Posted on: February 4, 2009 1:08 am

Blasts and Duds from Super Bowl XLIII


1.  The Game - A terrific game, and you could not ask for much more.  As I said in my Super Bowl column , the NFL has found a way to make these games exciting like at the end, like the NBA.  We have been spoiled over the past few years, and while I would not say this game topped last year’s or any other great Super Bowl, it will go right up there with those great games.  I saw it as a Pittsburgh semi-blowout, I was right for about 52 minutes, and I was very happy to be wrong.

2.  Ben Roethlisberger - Boy, did he make up from his record-setting lousy performance in Super Bowl XL.  From the start of the game until the very end, he was in rhythm.  His escapability is remarkable.  Just when you think you have him, he manages to use his strength to get away and make a play.   It is not Montana or Elway, but he doesn’t have to be.  Big Ben gets it done his way.  He was intercepted once on a tipped ball.  But, it was the final drive for the ages, and his TD pass to Santonio Holmes was picture perfect.

3. Kurt Warner - If anyone had any questions on whether he is a Hall of Famer, he answered it.  There is an open invitation for you to come to Canton, Kurt.  For the third time in his career, he led his down the field to tie or take the lead in a Superbowl with under 5 minutes to play.  He passed Joe Montana in total passing yards in Superbowl history.  Montana did it in 4 games, Warner only needed 3.  Kurt did make some mistakes, the biggest being a very costly interception at the end of the first half that was a 14 point swing, and really the play of the game, he also tripped over his center’s feet a couple times, and had a fumble on the handoff to James early in the game that Arizona recovered.  But, he made the plays he needed to make, and finally found Larry Fitzgerald when he had to most.

4. Santonio Holmes - I can’t rank him any higher, because I had him in my fantasy league and it was nice of him to give his best game at the Super Bowl.  He was great, and deserved the MVP.  But, where the heck was this performance in the regular season?  His best game was 5 catches, for 94 yards in week 2!  His TD catch was as pretty as you will ever see to win a football game.

5. The Combination of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston - The three who should have a nickname were all very good.  They combined for 21 catches, 282 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Angry Anquan before the game came up with a nice effort, and had the big 45 yard play to set up Arizona’s first touchdown. Anquan went 8 for 84.  Breaston went 6 for 71 and was the wild card that the Steelers had to pay attention to and that freed up things finally for the most talented player on the field late in the game.  Larry Fitzgerald did not catch a pass until there was under a minute left in the first half.  He didn’t catch his second pass until the fourth quarter.  But, Fitzgerald proved the old adage that great players aren’t always great, they’re just great when they have to be.  Fitzgerald caught 4 passes on the Cardinals second scoring drive, including the 1 yard TD pass where he made a sensational catch despite being mugged by Ike Taylor, who did not get a penalty for pass interference.  That was just the appetizer.  With 2:47 to go in the game, Fitzgerald caught a 15 yard slant and go route, and he was gone for 64 yards giving the Cardinals their first lead.  Larry would finish the game with 7 catches for 127, and 2 touchdowns and nearly stole the MVP away.

5. Darnell Dockett & Karlos Dansby - Dockett absolutely ate up his counterpart Darnell, the Steelers’ Darnell Stapleton.  Dockett had 6 tackles and 2 sacks.  Dansby had the interception that would have been huge had Arizona not given the turnover back on Harrison’s interception for a touchdown.  Both players gave great efforts, and will be rewarded when free agency comes to them.

6. James Harrison - Like John Matusak, he was a One Man Force .  The Cardinals left Mike Gandy by himself to block him, and he held on for dear life.  They flagged Gandy three times for holding, it probably could have been 10.  The Cardinals needed to give him help and did not.  All three drives that had Gandy’s holding penalties led to punts for Arizona.  Who would have thought that the longest play in Super Bowl history would come from a 6 foot, 250 pound outside linebacker.  A great read on the interception and an amazing 100 yard return!  Great blocking downfield was key, and James used every ounce of himself to find the end zone.  He could have been MVP until about 8 minutes to go in the game. He roughed up a Cardinal player and was not flagged for it, and was lucky to not be disciplined for a dirty play.

