I’m late. Does it seem like I have an excuse every week as to why I’m late? I don’t. That’s your imagination. This week, let’s go with … church. Yes, I was at church. Because if God is the reason Ray Lewis wins football games, I want Him to help me become an origami master. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
The Greek is on location, though, and has filed a remote report while I attempt to get myself together. He wants me to pass on a complaint about the bar, but I think it he comes off as the dildo. I’ll let you decide. The Greek is upset because he ordered a Chimay, whatever the fuck that is, and they served it to him in “the wrong type of glass.” He thinks this an example of inexcusable service; I think it says more about the guy who expects his local BDubs to have a team of Beer Sommeliers on hand.
Anyway, football ‒ I’ve missed a chunk of the first quarter, and Atlanta’s about to go up by 10 already. A mild surprise, if you’ve been listening to most pundits all week. I like Atlanta, though, by a narrow margin, and I like New England to cruise in the 4:30 game.
Don’t get down on yourselves, Seattle fans ‒ you’re being represented in Atlanta by a fan of indeterminate gender wearing a French beret, along with a gray jersey tucked into blue camouflage pants. So you’re going to be fine.
Here’s this week’s attempt to raise awareness about sports bars mismanaging their television programming (I’m currently trying to decide on a ribbon color for the cause). According to The Greek, at 1:05, the lone NFL playoff game in this viewing slot was not on a television. Even after he complains and the problem is “fixed”, eight of the 11 TVs in his line of sight are on women’s basketball, bowling or trivia.
A drive spurred on by a 45-yard Jacquizz Rodgers run makes its way down to the Seattle 11. Seattle managed to stiffen and hold the Falcons to three, which, for some reason, feels like it will be important. Please, take it from a guy who has seen half of this game.
Pete Carroll wants to go for it on a 4th-and-1 at the Atlanta 11. I’d have opted for a conservative approach, but I get it ‒ Carroll trusts his defense, and if the attempt fails, Atlanta’s stuck at their own 11, so no big deal. I guess I believe the difference between 13-0 and 13-3 is more significant than he does.
Failure. Michael Robinson is stuffed at the line, and then Atlanta, despite being pinned down at their own 11, turns it into 7 more points on a bomb to Roddy White. That little exchange didn’t go well for Pete Carroll.
After getting by Richard Sherman for the touchdown, Roddy White appears to be motherfucking Sherman up and down. I’m sure that Sherman did nothing to provoke this. Sherman’s response? The calmly-administered “awww, good for you!” clap right in White’s face (Hi Chase). Richard fucking Sherman, man. Loses on the play and gives up a TD, but still comes out ahead in the post-game exchange with Roddy White. Gifted corner. Gifted dickhead.
The Ohio State/Michigan basketball game is an outstanding accompaniment to an NFL playoff game. Like a Poteauflette with a chilled Chimay Triple. In a brandy glass, unless you’re a hillbilly.
The right-before-halftime drive for Seattle feels crucial. They’re down by 20, but it’s not a convincing 20. Seattle has moved the ball, and they’re by no means outclassed here, but if you’ve got a 20-point deficit in the second half, it might not matter. Seven here would go a long way.
At the end of another yardage-eating drive, Falcons d-lineman Jonathan Babineaux does the impossible, and sacks the slippery Russell Wilson. I’m evidently not the only one who thought a Wilson sack unlikely, as Seattle was just completely unprepared for that. They don’t even get the next play off. It’s halftime, and the 20-0 lead has stuck.
If sports were politics and this was a cable news show, this is where I’d ridicule Nate Silver, reject his theories, reject math, and gloat about things that happened for reasons I don’t understand.
Also at halftime, The Greek shares with me his theory about Peyton Manning’s way-too-extensive-to-be-coincidental history of playoff failure. He believes it has something to do with Manning being a closet homosexual. He’s never given up on those Chesney/Manning rumors (I’m still holding out hope myself). The theory goes that Peyton’s confidence suffers under extra scrutiny because he’s constantly hiding his true lifestyle. The Greek says he can see it in Manning’s post-loss mannerisms, which look way different than, for example, Tom Brady’s post-loss mannerisms.
Even as the second half starts, it doesn’t feel like Seattle’s done. Like in the climactic fight in “Goon” (highly recommended, by the way), when Ross Rhea knows that even though Doug is down at the moment, he’s got some more fight in him.
And see, there we go. The second half’s opening drive is the Russell Wilson show. He runs and throws his way downfield, until a 29-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate gets them on the board. Despite a two-score difference, this has the feel of a close game. It’s sort of mirroring the Ohio State/Michigan basketball game, if you’re catching any of that.
This is how Atlanta’s going to have to do it ‒ keeping the hammer down. Matt Ryan answers a five-minute Seattle drive with a seven-and-a-half minute drive of his own, and Atlanta’s up by 20 again with time dwindling in the first half. Matt Ryan was murderous on that drive. The lead’s starting to feel substantial.
