Sunday, January 23, 2011


American Football Conference
Championship Game

Pittsburgh Steelers

No Pain; No Gain.  Enjoy the Violence!

The way I see it, there's only two ways either team will be going to the Super Bowl; - Bruised and Battered.

This is going to hurt.  After Sunday, some players may never be the same again.  This game is going to cost some of these players a day or two on the back end of their careers.  If FATE once said they were due to retire on a Friday, after this game, there will be players who will now be retiring on a Tuesday.  For sixty minutes tomorrow evening, eleven-man packages of Black vs. GREEN, will be running around trying to render each other stupid with pain.  And the arctic front expected for Game Time will make the pain sting and last - all - night. 

This road to the Super Bowl has been particularly hard on the Jets without a home game.  But they've been here before and this is the last road game for them, because the Super Bowl is a home game for everybody. But whichever team wins, I don't think they'll be up for much celebrating an AFC Championship versus just being contented with having survived the night.  These games are very different in that respect.  They're brutal.

The Super Bowl is a Tuxedo and spit-shined shoes.  The Super Bowl is the showcase; the polished brass; the lipstick, glitz and glam; - It's the perfectly cut diamond. 

The Championship Games are the mining operations; the digging deep within yourselves; the grinding, pitfalls and hazards of trying to find that rough, ugly, uncut pigskin diamond that will be manipulated to expose brilliance.  It's about boots, gloves, drills, picks, and shovels.  There really is no glory here.  It's just about getting dirty and being damn proud of it..  I think I just unwittingly described Steel Town.

The Conference Games can be worse yet..  They're primal.  It really is survival of the fittest.  There is hunter; and there is prey.  It's a very fine line as to which team is which at any given time.  And that can change on a dime.  The Conference Championships are about surviving your rivals, foes, enemies, and tormentors.  They comprise the majority of your schedule.  They are in you division.  These are teams you play not just once, but twice, and on occasion three times.  They are your direct competitors trying to deny you.  It is through them a team must go in order to play for the ultimate prize.  These games are primitive.  It is the lion and the hyena fighting over the same football; sometimes it's lion versus lion.  The Championship Games are about killer instinct and camouflage, cunning and guile.  Those are also all traits needed to survive in the Concrete Jungle (of New York City), home of the JETS.

For the loser of tomorrow's game, it will be a devastating and bitterly cold-hearted way to end the season.  They'll have the next six months to defrost and let the bad memory thaw and melt away.  For the Victor, the game will be a pleasurable but very painful reminder of the sacrifice needed to make it to the Big Show.

There is no escaping the pain that awaits BOTH teams Sunday night.  They embrace it; distribute it...and seem to thrive in it. There are 330 million people in America and less than 1% of us can do what these players do.  But yet for such a small fraternity of gifted athletes, they all try to knock the snot out of each other.  That makes for a great game.

If you thought the silence coming out of both camps over the week was dead, this game will more than quench your thirst for carnage.  Enjoy the Violence!

Big Ben may not be as cerebral as Manning or Brady, But he's Bigger, Tougher, Bolder, and Crafty like a Fox.

Peyton Manning is a BRAIN connected to an arm that can throw footballs.  Rex Ryan was right.  You can't out-prepare him.  He's the smartest QB in Football.  But he's so damn cerebral, he can out-think himself, or at times just get plain 'ol out-thunk, because guys like him program themselves and when you go off-road, they can short circuit.  Rex Ryan showed how to do that two weeks ago.

Tom Brady is another master game planner under the guidance of Bill Belichick.  He and Simon Bar Sinister have their Offense down to a science.  But he too was confused by the Jets and their schemes.

Both quarterbacks were harassed, hit, confused and out-coached.  Both QB's also stayed stationary in the pocket due to their confusion and paid for it.  Thinking too much kept them holding out for a play until they fell under the pressure.

