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No matchup as fascinating as Pats-Bolts

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jan 10, 2007.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Relax, Chargers fans. Your team is the best in the NFL. You have the best player in the NFL. Your guys are at home.

    Why would you worry? Just because your coach is considered one of the most notorious playoff losers in NFL history? And the other coach is considered the best in the league? And your quarterback is essentially a rookie? And the other quarterback is one of the most clutch athletes in the world?
    Well I guess I see the problem.
    There are four games on the NFL playoff slate this weekend, and none is as fascinating as San Diego-New England. Based on most of what we have seen this season, the Chargers should be the favorite. They are 14-2. They have won 10 straight. Their only losses came to playoff teams, on the road, by a field goal.
    And that's all lovely, except for two little facts:
    Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are 11-1 together in the playoffs.
    Marty Schottenheimer is 5-12.
    At this point, not much needs to be said about Belichick. He is a brilliant schemer; the most resourceful coach in the league; and if his jaw were wired shut, his press conferences would be exactly the same. No matter what happens Sunday, we all know Belichick is one of the all-time greats.
    But what do we make of Schottenheimer? You can say many things about a man with a 5-12 playoff record. For one, you can say that he has now taken 13 teams to the playoffs — a remarkable achievement by any measure. He has won 200 regular-season games — 28 more than Bill Parcells, to put it in perspective.
    But if Schottenheimer's Chargers lose Sunday, his reputation will remain: great regular-season coach, horrible in the playoffs. When Schottenheimer coached the Browns, he lost two crushing AFC title games to John Elway's Broncos. Those games are known mostly for "The Fumble" and "The Drive." What is often forgotten is that Cleveland had a more talented team.
    Elway later burned Schottenheimer again. In 1997, Marty's Chiefs had the best record in the AFC and lost at home to Denver. Belichick, meanwhile, has recovered from his own failed stint in Cleveland to become one of the great postseason coaches ever. The atmosphere should be electric in San Diego this weekend, but Belichick is used to winning on the road. His Patriots won two AFC title games in Pittsburgh.

    (By the way, how would you like to be a Clevelander watching football this month? One former Browns coach, Schottenheimer, has the best team in the league; another former Browns coach, Belichick, has a three-time Super Bowl champion eyeing its fourth title; the team formerly known as the Browns, Baltimore, hosts a playoff game this weekend; and with the national title on the line for the state university of Ohio, Cleveland native Troy Smith had the worst game of his life and fellow Clevelander Ted Ginn, Jr. got hurt. Just one more month in the life of the most tortured sports town in America.)
    Years from now, we will probably still debate how credit should be divided between Belichick, Brady and personnel guru Scott Pioli. They are easily the best trio in the business. Brady continues to excel despite the Patriots' insistence on getting rid of his best receivers. Philip Rivers had a better passer rating than Brady this season, but which guy would you want under center in the fourth quarter Sunday?
    San Diego has the record-breaking league MVP, LaDainian Tomlinson — a player who has rightly been compared with the best players in the history of the sport. The last guy to get this kind of praise was ... Peyton Manning. And we all know what the Patriots have done to him.
    This should all make San Diego fans very nervous. Of course, if the Chargers win, it will feel like much more than a Divisional Playoff game. And if Chargers fans want reasons to believe, they can remind themselves that Belichick and Brady lost to Jake Plummer's Broncos in last year's playoffs.
    If Jake the Snake could do it, so can Marty and Philip Rivers. Uh ... right?


    Go Bolts...

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