When last we left feisty luncher, Peter King, he was lauding Andrew Luck for having lofty turnover amnesia, which is true. If he didn’t immediately forget all the ones he had against the Chiefs, it wouldn’t be so easy to have a handful more against the Patriots. But what about this week? After the Denver and New England won and Cam lost, you knew it would be brutal. Possibly because Peter King is always brutal. But does he deliver a clutch postseason-worthy terrible column? To find out, READ ON.
And right away…
Ugh, Christ, that title. It presages all the horrible smugness to come. It makes me want to stab my eyes with barbecue skewers.
To suggest that Manning-Brady conference title game is the way the AFC should end means any other conclusion is wrong. It’s suggesting the playoffs are only a means by which the league is preventing itself for reaching its rightful conclusion.
You scramble to find some championship Sunday that’s setting up exactly like this one: two of the greatest quarterbacks ever meeting for the 15th time (Elway and Marino faced off only three times) on one side of history, a burgeoning Steelers-Ravens-type rivalry with two charismatic kid quarterbacks on the verge of stardom on the other.
Naturally, this leads to one of those PK exercises in pointlessness where he tries to compare things that are inherently subjective and unquantifiable. In this case, it’s which conference title weekend lead the league in compelling storylines.
Went back to the merger, 43 years. Tried to find a championship wkend as compelling as Brady-Manning, and 2d coming of Pit-Bal rivalry …
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 13, 2014
This is starfucking winning out, as it always does in MMQB. If Manning-Brady postseason contests have taught us anything, it’s that they’re not always all that fantastic to watch. The ’06 AFC Championship was the only of the three that turned out to be a great game.
In 1998, Atlanta-Minnesota and Jets-Broncos had lost just nine total losses coming in, but Chandler-Cunningham and Testaverde-Elway just doesn’t have the ring of this weekend’s matches.
The ’98 NFC Title Game was amazing. Who gives a shit if Chris Chandler wasn’t a huge name?
I’ve looked back to the 1970 merger, and this championship weekend just has a unique feel to me. No dogs allowed. The four power teams that should be here are.
How are you defining what teams should be here? Really, whatever teams win in the playoffs – barring massive officiating blunders are the ones that should advance. If you go by regular season results, the Panthers were a higher seed than the Niners and therefore should be better, but they have a glory boy quarterback that PK holds a grudge against, so it’s only right they were sent packing.
This is the kind of doubleheader, as if the NFL needed advice on game-staging, that would justify two prime-time games.
“IF ONLY GOODELL KNEW WHAT WAS GOOD FOR HIM, HE’D FIND A WAY TO PUT BOTH ON NBC IN PRIMETIME! THERE’S STILL A CHANCE! HEED MY CRY!”
How do you pick a favorite game? How would you pick between Spielberg and the Coen Brothers?
Who do you pick between these wildly different directing styles? Those are the most conference championship of movie directors. Everyone knows Scorsese is the Super Bowl.
Between Fenway and Wrigley?
Bird and Magic?
Race or being from Boston, probably.
You decide. I can’t.
Such a PK thing to posit a false choice, as though the games are on at the same time and fans actually have to choose between them, and then be unable to make up his mind.
We’ll see which New England team shows up: the one that’s consistently been reliant on Brady’s right arm for this century, or the one that’s suddenly a power running team.
Didn’t their last Super Bowl winning team feature a power running attack with Corey Dillon? 30 years of perspective, people.
For many, this will be a referendum on Manning’s place in the pantheon. For at least three hours Sunday, I hope America will stop judging what it will think of Manning in 2033 to enjoy a great football game.
YOU SPENT THE LAST MONTH EXCLAIMING HOW HIS TOUCHDOWN RECORD ASSURES HIS PLACE IN HISTORY WITH THE GREATEST SEASON FOR A QB EVER! It’s been fun watching the Peyton defenders putting up preemptive defenses against TEH HATERZ in case Manning loses at some point.
