Michael Silver is a copycat

In his Wednesday column, Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports draws comparisons from Super Bowl XXXVII between the Buccaneers and Raiders to make points about Ken Whisenhunt’s knowledge of the Pittsburgh Steelers for this year’s big game.

His entire article revolves around this:

Super Bowl XXXVIIThe reason I bring this up now is that a seemingly similar scenario exists for Super Bowl XLIII. One of the many questions we’ll be hearing over and over until kickoff on Sunday, Feb. 1 is this: Can Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, a Pittsburgh assistant from 2001-06, pull a Gruden and exercise mental mastery over quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers?

Hmm…I wonder who also compared this year’s Super Bowl to the one in 2002 between the Bucs and Raiders?

From my column posted Monday night:

2. Kurt Warner vs. the Steelers defense.
The Pittsburgh-Arizona matchup reminds me of the 2002 Super Bowl between the Buccaneers and Raiders. Like Pittsburgh this season, Tampa Bay led the league in total defense that year. Oakland had the best passing offense in the league and was led by long-time veteran quarterback Rich Gannon. Arizona doesn’t have the best passing offense in the league (they were second to New Orleans), but they are led by trusty 11-year vet Kurt Warner at quarterback. In Super Bowl XXXVII, Gannon threw a record five interceptions, three of which were returned for defensive touchdowns as the Bucs routed the Raiders 48-21. Granted, this isn’t Warner’s first Super Bowl (it will be his third), but his situation is eerily similar to Gannon’s. The Steelers’ defense excels at making quarterbacks (young and old) look silly when they drop back to pass. And while he hasn’t shown signs of it yet this postseason, Warner can get awfully turnover prone if he feels too much pressure. The Eagles were able to get to Warner in the third quarter of the NFC Championship Game and the Cardinals’ offense wilted. But they couldn’t do it on a consistent basis (neither could the Falcons or Panthers), and Warner picked them apart with the help of Larry Fitzgerald. Can the Arizona offensive line protect Warner long enough for him to find open receivers? Or will Warner suffer a similar demise as the one Gannon did?

4. Does Ken Whisenhunt hold an inside edge?
Mike Tomlin and Ken Whisenhunt were hired eight days apart in 2007. Some believed that when Bill Cowher decided to retire, that Whisenhunt (the Steelers’ offensive coordinator at the time) would take over as head coach. But Whisenhunt eventually decided to head west and take over the seemingly impossible rebuilding plan in Arizona. Tomlin was then plucked from his defensive coordinator position in Minnesota to coach the Steelers, and now two years later the two will meet in the Super Bowl. The question becomes: Will Whisenhunt have inside knowledge of how the Steelers run their offense since he was their offensive line coach when they beat the Seahawks in the 2006 Super Bowl? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know ways to help Arizona defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast defend Ben Roethlisberger (who Whisenhunt coached for two seasons in Pittsburgh) or find ways to exploit the few weaknesses the Steelers have defensively. Remember, Jon Gruden helped Monte Kiffin scheme against Rich Gannon (his former quarterback in Oakland) in Super Bowl XXXVII and the Bucs wound up intercepting the Raider QB five times. It would be unwise to overlook Whisenhunt’s knowledge of the Steelers.

Just what the hell is going on here? Is Silver a copycat? Did he read my column and then use my thoughts as his own? Did he think nobody would find out? Two people can’t come up with similar ideas/comparisons independently of each other, can they?

Calls to the Yahoo! Sports desk have not be returned…because, well, I didn’t make them. But clearly that son of a bitch Silver stole my comparison.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Tim Cowlishaw pours big cup of jinx over Cardinals

If their team loses to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, Arizona Cardinal fans can thank Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News for it.

Larry FitzgeraldThe torch really has been passed now. The best player in the NFL plays for the Arizona Cardinals, and his name is Larry Fitzgerald. He’s the reason the Steelers will not become the first franchise to win six Super Bowls this time around.

The Cardinals, leaving the Detroit Lions as the only team to participate in all 43 seasons without reaching a Super Bowl, will become the 18th franchise to win their first.

