In last season's AFC title contest, their most recent postseason game before this one, the Patriots had 29 catches or rushes by Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch -- none of whom were still with the team Saturday. It doesn't seem to matter who lines up at receiver and runner for New England, because the Patriots have the NFL's most stable situation at quarterback and offensive line.
Sour Plays of the Divisional Round: San Francisco leading 6-0 in the first half, the Panthers reached third-and-goal on the Niners 1. Carolina came out in a power set and ran straight ahead: stuffed. Then on fourth-and-goal, came out in a power set and ran straight ahead: stuffed. No misdirection either time. TMQ's Law of Short Yardage holds -- do a little dance if you want to gain that yard. Now leading 7-6, the Cats again faced third-and-goal on the Niners 1, and this time did employ misdirection: shifting, then pulling a guard. The runner crashed into his own pulling guard, and the home team settled for a field goal. Eight first-half Carolina snaps in goal-to-go situations resulted yielded three points. Sour.
Sweet 'N' Sour Kickoffs: Scoring to pull within 24-14 with six minutes remaining, San Diego onside kicked. Nick Novak launched a terrific onside, very high in the air; the Denver man beneath the ball didn't have the presence of mind to signal fair-catch. Sweet for the Bolts. Now it's Denver 24-17 and San Diego is kicking off again with four minutes remaining. Sure, lightning isn't likely to strike twice, but the league's No. 1 offense isn't likely to punt, either. San Diego did not onside kick a second time and never touched the ball again; the clock struck midnight on the Chargers' improbable late-season run.
The real story? Florida State won the final BCS title. In the run-up or the postgame, did you see any media coverage about the Seminoles' 58 percent football graduation rate? The team's 2007 cheating scandal that led to probation? The program's recent history of classifying many players as learning-disabled, waiving most classroom requirements? Any mention that though Florida State had $48 million in football revenue in the last school year, it still charges every undergraduate $245 annually to subsidize NCAA sports?
At Florida State, 65 percent overall of African-American students graduate, but only 50 percent of African-American football players do. Why was the sports media silent on these Florida State issues? Seminoles boosters and alums who are proud of the crystal trophy should feel embarrassed by the football program's subsidies and poor classroom performance. Of the 11 Seminoles selected in last year's NFL draft, eight graduated.
Good for them! But what about the much larger number of Florida State football players who will never take a snap in the NFL, and never walk to "Pomp and Circumstance?" They are used up and thrown away. Florida State and its coaches exploit those players; the sports media is complicit.
Unified Field Theory of Creep: Reader Bill Ferguson of Utica, N.Y., reported last week, "I went my local Hannafords in the midst of the polar vortex. Saranac Brewery had its collection of spring beers for sale. Nothing makes me think spring like 7 degrees and drifting snow."