The NFC Championship contest will go down as one of the greatest, and strangest, games in the history of professional football. It was either one of the greatest comebacks of all time, or one of the most spectacular collapses. Maybe both.
Now, I am a fan of the Jets and Giants. I hate and despise the Patriots and Cowboys, and I have a milder antipathy toward the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, and Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Peoples (thank you, TMQ). Toward the Packers and Seahawks I have no particular feelings. When they are playing a team I like, I root against them. When they are playing a team I hate, I root for them. When they are playing each other... well, I just want a good exciting game. The NFC Championship wasn't an especially good game -- too many turnovers -- but they don't get much more exciting. If I was a real true Seahawks fan, that improbable win might have made my heart explode. If I was a real true Packer fan, I'd have slit my wrists. I don't know how you get over that. There was no way the Packers could lose that game, just no way. But they managed. Incredible. I still hardly believe it. "This can't be happening," I said several times, as it happened. What's to say that a thousand sportswriters haven't already said?
Wow. Just wow.
As for the AFC Championship... what a snoozefest. I said last week that I didn't think the Colts could offer the Patriots much of a contest. And they didn't.
But the aftermath is proving much more intriguing than the game itself. What do you know? It turns out Evil Little Bill and his Patriots were cheating. Again. The New England Deflatriots.
When the news first broke that the Patriots had illegally deflated their footballs, I shrugged it off, like most of the country. Probably nothing to it, I figured. They were so much the better team and they crushed the Colts so completely, why would they need to fiddle with the balls? But with every passing day, this begins to look more serious. Now the NFL is reporting that 11 of the 12 Patriot balls were under-inflated, so it definitely looks deliberate. Was Evil Little Bill involved? Was Tom Brady? (Brady had to have known. The Colt defensive back who intercepted a Brady pass knew at once, the moment he caught the ball, and Brady handles the ball on every offensive play). What will the NFL do?
Much as I like to root against them, I would never deny that the Patriots have been a great team under Kraft and Belichick. They have one of the greatest QBs in the history of the game, they have one of the greatest defensive coaches of all time, they draft well, they manage free agency and the salary cap well, they win and win and win. In light of all that, you really have to wonder why they feel the need to cheat. "Deflategate" marks the second time they have been caught at it, Spygate being the first. Which has to make one wonder -- how many times have they gotten away with stuff without being caught? Even when the Patriots aren't crossing the lines, they are dancing right along the edge, as with the "substitution trick" they played against the Ravens. Everyone in the NFL wants to win, sure... but win within the rules, please. This seeming need to win at all costs, even if it means cheating, seems almost pathological. And I don't believe for a moment that Evil Little Bill knew nothing.
I hope that the league comes down on New England like a ton of bricks.
And as for the Superbowl....