Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 16, 2012 at 9:29 AM
Say it ain't so, cheeseheads!
The Green Bay Packers' so-called newest dynasty is kaput ever before it really got rollin' -Sunday's 37-20 slop-fest loss to the 8 ½-point road underdog New York Giants is not gonna go down in Packers history as one of the highlights (for sure!) but how about the historical sense that Green Bay's loss marked the fourth time in the past five years that a #1 National Football Conference seed has fallen here in the Divisional Playoff Round ... hard to believe, eh?
True, the Packers may have been overwhelming favorites to win it all in Indianapolis come the night of February 5th but instead this team that toyed with perfection for much of the 2011 season instead has been relegated to the junk pile -and that's where they belong after a garbage game that included a slew of dropped passes, three lost fumbles and countless missed tackles as the Packers won the time of possession stat that was supposed to be so darn important (30:25-to-29:35) but truly meant nothing at all after a 15-1 Green Bay team looked all too human in its biggest game of the year.
Our message to the Packers is what's our message to New Orleans, Denver and Houston too -no excuses.
You lose, you go home and don't bother coming back till you all straighten out your various blemishes. Here's to the weekend winners ...
On Sunday, it was ...
New York Giants 37, Green Bay 20
Could you remember back in time this year when the Giants seemingly couldn't win a game? Heck, trace back from the team's Week 10 loss -in San Francisco, ironically enough -through a Week 13 game against Green Bay (hmmm) and the G-men lost four in a row and all the talk in Gotham City was that it was high time for eighth-year head coach Tom Coughlin to pack it in and move aside for an heir apparent but than the NFC East team came alive with three wins in the final four regular-season weekends and now all of a sudden everyone's having a 2007 flashback.
The latest reminder that the Giants are -as Coughlin put it following this NFC Divisional Play win at Lambeau Field -"a dangerous team" was this road win that featured a three-TD passing performance by never-rattled QB Eli Manning (see 330 yards passing and a heady 114.5 QB Rating) and an all-time game from WR Hakeem Nicks who not only stole the show with his end-of-the-first-half "Hail Mary" catch for a 37-yard touchdown but this dude finished with seven grabs worth 165 yards with two TDs in all and let us not forget that Giants pass rush that included four quarterback sacks of MVP-to-be QB Aaron Rodgers -hey, at least he's now available to play in the Pro Bowl on January 29th!.
No doubt that Rodgers did some early-game damage with his legs as predicted right here in last week's Jim Sez Previews but the Pack short-circuited so many other drives with drops, errant Rodgers passes and fumbles (can someone please tell us why FB John Kuhn was ever carrying the ball at midfield in a 10-10 game?) and it's safe to say that G-Bay handed the Giants (11-7) at least half their points here and then Manning and mates gladly did the rest.
P.S., memo to nitwit referee Bill Leavy:
Good thing your bogus roughing-the-passer fourth-quarter penalty on Giants DE Osi Umenyiora didn't cost NYG the game or you would have been banned from MetLife Stadium for years (like you were from refing Seattle Seahawks home games after a rotten Steelers-Seahawks Super Bowl in 2005!)
Baltimore 20, Houston 13
Make no mistake about it: The Baltimore Ravens (13-4) won't be putting this one in the vault as we could write a gazillion words about how John Harbaugh's didn't deserve to win but held on late as a "Hail Mary" pass was batted away in the game's waning moments but let's take a moment or two here to dissect some things like why did Ravens' offensive coordinator Cam Cameron decide his club should pass the ball on both second- and third-down before the two-minute warning instead of having the gritty/gutty Texans use their final two time outs ... and why didn't Baltimore make a more committed effort to get the ground game in gear with RB Ray Rice limited to 21 carries for 60 yards (less than three yards a pop, folks!).
Finally, what might the Ravens have been thinking when their hyped-up defense was busy surrendering 131 yards rushing -with stud RB Arian Foster pounding out 132 yards on 27 carries (that's at least how many totes Rice should have had) -and an eye-popping 4.7 yards-a-rush here.
Was Houston's physical offensive line that good or did the Ravens somehow get exposed here and wound up getting saved late by a big screen play diagnosis by LB Ray Lewis and a pick plus the late-game bat-down by S Ed Reed -now it takes guys with gray hair to save a Baltimore team that somehow is struggling with its offensive identity while heading into Sunday's AFC Championship Game at New England.
On Saturday, it was ...
New England 45, Denver 10
Is it us or did Patriots QB Tom Brady (363 yards passing and an NFL playoff-record 6 TD strikes) have a glazed-over look going for him all throughout this prime-time blowout win against Tim Tebow and the Broncos?
Well, in Sunday's Texans-Ravens game you might have heard CBS game analyst Dan Dierdorf claim Brady played "angry" and guess that's as good a way as any to describe his mind-set while chopping up the two-touchdown underdogs that were down 14-0 less than eight minutes into this game and down a resounding 35-7 at the halftime break when any/all talk about "Tebowmania" had long since left the CBS broadcast discussion.
What we found interesting here in a game that didn't stay interesting for long is that Patriots boss-man Bill Belichick stayed with Brady for the whole game here while the defense never did take a play off as New England (14-3) surrendered a RB Willis McGahee 5-yard TD run just moments into the second quarter and never did allow the Broncos to crack the end zone the rest of the night -how about the stat that the Pats out-yarded the Broncos 509-to-252 and Tebow accounted for only 149 yards in all (136 yards passing and 13 yards rushing). Now that's no way to revolutionize the art of quarterbacking, is it?
San Francisco 36, New Orleans 32
We'll leave it up to the "experts" to dissect the four lead changes in the game's final 4:02 here but what makes up out talking point here is this:
Did the Saints believe that they could camouflage a rotten defense right through the post-season 'cause the secondary didn't cover a soul as San Fran TE Vernon Davis (7 catches for 180 yards and two scores including that ultra-dramatic game-winning 14-yard snag via QB Alex Smith with just nine seconds left) was magnificent but did you realize three different Niners pass-catchers averaged 13 yards-or-more a catch and really chewed up chunks of yards on a day when RB Frank Gore had only 13 carries (albeit for 89 yards or 6.8 yards a rush) and the aforementioned Smith committed just one miscue in all (a lost fumble) but otherwise did more than simply "manage" this game.
The Niners (14-3) utilized their other mainstays with solid special teams work -the kick/punt coverage units, another 3-of-3 FG game from Pro Bowl lefty kicker David Akers and yet another splendid game by fellow Pro Bowl P Andy Lee (averaged a whopping 49.5 yards a boot) -and the Saints didn't exactly play with glue fingers as a couple of hard hits jarred the ball loose from the likes of RBs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles and don't dismiss the fact that losing five turnovers to one lost turnover is almost always a recipe for disaster.
Maybe that "slower track" at Candlestick Park didn't seem such a big deal -but the Saints had very few big gainers prior to the late TD plays involving QB Drew Brees-to-Sproles (a 44-yard catch-and-run score) and Brees-to-TE Jimmy Graham (66-yard TD catch-and-dash play) and SF's hard-hitting defense certainly deserved all pre-fourth-quarter credit.
Extra, extra: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to roll on with the NFL Championship Games this Sunday plus remember there's NBA and College Basketball winners too and so just make sure you're all aboard when you check with us at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else get it online right here
NOTE: Catch our College Basketball News & Notes in the next Jim Sez plus there's NFC and AFC Championship Game updates all week long right here at Jim Sez.