Only one game remains in the NFL season and it’s Super Bowl LI, of course!

It’s all over but the shouting!

Only one game remains in the NFL season and it’s the Super Bowl, of course.
When we use the term “shouting” we hope there will be  more shouting for a close down-to-the-wire contest in Super Bowl 51 in Houston than we had for the Conference Championship games, and for that matter, practically all the playoff games witnessed so far.
Keep in mind it is one thing for those not partial to one of the teams to be pulling for an exciting, thrilling and dramatic battle. It’s another thing to be aware that if you’re rooting for a team that trounces its opponent, nothing could be finer. Who wanted a close game if you were a fan of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots who will meet in next week’s Super Bowl?
So much was made of the build-up of the NFC and AFC title match-ups that it was almost expected to be similar to the course of the Green Bay-Dallas divisional playoff the week before.
As it turned out not everyone came to the party.

A shootout was anticipated in the Falcons-Packers game, but Atlanta showed why they were the top offensive team in the league with a devastating performance led by quarterback Matt Ryan and a deep corps of scoring weapons. As much as I admire the way Packers QB Aaron Rodgers can beat you, I  had a feeling the Falcons attack would win by simply outscoring what Rodgers and the Green Bay offense would bring.
What I didn’t count on was a superior defensive game by Atlanta, sparked by their young playmakers  who dominated Rodgers and company.
I did the broadcast for Fox when the Falcons coming back from a  disheartening loss to Kansas City demolished the Rams in LA 42-14 week 14.
It wasn’t so much that Atlanta crushed the lowly Rams by such a wide margin, it was more in which the manner they accomplished it. They looked like a machine, playing with a confidence and determination with a togetherness that was unmistakable.
They shrugged off a terrible loss from the week before, something not all teams are able to do, and began a  run of successes piling up astronomical numbers.
That game against the Rams was a turning point. Now it’s on to the World Championship.

The AFC matchup was also thought to have had the makings of a monumental battle featuring two quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady who had won a combined 6 Super Bowls.
But the Steelers-Patriots showdown lacked drama and the New Englanders dominated.
It was a total victory for the Pats, sparked by their defense, which set the tone all year.
It’s always a heavier burden having to win in Foxboro, but Bill Belichick did what he seems to always do to opponents: take away what you do best.
Even before Steeler running back Le’Veon Bell came out of the game for good late in the first quarter, the Patriots seemed to have an answer Bell and the rest of the Pittsburgh attack, and the multitude of mistakes made by Mike Tomlin’s club in every phase of the game didn’t help either.

Interesting that when things go off-kilter for a team in the NFL, even when they happen off-the-field, it seems to have a negative effect.
Not that these determined the outcome of their games, but remember when the Vikings charter plane slipped off the icy runway in Appleton, Wisconsin their arrival for their important clash with the Packers late in the season? The Vikings went down easily. This past Sunday, the Packers had trouble getting out of Green Bay on their plane, and arrived much later than anticipated in Atlanta.
After the divisional playoff at Kansas City, wide receiver Antonio Brown recorded Tomlin’s talk to the team, sprinkled with expletives concerning the upcoming game with the Patriots. It seemed he put it on Facebook, which was paying Brown six-figures to work with them.
Welcome to the New World of social media, where at least in the eyes of some, the individual comes before the team.
Also, how about the Boston fan who pulled the lever on the fire alarm at 3 am at the hotel where the Steelers were staying?
Again,  none of these are excuses why a team loses. The Packers and Steelers were trounced.
But it is interesting.

Anyway, the record here is 7-3 going into the Super Bowl, and I’ll be delighted to share my thoughts on the finale next week.



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Dick Stockton


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