This morning reminded me of a wintry morning in Lake Tahoe, 23 years ago. Only much less painful. From their status as the most feared franchise in professional football to the exaggerated cleft in their quarterback’s chin, let’s face it: the Patriots are this generation’s 49ers. Doesn’t mean we have to like the Patriots, but it at least needs to be recognized that the way the Pats do business is quite similar to how Bill Walsh’s Niners stayed in the league’s upper tier for two decades.
The 49ers weren’t perfect, and the Patriots aren’t either. Sometimes the 49ers would have seasons where they’d muddle along, beating the bad teams and showing glimpses here and there of the dominance they used to display for entire seasons at a time. They’d wobble into the playoffs, then get crushed.
When Ray Lewis came in on a 2nd quarter blitz, ran through Laurence Maroney as if he was Lawrence Welk and slammed an already-defeated Tom Brady to the turf, it brought back memories of watching Jim Burt crush Joe Montana from the blind side on a frigid day in the Meadowlands.
The bitter part of all of us finds it easy to revel in the Pats’ misfortune. But they’ll be back, just like the 49ers came back after getting crushed by the Vikings in the first round a year later. Not that this is any revelation; I just had to figure out some way to make something that came out of the first three games of this year’s playoffs meaningful in any way. Because up until this afternoon’s game, the NFL Playoffs brought all the excitement of a December college football bowl game.
Sometimes you have to be patient, I guess. Watch three awful games, and the sports Gods will bless us with the Phoenix Suns facing the Golden State Warriors in an intramural football game, in a wild contest narrated by a tranquilized Joe Buck and a recently concussed Troy Aikman. Oh, what? That’s not what happened? Could have fooled me.
Ah yes, we just witnessed an instant classic between the Cardinals and the Packers, in a game that featured some absurdly good quarterbacking by two guys who could have been 49ers.
Aaron Rodgers threw one of his 44 TD passes today and Joe Buck was borderline excited(!) going to commercial, exclaiming, “Aaron Rodgers is RED hot.” Could you ever imagine hearing Buck say that about Alex Smith during a playoff game? OK, don’t answer that.
Kurt Warner was never realistically going to go to the 49ers, but celebrating that seems kind of silly now. Imagine if Warner HAD signed. Michael Crabtree certainly wouldn’t have held out past training camp. The 49ers would have converted on third down more often than once every ten games. And Warner would have died due to a massive injury to his brain after Adam Snyder played “matador” with Jared Allen or Darnell Dockett. Hmmm….maybe Warner wasn’t meant to be a Niner. Let’s move on.
Unrelated thoughts and stuff…
– Was the NFL punishing the Packers for getting rid of Brett Favre? From the missed holding and offensive pass interference penalties on Larry Fitzgerald’s one-handed touchdown to the missed facemask on the game-winning TD by Karlos Dansby after Rodgers’ fumble, it seemed like anytime the Cardinals scored points that the rules didn’t apply.
– Gilbert Arenas is suspended indefinitely for calling David Stern “mean,” while Andre Carter and Tully Banta-Cain combined for 21 sacks this season. In other words, the Niners don’t want to hear the Warriors complaining about “the one who got away.”
– Mark Sanchez seems like a massive A-Rodesque douchenozzle, but even I have to admit his postgame remarks about how he’d advise Pete Carroll to stay in college yesterday were pretty funny.
– The Raiders have made many mistakes over the last seven years. The biggest mistake that nobody really talks about anymore: letting Charles Woodson go and paying Charles Woodson money to DeAngelo Hall. At this rate Woodson’s going to go into the Hall of Fame as a Packer, and that’s just wrong.
– After watching the RB combos the Cardinals and the Ravens featured today, and the lack of depth at the RB spot that the Packers and Patriots deal with, it’s looking more and more like the 49ers should go after a back sooner rather than later in the 2010 draft. Glen Coffee isn’t going to cut it. C.J. Spiller, anyone?
– Some loser on ESPN called Jermichael Finley the most athletic tight end in football. How quickly we forget the formerly dreadlocked tight ends who weren’t fortunate enough to make the playoffs. Vernon, I still love you!!!!!!!
– Our Super Bowl prediction before this weekend hasn’t changed: Cowboys/Chargers. However, Cardinals/Ravens wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The NFL surely wants Favre vs. Peyton, we’ll see if they get their wish.