7.  Al Michaels & John Madden - Like I said last week , I think Al is the best in the business and he was terrific on Super Bowl Sunday.  He didn’t try to exaggerate how great the game was, he let it play out and just announce the action. I’m not a huge Madden fan, but this game fit him perfectly.  It was a time when Madden’s simple comments were effective.

8. - Joe Willie Namath - Did Broadway Joe look great or what?  I haven’t seen him look that good since Super Bowl III.  He really should bring in the Lombardi trophy every year from now on.  I don’t think he wanted to give it away.  He wanted to keep it and maybe impress a certain Suzy.


1. The Officiating - How there was not a formal review on the second to last play is beyond belief.  While, it did look like a fumble by Warner, there could have also been a way to call it a tuck, which would have meant an incomplete pass.  I do not see why the league couldn’t have spent the 2 minutes to fully review the play to see if the call on the field was correct.   Terry McAulay looks very good on TV, he looks and speaks professionally, but is not a great referee. He did not do that great of a job in Super Bowl XXXIX, and should not have been awarded another Super Bowl that quickly.  The roughing-the-passer penalty on Karlos Dansby in the 3rd quarter gave me flashbacks of Sugar Bear Hamilton on Ken Stabler in the 1976 AFC Playoffs.  I thought he missed an intentional grounding on Roethlisberger as well.  There were a lot of penalties and many of them were justified.  The holding in the end zone, and the running over the holder, were excellent calls.  How James Harrison was not flagged for giving someone the business was beyond me.  I disagreed with Madden, on saying he should have been ejected.  A Personal Foul would have been fine there.  No call was inexcusable.  Santonio Holmes should have been given a personal foul for using the ball as a prop on the game winning TD.  Look, I am no fan on the rule; and I love celebrations, but that is a rule and it should have been a penalty, which would have meant the Steelers would kickoff from the 15, instead of the 30.  The Cardinals probably would have been in better field position on the final drive.  All in all, I do not believe the result changes because of the officiating, but their performance was mediocre at best.  But, officiating is the last the NFL wants to hear about the day after the Super Bowl, it certainly wasn’t the talk of the office after last year’s game.

2 - Arizona’s Secondary - With Hines Ward not 100%, this should have made the Cardinals secondary’s task a little easier. But, this bumbling unit proved to be the downfall of Super Bowl XLIII as it could not cover the one man it had to stop in Santonio Holmes.  How he was still able to catch that touchdown with 3 defenders in the area is unforgivable.  Holmes should have been mugged and 5 penalty flags should have been on the field before he could be allowed to catch anything in the end zone that late in the game.  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made a nice play on a bomb to Nate Washington early in the game, but was beat routinely by Santonio Holmes and had a facemask penalty on Pittsburgh’s first drive of the second half.  Antrel Rolle only had a couple of tackles and did not do much else.  Adrian Wilson had 7 tackles, but had a silly Personal Foul penalty on the Steelers field goal attempt as he ran over the Steelers holder.  Lucky for Wilson, the Cardinals still kept the Steelers out of the end zone. Aaron Francisco was completely lost and fell down on the 40 yard pass to Holmes on the final drive allowing him to reach the 6.

3. Mike Tomlin - I know some say the decision to kick the field goal was a good one, but I disagree.  You need less than a yard; I would have gone for it and used Big Ben on a QB sneak and take my chances.  At the worst, Arizona has their first possession of the game at their own 1.  But, I would have felt confident that the game would have started 7-0.  The Steelers have a 20-7 lead in the 4th quarter, they are the best defense in the league, and he has the safeties playing in what looks like St. Pete.  They are at least 25 yards off the ball.  It was only a matter of time before Larry Fitzgerald made his mark on this game when you leave the middle that open.  A great defense does not give up 14 points in 5 minutes of the 4th quarter of a game that it is winning by double figures.  Had the Steelers not come back to win this game, Mike Tomlin would have had been wearing huge goat ears this morning.

4. Troy Polamalu - He played in the game, yes?  I know I saw his hair.  He was practically invisible.  Two assisted tackles, no solo tackles, and at least half a dozen whines to the officials.  I thought Hines Ward was the one who Whines Hard?  I think we have a new candidate for that award.

