January 26, 2011
By 10 p.m. Sunday, the journey to Super Bowl XLV had ended with two teams on their way to Arlington, Texas on February 6th. The other two teams were on planes bound for home. The Green Bay Packers were the first to get their golden ticket, when they defeated the Chicago Bears 21-14 in Chitown. The game was looking dangerously close to going into overtime— football fans would have gotten their first glimpse at the new playoff overtime rules—but the Bears’ third string quarterback Caleb Hanie was unable to tie the game, despite producing the team’s only points earlier in the second half. With the Bears unable to get it done, the Packers took knee-downs to run out the clock. The day after their loss at home, speculation is circling around Bears starting QB Jay Cutler. Bloggers, angry fans and commentators alike questioned if the young quarterback simply gave up on himself and the team during the NFC Championship Game and faked his injury.
While as a spectator, it is hard to pinpoint when and how his injury actually occurred, his team is standing by him and announced today that Cutler did indeed have torn ligaments in his knee. With the Packers looking towards Arlington and the Bears looking towards next season, Cutler should start worrying about his starting position. Getting shown up by a third string quarterback in the NFC title game can’t be good for job security. Contrarily, despite their loss, head coach Lovie Smith may be in for an extended stay in the Windy City, as the franchise seems pleased with his performance. Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo publicly stated that they will work on an extension with Smith in the coming weeks.
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was finally silenced on Sunday night, when he was seen throwing his headset to the ground and almost rushing off the field at the end of Sunday night’s game. For the second straight year, the New York Jets found themselves in the AFC Championship Game. For the second straight year they went home one game shy of the Super Bowl. Despite the Jets’ two unpredictable underdog wins against the Colts and then the Patriots this playoff season, the Steelers outshined them on the field, especially during the first half. They moved ahead early 24-0. Jets kicker Nick Folk nailed a 42-yard field goal with nine seconds to go in the half, putting three points on the board for the Jets going into half-time. While the Jets were able to redeem themselves in the second half, scoring two touchdowns and a surprising safety, they were unable to move past the 24-point marker the Steelers had set earlier in the game. Ben Roethlisberger was tackled by Mike DeVito in the end zone for two points.
Both the Packers and the Steelers had strong starts, but didn’t impress in the second half; the Steelers didn’t score a single point after half-time. Unlike in previous matchups — most notably the 2007 Superbowl which pitted the undefeated New England Patriots against the way underdog New York Giants — neither the Packers or Steelers seem invincible, and when the two teams meet in two weeks, it will be more a question of who wants it more, than who is the better team. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is finally stepping out of Brett Favre’s shadow, but if he loses he could be stepping right into Roethlisberger’s. But Roethlisberger also has a monkey to get off his back, for while he has semi-redeemed his tarnished public image through his consistent playmaking this season, the scandal surrounding him has not been completely forgotten. A third Super Bowl ring could be enough proof that he is a changed man, completely focused on the game; a loss could have others questioning his ethics along with his talent.
After a strong start to the season, the Capitals have never seemed to regain the consistent dominance they usually display over their opponents. They are just 2-2 in their last four games, including a 2-1 loss tonight at home against the New York Rangers. The game did end in a shootout with both teams scoring twice before Ranger Center Artem Anisimov got one past rookie goal Braden Holtby. With the Capitals having only second rank in their division, they are fifth in a conference that usually finds them at the top. Despite their subpar season, the Capitals remain the most successful DC sports franchise…whether the glass is half-empty or half-full is up to you.
The Wizards are now 13-29 on the season, with most of the wins coming at home. As the season drags on, it seems unlikely that any one savior will come and redeem this team, pushing them up to the type of ranking they were hoping for when the season began. The Wizards do have a new addition to the team with point guards like Kurt Hinrich and John Wall. Both players are usually either injured or uncertain to play full games, so the Wizards called up Mustafa Shakur from the NBA Development League Rio Grande Valley Vipers. His addition was quick, but his contribution was noticed. It was the first NBA game of his career in which he played for 10-minutes and scored five points. While he only signed a 10-day contract with the team, it is possible the addition of fresh blood and a new face is just what the team needs to inject fans with excitement and a reason to come see a game.