By Bill Campbell
The NFL post-season is developing into the answer to a football fanatic’s prayer.
First, it was Tim Tebow leading the Denver Broncos to their first play-off victory in six years, eliminating the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then the Broncos attempted to challenge the New England Patriots only to have Tom Brady blitz them with six touchdown passes. Brady went 24 for 32 for 321 yards in the first three quarters as Tebow Time expired. While the Baltimore Ravens were eliminating the Houston Texans, 20-13 in an almost pedestrian affair, the stage was set for an electric performance on the frozen tundra at Green Bay. But first came an unforgettable contest in San Francisco, which reportedly was watched by more people than any game in the history of the NFL. It came on the thirtieth anniversary of the famous Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark pass but the current generation will best remember the Alex Smith-to-Vernon Davis catch. It was a fourteen-yarder with nine seconds left in the game and it came almost immediately after Drew Brees had put the New Orleans Saints ahead only to see the 49ers capitalize on the fifth Saints turnover and win the heart-pumper, 36-32. Despite these thrilling fourth period heroics, the 49ers proved that a good, hard-hitting defense can still prevail in this modern, wide-open NFL even against one of the game’s best offenses.
There was 1.37 left when Brees completed a 66 yard scoring pass to Jimmy Graham and the Saints appeared to rally from a 17 point deficit to win. That fourth period will be long remembered by all who were fortunate enough to see it. As a long time play-by-play broadcaster, I’ve had my share of thrilling quarters in college and professional football. But nothing to equal the fourth period of the San Francisco-New Orleans game of January 14, 2012. Thirty-four points were scored in the fourth period in which one found it difficult to believe what one was seeing. New Orleans actually outscored San Francisco 18-16, only to lose the game.
So we somewhat breathlessly await the upcoming New York-San Francisco game, the underdog Giants having upset the Green Bay Packers, 37-20. Eli Manning threw for three touchdowns against the Packers in a game that produced more than its share of thrills. But the San Francisco-New Orleans spectacular still took top billing. If last week’s game drew more folks than any other, who’s going to miss the next one? A big quarterback weekend is coming up. Stay tuned.
I must be afflicted with a short memory span. Two weeks ago, every college basketball team with any kind of a Philadelphia connection played and won their games on the same night. I thought it was not only most unusual but, maybe, unprecedented. I even wrote about it after touching base with several media members who couldn’t recall a similar occurrence. The possibility of all the local teams winning or, for that matter, losing all on the same night never entered my mind. Good thing because with just two exceptions – Drexel and Penn – the other four managed to lose last Saturday night. Villanova lost to Cincinnati, St. Joe’s was defeated by UMass, Richmond beat Temple and Dayton upended LaSalle. Drexel won over UNC-Wilmington in their game in Wilmington, North Carolina. And it was Penn over Cornell, 64-52, in their Ivy League encounter in Ithaca.
I will never again refer to Drexel as the “sixth member” of the Big Five. Bruiser Flint has a pretty good team on his hands. The Dragons are 13-5 on the season, 4-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Drexel leads the league in free-throw shooting, going 14 for 16 in their UNC game after making good on their first ten shots. Pennsylvania, playing back to back games for the first time this season, reacted well with Zack Rosen and Tyler Beradini scoring 18 points apiece. Penn is 9-9 on the season but leads the Ivy League at 2-0.
The other four teams showed more than a few moments of inconsistency, especially Temple and St. Joe’s. Temple usually has trouble at Richmond and their latest visit was no exception. It was the Owls’ third straight loss at the Richmond home arena and the Hawks blew a 17 point lead at UMass. Despite 39 points by Malik Wayns, Villanova lost a close one at Cincinnati and LaSalle, now 13-5, saw its six-game winning streak snapped. It was the Explorers’ first defeat following impressive victories over Xavier and Massachusetts. On the national scene, Syracuse remains the Number One team and has now won twenty straight — and coach Jim Boeheim has won his 876th game. He is fourth on the All Time list behind Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith.
There was a time when basketball was considered to be a big man’s game but lately it’s become a guard’s game both in college play and among the pros. I know that 76ers coach, Doug Collins, with whom I visited the other day, has always felt that way. He thinks that guards steer the ship in the NBA — and if we look over our shoulder the most publicized college players in town are the guards. Most of them are usually playing at the point – such as Tyreek Duren at LaSalle, Malik Wayns at Villanova, Zak Rosen at Penn, Juan Fernandez at Temple, Carl Jones at St. Joe’s and Frantz Massenat at Drexel, among others. The 76ers, who are 7-1 in this grinding eight game stretch, are being led by Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams. Their overall record is 10-3 and the lead in the Atlantic Division. Of course, there is Kobe Bryant who, despite an injured wrist and a failing marriage, is on one of the greatest tears of his star-studded career. He has scored over forty points in three consecutive games. He’s third in NBA history with 110 forty-point games, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. In his last eight games he’s scored at least thirty points in seven of them, proving that he can still play a little at age 33.
In baseball, while the Phillies and Cole Hamels are preparing to negotiate a new contract, the Denver Post is reporting that the Rockies are trying to finish up a minor league deal with 49-year-old former Phil, Jamie Moyer. Moyer began his career in 1986. He went 9 and 9 with a 4.84 ERA with the Phillies last season before undergoing elbow surgery. If true, Jamie just keeps going on and on.