Tag Archives: AFC

Milking the D/FW connection for all it’s worth

I cannot help but chuckle at the Dallas-Fort Worth media’s concentration on a certain aspect of the American Football Conference champion Kansas City Chiefs, who are heading to the next Super Bowl next month in Miami.

It’s the Dallas connection that gives me a giggle or two.

The Chiefs came into being in 1960 as the Dallas Texans. Then the owner of the franchise moved the team to Kansas City, where they became the Chiefs. The owner was Lamar Hunt, a young Dallas business mogul. He went on to build the Chiefs into an American Football League powerhouse.

The Hunt family has retained its Dallas roots. Lamar Hunt is now deceased. His son, Clark, runs the Chiefs. Clark Hunt still lives in Dallas.

The media are all over the Dallas connection and keep reminding viewers and readers that the Chiefs are actually direct descendants of the team that was born in Dallas but gravitated a bit north nearly 60 years ago.

It’s OK. You have to look for ways to retain interest among viewers and readers. The media here are doing their level best in that regard.

What’s so wrong with a defensive struggle?

I am going to take up the cudgel for the two professional football teams that just played in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history.

The New England Patriots scored 13 points compared to the three points rung up by the Los Angeles Rams.

I’ve been reading social media and other commentary about how “boring” and “stupefying” and “disappointing” the game turned out to be.

Let me stipulate that I didn’t want either team playing for the NFL championship. My favorite among the four teams vying for the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs, lost to the Patriots in overtime in the AFC championship game. The New Orleans Saints, it can be argued, should have been the NFC rep, but were robbed by a non-call that should have gone against the Rams in that conference’s title game, which the Rams won also in overtime.

When did massive offensive output, though, become the benchmark for on-the-field excellence in these football games? I watched most of the game Sunday night. I watched a lot of sequences when both teams would take three snaps and then punt the ball away. It got to be so repetitive that CBS Sports color analyst Tony Romo joked that the first-half highlight was the Ram punter’s record-setting kick of 65 yards.

However, we all did watch some stellar defensive strategies being played out. Both teams were hitting hard and their tackling was sure-handed. Patriots QB Tom Brady got sacked for the only time during this year’s playoff season. Rams QB Jared Goff was hassled and chased around constantly by New England’s defensive front line.

I didn’t see many defensive mistakes out there. I saw some hard-hitting tackle football.

So what if the teams couldn’t ring up 30 or 40 points apiece? The outcome was in doubt until practically the very end of the game.

There. Having said all that, I am kinda/sorta glad the Patriots won the game, owing only to my longtime affection for the AFC over the NFC. We saw a bit of history made Sunday night, with the Patriots winning the franchise’s sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

What is so wrong with that?

Take it away, Tony Romo!

There is, as they say, a first time for everything.

So, for the first time in my life I am looking forward to a major sporting event not so much for the competition on the field, but for the announcing that will come from the broadcast booth.

Yep, it’s true. I have no particular interest in the Super Bowl LIII matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. I do have an interest in hearing the real-time game analysis by Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who has become a media superstar.

I was among the millions of Americans who became enthralled with Romo’s expertise while calling the Patriots’ AFC championship game victory over the Kansas City Chiefs a couple of Sundays ago. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious. His knowledge of the game, quite naturally, was stellar.

Moreover, his ability to predict what the Patriots or the Chiefs would do on the next play was utterly astonishing!

I expect fully to hear Romo bring all of that into the booth this coming Sunday when he provides color commentary for the Patriots-Rams showdown. I also heard it said that he makes Jim Nantz, the play-by-play announcer with whom Romo will be teamed for SB LIII, even better at his job.

Let me be clear about something. I have been a longtime AFC supporter. Only one time have I rooted for the NFC team over the AFC team in the Super Bowl. It was in 2010 when the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts.

Yeah, I’ll root quietly for the Pats to beat the Rams. I’ll likely provide golf claps if the Patriots pull off big plays.

But my interest in the big game centers mostly on hearing Tony Romo, who never excited me much as a QB for the so-called “America’s Team.” I say that even though I now live in the heart of Cowboys Country.

But, man, the boy knows how to bring a pro football game to life with his commentary!

Not getting too worked up over this missed call

I have to stipulate up front that I might feel differently if I lived in the city that is home to a pro football team that got the shaft in the biggest game of the year . . . to date.

I don’t, so I’m not going to get all that lathered up over what happened this past weekend to the New Orleans Saints in their NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams.

You know what I’m talking about.

The Saints were marching down the field. NOLA Quarterback Drew Brees took the snap at the Rams’ 13-yard line and threw a pass to TommyLee Lewis; Rams safety Nickell Roby-Colman mugged Lewis while the receiver tried to catch the ball. The official didn’t call pass interference or the helmet-to-helmet hit that occurred. The pass fell incomplete. The score was 20-20 at the time. Both teams kicked field goals in regulation, but the Rams won it in overtime. Had the field judge called the play correctly, the Saints could have scored to go ahead in the final seconds and won the game, yes?

