Super Bowl Preview by PalmerSucks
January 29, 2013
The two teams for Super Bowl XLVII have been set, and for Stillers fans, the match-up couldn’t be worse.
In this corner we have the San Francisco 49ers. A win and they tie the Stillers’ record 6 trophies, meaning Pittsburgh no longer reigns supreme and alone in the most-rings category.
And in this corner we have the Baltimore Ravens. Watching them win it all wouldn’t be pleasant – especially the thought of Ray Lewis doing his chicken-dance with the Lombardi in hand.
Then there’s the whole Harbaugh brothers thing, enough to make you puke up your Primanti’s. And the fact that the game will be covered by CBS, which means a) we won’t get replays when we need them, and b) we’re sure to miss several plays due to the usual late returns from commercial breaks.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Thanks to Joe Flacco’s hot playoff stretch, the Ravens will now be forced to sign him to a long-term, cap-eating deal. (I’m not kidding – should Flacco pull this off Sunday, the Ravens will be stuck with paying him 18-20 mil a year.) So with any luck the mediocrity can continue in Baltimore for the next decade. Yes, that’s right Ravens, Joe Flacco is DEFINITELY “elite” – in fact he may be the most elite QB of all time! – so pay him, Ravens, pay him big, and pay him now! Yep, it’s all going according to plan – mwahahahahaha!!
You’re not fooled by Flacco’s run are you? The bandwagon, which emptied after the loss to Batch, has filled up to capacity again. His numbers are impressive of course, with Flacco compiling a 114.7 average QB rating for three games. But let’s look at reality.
Flacco looked good against Indy, then pulled out a miracle win in Denver – the fact is, neither Joe Flacco nor the Ravens should be playing in the Super Bowl because they never should’ve been playing in the AFC Championship Game. What happened in Denver was more about the incredible blowing of a 7-point lead when the opponent needs to go 70 yards in just over a minute, with no time outs left. Had the moronic Broncos been playing a Hail-Mary defense rather than your basic nickel package, they’d have been hosting New England.
Average Joe did look good against the Patriots, but grabbed another piece of luck when the Texans, whose defense owns Flacco, ran into the Patriots first – a team they simply don’t match up against. The Ravens, on the other hand, do match up well against New England, another reason they’ll be playing this Sunday. (Not that I’m docking the Ravens for this; football is all about how teams match up. The Stillers enjoyed the same good fortune when the Jets knocked off the Patriots in the playoffs a couple years ago, allowing Pittsburgh to avoid its own playoff nemesis.)
But back to the Bowl. Nobody wants to see the 49ers tie the Stillers record, but at the same time, the Ravens are a hard team to cheer. Remember how Ravens fans whined about Clark’s hit on McGahee in the ‘07 AFC Championship? Well, now we have Coach Harbaugh crowing that Bernard Pollard’s helmet-shot on Pats RB Steven Ridley is “football at its finest.” Where’s the outrage now?
As for the game itself, all disappointment aside, it’s a pretty interesting match-up. The Ravens won because their pretty much physically dominated the Patriots in the second half. Flacco again enjoyed the unearned charity gift, this time in the form of CB Aqib Talib leaving early with a hamstring injury. Talib had shown the ability to blanket Boldin, so all these idiots claiming his exit was no excuse for Baltimore better take another look. With Talib taking Boldin by himself, New England could double Torrey Smith. The entire game changed with Talib left.
The Patriots, like the Broncos and Colts, put little to no pressure on Flacco. Things should change against the younger, faster 49er defense. However, San Francisco showed against Atlanta its vulnerability to the downfield stuff, which means Flacco could hit some jump balls.
But here’s something that bothers me about Flacco, and a reason I’m giving the edge to San Francisco. I was watching “NFL Turning Point” which showed some Ravens players taunting the exiting New England fans as the game was put out of reach. No problem there, as New England players certainly have dished it out on the road when they’ve won, but the thing is, it was none other than Joe Flacco doing the taunting. I had to roll back the video and take another look, but yep, it was the Flak Jacket all right.
Now, it’s one thing for a linebacker, or a safety, or a receiver to be trash-talking the crowd, but the quarterback? Imagine Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Eli Manning or, yes, Ben Roethlisberger doing that. You can’t, because they never have. But there was Flacco acting the complete dick, mocking the crowd, waving bye-bye to their turned backs heading up the steps and out of the building.
