Conference Championship Game Observations

These were good games, even the blowout in Philly. There was more a sense of plays made than plays missed, high-level throws, not that many stoppages. I don’t think there was a missed FG or PAT all day.

• Say what you want about Tom Brady and the Pats – yes, they benefitted from two PI calls and the Jaguars went into a shell for the entire fourth quarter- but coming back from 10 points down without his Hall of Fame TE against that defense was bad ass. This will be the eighth Super Bowl of his career, and he got it done with Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola.

• Blake Bortles played well, but the offense got too conservative in the second half, and it was disappointing not to see more designed scrambles – at the very least to shake things up on early downs as the Pats bottled up an ineffective Leonard Fournette.

• Rob Gronkowski must have been pretty woozy for the concussion protocol to be taken seriously in a game of this magnitude and given the score and situation at the time. I detailed my thoughts on that two weeks ago. I’d imagine he’ll be fine for the Super Bowl, though.

• I say this every week, but the kicking in the NFL has gotten ridiculously good. When did Josh Lambo become Justin Tucker? That kick would have been good from 70, and it was straight down the middle.  And why did the Chargers ditch him for a Younghoe? (If you want to get Twitter likes, just make a Younghoe joke.)

• The craziest thing about the Vikings-Eagles is the Vikings drove down the field easily to go up 7-0, stuffed the Eagles and were near midfield again before the pick-six tied it up. In other words, the Eagles won 38-0 from that point on.

• There’s no way Carson Wentz would have played better than Nick Foles (10.7 YPA, three TDs, zero picks, one sack) did, and he almost certainly would have played worse. It’s funny because I tweeted the Vikings-Saints should have been the NFC title game, but maybe the Falcons-Eagles was always the tougher side of the draw.

• Who is Nick Foles anyway? You can’t have a 27:2 TD:INT ratio and 9.1 YPA over 13 games – as he did in 2013 – from dumb luck. And you don’t stay calm and downfield-focused with rushers all around you against arguably the league’s top defense in a Championship game by accident, either. I get that Eli Manning and Joe Flacco played well during their runs too, but that’s not a bad floor for a player we’d written off as a journeyman scrub.

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• What a great game for Doug Pederson and the Eagles offense. He kept the pedal down all game, no matter the score and never gave the Vikings a chance to breathe. Doug Marrone should have watched and taken notes. Consider the Jaguars kneel-down with 55 seconds left in the first quarter. The Eagles got the ball back with 29 seconds, up 21-7, and marched down for a field-goal to end the half.

• Case Keenum didn’t have a good game, but he didn’t look awful, either. He was under pressure most of the time, trailing by a lot and forcing the action. It’ll be interesting to see what the Vikings decide at QB next year, but if I were them I’d stick with Keenum. I’d certainly take him over Sam Bradford’s  and Teddy Bridgewater’s carcasses.

• The Eagles are 5.5-point underdogs in the Super Bowl, down from seven before the NFC Championship game. Foles’ play moved the needle that much. I’m not sure who I’m taking yet. Probably the Pats, but Pederson’s coaching and Foles’ decision making and accuracy at least have me thinking about it.