I have listened to extensive commentary on this mess. Yes, it’s a mess. One official committed a disastrous non-call on what looked to the entire football game-watching world like pass interference. Some sports pundits talked on NPR about theories of conspiracy, the possibility that the “fix was in.” Sheesh!

Why not get too worked up?

Because the official is a fallible human being, just like all the rest of us. Fallible creatures make mistakes. That’s how it goes, man.

Look, I’m not even a fan of instant replay, or “official review” of these calls. I don’t hate them the way I hate the designated hitter in pro baseball, but I just wish we could rely on human beings to make the best calls they can in the heat of competition.

Besides, when you consider all the calls these folks make during the course of a 60-minute professional football game, I remain mightily impressed with the overwhelming number of correct decisions they make.

Would I feel differently if I lived in New Orleans and saw this play? Would I spit my gumbo out if I watched the official fail to make the obvious call?

That’s a hypothetical question, but yeah, I probably would go ballistic. However, I have no particular interest in the NFC championship game, other than wanting the Saints to win. They lost.

Besides, if the Saints were the better team that day in the Superdome, they should have put the game away in front of the raucous Big Easy crowd.

Now, let’s just get ready for the Super Bowl.

How ’bout them Chiefs?

OK, here goes my selection for the next National Football League championship.

I am pulling hard for the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Lombardi Trophy at the end of Super Bowl 53 (or is it LIII?).

They play the New England Patriots next weekend for the AFC championship. They’ll play it at Arrowhead Stadium in KC. The NFC championship will be decided between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints; I don’t care about that one, because I have been a long-time AFC fan.

My cheering for the Chiefs stems from the fact that they last played in the Super Bowl in 1970. That was 49 years ago, man!

Those Chiefs defeated the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 23-7. They manhandled the Purple People Eaters. Their coach was a guy named Hank Stram, who crafted something called the Offense of the 1970s. He was a dapper dresser who strolled the sideline with his plays written on a rolled-up sheet of paper he carried with him.

The KC Chiefs had the misfortune, too, of playing the mighty Green Bay Packers in the very first championship game. The Packers won that game 35-10; it wasn’t even known yet as the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs represented the American Football League against the powerhouse NFL titans from Green Bay. They got thumped, but then in the final game representing the AFL, which merged with the NFL, did their own thumping three years later in Super Bowl IV.

That was too long ago. The Patriots have been to many Super Bowls over the years. They’ve won their share of them, too. Sure, whoever wins the AFC title game must play the NFC winner at the Big Game.

This is the Kansas City Chiefs’ time. At least I hope it is.

You go, Philly Eagles!

Normally, I might be a bit down in the dumps over the result of a Super Bowl contest that ended the way Super Bowl LII did.

You see, I am a fan of the American Football Conference. I root for the AFC team over the National Football Conference team in the big game. I have rolled that way dating back to the original AFL-NFL Championship Game, in 1967, when the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers.

This year, the Philadelphia Eagles outscored the New England Patriots in a barn-burner.

Why aren’t I saddened by the outcome? The Patriots have won more than their share of Super Bowls. Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady sought their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy together.

The Eagles had been denied the fruit of victory in their previous two attempts: once by the Oakland Raiders and once by, that’s right, the Patriots.

So it was their turn Sunday to bring home the coveted trophy.

It’s hard to feel too badly for a sports franchise that has won so much for so long.

As for the underdog upsetting the favorites, I return to one of my favorite sayings about such things: That is why they play the game.

Super Bowl: Who gets the cheers?

Oh, the quandary I face.

The Super Bowl will occur next weekend and for the first time in about, oh, 52 years I don’t know for which team I should cheer.

Some members of my family know that I am a fairly dedicated American Football Conference fan. I used to watch the former American Football League games over the NFL back in the very old days. When the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970, I rooted for old AFL teams every time they played the NFL teams. There was a caveat, though: Three NFL teams — the Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns — moved to the AFC, so I grudgingly rooted for them as well. Let’s not forget that the leagues met in four Super Bowls prior to their merger, with the AFL teams winning two of those games.

This year I am faced with this problem: The New England (formerly the Boston) Patriots are playing the Philadelphia Eagles. Normally I’d root hard for the Pats, except they’ve so damn many of these Super Bowls I am inclined to send good karma to the Eagles, who’ve never won the big game. The Pats beat them years after my beloved Oakland Raiders smoked the Eagles.

I have tumbled off the AFC bandwagon once, when I cheered for the New Orleans Saints to defeat the Indianapolis Colts. Lo and behold, the Saints won and gave the Big Easy plenty to cheer after the misery those folks had endured from Hurricane Katrina less than five years earlier.

It might take some kind of heart-warming story to make me switch my loyalty to the NFC for Super Bowl LII. Then again, perhaps I will simply tire of hearing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tell us how great he is.

I mean, c’mon! Would a sixth Super Bowl victory make him even an greater athlete than he already is?

