahawks to within 19-14, reserve wide receiver Chris Matthews recovered Steve Hauschka’s onside kick that led to a spectacular 24-yard run by Marshawn Lynch that gave Seattle its first lead of the game.

Speaking of “Beast Mode,” Lynch gained 157 yards on 25 carries and that spectacular run for his touchdown.

After Lynch’s score, Wilson made another improbable play on the two-point conversion when he sprinted to his right and floated a ball up for grabs to his left that was miraculously caught by tight end Luke Willson to give Seattle a 22-19 lead.

That play was important because Green Bay would tie the game and send it into overtime on a 48-yard field by Mason Crosby.

Once the Seahawks won the coin toss, Wilson knew he had the Packers right where he wanted them.

“I told (offensive coordinator) Darrell Bevell on the sideline after that coin toss, I’m going to hit Kearse with a touchdown on a check,” Wilson said.

AFC Championship: Win or Lose, Peyton Manning Still Among the Best to Play the Game

19 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning greet each other after the Patriots 34-31 win on Nov. 24.  Photo by the DenverPost.com.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning greet each other after the Patriots 34-31 win on Nov. 24. Photo by the DenverPost.com.

There are some who are touting Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Denver as some sort of legacy game for both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

It’s like Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III in boxing or Achilles versus Hector in Greek mythology. We are looking for another epic struggle for the ages that will be etched indelibly on the minds of football fans everywhere.

I guess what folks are really trying to say that this will be a contest of how history will view what Brady and Manning done during their careers.  What people really want to know is who is the greatest between Brady and Manning?

To be honest, I think that both quarterbacks will be voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. After all, Brady has led the Patriots to three Super Bowls. Manning, who has one Super Bowl ring, he has re-written the NFL record book and considered to be among the all-time greats to play the game.

For all the things that Manning has done as a quarterback, it will not resonate for a lot of fans in this day and age because he doesn’t have as many Super Bowl rings as Brady. Hell, he doesn’t have as many as his brother Eli, who has two with the New York Giants.  Let’s face it, Eli is not as good as his elder brother.

Even if the Broncos can’t get past the Patriots, please don’t go around saying that Manning’s greatness as a quarterback is diminished because he doesn’t have as many rings as Brady or anybody else.

One of the things that bothers me about our current media landscape of 24-hour sports networks, talk radio and social media is that we are so caught up in the bling of championship rings that we tend to forget one immutable fact that’s important to success in sports like football—It’s a “team game.”

In an era where the No. 1 talking point in sports that we all get off on is Michael Jordan winning six rings as a member of the Chicago Bulls, we determine the greatness of players by how many championships they won while playing for a particular team.

The problem that I have with that notion is that Jordan didn’t win those titles by himself and neither did Brady. They were part of some great teams. Their names are not on those trophies by themselves. They played with players that complimented their skills.

I find that reminding fans that teams win championships, whether it’s a column in the newspaper or on social media, is like your mother telling you when you were a kid that you should eat your vegetables because they’re good for you.  You would rather have chocolate cake and other assorted sweets because it tastes better even though it has too much sugar.

We like to believe that our heroes act alone like they do in all the super hero comic books or in the movies. Such things as having outstanding offensive lineman, a great defense and special teams become secondary to making our favorite players larger than life.

In football, success in the postseason, contrary to popular belief, is dependent upon your teammates-offense, defense and special teams.  A bad day in one of those areas and you won’t win.

In Manning’s case, he is 10-11 in playoff games and has just one Super Bowl ring. If you look back through the playoff games he lost, I would venture to say that when you cut it down the middle that some of those losses weren’t his fault and some were very much his fault.

For example, in a crazy 21-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005, a missed chip-shot field goal near the end of that game ended his season.

In some of those games, the defense couldn’t stop the other team’s offense. Last season’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoff round was a classic example of that. You know the story.

The Broncos were up seven with under a minute to play and seemed on their way to the AFC Championship until a mistake by the defense allowed Jacoby Jones to score on a 70-yard touchdown pass that tied the game and sent it into overtime.

Of course, Manning’s last pass of the game in overtime was intercepted by Baltimore’s Corey Graham. It doesn’t come to that if Denver safety Raheem Moore is in better position to defend Jones in regulation.

Sometimes, the players on the other team are just better than your team that day. The Patriots beat Manning’s Indianapolis Colts teams twice in the playoffs because the Patriots defense outplayed his offense while the Colts defense couldn’t stop Brady and the Patriots.

There are plenty of great quarterbacks in this game who never won one Super Bowl. I think of the Dan Marinos, the Warren Moons, Jim Kellys and the Dan Fouts who were great quarterbacks, but never won a championship because some aspect of their team’s dynamic was flawed in some way.

I still remember flashes of Fouts watching helplessly on the sideline as the Oakland Raiders offense ran out the last seven minutes of the 1980 AFC Championship after the Chargers had scored the touchdown to come within seven.

The glare of those rings blinds us from the reality that winning a championship in team sports is hard. You need the right mix of players and good coaching along with a little bit of luck to win. You can have the greatest player in the world, but if you don’t have a solid team around him playing together, you’re not going to win jack.

Whether or not he beats New England on Sunday or the NFC squad two weeks later in the Super Bowl, Manning is still among the great quarterbacks in the history of the game.  Losing Sunday or two weeks from now will not dim the glory of his outstanding career.

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