Posted on: February 6, 2012 12:07 am

Tiquan Underwood was released ... for what?

INDIANAPOLIS -- So about that Tiquan Underwood thing ...

It was nothing. And it was everything.

It was nothing to the game. Tiquan Underwood, the receiver the New England Patriots released on Saturday night -- roughly 24 hours before the Super Bowl -- might not have been active for the game anyway. He almost definitely wasn't going to be a major factor in what proved to be a 21-17 loss to the Giants. The final Patriots receiver to make the active roster for Super Bowl XLVI, Chad Ochocinco, played a handful of snaps and caught one pass. He was a non-entity in the game, and that's what Tiquan Underwood almost definitely would have been, had he played. A non-entity.

So this whole story is nothing, in a sports way.

And it's everything, in a real-life way. Because Tiquan Underwood is a real-life person, with real dreams and real, yes, feelings. Underwood was one of the hits of Media Day, a charming young man with crazy-tall hair who had a barber carve the Patriots' logo into the back of his hairdo.

You can't make this stuff up.

Underwood is a professional athlete, but he's also a person. He's a man with plans and pride -- and a guy who had all of it ripped from him on Saturday night, at about the time he was trying to decide how to spend his final few hours before going to bed and getting rest for the Super Bowl the next day. That's when Bill Belichick released him, waiting that long presumably to prevent the Giants from claiming Underwood on waivers and using his knowledge against New England. Belichick released Underwood at the best possible time for the Patriots, but the worst possible time for Underwood.

Officially, the Patriots wanted another defensive lineman for the active roster. So when they released Underwood, they also announced that they had signed defensive lineman Alex Silvestro from the practice squad.

But here's the thing:

Silvestro didn't play Sunday night. Only two New England defenders didn't get onto the field, and Alex Silvestro was one of them. In other words, Tiquan Underwood was released for nothing. He was released because Bill Belichick had to be the smartest guy in the room, even if that meant gutting a nice kid like Tiquan Underwood.

This has always been the Belichick way, and the Belichick way has been good for five Super Bowl appearances and three titles in a decade. Belichick's way works, no question. But it's a cold-blooded way that wins games, not hearts. When a player loses his value to Belichick, the player is gone. Even in the realm of professional football, where in theory that possibility is there for every player, nobody has proven to be as bottom-line cold as Belichick.

The Patriots say Underwood will be back with the team next season, and he'd be foolish not to take them up on that. New England is one of the best franchises in the NFL, and who is Tiquan Underwood to say no to the Patriots?

New England is everything. Tiquan Underwood is, relatively speaking, nothing.

As the Patriots made clear on Saturday night.

Posted on: February 5, 2012 9:54 pm

Coughlin and Eli, come on down (to Canton)

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's time to consider that maybe New England's Bill Belichick isn't the greatest active coach in the NFL. Yes he has three Super Bowl rings, and three is bigger than two, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin has just two Super Bowl rings.

But Coughlin won both his Super Bowl rings against Belichick, the second coming Sunday night, a 21-17 victory in Super Bowl XLVI.

Three is more than two. We all know that. But head-to-head matters. It must. And head to head, in the most important game in the NFL, the score is Tom Coughlin 2, Bill Belichick 0.

That is not a fluke. That is a trend. And a fact. And a symbol, perhaps, that Coughlin deserves to be considered up there with Belichick as the greatest coach of this era. And seeing how Belichick has been mentioned -- and rightly so -- as one of the greatest coaches of all time ...

That means Tom Coughlin must be mentioned -- and rightly so -- as one of the greatest coaches of all time.

That is the power of the Super Bowl. It shapes legacies -- crushing some, burnishing others. The Super Bowl has burnished the legacy of Coughlin, just as it has burnished the legacy of his quarterback, Eli Manning.

I insist that Peyton, even with one Super Bowl, is better than Eli -- but Eli is a Hall of Famer, right now. If he retires tomorrow, if he never plays again, Eli is a Hall of Famer. So is Tom Coughlin.

So is former Coughlin boss Bill Parcells, for that matter. Parcells didn't make it into the Hall this weekend, but that's an oversight to be corrected another day. And then another day, years later, Coughlin will join his mentor in the Hall of Fame.

Such is the power of the Super Bowl. Such is what Coughlin has accomplished, at the expense of Bill Belichick.

Posted on: January 15, 2012 7:49 pm

New York Giants advance to NFC title game

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The NFL playoffs will continue without the top two offenses in the league, now that the New York Giants have eliminated Green Bay.

The Giants' victory on Sunday, which ended a 7-0 run by home teams in the 2012 NFL playoffs, came one day after San Francisco bounced the similarly potent Saints.

The Giants play at San Francisco next Sunday for the NFC title.

In this one, New York stuffed Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers with pressure from the front seven -- linebacker Michael Boley was as devastating as any down lineman -- and with help from Green Bay's receiving corps. The Packers dropped at least five passes, including one in the end zone by Greg Jennings. Instead of drawing within 20-17 on Jennings' (should-be) touchdown, the Packers had to settle for a field goal on the next play that made it 20-13.

The Giants drove for a field goal on their next possession, pushing their lead back to a comfortable two-score margin at 23-13. After the Packers' third lost fumble of the game, this one by running back Ryan Grant that New York returned to the Green Bay 4, the Giants scored on the next play to make it 30-13 with 6:48 to play.

