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Young Jet invites himself to gathering of NFL's top QBs
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And a young, surprise quarterback got invited to sit with the big boys.
It's Schein 9 time ...
1. Three Men and a Baby
The MVP is here. So is the 40-year-old wonder. And the Saints offensive juggernaut. But the fifth overall pick in the draft spoiled the party of having the four best quarterbacks, the top four MVP candidates, in 2009 all playing on championship Sunday.
We'll call them three men and a baby. And the storylines are numerous and juicy.
Brett Favre put on a show Sunday afternoon against the red-hot Cowboys. Favre was magical, throwing for four touchdowns. And in a game where I thought he didn't have the matchups against a hard-charging and confident Dallas defense, Favre didn't throw that ill-fated pick, pitching a perfect game. Favre established a beautiful rhythm with his Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice, who caught three of his touchdowns.
It's amazing to think Drew Brees and the Saints actually trailed 7-0 on Saturday afternoon. Doesn't Tim Hightower's 70-yard scamper feel as if it happened weeks ago? So, all Brees did was lead the Saints to whopping 45-14 win against Arizona, answering with three touchdowns in the first half.
Brees is a total machine. Favre played like the star we saw in November, not the quarterback who acted his age in December. Both will be challenged on Sunday. The Vikings defense found its swagger again, led by a thunderous performance by the defensive line. And the Saints defense can make plays against Favre, as the Cardinals found out on Saturday.
Brees is searching for that elusive championship, while Favre is trying to go out on the ultimate high note. If Favre can win the Super Bowl with a new team after an idle offseason when he retired, it would an unprecedented tale of greatness.
In the AFC, it was accurate, yet interesting, to see the nuggets of futility for Peyton Manning in the playoffs circulated in the media last week. And a bit stunning to hear and read critics say Manning was out of rhythm on Saturday night. Sure, Manning had some poor playoff games, but the numbers were a bit skewed going up against the great Bill Belichick. And this past week, Manning had absolutely no balance on offense, with the Colts' inability to run the ball. In Manning, we are witnessing one of the best and smartest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. He was the best quarterback all season and the best quarterback playing in the postseason.
And the three men have unexpected company with the baby, Mark Sanchez. Yep, that same Mark Sanchez who tossed 20 picks, ate a hot dog, attended a news conference with notes and told the media he'd cover everything and there was no need for questions. Well, that guy hasn't been seen in ages.
Sanchez had three straight games without a pick before the Chargers game. And the neophyte was guilty of making a bad throw for an interception. But right before your very eyes, the Jets quarterback grew up. He didn't let one interception turn into two, or like against the Bills, five. Sanchez rolled outside of the pocket, showed poise and fired a dart to Dustin Keller for a touchdown. And the single most underrated play of the Jets' major upset over San Diego was Sanchez's beautiful strike to Jerricho Cotchery on a third-and-10, moments before Shonn Greene darted to the end zone to give the Jets a two-score lead.
I don't think we will see a perfect Peyton Manning on Sunday. Rex Ryan's defense is legit and too good. And there's a major difference between the two quarterbacks at this stage, beyond Manning being a legend and Sanchez a rookie. For the Colts, it's all Manning on offense. For the Jets, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has done a great job in recent weeks of running the ball first and foremost with the league's best running attack and line. Sanchez is asked to throw it only 15 to 20 times a game and to not mess it up.
Sanchez was great against Cincy, clutch against San Diego. Indy's defense under Larry Coyer has been underrated all year long. It won't be an easy day at the office for Sanchez on Sunday. And even tougher outscoring Manning. But Sanchez has proved he deserves to be here and is up for the challenge.
2. Rise and Schein
There's a reason we love the draft and pay so much attention to it.
And think about what Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum has done with draft day deals the past three years.
In 2007, he traded up for Darrelle Revis and David Harris, the two best players on the defense. Tannenbaum found his version of Dallas Clark in 2008, not letting Dustin Keller fall to Round 2. All that was missing from Tannenbaum's draft-day deal with Eric Mangini and the Browns was a gun and a mask — dealing a bunch of backups as chips to get up to fifth overall and get Sanchez. And Tannenbaum told me last week that he followed his scouts' advice and the board and couldn't resist dealing up to obtain the first pick of Round 3, Shonn Greene.