Ben?  He's big, bouncy and doesn't fall.  And most lethal to the Jets, he doesn't think as much and is the boldest QB they'll play.  He's a crazy cat who thrives on busted plays.  He won't stick around in the pocket if he has daylight..  He'll run in a blink of an eye.  And for a big guy, he rumbles.  He also throws well on the run.  The guy can actually do it all.  Yes, he's a freak which makes him a big Football dummy (in the most complimentary sense of the word- you know what I mean).  Guys like him ruin everything.

In the pocket, he presents more problems.  He's got a gun for an arm and it's accurate.  He's very under-rated as a pocket passer; Very.  And he takes hits (and more hits).  We watched Manning and Brady fold like cheap poker tables under the threat of being hit.  Ben will stand there till the last second and make a pass, and absorb the hit he knows is coming;- get up and do it again...and again.  It's just an advantage he has with his size.  Growing up we called these guys Big Joooch.  They were indestructible.

He's bold and has been successful at it.  Remember that pass to Santonio Holmes in the Super Bowl?  Of course you do.  And you know there were others.  He almost did it to the Jets when they played last.  He had the ball in his hands in the closing seconds and almost beat the Jets.  That would have been a crushing defeat for the J-E-T-S indeed.

Here's the biggest truth about Big Ben, - We are inside his Era.  He has a pair of Super Bowl wins in the recent past.  The Patriots last Super Bowl win was 6 years ago.  Ben has won his two since. 

Big Ben is still showing everybody what time it is.

This is the game.  The JETS need MARK SANCHEZ to seize the moment!

Remember Pete Carroll saying Mark Sanchez wasn't ready for the NFL when he got drafted out of USC?  He wasn't ready all the way to an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in his rookie year.  But the Jets were held scoreless in the second half against the Colts last year. 

Many said he still wasn't ready this year, and that he certainly couldn't guide a team past two Hall of Fame QB's in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady during the same playoff run.   Well, he stayed unpolished enough and inexperienced enough to make it into his second consecutive AFC Championship Game.  He's got some late game heroics from the regular season under his belt and is now 4-1 for his career in the playoffs while playing all those games on the road.  How ya like me now?

What I saw last Sunday was a quarterback taking two and three step drops, winging spirals and completing 64% of his passes while topping things off with three touchdown passes.  It wasn't Brady.  It was Sanchez.

Brady?  I watched him take seven step drops and take all day on his way to getting wrecked.  Not everything will be able to work off the quick slants and Mark will surely get harassed by the Steeler's pass rush.  There will be times he'll need to stand tall and deliver a pass knowing he's about to get pounded.  That's how you become great;  by doing things that are hard.  That's why they get paid the big bucks, because the game hurts.

The biggest stat for Sanchez in the Patriots game was no turnovers.  The Jets had no turnovers and won.  It's so cliche but so true.  Don't be afraid to punt.  A battle of field position is manageable, but the turnovers disrupt everything.

And now, against the Steelers, Mark Sanchez has to win a game for the Jets by his lonesome.  Mark and his Receivers will become the focal point of the Jets Office because I think the Steelers will hold true, and limit the Jets' running game to low yardage.  Mark is going to be responsible for managing 1st and 3rd downs while they try and squeeze something out of their running game.  This is not to say they shouldn't be trying to enforce the run-first tact, but I do think they'll be managed.

So how do you combat the Steelers defense?  Well, they are very aggressive.  So I say you meet it with aggression.  I say be bold.  You have to make then back off the run other wise they will take it away from the Jets and tee-off on Sanchez.

I think Schotty is going to have to get a little West Coast on Pittsburgh.  Use the Steelers' aggression against them.  Screen passes, draw plays,  scatter-passes to Shonn Greene out of the back-field, and a whole bunch of slant and crossing patterns.  But I really think Schotty and Sanchez need to take a lot of chances over the top.  As a matter of fact, the very first play the Jets have from scrimmage should be "The Bomb".  Honest.  I would take multiple gambles going over the top.  That's what you're going to have to do if the Jets want to shake their running game loose.  Then hopefully by the 2nd half, the running game can find some daylight and run with power.

