Last year, both the Jims and the Johns were denied entrance to the Super Bowl. Jim on a couple botched punt returns, and John on a late TD that was knocked out of the WRs hands, and the inimitable Billy (wrong way) Cundiff’s missed chip shot to send the game into overtime. This year both have made it to the doorstep once again. In fact 3 of the 4 teams in these conference champioinship games are the same. Only the Atlantas have crashed the party.
I’m of the mind that Atlanta won their super bowl last week. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by parlaying a 31 yard punt return into a couple 25 yard passes to get into field goal range with 31 ticks left on the clock. Natty Ice WAS pretty natty on those 2 clutch passes, and Seattle even played it right by blitzing both plays. Still and all, I don’t think Atlanta is all that spectacular. Ryan was uneven at best last week, but he did hit big plays down field. Their run game, while decent, isn’t going to get too much against the Niners, now that Justin Smith, who was in 98% of the plays last week, is back in the saddle. He says he feels better, and didn’t suffer any setbacks with his injured arm. I think the Niners will rattle Natty more than the job they did against Rodgers last week. No running for Atlanta, and slowing their passing game equals short Atlanta drives.
Atlanta on the other hand offers a much different look defensively than the Packers. The Pack plays a lot of man-to-man. So this opened up the running lanes for Kaepernick when he couldn’t find a WR to throw to. Atlanta also did well to keep Russell Wilson fairly contained from breaking off any big runs. Stll and all, during crunch time, Seattle ran the ball tough, and Wilson made the throws to get Seattle ahead with little time left. Matty made one terrible throw that was easily picked off and aided in the comeback. As I’ve said, i think the Niners come out running. I think Mike Nolan comes out with his nickel package to start the game. If he does, the Niners will run up the middle. Pound it with Gore, and get LMJ to the edge with some screens and a sweep or 2. Our O line is on a roll, and we have been running pretty well recently.
If Teflon Mike comes out loading up the box, then it’s time to get VD involved. As well as Moss. Take some deep shots, and give Crabs his opportunities. I think the Niners can grind down Atlanta much as they ground down the Packers. I also like last week’s call. 31-17 Niners.
As far as the AFC game goes, I think Balt finally gets over the hump. Flacco had a good game against a tough Denver defense (even if Denver threw the game away late), while the Pats had a fairly easy time against the Houstons. Funny thing is, it would be pretty sweet to deny Tom Brady his 4th Super Bowl victory if the Niners beat them in the Super Bowl. If the team he grew up idolizing stopped him yet again in his attempt to tie Montana and Bradshaw for the Niners 6th Super Bowl title?
Epic. Then again, be careful what you wish for . . .