These Cardinals aren’t the best team in the NFL, and they weren’t anything close to it during the regular season. But suddenly their defense stops every team’s running attack. Suddenly, their secondary that got beat up so often makes all the right plays.

Kurt Warner is playing as if he’s 27, not 37, and the biggest reason for that is a game-breaking and game-changing receiver that the Steelers will not be able to cover.

It has been six decades since the Cardinals won a title and four decades since I decided as a kid they were going to produce a superior product than the Cowboys.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of years being wrong on that one.

That’s why it feels so good now to be right.

After Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution jinxed the Falcons by stating that they would beat the Cardinals in the wild card round three weeks ago, I warned Gary Myers of the New York Daily News that he crimped the Giants by claiming there was no way the Eagles would beat the G-Men in the divisional round.

And now this – Cowlishaw, a former Cardinal fan, is doing the same thing to ‘Zona for the Super Bowl. NFL columnists are 0-2 this postseason when they write an article claiming one team will emphatically beat their opponent. Now Sir Jinx-A-Lot the III is about to make NFL columnists 0-3 in the postseason.

Looks like I’m going with the Steel Curtain when I make my Super Bowl prediction next week. Thanks, Cowlishaw.

Five Intriguing Super Bowl Storylines

If anything, the 2008 NFL Season was far from dull. While the Cardinals and Steelers each won their respective divisions to secure playoff berths, neither team was a slum dunk to make it to Tampa at the start of the postseason.

Let’s recap, shall we?

The Steelers entered the playoffs with huge question marks to be answered, most surrounding their offense. In their last regular season game of the year, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was taken off the field strapped to a stretcher after the back of his helmet slammed against the turf following a hit between two defenders. Along with his health, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, although starting to gel in the final month of the season, seemed to be a weakness that defenses like the Titans and Ravens could exploit if they had the opportunity to face the Steelers in the postseason.

So while they ranked first in total defense entering the playoffs, the Steelers had major issues. Yet they steam rolled an overmatched Chargers team in the divisional round, then turned Joe Flacco’s inexperience against him in the AFC Championship Game and now they’re one win away from winning their second Super Bowl title in three years.

Conversely, the Cardinals had a little steeper hill to climb. Although their offense was explosive throughout the season, they played poorly down the stretch and many believed that if they had to go on the road in the playoffs, they would never survive. Not only that, but many pundits also didn’t believe ‘Zona would get past a good running team like the Falcons, who were sure to ride Michael Turner to victory in the opening round.

Thanks to three Atlanta turnovers and a soundly executed game plan to shut down Turner, the Cards beat the Falcons to set up a regular season rematch with the Panthers in the second round. Six Jake Delhomme turnovers later and Arizona was heading to the NFC Championship Game despite everyone and their mother suggesting that they would never be able to win on the road. Then despite the Eagles’ best efforts at a second half comeback, Arizona was able to hang on Sunday to secure a trip to the Super Bowl, which seemed like an improbable task at the start of the playoffs.

Now that the matchup has been set, what do we have to look forward to? Plenty, actually. Below are five storylines that should wet your appetite for the next two weeks before kickoff on February 1.

Read the rest after the jump...

Six Pack of Observations: Steelers to play Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII

Here are six quick-hit observations on the Steelers’ 23-13 win over the Ravens in the AFC Championship.

1. My thoughts go out to Willis McGahee.
McGahee took a hell of a pop from Steelers’ defensive back Ryan Clark and appeared to be knocked out before he even hit the ground. It looked like Clark was trying to turn his body to level a shoulder hit on McGahee, but clearly caught him with his helmet first. Not that it was intentional, but Clark should have been flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Regardless, McGahee was carted off the field on a stretcher and my thoughts go out to him. Word is he was talking and moving his legs, which is a positive sign. This is just one of the many examples of how nasty the game of football is. Hopefully both McGahee and Clark (who was also shaken up on the play) return to full health and no permanent damage was suffered by the collision.