Take note of that, all you jag-off Stillers fans who’ve suddenly taken to riding Flacco’s jockstrap, telling us how bad-boy Ben should start acting like this “nice guy model citizen.” But that’s not the main point. Seeing this display, I’m wondering if Flacco gets what it is to be the “elite” QB he’s always whining to the press that he is. Is this how you want your QB to behave? Despite Flacco’s playoff numbers, I still wonder if he’s ready for the big time. We’ll find out Sunday.
In my Redskins pre-game earlier this year I broke down the Pistol offense (which if you wish you can find here). Now comes San Francisco, featuring the original Pistol QB himself, Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick ran this offense at the University of Nevada where it was invented by Coach Chris Ault. Kaepernick’s speed will be a challenge for the aging Ravens defense, who’ve had the luxury of facing old plodders like Manning and Brady. Here’s a play you’re likely to see this Sunday:
DE NT DE
T G C G T
Banzai! The 49ers will often run “Samurai,” Kaepernick’s bread-and-butter play both in college and now in the pros. Kaepernick’s read is LDE Arthur Jones; should Jones pinch inside, he’ll fake the hand-off, keep and follow a lead blocker known as the “alley guy” off right tackle. Should Jones maintain outside contain, Kaepernick will hand off to the back. (“Ride and decide” is the name given to this brand of football.) Kaepernick scored a long TD against the Packers using this play in the Divisional Round.
In my mind, the key to Baltimore’s win over New England was the Patriots’ inability to run the ball. The Ravens won’t have this luxury against San Francisco’s high-draft-choice-stocked o-line and their terrific RB Frank Gore. They’ll also face a match-up nightmare in Vernon Davis, probably the fastest TE in football. Young Kaepernick may face some Super-Bowl jitters, but these should fade before halftime. Should the 49ers finally bring some heat on the QB (which neither Denver nor New England did) it could be time for a classic Flack-choke.
I’ve heard the talk-show guys slobbering over Flacco for being so cool under pressure. But there’s a difference between calmness and just not caring, and flinging the ball up for grabs. In the Denver game Flacco came THIS close to tossing the game-costing pick when the Broncos DB barely stepped out of bounds after catching his pass. He may not get so lucky again.
For these reasons I’ll say San Francisco 27, Baltimore 20, and Stillers fans, miserable. Should the 49ers win, I’ll think back to the image of Flacco mocking and trash-talking the fans in New England. I just can’t get it out of my mind.
That’s what my head says. Here’s the heart pick: San Fran loses and doesn’t tie the record, while the Ravens squeak it out with Flacco pulling his usual 11-for-23, 151 yards-passing special. They all talk about how the team pulls off another Dilfer job. Dennis Pitta is voted game MVP. Meanwhile, some unthinking sports staffer at the Baltimore Sun writes this headline:
RAY LEWIS MURDER ON OPPOSING QBs
Team Leader Shows He’s a Cut Above
Ray-Ray gets so cheesed off about the headline, he busts up the paper’s offices, gets thrown in jail and misses the parade. So we don’t have to hear his speeches. And of course, the 49ers don’t tie the Stillers record. That may be the best possible outcome, all things considered.
Enjoy the game, and be sure to keep plenty of liquor on hand. It’s going to suck no matter which team wins.
MEET YOUR NEW STILLER: As it’s never too early to look at the draft, the Stillers should take a long look at BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah. I’ve been following this guy all year – he’s a 6’ 6” 270 lb. phenom with the athleticism to play 3-4 OLB. His performance in last weekend’s Senior Bowl may have been too dominant, however, and I’m not sure he’ll be there at #17. I’ll have more on Ansah as we head into draft season this spring.
Note: I’ve decided to include below a re-print of a piece I did which got in too late to run for the AFC Championship. If you don’t want to hear any more about Flacco feel free to ignore it.
Hail Mary Joe Does it Again
January 18, 2013
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more ridiculous than 4th-and-29, this happens.
