Mon Jan 19 09:10:00 PST 2009
The best football Sunday of the year is NFL Conference championship Sunday not Super Bowl Sunday.
Hands down the best football of the year is played, not on Super Bowl Sunday, but 2 week's earlier when the conference champions are crowned.
You have twice the football, involving 4 motivated teams playing at a high level to achieve their quest of making it to the Super Bowl. That makes for the hard hitting, breathtaking, nail biting, down to the wire football we saw on on Sunday.
The NFC championship game between Arizona and Philadelphia was a tale of 2 halves. The first half the Cardinals dominated as Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald lit it up for 3 touchdowns passes.
The second half was the Eagle's time to shine with veteran Donovan McNabb leads his team all the way back to take the lead. And it seemed that the Eagles would get another shot at a Super Bowl and McNabb other chance at redemption.
But the Cardinals weren't done yet. Kurt Warner, who was exorcising some demons himself, answered the challenge by engineering a scoring drive in the final minutes that gave Arizona its first trip to the Super Bowl.
While offense was the star in the NFC championship, defense had center stage in the AFC championship.
The Pittsburgh Steelers facing off against a Baltimore Ravens team that has replaced the Cleveland Browns as the Steel City's biggest rival.
It was 60 minutes of pounding football. Ravens living legend Ray Lewis and company put a beat down on Ben Roethlisberger. But time after time Big Ben got up, shook it off, and then made the big plays when his team needed him.
Then the hit Ryan Clark put on Willis McGahee was down right scary. Fortunately, the Ravens running back is okay.
Fittingly enough for a game dominated by defense, the clinching moment was Troy Polamalu intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown. That sealed the deal on a 23 to 14 victory, and the Steelers are headed to the Super Bowl for an incredible seventh time in team history.
So how does the NFL top a display like we saw on Sunday? Typically it doesn't. More often than not, what follows on Super Bowl Sunday is anticlimactic. There is an extra week before the game, and the routine for the two teams is radically different from the regular season. That usually leads to break downs and a flat performance by one or both teams. Then the only thing exciting about the Super Bowl is the $3 million dollar commercials and wardrobe malfunctions in the halftime show.
Last year's Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots for a classic, but for every Super Bowl 42, I can show you 5 blowouts.
If you love great football, it doesn't get any better than Conference Championship Sunday