What a wacky couple of conference championship games. The Patriots and Giants will meet in the Super Bowl for the second time in the last five seasons, but both teams escaped with their very lives, and we could have very easily had our first ever Harbaugh Bowl if a few plays in each game had gone the other way.
The New England Patriots advanced to their fifth Super Bowl since 2001--and seventh overall--after one of the most gut-wrenching finishes in playoff history.
Trailing, 23-20, in the closing seconds, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco came oh so close to putting himself in the upper echelon of NFL passers when he found Lee Evans in the end zone with what looked to be the AFC-clinching touchdown pass. However, the pass was knocked out of Evans' grasps and fell incomplete.
Moments later, kicker Billy Cundiff came on to try a 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds left. In shades of Ray Finkle, it wasn't even close; Cundiff pulled it very wide-left and the Patriots survived.
Speaking of which, there is no way I would have survived that game if the Steelers were involved. Win or lose, I would have been given my last rights after all that went down at the end of that game.
And to make the Super Bowl XLII rematch a reality, the New York Giants completed what seemed like their destiny by going into Candlestick Park and walking away with a 20-17 overtime victory after kicker Lawrence Tynes ended things with a 31-yard field goal that was set-up by a fumbled punt by 49ers returner Kyle Williams. Williams was also the goat in regulation. With the 49ers winning, 14-10, in the 4th quarter, Williams let a punt graze off his knee, and the Giants recovered deep in San Francisco territory. New York took advantage of the miscue when Eli Manning hit Mario Manningham for a 17-yard touchdown pass to put the Giants ahead.
As a Steelers fan, I take an almost perverted pleasure in seeing both of the Harbaugh brothers eliminated in the conference title games. The Steelers lost three of their four regular season games to teams coached by the Harbaughs. As far as John Harbaugh is concerned, he's realizing right now that the only thing a Gatorade bath in September is good for is keeping yourself cool.
On to other matters. Can you believe how eerily similar this postseason is to the 2007 campaign? I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how the Steelers season was haunted by the ghosts of 2007. Looks like the entire NFL postseason was possessed by those same ghosts.
Not only do the Giants and Patriots meet in this year's Super Bowl, but just like four years ago, New York had to get there by winning three postseason games, and they won the NFC championship on the leg of Tynes in overtime following a critical turnover.
I'm happy about the match up. It should really be an exciting game, and now with San Fran out of the picture, I have a clear rooting interest.
And as a Steelers fan, let's hope the Deja vu cycle completes itself in 2012 with a repeat of what happened in 2008. We all know how that year ended.
Super Bowl XLVI in two weeks!