Of course, you know what I’m talking about. 41 seconds to go, no time outs and somehow, some way, Flacco hits deep for the game-saving TD. The Ravens of course go on to win, and Flacco’s agent starts the hype by announcing you’d be “crazy” for not considering his boy “elite.” The always annoying Phil Simms, long a Flacco flack, starts squawking about how underappreciated his guy Joe is. Even Skip Bayless, coiner of the fitting nickname “Fluke-o,” goes silent. (Et tu, Skippy?)
OK, it’s one thing for Flacco’s agent to get all gushy, and the same goes for Ravens fans, but when Stillers fans start hopping the bandwagon, I think it’s time for a little reality check. Below is a real and true post I caught on another message board, and if you’re like me, you’ll have to read it twice to believe it actually happened:
“I can't believe people are arguing this. I watched Joe Flacco paint rainbows of perfection yesterday, in big moments, when it mattered most. He basically did what Ben did to Holmes, only around 5 times further away. Yet, Ben, when we needed him this year played like Corky from "Life Goes On". If Ben had done what Flacco did last night, there's be a line of dudes from this board ready to blow him, fighting over who'd go first. Stop being such blind homers, and try, for once....just once....to make an honest assessment of a player not wearing a Steeler uniform. There are in fact great players out there not wearing one. Joe Flacco is becoming one of them. And guess what? He's never out of shape. He never gets hurt. He never gets accused of rape. He never crashes his motorcycle without a helmet. He doesn't under throw deep balls. And he doesn't whine like a bitch every other day. Sometimes, you just gotta tip your cap and give credit where credit is due....”
Whoa there, pardner! You do realize what happened last Saturday was more about good fortune than anything else? Don’t just take my word for it – take it from ESPN.
“With 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s AFC Divisional playoff game, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens faced third-and-3 at the Baltimore 30-yard line.
According to ESPN Stats and Information’s win probability model, the Ravens had a 2.8 percent chance of winning the game. One 70-yard play later, Flacco and the Ravens had tied the Denver Broncos.”
Got that? 2.8 percent, meaning there’s about a NINETY SEVEN percent chance of failure here. Meaning that success here is about luck, not skill – I’m not saying it, the numbers are. Worse, the odds that the play itself would work go down to one in a hundred – so again, it’s by definition almost all about luck.
Anyway, allow me to address a couple points off this post:
- “Rainbows of perfection”? Oh, what a fabulous way to put things! But seriously – I think this guy needs to watch a replay. If the pass was so perfect, then why did the WR have to slow up then stop, after he’d gotten behind the entire defense? And it’s not like anybody was fooled – the Denver safety, Moore, was looking at the ball all the way. He simply took a bad angle, slipped and fell. In fact it was the IMPERFECTION of this pass that made it work. Do we really want to hand out all this credit to the passer here?
- Are we REALLY going to compare one of the greatest drives in Super Bowl history with a moonshot? One consisted of a series of clutch throws, the other was a one-off fluke. Also, better check what yard line Ben was standing on when he threw the game winner. One pass constitutes a normal throw, the other is a desperation heave. One pass is perfectly placed into a corner of the end zone where three defenders can’t reach it, the other is a case where the lone defender takes himself out the play. Really, I’m almost embarrassed I have to explain the difference here, but apparently I do.
Contrast this with a pass Flacco DOES deserve praise for – a 3rd-and-13 laser shot from his end zone that likely saved the game for Baltimore in overtime. Here’s a case where he actually reads the defense, not just chucks it deep and hopes. THAT play was a thing of beauty – unlike the fluke bomb, which needed so many ridiculous factors to succeed, it’s beyond funny.
- As for the “never whining” part, I guess you missed those press conferences where he complained about how tough it is to be Joe Flacco http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/01/11/joe-flacco-wants-a-little-credit/
Of course, this was the same guy who was bragging about his performance after his team lost the AFC Championship game last season. You might want to look around first before you go roasting your own guy.
Yeah, Flacco’s never out of shape, doesn’t crash motorcycles, and hey, I heard he works nights in soup kitchens, loves kittens and can balance a thousand-pound weight on his testicles. Fine – go take a survey of NFL personnel types and see how many would trade Ben straight up for Flacco.