4.  Bruce Springsteen - Somebody’s getting older, and unlike Brenda Warner and Joe Willie, he isn’t getting better with age.  He tried to bring the emotion of his concerts to halftime, and I like it at the beginning, with the whole “Put down the guacamole,” bit. But, the crotch slide that ended up tea bagging the camera operator.  I think NBC would have rather seen Janet Jackson’s floppy boob come out again than a 59 year old man’s crotch come flying through their new HDTV.  Was it me or did it look like Bruce couldn’t remember his lyrics?

5.  Roger Goodell - My goodness, what a horrific public speaker.  First, his award presentation to Kurt Warner on the Walter Payton, NFL Man of the Year Award was something out of the Oscars.  Roger, “And the winner is Kurt Warner.”  That’s all you have to say?  How about a sentence or two about the man and what he represents to the league, or even commenting on and thanking the other players nominated.  Second, when you give out a championship trophy, it is okay to say a couple sentences about the game and to thank both teams’ owners, players and fans.  He said one sentence comparing this game to last year’s game, which was ridiculous.  Let this game be the new chapter in NFL History, there is no need to talk about one game being better than the other.  Every NFL fan is biased and will form their own opinions.  I give more of a speech when one of my players wins a Fantasy sports title, for goodness sake.  Goodell makes Belichick look like a distinguished speaker.  Goodell would be Bush at a press conference, and Belichick would be Obama.

6.  NBC - Were 725 analysts really necessary?  Maybe this why GE’s stock is ready to hit single digits?  Why on God’s green Earth was Matt Millen brought in?  What insight could he possibly have?  Um, I ran a team completely into the ground and have put my former organization farther away from this stage than Neptune is to Earth, so I guess I am qualified.  Next on CNBC, Bernie Madoff to discuss sound investing in troubled times!  One player I thought I would not be talking about was Rodney Harrison.  But, NBC with its earnest payroll hired him too for analysis.  Now, you know, I love the Patriots, and Rodney is a favorite of mine, but man did he come off like an ass last night. How they dropped the audio on Matt Lauer’s interview with President Obama was inexcusable.


Posted on: September 15, 2008 4:26 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2008 4:36 pm

Cassel Throne into Position

It happened suddenly and it happened completely.  The boy wonder who was crowned king of the Patriots has gone down.  It hurts, and everyone in Patriots country feels their own knees buckle when seeing Brady hit the turf.  This is not the time to put down that finger that we have against the rest of the league.  It is time for the next boy to see if he can rise to be king. 

 Our new boy wonder is named Matt Cassel.  Not Kassel, Castle, or Cassell like so many papers this morning decided that was the proper spelling of his last name. 

Has there ever been anyone in the history of the NFL who has had more preparation to be a starting quarterback than Matt Cassel?  He spent nearly a decade as a backup standing behind two great college quarterbacks, and one great pro quarterback.  His football educational background is equivalent of someone who went to Harvard for his bachelor’s and just finished up his doctorate at Yale.  We will soon find out how much on-the-job training you really need to be quarterback in the NFL. <o:p> </o:p>

Matt Cassel may never be Tom Brady, but in 2001, Tom Brady wasn’t exactly going to be the greatest thing that hit Foxborough until the CBS Sportsscene came to town. 

 There were a number of games that season where he threw for under 200 yards, and was called a game manager.  Brady had an 86 yard disaster in Miami where he fumbled twice in a 30 – 10 loss to the Dolphins in Week 4.  In Week 7, he had a 4 interception second half meltdown in a 31 – 20 loss to the Broncos.   We can ask what if Brady had the receiving corps and offensive line from 2007 that he had in 2001?  Well in 2008, Cassel does. 

 Matt Cassel may have similar games like those.  It comes with the territory of being a new starting quarterback.  This was a guy who showed hardly any poise and very little precision in preseason.  But, on Sunday he was ready, he was accurate and most importantly did enough things right to keep this year’s Patriot undefeated season alive. 

 In the 2005 Draft, many experts covering Day 2 of the draft had no idea who Matt Cassel was, but they knew that if he was drafted by Bill Belichick and the Patriots there is probably something there that very few of us can see. 

 An injured quarterback turned a gloomy coach into a legend.  Maybe this is the way that Bill Belichick gets the respect that he lost after Spygate back?  It may not lead to a fourth crown in February, but a man named Cassel has just left the maid’s quarters and is now taking over the master bedroom.  I’m looking forward to see what is in store at the Gillette Kingdom.  I dedicate the wisdom of T.O. to Matt Cassel, “That’s my quarterback, that’s my teammate.”