2. Joe Flacco’s inexperience was bound to catch up with him.
Flacco was perfect the last two weeks because he didn’t turn the ball over and allowed his running game and defense to win games. But all rookies (even good ones like Flacco) are bound to make mistakes and the young signal caller certainly did tonight. He threw three interceptions, with the one to Troy Polomalu in the fourth quarter being the most damaging. It looked like offensive coordinator Cam Cameron didn’t want to handcuff Flacco and allowed him to throw down field, which wasn’t the problem. At some point, you’re going to have to take cracks down field in order to get the Steelers’ defense on their heels. But clearly Flacco rushed some of his throws and tried to force the action when it wasn’t there. His performance Sunday reminded me a lot of Ben Roethlisberger’s play in the 2005 AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. Big Ben (who was a rookie at the time) tried to make plays happen by throwing down field and New England ate him alive. The next season Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory and just like Big Ben did, Flacco will learn from this performance and continue to develop. He’s got a bright future.

3. Let Big Ben do his thing.
Ben Roethlisberger has to scare the beajesus out of his teammates, coaches and fans with the way he plays the game. He hangs onto the ball way too long and sometimes it costs his team dearly because he takes sacks and turns the ball over. But with the way he escapes the pocket and the grasp of would-be tacklers to find receivers that have shaken loose in the secondary, you have to let him play his game. Does he take unnecessary sacks? Without a doubt. Should he be more careful with the football? Yes. But how many times does he keep plays and drives alive by waiting those extra seconds? No coach should recommend that their quarterback play the way he does, but it clearly works for Big Ben and once again, he’s led the Steelers to another Super Bowl despite lining up behind the weakest offensive line of his career.

4. How does Troy Polomalu do it?
Granted, Joe Flacco threw the ball right to him, but Polomalu’s pivotal interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was yet another example of how good the safety is. How does he always seem to be in the right place at the right time? Well the fact that he never takes plays off has a lot to do with it, but he also has some of the best instincts in the game. Sure, he’ll whiff on plays at times, but even the best defenders miss tackles in the open field. Polomalu consistently is one of the best playmakers in the game and what was great about his pick tonight wasn’t the actual interception, but the return. The play never stopped for him and thanks to a bevy of blocks, he was able to find open space and reach the end zone to turn the game on its head.

5. Way to bounce back, Limas Sweed.
Sweed went from goat to quiet hero over the course of this game. His drop at the end of the second half was a killer because not only was it right in his bread basket, but he was also all alone and would have walked into the end zone. Granted, he should have never had the opportunity to drop the pass because the Steelers got a gift from the officials after a phantom roughing the kicker call on the Ravens, but back to the topic on hand…. Sweed’s drop (his second in as many weeks) was awful, but he made one of the better plays of the game when he turned into a defender late in the third quarter by knocking the ball loose on a pass play in the end zone when it looked like Frank Walker was going to come down with a huge interception. Thanks to Sweed’s play, the Steelers salvaged the drive with a 46-yard Jeff Reed field goal to go up 16-7 with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter. It was a play that will go largely unnoticed (especially compared to his easy drop), but Sweed deserves credit for not disappearing after his embarrassing drop.

6. Cardinals vs. Steelers? I like it.
A lot of football fans consider the Cardinals one of the worst teams to ever make the postseason and will no doubt refer to Arizona as one of the worst teams to ever play in a Super Bowl. But with the way the Cardinals’ offense is clicking, an Arizona-Pittsburgh matchup is intriguing. Some will write this game off as an easy win for the Steelers because their defense will get pressure on Kurt Warner and shut the Cards’ dynamic passing game down. But if we’ve learned anything from this postseason it’s that the Cardinals come to play.

Six Pack of Observations: Cardinals heading to the Super Bowl

Here are six quick-hit observations from the Cardinals’ 32-25 win over the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

1. Just keep doubting them – the Cardinals will just keep winning.
Let’s run through everything the Cardinals weren’t supposed to do this postseason, shall we? They weren’t supposed to stop Michael Turner or beat the Falcons in the first round. They weren’t supposed to win on the road or stop the Panthers’ dynamic running game in the second round. And then even when they did accomplish those things, they weren’t supposed to beat the Eagles because Philadelphia would finally pressure Kurt Warner like he hadn’t been the previous two weeks. Yet the Cardinals did beat Philly on Sunday, and they did so even though adversity stopped by in the third quarter and smacked them square in the mouth. (More on that next.)

