With only one meaningful game left, you could have been forgiven for thinking the ever-swirling drama of another NFL season was drawing to a close.
Bill Belichick opened up in a press conference, Richard Sherman lost control of his ever-increasing ego, NaVorro Bowman tore his ACL and Peyton Manning has the chance to win his second Super Bowl before, possibly, riding off into the sunset in circumstances similar to the man responsible for bringing him to Denver, John Elway.
Beginning, naturally, with Peyton and his shot at immortality [something already assured as a result of his achievements to this point], and the much-rumoured possibility of him disappearing in to the distance, the Broncos v Seahawks matchup sees - for only the second time since 1993 - the league’s two number one seeds, facing off on the grandest stage of them all.
Securing their seat at the table for two, the perennially superb Manning and his record-breaking offence made light work of a patchwork Patriot defence in the first of Sunday’s games as they comfortably negotiated their way into the Broncos first Super Bowl appearance in 15 years.
Racking up over 500 yards of offence and converting a number of key third-down plays, Manning took full advantage of some impeccable protection from his offensive line – a line that will have to perform even better with Seattle’s aggressive front set to test them in two weeks’ time – as he dissected a defence that looked lost at times, especially after Wes Welker’s obliteration of Aqib Talib (More on that later).
However, what’s more remarkable about this whole scenario is Eli Manning, Peyton’s two-time champion of a brother, last led his team to glory at the Lucas Oil Stadium – when it was Peyton’s home.
Now, having relocated to Denver, Peyton takes his Broncos to the MetLife Stadium, home to, you guessed it, Eli’s Giants for a chance to win his second championship in an eerily similar chain of events that, depending on your interpretation of Manning’s comments on his off-season neck check-ups, may be his last hurrah.
Having admitted there will be necessary talks over the summer, Manning has perhaps inadvertently added fuel to the flames, but perhaps key to the discussions that will take place will be the beating, or lack of, that Manning takes at the hands of a physical Seattle defence heading to their first Super Bowl since 2005.
Untouched against the Patriots, Manning’s resolve will be tested by a unit that, on Sunday, had restricted the Niners to just 17 passing yards in the first half while, also, completely stuffing San Francisco’s ground game cementing their status as the league’s best.
“It’ll be a great matchup” was Pete Carroll’s response after his side’s win.
“I think it’s an extraordinary opportunity to go against a guy that set all the records in the history of the game.”
“It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am.” Richard Sherman in his MMQB [www.mmqb.si.com] article on Monday.
Sherman was, of course, referring to his post-game explosion of emotion that has become something of an internet sensation.
Since, unsurprisingly, Sherman has come in for criticism from all quarters for being ‘unsporting’ but, in an age where the press want honesty, shouldn’t we perhaps feel fortunate that – for once – a player has spoken his mind?
I, for one, have no problem with Sherman’s emotion-filled outburst and here’s why.
Crabtree and Sherman have history. For whatever reason, it seems to stem from an off-season meeting in Arizona where words were exchanged but, on Sunday, Sherman still made the effort to shake his opponents hand at the game’s conclusion before an irked Crabtree refused, shoving Sherman in the face.
On top of that, Sherman had been targeted twice during the entire game, a sign that Colin Kaepernick had done his homework then, when it came down to it, he made the play – or at least the bit that will be remembered – by tipping a pass intended for Michael Crabtree as the Seahawks clinched their place on the grandest stage of them all.
He was psyched, clearly, but wouldn’t we all be in that situation?
“Good game, good game.’ That’s when he shoved my face and that’s when I went off” Sherman wrote on Monday.
“Erin Andrews interviewed me after the game and I yelled what was obvious: If you put a subpar player across from a great one, most of the time you’re going to get one result.
“As far as Crabtree being a top-20 NFL receiver, you’d have a hard time making that argument to me” he writes, unapologetic for the actions that have divided so many.
Still, his self-proclamation of greatness will be tested in two weeks when he faces a Denver receiving core with a multitude of deep, short and intermediate threats all marshalled by, arguably, the greatest quarterback to have ever played the game and the task ahead wasn’t lost on Sherman.
“It’s the No.1 offence vs. the No.1 defence.
“It’s a match made in heaven and we couldn’t be more excited. If you’re any kind of competitor and you have any kind of dog about you, you want to play against the best.
“Finally, we get the chance.”
A Day after their AFC Championship game collapse, Bill Belichick strayed from his usual dead-pan approach to questions when asked about Wes Welker’s annihilation of Aqib Talib.
“One of the worst plays I’ve seen.
“It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open” he said.
Talib was subsequently helped from the field with suspected broken ribs and his absence was felt, freeing Demaryius Thomas from the shadow coverage he was subjected to until that point.
“I’ll let the league handle the discipline” Belichick added, clearly aggrieved at his former player’s transgression as he collided with an unsuspecting Talib.
In a move unusual from the Patriots head coach, it’s hard not to feel as though as he’s trying to deflect the heat from an offence that never got going against a defence led, superbly, by Terrance ‘Pot Roast’ Knighton.
However, as nfl.com reported on Monday, any disciplinary action, if there is any, will likely be levelled at Welker at the end of the week.
Welker shouldn’t feel too concerned however, officials judged the contact to have occurred as the ball was in play elsewhere and, it’s thought, that the league will agree with their call in this instance.