Gang, we're making a New Year's pledge to not talk as much. And that pledge starts tomorrow. Seriously, we had a lot to say today, and here we go. Buckle up, it's going to get wordy up in here.
From the "Talks too much" studios, the Humpty Dance is your chance to do the hump.
Conference title game recaps
The NFL playoffs have been outstanding, up and down and across the board. As the other professional sports deal with distractions and turmoil and controversy, the NFL reminds us of why it's the best pro option around.
The product is far superior. Period.
The NFL has not been without drama and issue this year, lest we forget the BountyGate stuff, player safety, the officiating and the changes to the rules that now make defending a talented quarterback as difficult as playing quarterback.
But the NFL is king because of the level of play, the level of excitement and the level of intrigue (that and gambling, of course).
And we're in. We've been in throughout these playoffs and we've been throughly, Maximus-level of entertained. So as we prepare for the Harbaugh-on-Harbaugh Super Bowl XLVII, here are the five takeaways from San Fran's 28-24 win over Atlanta and Baltimore's 28-13 win at New England:
• Timing is everything. Joe Flacco is about to be a free agent. He just outplayed Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks. He has eight career postseason wins. His agent is smiling ear-to-ear. Flacco has already doubled his asking price with three weeks of excellence (no one has made more money/prestige in less than a month this side of Jeremy Lin and Ronald Miller from Can't Buy Me Love). And he's one more big win from forcing Baltimore to break the bank and gamble the future with a monster deal because who can let a Super Bowl winning QB walk?
• Underplayed storyline (well until the next fortnight because every thing will see the light of day considering the two-week build-up to the big game): Randy Moss coming back, taking a very un-superstar like role of run-blocking and decoy patterns, and keeping his act together for a chance to win his first Super Bowl.
• Have you heard that Ray Lewis is going to retire? Sure wish they had informed the pregame shows about this. Maybe we can get a little attention before the Super Bowl.
• Is this the ceiling for the Atlanta Falcons, who got glimpses of both Matty Ice and Ryan's Hopelessness (quarterback Matt Ryan was excellent in the first half, and had two painful turnovers in a scoreless second half, as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer nailed here). Atlanta has a talented core — the league's best receiving tandem, an offensive line that stood toe-to-toe against the 49ers' tough defensive front, a defensive that for the most part is young. After the sting of blowing a 17-0 lead wanes, the Falcons to-do list needs to be 1) Talk Tony Gonzalez into one more year (Heck, show him all the love that Ray Lewis has gotten with an announced farewell tour and remind him that while Lewis is on the short list of best middle linebackers ever, the list of best tight ends ever starts with Gonzalez and goes from there); 2) Find a pass rusher to complement the aging John Abraham (good news is there are a slew of them in this draft); 3) Make Marcus Lattimore a second-round pick and enjoy the rejuvenated running game.
• Does Sunday's stinker tarnish Tom Brady's legacy? We don't think so, although Peyton Manning would have been crushed for that kind of effort. And as much internal work as the Falcons may have to stay at this level (especially in the NFC, considering the 49ers are going no where, the Packers are going no where, the Saints will be better and so will the Seahawks), the Pats are going to be right at the top of the AFC mix next year too. If we're Belichick and Co., we're looking hard at moving some picks and getting to about pick No. 10 and taking Cordarrelle Patterson. Dude, it's time Brady had someone on the perimeter that did more than generate comments like "Wow, he can really get open and take a hit on a 6-yard gain" (Wes Welker) and "Wow, didn't know those guys were still alive" (Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch).
More conference title game (Deep Thoughts by the 5-at-10)
• We spent a chunk of time on the Twitter (@jgreesontfp) during the Falcons game Sunday and had some fun, especially kicking around some comments with Cowboy Joe from SportTalk 102.3 and Wells Guthrie from ESPN 105.1. Here are some of our laments during the game (in order):
— Anybody second-guessing the trade for Julio Jones now?
— At this pace Julio Jones will have more than 400 yards receiving. That would be a record.
— @sportscowboy We're about to the point that if you're not sure who to draft, just pick an Alabama guy because Saban recruited him.
— How did Tom Cruise become the go-to action hero of a generation standing 5-foot-1? That's like Spud Webb winning a dunk contest... Wait
— Colin Kaepernick looks like Humpty Hump from Digital Underground. And Humpty just went down. "Humpty dance is your chance to do the hump."
— First quarter: Falcons lead 10-0; this was Mike Smith's picture perfect scenario. And every Falcons fan's.
— Bigger chicken: Rod Hubble who ducks A. Rodgers in the discount double check or Foghorn Leghorn?