Now consider just how many unbelievable things had to happen for this play to work:
--The line of scrimmage is the Baltimore 30, and Denver rushes three. They also keep one guy in to cover Rice who’s circling in all of TWO yards downfield, and park one defender covering NOBODY at the 33. (Again, that’s with 70 yards to go and no time-outs.) There’s also another defender covering NOBODY around the 40.
Denver’s tied up six guys short, leaving just five back to handle the deep ball. Why? Do they seriously think there’s time for ANYTHING less than the bomb? By parking back 8 guys deep, say, they could have virtually guaranteed the game was won, as all they’d need to do is watch which side of the field the ball is coming to, and either knock it down, or pick it off.
--Flacco’s overwhelming tendency is deep jump-ball right – you’re telling me so-called professional coaches can’t see this on film? And yet as the ball is thrown, there is exactly ONE defender placed deep right to make a play on the ball. Huh?
--As the Baltimore WR, Jones, heads downfield, the Denver CB stops running and lets his man continue freely downfield. Huh? With 40 seconds left and no timeouts, do you think the WR is going to curl back in or something? Watching this happen was simply mind-blowing.
You seriously have to work hard to blow it in this situation. Again, simply dropping back 7 or 8 guys is the way to ensure there’s no fluke TD, because that’s how you guard against what this is: a HAIL MARY situation. Yet the Broncos play things as if it’s the middle of the second quarter, not the end of the game.
--To cap things off, the pass is underthrown and frankly stinks – and that’s what makes it work! The poor Denver safety has to change up his run angle, and trips all over himself after having a bead on the ball. If the pass HAD been better, it’s likely an interception or at least a bat-down. Instead, thanks to Flacco’s incompetence, the Denver safety whiffs and falls down, allowing Jones not to be tackled after he gladly accepts the gift pop fly. Way to go, Joe!
It’s a play that will go down in NFL infamy, but that’s not the issue here. The point is, success in this case has nothing to do with QB skills, and everything to do with blind luck and opponent generosity. As I stated, a one-percent chance of success means the offense should NEVER score here; you could create a Franken-QB out of Brady, Montana and Bradshaw combined and he shouldn’t succeed, let alone Joe Flacco.
The moral of the story: don’t confuse hitting the lottery with becoming a self-made millionaire.
Look, the Mile-High Miracle will go down as one of the all-time great desperation plays, just like the Immaculate Reception. Thing is, nobody’s going around saying that was some great pass Bradshaw threw. That’s because people recognize it for what it was, and apply proper judgment.
Let me recap the season for all you so-called Stillers fans suddenly all jealous of the QB they’ve got in Baltimore. He’d be sitting home right now if not for the two plays which define his 2012 season: a one-yard dump-off that got turned into a 29-yard 4th-down conversion, and a 70-yard Hail Mary.
A lot’s been made about Flacco passing for more than 300 yards (with two overtimes, btw) – the fact is, considering how wide open the Baltimore receivers were all game, he should’ve had 500 yards passing. But thanks to missing several big passes, he didn’t.
Now, just as another fun project, go play back the crucial TD pass Flacco threw right before the half:
Champ Bailey was burned all game long, but on this play he has near-perfect coverage. He’s got the inside position, has a step on the WR, and is looking at the ball all the way. He’s in perfect position to make the pick, except the Ravens WR, Smith, grabs him by the shoulder pads, tosses him aside, and accepts the pass instead. How this obvious offensive PI is not called is beyond me, but somehow it isn’t. Kudos to Smith for getting away with it (maybe someone should show Mike Wallace the tape) but really – you want to give Flacco credit for that one, too?
I’m afraid I probably don’t want to know the answer.
One final note on the play : let’s see, Denver got bounced from the playoffs because they played some wacky defense where they didn’t drop anyone deep, and invited the QB to hit the bomb. Sound familiar? Heh heh, how’s it feel to get Tebowed, Denver fans? One year later, it’s YOU with the egg on your faces. Hope you enjoy a good omelet.
Anyway, this should make for a fascinating AFC Championship Game rematch. Should Flacco continue to hit the jump balls, Baltimore will likely move on to the Super Bowl. If New England can put a stop to it, they go back. And should Flacco make it to New Orleans, then, well, there really IS that problem with the 47 percent of the population who take what they can from the welfare state.
Enjoy the games!