Say, how did we all arrive at the conclusion that the Falcons were a bitch team incapable of coping with Seattle’s physicality, even at home? That seemed like a pretty widely-held opinion coming into this game. Is it because of their limited playoff history? Because they’re a dome team? Is it because their owner looks like he wears velvet smoking jackets, uses a cigarette holder and collects 1950s porn?
Fox shows a fan in a Matt Ryan jersey, complete with eye black and full shoulder pads. If you’re that fan, what sort of reaction would you expect Matt Ryan to have to your get-up? “Look, it’s an adult man, dressing up just like me, another adult man, on a day that isn’t Halloween.” Hey, maybe that fan will get lucky, and it’ll turn out that Matt Ryan is just like Liberace in that he wants another dude to look exactly like him. Good luck, my man.
If the Seahawks are in trouble, Russell Wilson doesn’t know it. He seems to be getting better and more confident as the game goes on. You know who he reminds me of most? Ben Roethlisberger. If you’ve got your hands on him, you better sack him, because if you don’t, he’s going to bury you ‒ it’s just that Roethlisberger keeps plays alive with his gorilla strength, and Wilson keeps plays alive with his quicks. Both are instinctive. Both are impossible to deal with when they’re at the top of their game.
Oh good, this is the playoff game where the NFL announces the national Punt, Pass and Kick winners. There are ten winners, which means this part of the broadcast appeals to exactly 20 people ‒ the parents of these kids. Move this to the Pro Bowl, please.
The Seahawks, who today, kind of look like Russell Wilson and 44 other guys, are still hammering away. Wilson runs it in from a yard out. We’re back to 27-14, and as competitive as it’s ever been. If they’re going to win this game, though, they’re going to need a little more from their defense. They’re in the scoring groove. The stopping groove, not quite as much. Rise to the occasion, defense.
How about an interception? Will an interception do? Because Earl Thomas just got one.
From there, it takes the Seattle Fighting Russell Wilsons four plays to score. It’s 27-20. These scrappy little fuckers are going to do it again.
As the Ohio State/Michigan game intensifies at the end, there’s a promo for Big Ten basketball, which includes a shot of a Penn State basketball player, which was something I didn’t know existed. Something else to ponder ‒ how much less would people have cared if it was an Penn State assistant basketball coach who did all that child-porking? Would we even know his name?
Three punts later, the Russell Wilsons have the ball with 3:00 to play, with all three timeouts, at their own 39. There’s no way they aren’t scoring here.
Atlanta, for some reason, keeps blitzing Wilson. The only get to him twice all day. My plan would be to send one pass rusher every time, and use about a four-man spy unit, a couple of yards back from the line of scrimmage. Wilson is so hard to sack, and if you take a shot at it and don’t get it, he’s going to bury you. One man rush. Four-man spy unit. That’s my plan.
There’s the score, giving Seattle their inevitable 28-27 lead. But they did leave the Falcons :31 and two timeouts. The narrative turns back to Matt Ryan. Fairly or unfairly, the next year of his life, at least to some degree, rides on these 31 seconds. If he drives the Seahawks into field goal range (and gets some help from the kicker), he’s a normal and acceptable quarterback. If he can’t, he’s a bitch-made sea urchin, for at least another year.
As it turns out, Ryan dominates the 31-second referendum on his quarterbacking career. With two throws, the Falcons are in FG range. Now he’ll need Matt Bryant to make the kick.
Fox is showing guys on the sidelines praying and chewing fingernails before the FG attempt. A couple of guys to my left start yelling, “SHOW RAY LEWIS! SHOW RAY LEWIS!” The poor guys. They were shot up all day yesterday with the Ray Lewis heroin, and now, they can’t enjoy a playoff game without their fix.
Seattle calls timeout before Bryant attempts a kick, but Bryant, even with the clear knowledge that the timeout had been called, went through with the kick anyway. He pushed it right. We’ll come back to this.
Here comes the real kick, and that one’s just as pure as Tim Tebow’s pale white penis flesh. It’s hammered down the pipe, with distance for days. It was struck so confidently and so well that I’d love to believe that Bryant, knowing it wouldn’t count, missed the first one on purpose just to fuck with Pete Carroll. “Yeah, I missed that first one! Golly, wasn’t that exciting, Pete! Maybe you shouldn’t have called that timeout, I don’t know. Well, let’s see what happens with this next one. Hey, look at that, it was dead solid perfect! I guess maybe now would be a good time to SUCK MY BALLS, NANCY. DO NOT FUCK WITH MATT BRYANT.”
So this one’s over, and ‒ wait, did they just fuck up a squib kick? Attempt an onside kick for some reason? What the hell happened there?! IS THIS REAL?
Somehow, the Russell Wilsons end up with one last shot at the end zone. Odds are against them, but you know, they’ve done this before. Kind of. I’d just throw it up to Golden Tate and hope he has some of his magical asshole powers left.
Thankfully, it’s caught by Julio Jones. Not that I had any particular interest in the Falcons winning, but after the Broncos/Ravens debacle yesterday, I couldn’t handle another bizarre ending. Let there be order in the world.