— Julio Jones is a monster. Heck, the '89 earthquake didn't do this much damage to San Francisco this quickly.
— @WGuthrieESPN Did you just hear that stat -- Frank Gore is the 49ers career rushing leader. Somewhere Roger Craig just spit up in his mouth.
— Colin Kaepernick a three-sport star in high school and may be a rapper for Digital Undergound who once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.
— Randy Moss is the NFL's Kevin Bacon -- every player in the modern era likely can be connected to Six Degrees of Randy Moss.
— We're about 3 years from John McLain facing Hans Gruber's kid in Die Hard 12: Alexian Village.
— Don't look now, but Humpty Kaepernick is doing work. He's playing big -- Big like a pickle and he's still gettin' paid.
— @CEustice07 a wise 5@10 reader told me many moons ago to get on board with the Twitter and the MMA. Better late than never huh?
— Matty Ice Ice Baby vs. Humpty Kaepernick. Live on Yo!MTV Raps. Somebody get Run and DMC for the halftime show. MCA, get on the mic my man.
— Wow, beyond some of our people, Fox has now showed the two things we miss most about the A-T-L: Falcons games and the Varsity. Whattayahave?
— DOINK. David Akers, hope you have not settle in the 'Frisco area.
— Did Michael Turner pass the field sobriety test, balancing on one foot like that?
— Of the 22 defensive starters in this game, three went to Missouri. Strange huh?
— Big-time throw from Humpty. Dude is in charge (both how he's living and his nose is large).
— Goalline pile with Super Bowl on the line? There are lifers in Guantanamo who are watching and saying, "Man there's some rough stuff there."
— Falcons had a great year. That's of little consequence right. Side note: 49ers minus-4.5, over/under at 50. Bookies know what they are doing
We offered a chunk of those because, a) we had fun doing it and will do more in game Tweeting in the coming year and b) for context to the next part of our story. About 10:30 p.m. Sunday night we get a new follower (Spy, those are the folks who are interested in reading your Tweets) — Mr. Humpty Hump (@HumptyFunk) from Digital Underground. Apparently Humpty decided to gather round, there's a new fool in town with the sound laid down by Underground.
• On the CBS studio show, it is apparent that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher is working on a mullet, the hairstyle famed by Billy Ray Cyrus that features the short hair in the front and long hair down the back (business in the front, party in the back) style. Well, Mr. Cowher is losing his hair up front and rocking the party in the back, giving him something much closer to skullet than mullet.
• Speaking of spreads, we went 2-2 this weekend: Hitting the Falcons plus-4.5 and missing the total; missing the Patriots minus-8 and hitting the total. We're 10-6 in the postseason and we're going to take a daily look at some of the crazy prop bets offered at the Super Bowl. (If you're curious, the early line is San Fran minus-4.5 and the total at 49. If you like the Ravens, make the call now — hard to see the line being more than 4.5 in the next 13 days, and we can see the game being about 49ers minus-3 very soon. In fact, we like a tease of the Ravens plus-10.5 and over the 43 right now. Excuse us, where's our phone. Hello, Jimmy the Toucan....)
• Here's our unofficial first crazy set of odds for this Super Bowl: Storylines that will become old before the end of this week, never mind the two-week hiatus between now and the Super Bowl.
— David Akers' struggles — 5-to-1
— Commissioner Goodell, Super Bowl return to New Orleans (home of BountyGate) 9-to-2
— Is Joe Flacco one of the game's five best QBs — 3-to-1
— Ray Lewis' final game — 1-to-1
— The Brothers Harbowl 47 — 1-to-8
Siblings in sports
Speaking of the Harbaugh brothers, let's review some of the great sibling combos in sports.
Best pitching combo (seasons): Dizzy and Daffy Dean combined for 40 wins in 1934 and were money in the World Series — accounting for each of the Cards' four wins and posting a 1.43 combined ERA. Dizzy also was one of teh game's best announcers after retiring, famously noting the newlyweds in the stands and noticing, "That couple is really in love, they are smooching on every pitch. He's kissing here on the strikes and she's kissing him on the balls."
Best pitching combo (career): Phil and Joe Niekro.
Best dunkers: Gerald and Dominique Wilkins.
Best baseball set of three: The DiMaggios (Vince, Joe and Dom), the Alous (Jesus, Matty and Felipe) and the catching Molinas (Bengie, Yadier and Jose).
Best nickname: Maurice and Henri Richard, hockey stars for the Canadiens. Maurice could flat-out skate like the wind and was known as the Rocket; Henri was also quick, and at 5-foot-7, was known as the Pocket Rocket.