I don't think either team will be scoring too many points, but I do think those points are going to have to come in large part, through the air.  Big Ben is Bold and Daring and things seem to work-out when he takes chances.  So, against the Steelers, this Offense may have to get out of it's element.  What Jet fans can hope for is that Schotty's play sheet has everything on it that Mark does best and that a few of those plays find their way. Because even though the Jets beat the Steelers in the regular season, remember two points came on a Safety and another touchdown was scored on a kick-return.  So, Mark Sanchez will have to engineer more than 13-points this time around.

Here it is kid.  This game has your name written all over it.  It's Go Time..!

BLITZ Them Till They Cry!

Defensively, both teams are in Lust with the Blitz.  Expect to hear that word a lot Sunday.  This time unlike against the Colts and the Patriots where I though they should lay back and punish receivers, I think Rex can get back to Blitzing the way he likes to and sell out.

Again, I think the Jets should be ultra-aggressive.  And Pittsburgh is the type of Offense that Rex can employ his traditional Blitz packages against instead of having to get so crafty these last two games.  If I'm Rex, I'm going to get down-right Blitz Stupid. 

Finally, this is the game for REX's Corners to shine.  Revis Island will claim another victim and he may finally see some action coming his way.  Like I said before, Big Ben is a nut and he is defiant enough and daring enough and brave enough to throw Darrell's way, mostly because the two time Super Bowl Champion isn't afraid to fail.  When Big Ben sees one of Big Rex's Blitz packages coming his way and he spots the single coverage, Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis might give the Jets the advantage in this department they'll need.

Ben is daring, but he can be induced into mistakes, and if you pester him enough up front, the Corners and Safetys might be able to snatch one or two passes away from the Steelers.

If the Steelers are going to make Sanchez beat them, well then the Jets have to make Ben beat them.  This ia just a game where you have to meet the Steelers head on and execute your plan with more intensity than the Steelers, because their plan is the same.

These teams are two trains speeding towards each other and the collision is going to be terrific..

"Can't Wait!" - Bart Scott

As A Matter of Fact....

Stupid;  That's the point about this game.  Game plans are rendered stupid in a game like this.  Both teams know each team wants to run the ball.  Both teams know they will be Blitzing any thing that moves.  Both teams understand their quarterbacks will have to win this game for them.  And both teams will be throwing the kitchen sink at each others QB's. trying to stop him.

It's pretty hard disguising a sink.  That's why schemes, deception and masking Blitzes really don't matter Sunday.  These guys are just gonna line up and play Physical Football and leave the Chess Match to the guys in city parks.

On Offense, Nothing Ventured; Nothing Gained.  If I'm Rex I'm playing this game ultra-aggressively.  This is for the AFC Championship.  Rex wants to win this time.  The Team wants to win this time.  Their fans want them to win this time.

So I say TAKE IT!  I say try and overwhelm them.  I say launch a couple a balls deep early, and see if Braylon Edwards or Holmes can pull down a pass and inflict an early body blow.  Because that's the way this has to be.  It has to hurt.  The Jets need to make the Steelers think about something else other than the run; pain.  Because nothing in life is easy and the things we love in life usually hurt the most.

So go out there; Embrace the moment... And Seize the Day!

The Steelers six Super Bowl Trophies mean nothing Sunday.  The Jets lone Lombardi Trophy means nothing Sunday.  The only thing that matters are the sixty minutes they'll spend on Heinz Field when the sun goes down Sunday and who can endure the most pain trying to win the right to play one final game.

..And Finally, only now have we arrived at the moment when we see if all Mike Tannenbaum's transactions have made any difference.

It's report card time for the GM.  The only way to answer whether Tannenbaum's moves will have paid off is to play the game.  Everything he did since last year's Campionship Game ended has been geared towards surviving the next sixty minutes of hell this year.

There's nothing left to say or do now.  All that's needed is for the Football to be kicked-off, starting one of the most important games in New York Jets Football history.... and we'll take it from there.


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