Also, Peyton in 2033 will be commanding the android army driving humanity into servitude so we might as well get our laughs in now.
The Schneider Factor.
I walked into the Seahawks’ locker room after the 23-15 win over New Orleans and looked around. To the left, quarterback Russell Wilson, unwinding. To the right, wideout Doug Baldwin and running back Marshawn Lynch, heroes, surrounded by reporters.
This is actually a section about what a good job the Seahawks GM has done, but Peter included this intro about how he got to walk into the Seattle locker room postgame. A lesson that you’re never too old to gush about access like a 12-year-old fanboy.
Middle of the room, right, the DB area, were corner Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas holding court, and safety Kam Chancellor walking through.
Dicks… as far as the eye could see!
To the left, pass rusher Cliff Avril, and farther down, defensive lineman Michael Bennett and middle linebacker/defensive signal-caller Bobby Wagner, all talking about their roles in an impressive defensive performance.
So a standard locker room environment? LOFTY NUGGET.
The keys to Seattle beating the Saints and advancing to the NFC Championship Game. All acquired by Seattle since 2010. All acquired under the watch of Schneider, who ducked into the locker room for a second too, long enough to unobtrusively stick a hand in front of Sherman, shake it, say, “Nice game,” with a wide smile, and disappear into a back room.
What Schneider has tried to get are players who love football, who have been marked down, who have some special gifts
(Wilson’s charisma, and his Tarkenton-like ability to evade and then throw accurately)
The Seahawks innovative charm-based scouting has quickly become the envy of the league. Soon, the Wonderlic will be replaced with a 10-minute charm exam where players must literally blow the pants off front office people with such magnetic phrases as GO HAWKS!
and who, rarely, as in the case of the costly trade for Percy Harvin, require a very big risk. Harvin has played in only two games because of a hip injury and now a concussion, and his status for the title game is in doubt. “But you see him on that fly sweep we run,” said Sherman, “and you see why we got him. He makes us so different on offense.”
SEE HOW AWESOME HE IS BEFORE IMMEDIATELY GETTING HURT! If you can overpay looking impressive in practice, you do it!
But Schneider’s not sorry he did it. Cost of doing business. He won’t play it safe.
“He won’t play it safe, except for the philosophy of playing it safe and smart that I was just complimenting him for.”
Watch the 53-yard pass from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola Saturday night in the rout of Indianapolis. Know why it happened?
Brady flashed his million dollar grin at the defense and they were frozen in place for minutes?
Colts safety LaRon Landry got sucked up by the threat of another run by New England, another reminder that these aren’t the aerial Patriots.
He said, describing a 53-yard pass play.
So what’s happened to New England? Is this a permanent change, some nod to Tom Brady at 36 not being the thrower he once was?
Not at all.
But is it even close?
Not even close.
The Patriots are doing what they’ve always done under Bill Belichick: what works.
A pragmatist’s defense of cheating.
It’s a tribute to Belichick, and to his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels (and to Brady, quite frankly, because he won’t squawk about turning and handing it off 46 times), that the offensive transition hasn’t grounded the team.
In which Peter King congratulates the Patriots ground attack by praising everyone but the players involved in said ground attack.
Jim Harbaugh may be the nuttiest professor in the league, but he sure can coach.
So he’s been screaming GLAVEN on the sideline this whole time?
Good coach for today’s players, many of whom like the feisty guys who rebel against authority.
You see, Pete Carroll’s 9/11 conspiracies DO come in handy!
This week’s going to be filled with the blunt-force trauma of great expectations, and another showdown with the Patriots. I can imagine Manning Saturday night in the hotel, watching New England, thinking, “Not them again.” He won’t admit that, but he’s had so many of these Belichick and Brady battles. Even an Andrew Luck rematch would have been preferable I’m sure.
So intimate is PK’s relationship with Battleship Manning that PK can relay the thoughts that Peyton dare not speak. One day, Peyton will admit to them, with enough alcohol, mood lighting and Papa John’s. Peter’s heart and his loins cry for that day.