Most successful clan: The Sutters (Ron, Brent, Duane, Darryl, Brian and Rich) who played more than 5,000 NHL games and six Stanley Cups in the '70s and '80s. Yes, six brothers made the NHL. Here's saying the Sutters were always the first pick in pee-wees, since almost every youth league has the rule that once you draft one brother you get the rest to make it easier on the parents.
Boxing: Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko each held the heavyweight title at some point to edge Michael and Leon Spinks, although if we had an Academic Bowl, here's saying the Spinks would be the Jamarcus Russell of draft picks.
Best hoops siblings: Cheryl and Reggie Miller
Best twins: Tiki and Ronde Barber
Best name used in Animal House: Rob and Scott Niedermayer, the NHL stars who were not related to Douglas C. Niedermayer, who was later killed in Vietnam by his own troops.
Best NASCAR: Bobby and Terry Labonte
Best tennis: Serena and Venus Williams
Best quarterbacks: Peyton and Eli Manning
Best stat: Know which brothers have the most MLB home runs? Yep, Tommie and Hank Aaron combined to hit 768 homers — Hank had 755; Tommie had 13.
Jammed This and That from the rest of the sports realm
— It hit us about 9 p.m. on Friday; it's official, we're done with the Te'o story and the Lance interview. If you'd like to discuss it, knock yourself out. And when Jeremy Schaap relayed the pertinent parts from his interview with Manti Te'o, well, let's just say that it feels like there still are several missing pieces. And if everyone's cards are on the table, Te'o's going to need a full-time assistant that has complete decision-making control when he signs an eight-figure deal as an NFL first-rounder, because anyone that gullible and unaware and unassuming will be broke before the end of August.
— Lost in the NFL shuffle was a great, Great, GREAT weekend of college basketball. Here's the 4-1-1: Florida looked great. Auburn did not. The artists formerly known as Jarnell Stokes and Trae Golden are still in Knoxville. If the 5-at-10 was a hoops five-star, our final five choices would be Duke, UK, UCLA, Auburn (hey, we're loyal like that) and Butler — what a great scene at Hinkle Fieldhouse when the Bulldogs upset Gonzaga. Louisville's final-minute meltdown from senior point guard Peyton Siva (maybe it's the name, huh, OG) was troubling for those of us expecting the Cardinals to make a serious run. Miss any thing, chas9?
— Terrell Suggs and the Ravens defense talking about the arrogance of the Pats is comical. That would be like Duke fans making fun of UK fans for being hoops snobs. Not saying it's not true, but pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.
— We will rehash some recruiting news later this week, but know this: Alabama had a slew of the country's top uncommitted prospects, including Ridgeland's Vonn Bell, in Tuscaloosa this weekend for the parade to celebrate the BCS title. Seriously, Nick Saban has Alabama to the Wyatt and Gary stage of Weird Science, "It's moving, it's working. It's working by itself." (Still don't think he's wearing a bra on his head, though.)
— As for UT, we love Bradley Central's Austin Sanders enthusiam, as shared here by our UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown.
— Our UTC football ace John Frierson/Ned Ryreson informs us that four more Mocs commitments have UTC's class at 15.
— Two interesting stories out of the PGA Humana event this weekend. One, Brain Gay won the event in overtime (with Chattanooga native Kip Henley on his bag) and Phil Mickelson promising big changes (could be moving out of Cali, and even some writers hinting at possible retirement) because as Lefty told the AP: "If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate's 62, 63 percent," said Mickelson, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe. "So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do."
On a filled sports weekend, one of baseball's great died.
Stan "The Man" Musial died on Saturday at 92. His numbers were staggering — 3,630 career hits (amazingly 1,815 were at home and 1,815 were on the road), 475 homers, 1,951 RBIs and a career .331 average. The guys who can boast that many or more homers and that high an average are Ruth, Gehrig, Williams and Musial. Wow.
Only Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds have more extra base hits than Musial, who won three MVPs, his final one in 1948 when he .376 with 103 extra base hits, 131 RBIs and struck out a total of 34 times.
Here's the question: Musial spent his entire career in St. Louis, and is an easy choice as the best ever Cardinal ever, which is saying something for a team that has had as much success as St. Louis has.
Who else would you describe as a team's "Mr. Cardinal" or "Mr. Met" or "Mr. Viking" or "Mr. (blank)." Here are some starters — Ray Lewis is Mr. Raven and John Elway is Mr. Bronco. Jordan of course is Mr. Bull (that joke writes itself), but it's tougher for guys who switched teams and for organizations like the Celtics, Lakers, Yankees, etc. who have had a galaxy of stars on their rosters.
In honor of The Man, who else would qualify as Mr. (Blank)?
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...