Revis, Harris, Keller, Sanchez and Greene. Think about what all five guys have done in the playoffs. That's how you build a young, talented team with upside and a chance to spoil the party with a trip to the Super Bowl.
3. Hide the women, children and Matt Millen
How horrible was the Dallas Cowboys offensive line?
As Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams told us Monday on Sirius NFL Radio: "Everyone was throwing us under the bus. Everyone picked the Cowboys. We knew we could beat them up front."
And Tony Romo was horrible and the Cowboys were embarrassed as a result.
4. Backseat coaching
The onside kick? It made no sense!
The conservative play-calling in the first half when you employ Phil Rivers?
The stupid penalties?
The loss when your Chargers were arguably the best team entering the tournament?
That can't happen.
5. Can't make it up
You know I am a Keith Brooking guy, but I cannot listen to the crying after the devastating, embarrassing loss that Minnesota ran up the score. Here's an idea: Stop them. Personally, I wouldn't have thrown. But coaches like doing that for momentum or to put extra plays on film. It is what it is. Pipe down.
6. Weekly hot seat
NFL officials better wake up. If the Jets would've lost on Sunday, everyone would be going nuts about the refs messing up the Malcolm Floyd fumble that was overturned as an incomplete pass. Phil Simms was all over it and brilliant on CBS. It wasn't even close or up for debate. It was totally botched.
7. My guys
Darrelle Revis: Did you see his interception? It was incredible. The hands. The body control. And Revis was yet again outstanding, to add to his perfect season at cornerback.
Ray Edwards: Tony Romo is going to have nightmares about the Minnesota defensive end.
Sidney Rice: The Minnesota receiver was just in an unreal zone on Sunday.
Pierre Garcon: Ed Reed made the Colts sweat when he picked off Peyton Manning in the third quarter. But Garcon, the receiver Manning wanted to hit with the pass, darted down the field and punched the ball out of Reed's hands. Dallas Clark recovered, and it officially killed any chance of a Baltimore comeback. Excellent effort play by Garcon. On Monday, Colts coach Jim Caldwell told us on Sirius NFL Radio: "That was one of the finest football plays you will see."
Reggie Bush: Bush had 217 all-purpose yards in a majestic, USC-esque performance against the Cardinals. The 46-yard touchdown run to make it 21-7 was a great example of power and speed. The 83-yard punt return was epic. This is what the Saints projected when they made Bush the second pick in the draft. And am I the last person to know Bush was back together with Kim Kardashian? My wife says it's old news. I had no idea until she was on the screen after the two touchdowns. And I thought she was camera-shy.
8. My goats
Nate Kaeding: When ranking all the special teams units playing in the divisional round of the playoffs, I gave San Diego the top billing. Well, Kaeding, the best kicker in the regular season, just folded in the face of playoff pressure. Kaeding missed from 36, 40, and 57 yards in a three-point loss. That's just awful.
Jerheme Urban: If you turn it over against New Orleans, you are doomed. Urban played hot potato with the ball when it was still a game, and the Cardinals paid dearly.
Cowboys offensive line: And to think this line played so great down the stretch. It was a bad time to have the worst performance of the season and get mauled by Minnesota up front.
Joe Flacco: Not a pretty postseason for the Ravens quarterback.
Adam Schein: The scroll on the bottom line on the NFL on FOX read like this: "Adam Schein: Why Tony Romo will outperform Brett Favre." Boy, I nailed it.
9. Three and out
- Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was an unsung hero Sunday. At 17-3, with 5 minutes to go in the third, he pinned the Cowboys at the 1-yard line. At the time, that was a big play. Kluwe had an excellent day against Dallas.
- Antoine Bethea had a pick for the Colts defense. Not surprising, since I voted for him as a first team All-Pro player. But how under the radar is Bethea? He was called "Elvin" by a pre-game analyst on the AFC side. Pathetic.
- You have to love Rex Ryan. I loved when the Jets coach went for it on fourth-and-one to ice the game, telling Brian Schottenheimer: "Let's be true to ourselves." They smartly eschewed the field goal, pounded with Thomas Jones behind Alan Faneca and got the first down to put away the game. Very impressive and totally in character.
You can listen to Schein and Rich Gannon on the Sirius Blitz, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on Sirius NFL Radio 124.
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