Category: NFL
Tags: Cassel, Patriots
Posted on: September 3, 2008 10:16 am
Edited on: September 3, 2008 11:36 pm

Half Point Conversion Week One NFL Picks...

Welcome back to Paradise. May there be cocktails and dreams for everybody. Or for the rest of us, may there be parlays and last minute covers. 
Sometimes it is good to know that the bookmakers are just as confused as the rest of us. This week we have 8, count ‘em road favorites. Which means that there are 8 home dogs. That used to make us drool like Eliot Spitzer after client #8 had finished.    NY Giants (-4) over Redskins (41) Opening night. I’m sorry but where are the priorities in this world. Mr. Tyree your 15 minutes are up. I do not feel the same about Eli. I’m not sure what it is but he has that ability to make plays when they matter most. 75% of the time he is average at best, and will make decisions like he was wearing Bad Idea jeans. But in the late stages of a game he has found a knack of leading the Giants down the field for a score. It hardly ever looks pretty, but it has become Eli’s masterpiece. He’s not afraid of going for broke. Archie should have named him Rocky. He may not be the prettiest, may look a little punchy, but he takes the hits, the media abuse, the Peyton comparisons, the Tiki potshots, and he still isn’t afraid to fire shots with the best. What he did in 2007 playoffs may be just a precursor to what is in store in the future. Jason Taylor may not be in full paso doble form, and the fact that the defending champion never seems to lose this game makes me feel comfortable that the Ugly Duckling comes through again. Giants 24, Redskins 14.    Jets (-3) over Dolphins (36) I think the bettors are going to get a break for the first couple weeks of the Brett the Jet era in terms of the over/under. Without Jason Taylor the Dolphin D is not the same, and I think Favre will have a few of those 3 TD / 2 INT games. That means a lot of passing, a good deal of points and more importantly, a longer game to help us on the OVER. In terms of the actual game I will take the Jets 27, Dolphins 13.   Ravens (+1) over Bengals (39) The Ravens announced that the Flying Blue Hens alum Joe Flacco will start on Sunday. I see more ducks flying than hens in this one. Senor Ocho Cinco the game starts at uno. I can’t really see the Bengals being favored on the road over anyone, so here goes, Ravens 17, Bengals 16.   Patriots (-16 ½) over Chiefs (46) Welcome back to the giant Patriot point spreads. Oops, Giant, bad choice of words. Because Tom Brady was AWOL in the preseason it may take him a while to acclimate himself back into the swing of the Pats’ offense. I predict it will take a little less time than it did for Randy Moss in 07, which was about a quarter and a half. Patriots 34, Chiefs 10. (Cross your fingers on the under).    Steelers (-6 1/2) over Texans (43 ½) I see a lot of love has been handed around for the Texans. It is much love to the bettor as the spread drops from 7 to 6 ½. Always remember to shop around and try not to get stuck with 7.   Houston has improved but got a very difficult task in week 1. Steelers 31, Texans 20.    Titans (+3) over Jaguars (37)  This is another toss-up and one the bookmakers threw up their arms and came down with 3 for the number. Unfortunately, some news broke about Richard Collier being shot is not good news. I am pretty sure it was Bill Cosby who said hardly anything good ever happens between midnight and dawn. I feel that this incident will play heavily on the mind and hearts of the Jags and how could it not? But, in this business it’s about winning and losing and leaving your emotions somewhere at the bottom of the ocean. Titans 23, Jaguars 20.    Lions (-3) over Falcons (41 ½) Can someone tell me the last time the Lions were a 3 point road favorite? I think it goes back to the last time we had a Democratic Convention without the Clintons. The Falcons are on the road to recovery, but the Lions will deceive their fans another year with a very good first win. Lions 27, Falcons 14.    Bills (+1) over Seahawks (39) You know this one is coming down to a last second field goal. If there is someone who feels really confident on betting this one, more power to you. If you are at a sports bar and around 3:45 you see someone glued to this game and hear his stomach rumbling as the Bills march down the field for Rian Lindell to attempt a 40 yarder, you’ll thank me for not having you bet this one. From one kicker to another, here’s hoping he makes it. Bills 20, Seahawks 17.    