Maybe for once and for all, we can all understand that in our little world of sports, there is no such thing as the improbable, even the impossible.
Maybe that goes for things outside of the world of sports as well.
In any event, what we’ve witnessed in football the past couple of weeks, should prove to us that nothing is out of the question.
That there are no
hard-and-fast theories. Anything can happen. And often does. I point to myself, as one who should be convinced.
A week ago Monday, we looked on as Alabama, trailing 13-0 at the half to Georgia, rallied in the second half behind a second-string quarterback who ignited a dormant offense and led the Crimson Tide to yet another national championship with an unlikely 41-yard touchdown strike in overtime.
Sunday, an even more amazing play, boosted the Vikings to the NFC championship game against the Eagles next weekend.
I would term the game-winning 61-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs not only highly-improbable, but on the impossible list.
Instead, Marcus Williams, the Saints rookie cornerback, who has had a teriffic first season in the NFL, tried to get a deflection, instead of playing back to make the game-ending tackle after a catch.
As a result, Williams never touched Diggs, who caught the ball, did a great balancing act to stay in bounds, and scampered down the sideline for the winning score.
It’s easy for us arm-chair observers to criticize split-second actions of athletes running full speed on a
field, but this is where we must remember that humans, mere mortals, are playing these games.
Mistakes are made. There are no absolutes.
I think it IS fair to question the decision of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to attempt an on-side kick with 2:18 to play, trailing the Cinderella Jaguars by seven and having two time outs remaining:
(grammatically it should be two “times out”, but few ever say it correctly).
Knowing the Jags would run the ball to allow the clock to run down, the Steelers could have, and should have, called the two time outs, and let the clock stop at the 2-minute warning.
Jacksonville would have likely had to punt with under 2:00 to play, the Steelers might have the ball at their 35-45 yard line, and Ben Roethlisberger (who did throw 5 TD’s in this game) would have to get the ball in the end zone without stopping the clock other than a spike, to tie the game.
Is there anyone other than Tomlin who thinks an on-side kick which is iffy at best is a better idea?
Not converting that maneuver would effectively end Pittsburgh’s hopes.
The ensuing on-side kick was poorly executed and backfired.
But that is not the point.
The decision was foolish to begin with.
As it turned out, there were more dramatics before the contest concluded with the Jaguars, who won only 3 games last season, shocking the Steelers on the road for the second time this year.
I love the season Jacksonville is having in 2018, but I don’t like the lack of discipline and careless trash-talking this team does.
When linebacker Telvin Smith returned an interception for a critical touchdown and got penalized for taunting by pointing a finger at a Steeler player, I thought the momentum of the game had changed, Not for the Jags, but for the Steelers.
Following the unsportsmanlike penalty, the Steelers got the ball in good field position, and
Roethlisberger led them down the field for a touchdown.
Had the tide turned? Not really.
A tremendous victory for the Jaguars who now face the vaunted Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
The Pats toyed with the Titans on their way to a blowout triumph Saturday.
So now the question is, can Jacksonville pull out another long-shot victory on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs?
There is no question they have the defense, one of the top-two in the league to win any game.
But Ben Roethlisberger put up 45 points against the Jags, mostly through the air facing a brilliant secondary.
There were also the turnovers which usually decide these games.
If Ben can, can Tom Brady?
Nothing the Patriots do surprises me.
They study and prepare for an opponent like no other team. This will be a good test for offensive coordinator Josh Mc Daniels who likely will become the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Realizing the strength of Jacksonville’s relentless rushing attack, I have to think defensive coordinator Matt Patricia ( headed for Detroit as the new head coach of the Lions), will make quarterback Blake Bortles beat them with his arm.
Bortles has confounded the critics who were ready to oust him in pre-season.
He has good days and bad days. Lately, the good has outnumbered the bad. Big time.
This brings me to my picks from last weekend, and my rationale for those predictions.
I had the Patriots (no gamble there), the Falcons, the Steelers and the Saints.
That’s a 1-3 record. That would send me to the bench.
I’ve always expressed in this column, that battle-tested, experienced, winning quarterbacks would always prevail against a back-up or a QB who was undistinguished.
So, I liked Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees to lead their teams to the conference finals.
How wrong I was!
Now, the quartet of quarterbacks remaining are named Bortles, Foles, Keenum and yes, Brady.
So much for my theory.
The fact is, those first three named, played well.
Well enough to win.
And that’s all you have to do.
Nick Foles will have to be more consistent this week in the NFC title game against the Vikings.
But the key for the Eagles will be their running game.
Jay Ajayi did not perform well against Atlanta.
Philly’s offensive line has to contend with the Minnesota’s top-ranked defensive unit.
Pat Shurmur’s play calling was brilliant against the Saints.
By the way, Shurmur could well be headed to the Giants as their new head man.
The coaching matchup of Shurmur against the Eagles defensive guru Jim Schwartz should be a classic.
The fact that the game will be played outdoors in the frigid Philadelphia air could be an advantage for the home team.
The Vikes are used to the climate-controlled dome in Minneapolis. The only cold-weather game they played was in Green Bay in late December.
The Vikings shutout the Packers 16-0 who were playing without star QB Aaron Rodgers.
I believe their great defense, even playing outside, will make things difficult for Foles and the Eagles.
And yes, second-stringer Case Keenum should get to start a Super Bowl.
Besides, wouldn’t it be neat to finally have a team play a Super Bowl in its home stadium?
That’s what’s at stake for Minnesota.
As for the AFC showdown, I hope the Jaguars don’t let their over-the-top swagger get out of hand when they face the Patriots.
One thing we know…
Spygate, Deflategate, and the much-rumored recent reports of dysfunction between Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady simply do not distract the Pats from their mission.
They are one game way from a shot at still another Super Bowl trophy.
I believe they’ll find a way against a team in which poise may come into question.
Just remember, there is nothing that can’t happen.
We’ve all seen it all too recently.