2. The Cardinals did something Sunday that they hadn’t done much of all season – battle adversity.
When the Eagles scored a go ahead touchdown with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game to take a 25-24 lead in front of a stunned Arizona crowd, the Cardinals could have easily crumpled in the final quarter. Philadelphia had just scored 19 points in a matter of nine minutes, were starting to pressure Warner with more ease and had seized all momentum. But the Cards answered with a 14-play, 72-yard drive that took 12:07 off the clock and culminated in a Tim Hightower 8-yard touchdown run. They added the 2-point conversation on a pass reception by Ben Patrick and even though there was still plenty of time left on the clock at 2:53, you got the impression that the Eagles were cooked. Granted, ‘Zona benefited from a non-pass interference call on a 4th and 10 attempt to Kevin Curtis on the final drive, but the Cards had already capitalized on the most pivotal moment in the game by taking the Eagles’ best shot and answering back.

3. The Eagles only played 19 minutes of this game…
…had they played the entire game, they probably would have won. Something that got overlooked by many pundits in the week leading up to the contest was that this was the third straight road game for Philadelphia. It’s hard to win on the road as it is, nevertheless three straight weeks. It’s why most sixth seeds don’t make it to the Super Bowl. That said, had the Eagles played the entire game as well as they did in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, they would have won. Granted, that’s an obvious statement since they scored 13 points and limited the Cardinals to –1 yard of total offense in that third period – but look deeper. In that third quarter, Jim Johnson finally was able to dial up the right pressure on Kurt Warner, Andy Reid was finally able to get the tired Arizona defense on their heels and Donovan McNabb finally was hitting receivers in stride and striking for big plays. (None bigger than DeSean Jackson’s wild 62-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth.) The Eagles essentially only executed their game plan for 19 minutes of this game and yes, the Cardinals had a lot to do with that. But Philadelphia also got in its own way more times than not by dropping passes, failing to execute Johnson’s blitzes and McNabb misfiring on a handful of passes. Were the Eagles tired? They didn’t necessarily show it if they were, but don’t overlook the fact that this team had to do a lot just to make the playoffs and then a lot just to get to Glendale on Sunday. And that could have factored into how they played.

4. Larry Fitzgerald.
What else can one say that hasn’t already been said? He’s amazing, spectacular – exceptional. With all due respect to the Texans’ Andre Johnson, Fitz is the best receiver in the NFL and the adjustment he made on Kurt Warner’s under throw on a 62-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter was incredible. He’s one of the few receivers in the league that consistently goes up to get the ball at its highest point and never lets it get to his body. He’s the best.

5. Who the hell is Brent Celek?
Non-Eagle fans go ahead and raise your hand if you knew who Celek was before the game. I knew who he was, but I had no idea he could be a game-changer. The second-year tight end out of Cincinnati was the perfect complement to DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis in that he worked the seams and gave Donovan McNabb a solid, reliable target the entire game. He also freed Jackson and Curtis up by clearing out the Cardinal safeties, which had to adjust to him being a legitimate target as the game wore on. What a game by the youngster who has no doubt made Eagle fans forget L.J. Smith.

6. How can you not love Adrian Wilson?
Because the Cardinals have been bad for so long, Wilson has often been known as just an underrated playmaker on a brutal defense. But now that the Cards are heading to the Super Bowl, general football fans can start to appreciate just how good the eight-year veteran is – and how loyal. When Wilson was set to become a free agent at the end of the 2004 season, he could have signed with numerous teams dying for a playmaking safety and a natural born leader. But as Joe Buck and Troy Akiman noted during the broadcast, Wilson never contemplated signing with another team and reached a modest five-year, $21 million contract with the Cards. Now he’s being rewarded for his contributions to Arizona’s franchise by having the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. If you can’t root for a guy like that than you won’t be able to root for anybody.

Related Posts