Bucs (+3 ½) over Saints (43)  After Gustav forced the entire city of New Orleans to evacuate, it must be tough to get back to football on Sunday.  I am not sure anyone can get a feel for this one.  I just sense it may be a little lower scoring of a game than most think and that should favor Tampa Bay.  Bucs 20, Saints 17.    Eagles (-7) over Rams (44)   Once again, shop around, see if there is somewhere foolish enough to give you -6 ½, unfortunately I don’t think you will find it, but if you do you know where to reach the Commish. Rams usually are on hillside or up on mountains, and this mediocre bunch performs better indoors. Welcome to Philly, St. Louis Rams, now get the %$ #@ out and don’t make it close at the end. Eagles 27, Rams 14.   Cowboys (-4) over Browns (48 ½) My advice before selecting is watch the weather forecast. It looks like Partly Cloudy and around 75 degrees at kickoff. That makes for good passing weather. Let’s hope both of these team’s offenses can reach a total near the degree mark. I am hoping that the guy who put up the sign “T.O. has B.O.” will bring it back out of the closet. It was one of those things that anyone could have made, but only one had the sagacity to make it happen. Because of that moment of brilliance I like the Browns to score 24 points, but I like the Cowboys to put up 34. Cowboys 34, Browns 24.   Chargers (-9) over Panthers (42 ½) Unpredictable east coast team travels 3,000 miles in week one to meet the team that most think are the juggernaut this year in the NFL. Oh, and did we mention that Carolina is going to be without their best player on offense? If Ken Lucas thinks the beating he had from Steve Smith was bad, this may hurt just as much. Get in on the Chargers while Shawne Merriman can still say that he does not regret having surgery. Chargers 31, Panthers 15.    49ers (+3) over Cardinals (41 ½) Ah, for gamblers and Fantasy Football lovers only. Curl up and join 8 of your friends and watch this poor excuse for an NFL football game. Maybe if Fox got Frank Caliendo to do the whole game as Madden people would watch this and think this was an important game because John Madden is there. You know FOX will bring its worst crew there, my question is why bother? Why not just do what NBC did with badminton, soccer and some other not so important events, get a couple of good people to do the game from the tv studio. They have a dozen people talking for one hour for the pre-game show, why not get more time out of them and announce it right there in the studio. Why waste the plane tickets? We do not really need to get a pulse of the excitement in Arizona, I think most of us are smart enough to figure that one out. Unfortunately, FOX will roll out a couple of stiffs, pay for their airfare, hotel, assorted expenses, etc. and get the lowest rated game of the week. Or, I say have a couple of married announcers do the game from a sports bar and make it look it like San Francisco and see if they go home straight after the game. They could come back hours later and their wives would never know it. It would be a free pass. Eh, what do I know? Oh, 49ers 24, Cards 21.    Colts (-9) over Bears (44) – Speaking of Big John. How many times will he drool over Peyton in this one. “And, uh, and, uh you got Peyton Manning and he’s one of the greats.” “And, uh, and, uh, you got Kyle Orton who used to play football in Indiana at Purdue. And Purdue makes me hungry for turducken.” Turducken makes me hungry for an NFL fix and a Sunday Night Dungy-Peyton lovefest. Colts 28, Bears 10.   Packers (-3) over Vikings (38) Hey Look, in week one at Lambeau there will be a quarterback with a confusing R and V combination in his name. No, it’s not Brett Favre’s 12<sup>th</sup> retirement ceremony, it’s Tarvaris Jackson, and on a gimpy knee I might add. Look for the Pack to stack the box to stop the Purple Jesus. The Aaron Rodgers era officially begins with a win. Packers 24, Vikings 13.   Broncos (-3) over Raiders (41 ½) Personal note of sadness for me in this matchup: Last season, I made it through 12 weeks in a thousand people Survivor Pool; we were down to under 20 people. I took the Broncos that week, they lost 34 – 20. I lost out on about $10,000. I haven’t forgotten that and likely never will. I hope Mike Shanahan didn’t forget either.  Broncos 24, Raiders 13.   So there you have it my not for profit picks for week one of the season.  I am currently undefeated!  That may last until Thursday night at 10 pm.   
Category: NFL
Tags: Week One
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