The Giants got more than 300 yards passing from Eli Manning, including a 37-yard Hail Mary to Hakeem Nicks on the final play of the half for a touchdown that gave the Giants a 20-10 lead. Nicks, too strong for the Packers all day, also had a 66-yard scoring reception earlier in the half and finished with seven catches for 165 yards.

Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:10 am
Edited on: January 11, 2012 2:19 pm

Cowardly Jets rear their cowardly heads

As if the Jets could be even more dislikeable, we have this: Multiple players ripping starting quarterback Mark Sanchez in the most gutless way possible. No, not on Twitter. See, using Twitter would have required attaching their name to it.

The Jets? They ripped Sanchez anonymously through the New York Daily News.

And this is not me defending Sanchez. It's not. He could well be "lazy," as one gutless wonder told the newspaper. He could be a "baby," as another gutless Jet said. It's entirely possible that "he goes in a hole when someone tells him the truth," as someone sniveled.

But there's a right way to do things, and a wrong way, and damn if the Jets don't take the wrong way every ... single ... time.

No need to list the transgressions here --'s server holds just 14.74 kajillion megabytes -- but idiots are aplenty. Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes, Bart Scott and all these gutless wimps ripping Sanchez anonymously ...

The only person in the organization with any gumption is the backup quarterback, Greg McElroy, who attached his name to some fierce criticism last week. Everyone else? Gutless. No wonder the team choked all season.

Posted on: January 8, 2012 8:11 pm

Broncos 29, Steelers 23 in OT

DENVER -- He's no longer a novelty, no longer a mystery, no longer a fluke. Tim Tebow is now a playoff-winning quarterback, and not because he managed this game.

He won it.

With Tebow tying two franchise records set by John Elway and throwing the winning touchdown pass in overtime, the Broncos defeated the Steelers 29-23 Sunday to advance to the next round of playoffs, next weekend at New England.

Tebow threw for 316 yards and ran for 50, and produced touchdowns each way. He joined Elway as the only Denver quarterbacks in the postseason to (1) complete two 50-yard passes and (2) throw and run for a touchdown, both in the same game.

Tebow needed just 10 completions to surpass the 300-yard mark, throwing rarely but gouging the Steelers for huge chunks of yardage when he did. That included his 80-yarder to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime for the winning points.

Thomas finished with 204 yards on four catches.

Posted on: January 1, 2012 7:21 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2012 7:25 pm

Ravens get bye, Bengals get wild card

CINCINNATI -- Well, the game wasn't entirely meaningless.

The Ravens won 24-16, and they needed to win given the Steelers victory at Cleveland. Because the Ravens won, they won the division, the first-round bye and the right to host their playoff opener in two weeks.

The Bengals lost, but still they're going to the playoffs because the Jets and Broncos lost. So Cincinnati will play next week at Houston in the first round.

What happened Sunday in this game? Like it matters. But I'll write about it in a few minutes.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 27, 2011 10:51 am

Grow up, Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons embarrassed themselves Monday night, and I'm not talking about the final score, which was 45-16 in favor of the New Orleans Saints.

I'm not talking about being victimized by Saints quarterback Drew Brees for the 304 passing yards he needed to break Dan Marino's single-season record of 5,084 yards (Brees finished with 307 yards, for a season total of 5,087).

I'm talking about the Falcons' reaction, late in the game and then afterward, to the sight -- shocking! -- of Brees still in the game, still throwing passes, in the final minutes.

The Falcons gestured and stared. They pouted and sulked. They gave our Pete Prisco passive-aggressive comments of the most gutless variety -- anonymously, because none of them had the stones to attach his name to it -- about the nerve (the nerve!) of Saints coach Sean Payton, who let Brees play the game for 60 full minutes.

See, the Falcons wanted pity. They wanted Payton to feel sorry for them by letting off the gas, stop playing the game, stop trying. That would have made the Falcons feel better, I guess: The sight of the Saints feeling sorry for their woebegone little defense.

So at this point, I have a question for the Falcons and their coaches: Are you guys professionals, or are you babies?

This isn't high school, and that wasn't one Class 5A monster running up the score on a tiny Class 1A opponent. This was one NFL playoff team playing another NFL playoff team, in a league with a salary cap and reverse draft order and other rules designed to promote parity.

Sure, Brees could have stopped playing in the fourth quarter, could have come up a few yards short of the record, could have subjected himself and his team to a week's worth of distraction entering the regular-season finale Sunday against Carolina -- a game the Saints need to win to have any shot of a first-round playoff bye.

But never mind that!

The Saints should have worried about the feelings of the poor Atlanta Falcons!

Hey, Atlanta, when you're done with that baby's bib ... please send it my way. I think I'm going to be sick.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 22, 2011 11:32 pm

Colts 19, Texans 16: Bad result for both teams

The Colts picked a bad time to start winning. The Texans picked a bad time to start losing.

But there we are. The Colts rallied for a 19-16 victory Thursday night, scoring on a 1-yard pass from Dan Orlovsky to Reggie Wayne with 18 seconds left to stun the Texans and jeopardize not only the Texans' playoff seed ... but also the Colts' shot at Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall draft pick.

Houston has lost two in a row. Indianapolis has won two in a row.

I have no ideas what either side is thinking.
Category: NFL
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