Some Saintly thoughts.
And not just because the editor of this column, Tom Mantzouranis, is the biggest Saints booster this side of Steve Gleason:
Oh good, because otherwise you’re saying that you’re only deigning to cover a playoff team as a favor to your incompetent editor. Though I wouldn’t put that by you.
Brees to Colston on an out to the right, gain of 13, Colston looks like he’ll go out of bounds … and he, incredulously, pauses with eight seconds left and throws a forward pass, about five yards ahead of him, all the way across the field. So, instead of having seven or eight seconds left at the Seahawks’ 36, with a chance for one quick completion to the sideline and then a shot into the end zone, Colston throws an illegal forward pass and the game is over because on the ensuing penalty there’s a 10-second runoff. It was clear in the locker room after the game that no one had any idea why Colston threw that pass. Let’s recap: With 24 seconds left and trailing 23-15 with 59 yards to gain against a very good defense, your chances are not good. But you should have four plays if you’re smart. Maybe five. New Orleans got three off, and one was a spike. I’m still shaking my head over the mismanagement, a day and a half later.
I imagine PK spends most of his tike shaking his head in judgment while not offering viable alternatives.
Brees turns 35 Wednesday. The window’s closing. It’s not closed.
WINDOWS ARE PERILOUSLY AJAR. DO SOMETHING, CONGRESS.
The Saints’ best offensive weapon in the passing game accounted for eight token yards
in the last six quarters of the postseason. That is unacceptable. That’s like a healthy Adrian Peterson touching the ball nine times in 1.5 playoff games.
That’s a fair comparison, provided designing pass plays down the field to your tight end is as easy as telling your quarterback to hand the ball off.
When I watched Graham Saturday, I saw a clear-out receiver. I didn’t see a fighter. He wasn’t loafing, but often in the second half, he’d round off his routes and not fight Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas for position; he looked content to open space for Colston often. I tried to envision Tony Gonzalez in this case—the same kind of athletic space player Graham is. And I think Gonzalez would have been battling to get open more, to present his quarterback with another go-to option.
Snaps missed by Graham in the two playoff games: 46. I understand different players playing different packages, but when your best weapon is sitting 30 percent of the time, it’s a mistake.
Wait, so you’re stopping just short of accusing Jimmy Graham of dogging it the entire game yet you’re criticizing the Saints for not having him on the field enough? FUCK YOU.
1. Seattle (14-3). The Seahawks have scored 100 points in their last five games. The running game looks great and the defense looks balanced and strong. The passing game, not so much. Now, I don’t think anyone should form a judgment based on Saturday’s game, because the wind was a passing-game killer. But at some point Seattle’s going to need big plays out of Russell Wilson if the ’Hawks are going to win a Super Bowl.
Far be it from me to go out of my way to defend the Charmslinger, but this seemed like a pretty good play.
2. San Francisco (14-4). This is what America wanted, right? The two best teams, in The House That Noise Built.
CenturyLink Field is noisy because they built it a certain way. This isn’t a chicken or egg thing.
/PK thinks eggs come from noise
5. Carolina (12-5). Fun while it lasted.
“Yes, too bad, defenders of SCAM NEWTON. What fun you all had criticizing me. But you had to know that yours was not among the SHOULDA teams.”
And 2014 was absolutely no fluke, not with that defense, not with that quarterback.
Sequencing is important.
7. New Orleans (12-6). Life is cruel, but it’s time—again—to pack your bags, Shayne Graham.
What’s that? Why should teams replace kickers when FIELD GOALS ARE TOOOOO EASY.
10. Indianapolis (12-6). Sorry to drop you down into the netherworld here, Colts fans. But any team that allows 44 and 43 points in back-t0-back postseason games must be punished. You’re lucky I didn’t drop the Colts out of here entirely for Luck’s Amish neckbeard.
Yet no punishment for millionaire sportswriters who spell “to” with a zero.
