Championship Game Observations
While the Seahawks (also a west coast team travelling east) didn't wake up until the second half two weeks ago during their 10 am PT game, the 49ers played at noon PT and woke up in the second quarter.
Colin Kaepernick attempted only 21 passes, but completed 16 of them for 233 yards (11.1 YPA). Matt Ryan passed for 396 yards (9.1 YPA), but 271 of them and all three touchdowns were during the first half. His 125 second-half yards came on 17 attempts (7.4 YPA), but that includes a 24-yard desperation heave to Julio Jones that ended the game. Take that away, and he had 101 yards on 16 attempts for a 6.3 YPA with a pick.
LaMichael James is a good bet to have a significant role next year. I'd rank him in my top-35 backs already and probably higher than that.
Vernon Davis was there when the Niners needed him, but it's still surprising how little he was used in the regular season.
Everyone talked about Tony Gonzalez's first playoff win and now they're talking about Ray Lewis' last game before retirement. But what about fellow inner-circle Hall of Famer Randy Moss who was a significant factor in the win and whose resume rivals that of Gonzalez and Lewis? Lewis already has a Super Bowl win, while Moss lost with the 2007 Patriots in the Super Bowl and the 1998 Vikings in the NFC title game, both in heartbreaking fashion. And Moss at his peak - which lasted roughly 10 years - was certainly a bigger impact player than Gonzalez and probably even Lewis.
Julio Jones had a monster game, getting one of his touchdowns on an unbelievable catch, but the other on a completely blown coverage while the Niners were still asleep.
That the Patriots were nine-point favorites and 3:1 on the moneyline against a Ravens team that's always a tough matchup for them was insane. Sure the net YPA/play-success-rate/stat-of-the-century showed the Pats were better, but this was a big win for the common sense bettor who trusts his observations. Sometimes, the computer gets fooled, and this was one of those times.
I've heard a lot of criticism of Bill Belichick for punting in Ravens territory, but no explanations for why he did it. Are there any out there?
A week after outplaying Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco outplayed Tom Brady, spreading the ball around to his three quality receivers fairly evenly. Brady spread the ball to his big three, and while Wes Welker put up good numbers, he and Brandon Lloyd struggled to bring in some catchable balls, a stark contrast to the plays made by Julio Jones in the early game.
Bernard Pierce had another good game and seems able to carry the load should anything happen to Ray Rice. Pierce should be drafted behind James, though, because the latter plays behind the older and more injury-prone Frank Gore.
I would bet Bernard Pollard makes a bigger impact than the stats show because opponents have to dread encountering him.