Oh … the humanity!

You go, Marcus and the Titans!

There once was a time when I despised the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League.

You see, they once were known as the Houston Oilers. Then the Oilers’ owner, Bud Adams, decided he wanted a nicer place to play his home football games. The Astrodome — the former Eighth Wonder of the World — wasn’t good enough for him, so he packed his team up and moved to Nashville.

I lived with my family for 11 years in Beaumont and I became a fairly diehard Oilers fan. I hated the Titans for quite some time.

Then they did something rather cool. The Titans drafted a young quarterback out of the University of Oregon. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy playing QB for the Ducks, which happen to be my favorite college football team; I am a native of Oregon, which you might already know.

With that draft pick, the Titans elevated themselves from the hated to the revered. Just … like … that.

Last night, I watched Mariota perform some gridiron magic that made me proud to call this former Duck one of my homeys.

The Titans trailed the Kansas City Chiefs by 21-3 at halftime of their American Football Conference wild card playoff game. The teams took the field in the second half and Mariota then demonstrated why he is considered the Titans’ “franchise quarterback.”

From from the Chiefs’ 6-yard line, Mariota tossed a pass, which got deflected and caught the pass himself — and then he dived into the end zone for another touchdown. Mariota to Mariota! Then he fired a 22-yard touchdown pass.

Late in the game, Mariota handed the ball off to another Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, who scampered around the left end — and got a decisive block from none other than … Marcus Mariota. Quarterbacks don’t usually throw their bodies at defensive players, let alone brutish linebackers.

The Titans won the football game 22-21.

I am a happy Titans fan today.

Well done, Marcus. You made this native Oregonian might proud.

Getting ready for the Big Game

A young colleague of mine told me today he is going to Houston this weekend. He’s going to attend a football game: the Super Bowl.

My friend is a diehard, true-blue, dedicated fan of the New England Patriots, who will face off Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Our brief conversation prompts me to offer this off-kilter perspective on the game that’s about to overwhelm us. It is this:

I have no particular allegiance to a team. My preference is for the conference. The National Football League comprises two conferences: American and National.

Going back many decades, I have long been an American Football Conference fan. My reasons are weird. Perhaps there are others out there who share my loyalty to the AFC.

It goes back to the American Football League. The AFL came into being in 1960. I was intrigued that a brand new pro football league would challenge the NFL. AFL teams played an exciting brand of football. They scored a lot of points; they played initially before sparse crowds; yet they had some talented players engaging in some tackle football.

Then in 1966, the NFL and the AFL agreed to merge. It would occur at the start of the 1970 season. Before the merger took effect, the AFL played the NFL in a championship game. The Green Bay Packers won the first two of those games in 1967 and 1968. Then in 1969, the AFL’s New York Jets — led by quarterback Joe Willie Namath — surprised the sporting world by defeating the Baltimore Colts; the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL battered the Minnesota Vikings in the following year’s championship game.

Then the leagues merged. My loyalty to the AFL was watered down somewhat when three NFL teams joined the AFC. They were: the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts, the Cleveland Browns (now known as the Baltimore Ravens) and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Thus, my AFL loyalty was watered down somewhat by the presence of these old NFL teams playing in the same conference as the new teams.

But my AFC loyalty has remained strong. It has presented a struggle for me when the Steelers, Ravens and Colts have represented the AFC in Super Bowls. I continue to this day to root for teams that are held over from the old AFL … such as, oh, the New England Patriots.

I’ll root for the Patriots on Sunday, not so much because of the guys who play for them, or the fellow who coaches them. I shall root for them chiefly because of their origin as one of the founding franchises in the American Football League.

My young friend who’ll be somewhere in that Houston stadium cheering his lungs out Sunday for the Pats wasn’t even born when the leagues merged. He’s entitled to root for his team.

I’ll cheer for the league from which they came.

Go Pats!

A shout-out to two backup QBs

Tom Brady is basking in the glory tonight. Good for him. He gets to play in Super Bowl LI … that’s No. 51.

But wait a second, OK? The New England Patriots stud quarterback, who won the most valuable player award for tonight’s AFC championship game victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, ought to share the spotlight with a couple of young men who haven’t gotten so much as a mention tonight.

They would be Jimmy Garoppolo (pictured) and Jacoby Brissett.

Who are these fellows? They’re the backup quarterbacks who led the Patriots to a 3-1 start for the NFL season — while Brady was serving a four-game suspension over that infamous “Deflategate” controversy in 2015.

If the Patriots had floundered and flailed at the start of the season, they wouldn’t have been in position to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs, which well could have helped them defeat the Steelers tonight. Suppose, too, they had lost, say, another game or two to start the season. They might have become so dispirited that their fortunes the rest of the way could have turned out quite differently.

But they kept their poise in Brady’s absence. Garoppolo and Brissett held the team together while Brady watched. Then the Big Man returned and picked up where the backups left off.

I will tip my proverbial hat to Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, even if no one else is giving them the props they deserve.