14. Pittsburgh (8-8). Any doubt the Steelers paid the right receiver? Antonio Browns: 110 catches, 1,499 yards, eight touchdowns. That’s gotten lost in the postseason folderol but shouldn’t have.
Yes, the fact that the 8-8 Steelers two years ago gave a long-term deal to Antonio Brown and not Mike Wallace is something that had sadly got lost in the shuffle of a postseason that the Steelers didn’t make.
Quotes of the Week
“What’s weighing on my mind is how soon I can get a Bud Light in my mouth. That’s priority number one.”
—Peyton Manning, asked after the playoff win over San Diego whether it was “weighing on his mind” that a neck exam will decide his future with the Broncos.
No way this wasn’t the result of Peyton getting an endorsement deal with Bud.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
—Bridget Kelly, deputy chief of staff for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to an aide on Aug. 12, kicking off what appears to be a politically motivated, classic Jersey story of electoral retribution when Christie did not get the support of the mayor of Fort Lee.
Thanks for the recap of a news story that has been everywhere, a week later. That’s why PK remains the no. 1 news source for 65-year-olds who hate backward baseball caps and jungle music.
Craziest day of weather in my 56 years on earth Wednesday:
Here we go.
5 a.m. Eastern Time, 8 degrees. Flag a cab in Manhattan for the trip to JFK and a flight to Los Angeles.
11:50 a.m. Pacific Time, 74 degrees. Walk out of LAX into the Los Angeles sun. Stopover for a short lunch near the airport on the way to Seattle.
5:35 p.m. Pacific Time, 44 degrees. Steady cold rain pelts me outside the terminal at SeaTac.
I was frigid, I was T-shirted, I was cold and wet. What a country.
Indeed. Any country that affords a fucking moron who didn’t realize that there might be a weather change in a city 1,100 miles north of LA the ability to make more money than most people will ever see is the envy of the world.
Two more notes. Memo to the hiney trombone deep in coach on the JFK-to-Los Angeles Delta flight Wednesday morning: Did you just assume we’re all deaf?
Pretty much what your column sounds like if I were malicious enough to read it out loud.
And the cabdriver who took me home Sunday afternoon was the spitting image of Rob Ryan, right down to the stringy hair. Listening to Kansas when I got in.
Only giveaway that it wasn’t him: he didn’t down roadies the entire ride.
Tweets of the Week
“The Daily Show writers should donate today’s paychecks to charity.”
—@pescami, NPR’s Mike Pesca, on the day New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie discussed a traffic scandal in his state for 108 minutes at a televised press conference. Easy pickin’s that day, in other words.
This assumes that TV writers get paid daily and that they get more money for a one-day spike in ratings. And never mind that NPR got pretty
of good fodder from the same story.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about the playoff weekend:
a. Jim Zorn raising the 12th Man flag. Excellent choice.
Wasted opportunity. He’s better for trolling purposes the next time they play the Redskins at home. Not that he’ll busy then or anything.
h. The Saints need to teach a class in the art of the onside kick.
Because an NFL team that does something well want to make sure that the rest of the league can do it well too!
k. Adam Schefter’s nugget about Washington naming Jay Gruden head coach—and never telling 49ers coordinators Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, who were preparing to interview with Washington GM Bruce Allen for the job, that the interviews were cancelled.
UBER KUDOS TO MY REPORTER BUDDY!
m. Luke Kuechly’s instincts. Seemed to get a quarter-step quick start on his first-quarter sack of Colin Kaepernick.
Because PK has been made aware that’s a racist shithead to Cam and SI probably had a long talk with him about it, he must now follow up any gushing about Carolina’s defense with:
n. Beautiful touchdown throw from Cam Newton to Steve Smith. You can’t make a better throw than that.
For some reason I saw visions of schools being forcibly integrated when I read that sentence.
r. The Arizona Cardinals placing an ad in Dan Dierdorf’s adopted hometown newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, congratulating Dierdorf on his 43-year NFL career as he retired Saturday. “Thanks for always holding the line, Dan,” the ad said, with a nice photo of Dierdorf in pass-pro in front of Jim Hart.
