That’s it. You hear that echoing, hollow, fading-like-a-once-struck-gong noise? That’s the NFL season. It’s almost gone.
That’s it. You hear that sonorous, building, timpani-drum-roll that’ll soon be going for thunderous broke? That’s the Super Bowl. It’s coming soon.
There’s two teams left standing. Two coaches from one family with one singular professional goal: winning the big one. The Game. But we have two weeks to hype up the super bowl. Two agonizing, snail on a cold morning’s paced weeks. So let’s look back at what got us to this point. Let’s take a look at the championship weekend that was.
San Francisco 49ers V.S. Atlanta Falcons
The 49ers came into this game scorchingly hot. With Colin Kaepernick setting an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in the previous playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, a fearsome defense with an elite front seven, and a coach who seems to be pushing all the right buttons they were the favorites in this game despite being the road team with a worse regular season record. The Falcons had pulled off a miraculous comeback in the previous week’s matchup with the Seattle Seahawks but still didn’t seem to engender any confidence, despite being the home team and despite having an offensive air attack loaded with weapons.
After surging out to a quick 17-0 lead, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones had already decimated the 49ers’ secondary. It was so quick, so bereft of difficulty that I found myself shouting things at the T.V. like, “Who the hell’s covering Julio Jones? Lennay Kekua?” and “You had to pick today to deliver your best playoff game, ever, Matty Ice? You just F-ing had to?!?!” and “Asgl;shdgflsjkdhlkshgkhdghdgh!” (*Author’s note: don’t ask me how I spoke a semi-colon. Just don’t.) The 49ers were not only on their heels, they were running like they had on heels.
But the 49ers never panicked. They never screamed semi-colon gibberish or made terrible Lennay Kekua jokes. They just kept grinding. They kept running the ball in a pistol offense zone read that reminded me of the first time I saw Kaepernick play in what was one of the best football games I’ve ever seen (*Author’s note: a post that somehow got discovered and became a mini-sensation on a Nevada Wolfpack message board). Little by little. Play by play. The 49ers started coming back.
Vernon Davis, long since dormant, suddenly erupted with his biggest game since last postseason. In his final 6 regular season games, Davis had 6 catches for 61 yards. Against the Falcons, VD was getting passed like it was spring break in Cancun. He had 5 catches for 106 yards. Suddenly the entire state of California was happy to have VD. 49ers fans rejoiced in the glorious return of their old pal, VD. Should I stop calling him that?
As the 49ers remained composed, they began to wear down the Falcons. They held the Falcons scoreless in the second half and, thanks to a few costly turnovers by the cold and clammy hands of “Matty Ice” they were able to seize the lead once and for all with 8:23 left in the 4th quarter. I was ecstatic.
So where was the turning point in the game? What crucially vital part of the 49ers organization finally roared to life and carried the rest of team with it during its undeniable, primal surge towards victory? Two words: this guy.
That’s right, people. Look who’s baaaaaaaacccccckkkkkkkk!!!!!!
The 49ers have one thing that no opponent can counter, no scouting report can cover, and no hours of endless grainy-eyed film study could ever prepare you for. They have this guy on their side. He’s a good luck charm and I won’t even entertain the fact that he could possibly be anything else. Here’s another shot of his majestic, flowing mane of mullet. Drink it in. And chase it on down with that delightful ‘stache.
The more of Him that they accidentally showed on the sidelines, the better the 49ers played. It was scientifically provable. Hard data. Kind of. I’ve detailed this youthful Keith Stone impersonator before on my blog, and even posited a few theories on who he may be or why he’s there, but regardless of the reasoning behind it, the 49ers need to keep him on camera as much as possible. Hell, make him an assistant coach. Get him his own red marker and let him hang it on his shirt collar like he’s Harbaugh’s own, mullet-mustachioed personal attendant. Whenever, however, just get him a promotion and get him some camera time.
New England Patriots V.S. Baltimore Ravens
I admit, in recent years, my hard-line hatred of the Patriots has softened. Once a nay-sayer zealot of all things Brady and Belichick, since they haven’t been constantly winning, I have grown to admire their ruthless efficiency. Their consistent innovations and constant reinvention have begun to fascinate me. However, I am not what I would call a Patriots “fan.”
The Baltimore Ravens are another matter entirely. For reasons that are too long to explain I’ve grown weary of Ray Lewis’ constant pandering. His incessant need to whip out a soapbox and catapult onto it to make overly bold, broad-brushingly weird proclamations has gotten tiresome.
(*Author’s note: First off, I apologize about the weird, semi-porno-sounding music that the person added. Second off, this moment was pretty much the nail in the “oh, man, he’s such a powerful speaker, bro!” coffin for me. He’s talking here about all the “evil” that will run rampant in the streets if the NFL Lockout occurs. You live in Baltimore, Ray. Pretty sure that is going to happen anyway. Ridiculous.)
The reputation that the Ravens garnered in the early 2000’s, which was well deserved, of a dominant, smash-mouth defense hasn’t gone away even though the Ravens have continued to slip down the rankings in their defensive statistics as their key defenders have grown older.
I did, however, feel that I would rather face Joe Flacco than Tom Brady (*Author’s note: recent statistics be damned. I don’t care if Flacco has been more clutch than Brady recently, or that his cannon-arm has been hitting its target more often than not this postseason.) in a potential Superbowl so I found myself uneasily rooting halfheartedly for the Ravens, knowing full well that I was potentially selling my soul to the absurdly-obnoxious-hyperbole-ridden-cliche-mania that a Harbaugh V. Harbaugh and Ray Lewis’ last hurrah Superbowl would be.
The Pats jumped out to an early lead and I felt that my own rooting interest might matter little. Tom Brady was something like 2,000,000,000 and 0 when he had a lead at home and the Patriots held a 13-7 halftime lead. But in the second half, the Ravens stormed back. They scored 21 unanswered points behind a balanced offensive attack and an inspired defensive effort.
They had now won 2 straight games against heavily favored, home opponents. They had just beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back weeks and Joe Flacco was looking to send a very clear, very loud F- you to all his haters. I suddenly wasn’t sure if I wanted to play the Ravens after all.
(*Author’s note: check out this quick bio of Flacco from Wikipedia. Now, that is a nickname. Gotta love Wikipedia.)
Best fake-nickname ever?
After the game the cameras followed around Ray Lewis like he was a Lohan, post sentencing. CBS treated us to an extended closeup of his man-crack as he fell to the turf in a melodramatic explosion of tears. Enjoy this visual. CBS sure did.
So now we’re set. It is Harbaugh V. Harbaugh. It is an insane, dynamo of a young quarterback (Kaepernick) V.S. a much-maligned, signal caller who is trying to shed the stigma that has (unfairly?) been placed upon him for falling short in the past. It is Ray Lewis’ final curtain call and the bedlam that will follow him, win or lose. Hang in there, football fans. It’s time to turn the over-hype alert to a code orange.
(*Final Author’s note: Are there any good nicknames out there for Colin Kaepernick? I’m leaning towards calling Kaepernicus. Nicolaus Copernicus was the guy who developed the theory that our universe was actually centered around the sun. I figure, Kaepernicus is about to revolutionize the 49ers offense from stagnant, stale and outdated, to something revolutionary and new. A little academic? Someone give me something else, if you’ve got it.)