With a little time between games, the atmosphere takes a serious nosedive in here. I am not immune to it. Nearly everyone was on the Seahawks bandwagon, whereas, in this game, everyone hates the Patriots and no one cares about the Texans. There may also be a point of saturation on great football. I find it really hard to believe that this game will live up to the last three.
Prediction prediction: Before next season, about 60% of analysts will have the Seahawks in the 2014 Super Bowl. It will be hard to disagree.
Houston starts things off with a fine kickoff return, down to the New England 12. Then they come out, punch themselves in the wiener three times, and settle for a field goal. That felt more like burning four points than scoring three.
Arian Foster’s being held in check early. In fact, everyone’s been held in check early. Aquib Talib is doing an acceptable job on Andre Johnson, who has two catches on five targets. Just as a reminder, the Patriots got Talib pretty much for free. Hey, your team could’ve done it, too.
Hey, look, a drive ‒ the Patriots get on the board first with a one-yard touchdown plunge from Shane Vereen. I was going to insist that Shane Vereen was the grandson of Ben, whether or not it was true. It turns out, he kind of his. Shane Vereen is the first cousin, once removed, of Ben Vereen. The great Ben Vereen! From “Webster”!
Another star of Webster: Alex Karras, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, who played Webster’s dad, George Papadapolis. Is it possible that Karras and Vereen stayed in touch through the years, and Karras somehow had an influence on the Vereen family, enough that Ben would advise his young cousin Shane to chase his NFL dream with the help of the great Alex Karras? What I’m asking is this: Can the outcome of this football game be traced back to Emmanuel Lewis? Does he have more to do with this than, say, Danny Woodhead? I say yes. The evidence is overwhelming.
I will mention it again: J.J. Watt’s finger wag is taunting. He just blatantly does it in a Patriot’s face, consequence-free. Colin Kaepernick spins a football in someone’s general direction yesterday and gets a taunting call. JJ Watt puts his finger directly in someone’s face, and it’s fine? Who’s officiating these games, David Whitley?
Shane Vereen is in the endzone again, after a great catch from Wes Welker set he Patriots up. It’s 17-3, and I feel like we’re almost done here. From here on out, I see the Patriots just slowly squeezing the life out of the Texans, boa constrictor-style.
Seconds later, Arian Foster starts going bananas, and he gets in the endzone with 1:15 left before the half. Maybe at some point I’ll learn to stop saying that games are over almost immediately after they begin leaning in one direction.
Man, the USAA people are hitting the advertising hard this weekend. I’m not sure what they do, except that it seems to have something to do with insurance and military families. NFL playoff advertising isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t seem like this ads are particularly well-targeted. I don’t know. My point is just that I support the troops, so leave me alone, okay?
Tom Brady fails to make use of the 1:15 left to him, and in fact, leaves enough time for Matt Schaub to execute a counter-drive down into Patriots territory. They’ll get a field goal out of it. 17-13 at the half.
Here’s the highlight of the day for me: Brandon Spikes knowing where the television cameras will be pointed after a fumble, and then using that knowledge to its greatest possible advantage. That’s brilliant. I want a thinker like that on my team, every time.
Here’s a Smorgasbord deleted scene from two weeks ago: As I left the bar and walked to my car, I was approached by a woman in need. Her car had run out of gas, she just wanted to get home, it was freezing cold, she was five months pregnant, and she didn’t have money to get her daughter a cheeseburger from McDonalds. Some of you can see where this is going. I want to help this lady, and I give her cash, and offer to drive her over to McDonalds to get her and her daughter some food. She declines, because she wants to get back to her daughter as quickly as possible, and she starts hoofing it.
I don’t realize until later that that I’d been had. I was very upset.
Back to tonight: The Greek goes outside for a smoke break, and comes back with a story about how he gave $5 to a woman who was five months pregnant, had a hungry daughter and had run out of gas.
Angry/excited, I go outside to find this woman, because … I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d have done or said, but I really wanted to find her. It’s not like I was going to get my money back or anything, but I wanted to make her feel bad ‒ which probably would’ve been impossible, too. I don’t know. I walk up and down the strip mall, and I can’t find her. I do warn some people outside about her chicanery, though, who are looking at me like I’m crazier than a flounder with tits.
For some reason, I’m having a hard time getting past this. I want to throw a rock at that scam artist bitch. I sure hope her daughter got something to eat, though.
By the time I get back, it’s 31-13. Soon, a Shane Vereen touchdown will take it to 38-13, and I’m ready to get out of here. All I want to do is sit back with a cigar and a drink, and watch a few old Webster episodes with Ben Vereen. Ben Vereen won’t scam me.
Toward the end of the game, CBS runs a little package of highlights with the results of the three previous playoff games. A shot of Ray Lewis elicit some substantial boos. Glad I’m not the only one. I guess I’ll meet you fellas in hell one day.
Matthew J. Darnell can be reached here. He’s probably lonely and would love to hear from you.