So long as it’s in a newspaper, it’ll only be seen by people old enough to appreciate Dierdorf’s platitude salad.
s. Indy coach Chuck Pagano admitting he was wrong to punt on 4th-and-1, down 21, in the fourth quarter at New England.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about the playoff weekend:
a. Indy coach Chuck Pagano punting on 4th-and-1, down 21, in the fourth quarter at New England.
You heard it: terrible coaching decisions are essentially a wash if you’re contrite about it after the game. Media reasoning!
c. You’ve got to make that interception, Kam Chancellor.
d. You’ve got to catch that onside kick, Golden Tate. That’s why it’s called the “hands team.”
e. You’ve got to catch that onside kick, Eric Decker.
You’ve got to eat to shit and die, Peter King.
f. The junk on Twitter ripping the living tar out of Marques Colston. Real brave. Criticize him for a dumb play, fine. The stuff after that … just not right.
JUNK. UBER JUNKY JUNK. Lofty placement after three straight items shitting on people for mistakes.
h. All the yapping in Carolina. Lord, it looked so bush league.
Because that certainly will never happen in the Niners-Seahawks game next week. Isn’t that part of what makes it compelling?
k. And Jim Harbaugh. A meltdown at a crucial time of a road playoff game, costing your team 15 yards? And not knowing the rules that the play you’re tantruming about is going to be reviewed anyway?
A penalty that cost them 15 meaningless yards on a kickoff with, like, 20 seconds left in the half.
l. But see, I blame the officials partly for Harbaugh’s freakathon. If they’d have kept control of the game, there’s a chance that idiocy wouldn’t have happened.
Because Harbs doesn’t erupt once per quarter on gamedays. FOR SHAME, REFS.
6. I think GM Mickey Loomis has had a terrific run, overall, for the Saints, ably assisted by underrated director of college scouting Rick Reiprish. But the Mark Ingram pick in 2011 is the pick that keeps on betraying the franchise. New Orleans traded a second-round pick in 2011 and a first-rounder in 2012 to acquire the 28th overall pick from New England in ’11 and take Ingram.
So John Schneider’s trade for Percy Harvin is a mistake that he heroically defends, which is just a testament to his greatness, but Mickey Loomis’ legacy is ruined forever for his bad trade?
8. I think I don’t view Dan Le Batard the way some in the public do—as the freedom-fighting Edward Snowden of sports media for surrendering his baseball Hall of Fame vote to Deadspin. I don’t like what he did.
Of course you don’t.
@SI_PeterKing more and more in the media, I find the people who most disagree with this are ones whose identity is most tied to their work
— Gil Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) January 13, 2014
When you become a Hall of Fame voter, you agree to abide by the rules of the game.
AND the rules clearly dictate the votes must be influenced by petty grudges and political bullshit. It’s right there in writing.
If you don’t like the rules, whatever they are, don’t vote.
“Silence is preferable to hearing the voice of the – ugh – people.”
But to assign the vote to whomever you choose is wrong. And how exactly does it help the process, which everyone decries as broken? In turning over his vote to Deadspin, which then had a fan vote to determine who would be included on his ballot, Le Batard protested the process of voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Did it change anyone’s mind about how the process should proceed in the future? The fact is, baseball writers have a far more difficult job that the voters for any other Hall of Fame, because they have to factor in how to treat players from the Steroid Era, and I don’t know how you do that. As for the vitriol sent their way over the past few days, I’ve found this over the years about being a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter: Very few people are going to say, “You guys did a great job.”
“WHY DON’T I GET THANKED ENOUGH FOR MY VOTES! IT’S MY GIFT TO HISTORY!”
Most often, the Denver fan is going to say, “You’re an idiot for not putting Terrell Davis in the Hall of Fame,” and the Packers fan is going to scream about Jerry Kramer. It grinds on you after a while; it certainly has on me.
Textbook PK straw man. The only criticism anyone has about the NFL HOF process is from homers decrying the denial of players they love.
But it’s a privilege to try to do the best you can under the circumstances and the rules of the vote to try to put the right people in the Hall of Fame, and that’s what I try to remember as I go through the winnowing process each year.
“And that’s why I should be in the Hall! I lead the league in selfless sacrifice!”
9. I think, and I have been wrong on this before (like, most years, as one of the 46 voters), that this would be my best guess as to the five finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame most likely to be elected Feb. 1: Walter Jones, Derrick Brooks, Marvin Harrison, Charles Haley, Michael Strahan. And I would list these three as the closest contenders to them: Will Shields, Tony Dungy, Aeneas Williams. Now, I didn’t say those first five would be my picks. I don’t know my picks yet, and won’t until we get inside the room.
And this is PK putting out feelers to HOF candidate representatives that they better step up their gift game if they want to get their client into the Hall.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. For those who think Chris Christie cannot win the presidency now, I chuckle. It’s 34 months until election day, people. Lots of scandals can, and will, happen between now and then.
HE’S JERSEY STRONG. PEOPLE FORGET THAT! JUST AS THEY’LL FORGET THIS HORRIBLE CORRUPTION SCANDAL!
d. The best color on any uniform in all of sports: Toronto Maple Leafs blue.
It’s called royal blue and it’s hardly unique to the Maple Leafs.
e. Aren’t we done with A-Rod yet? Can we be? Please? Can he just please go away?
And can you fuck right off with him?
f. Americans will look back on life on the planet in the 25 years from 1990 to 2015 years after I am gone and (I hope) wonder: “Why did people pay so much attention to that idiot Dennis Rodman?”
I feel like that thought will be lost in the constant celebration that you’re gone.
g. A kids’ literacy group I support, Write on Sports, is auctioning off a lunch for four with me on Wednesday of Super Bowl week. You can bid (or laugh at me) on Charity Buzz. And you can read about the good work of Write on Sports.
Some KSK readers were pushing for us to highjack the charity drive and “win” the right to have lunch with PK. We considered it briefly, but the problem is that even if we raised the most money, PK would likely just ban us anyway. We figured we could get around that by pledging the money we raise to a society for the preservation of ethics in journalism if indeed we got banned. While that’s a nice fuck you, the chance that KSK might win presents even more of a danger because I don’t want to actually have lunch with Peter King. Holy shit, reading his bullshit is bad enough. You want me to watch PK chugging Allagashs until he passes out in his nutmeg pasta? Fuck that. Also, I’m too lazy to set it up.
h. Coffeenerdness: So I ventured into the original Starbucks, the one by Pike Place Market, and had a macchiato on Friday. Absolutely delicious espresso. Perfect. And the barista told me, “We’re one of the few Starbucks that pulls our own shots manually, and some people say they can taste the difference.” Count me as one. I noticed—she twisted the handle on the espresso pod, dumped the used espresso, rinsed it, then manually added the espresso. Takes longer, but the taste is richer.
Pity the next Starbucks barista he has to deal with in New York. “Um, excusssssseeeee me, I know you have a line of 20 people behind me, but I couldn’t help but notice you didn’t make my macchiato the original Starbucks way. Now do it over or I’m getting your name and shaming you to the entire football world.”
i. Beernerdness: You know why I made the trip to the Pacific Northwest, right? Okay, yes, my daughter Mary Beth is up here, so that’s always a good reason.
But Manny’s Pale Ale, from the little but influential Georgetown Brewing Company here, is my go-to ale up here and it didn’t disappoint.
“Haha, fuck you, Mary Beth, alcohol is my real family.”
j. Tina Fey is ridiculously funny.
Steve Serby must write her stuff!
The Adieu Haiku
There are no new angles. So …
Can they play today?
You know, they sure can!
Goodell wants back-to-back games
And He will have it
I want more like this!
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