North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

The Strange streak of an un-washed Steelers T-shirt

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Two Streaks … Folding like Paper … The Anti-American Card … Jake “The Fake”…

Pregame:

Since everything has to end sometime, and that there has to be a winner, today’s AFC Championship game has two major streaks attached to it – Denver’s four-game unbeaten streak at home in the postseason and Bill Cower’s three game losing streak in the AFC Championship – and one minor one: my Steelers T-shirt. It hasn’t been washed, mostly by accident, since before the wild card game and, in what is either a strange coincidence or some weird charm that I’ll never understand the workings of, the Steelers have won – both on the road and as underdogs – their last three games.

I’ve never been one to believe in superstition – I don’t put on one sock before another; I don’t throw salt over my shoulder; etc., etc. – but even I have to admit that I find this weird. And once you get locked into something like this, you find that it’s hard to get out of – like a gambling debt to a Chinese Mafia Baron.

The major streaks can be broken down as follows: Bill Cower, as coach of the Steelers, has lost his last three AFC Championship games in row – the last two to New England and one to Denver – and barely won the one that he did win (When Jim Harbaugh threw a last-second Hail Mary pass that was never caught) – but his Steelers have upset two teams, both of which were favored to win, thus far in the post season and would love to continue that streak…But they’re playing against a team that not only looks better on paper but completely shut down New England at home last week – forcing more interceptions from Tom Brady in that game then he had ever had in his career.

The other one – the more impressive of the two – is Denver’s unbeaten streak. Arguably thanks to – or in spite of – their home field advantage they’ve won their last four home playoff games. In fact, you have to go back almost ten years (to the 1996 season) to find their last loss at home… But in the last five years Denver has gone 1-4 in the postseason – although their lone win came at home (Against New England) last week…

Either way, one streak will be ending today. Like that old Mad Max movie, “Two go in; one comes out”.

Halftime:

Going into this game I liked the Broncos – and I stand by that: I did like them. But no more.

For a team that was so superior on paper, the Broncos have folded like the Boston Red Sox or the Toronto Maple Leafs today: Jake “The Fake” Plummer has had a terrible day passing – it’s like he’s studying to be Maddox’s protégé – and their much-vaunted rushing tandem of Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson hasn’t produced at all. All, or the majority of, their rushing success has been thanks to Mike Anderson – without his big rushes early on, Denver wouldn’t have had their first (and thus far, only) Field Goal. The difference has been Jake Plummer – thanks to some sloppy passing, he has let Pittsburgh force both incompletions and interceptions (the last one leading to a Steeler touchdown)

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is playing like a champion: Big Ben has been passing successfully and confidently while both Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker have been rushing the ball up through at will – such as on Bettis’ TD that was called back near the end of the half.

And so the half ends – this has been a Steeler dominated first half (they even got a questionable video replay to go their way… maybe this is a team of destiny, as Bill Simmons was calling them)…

Early fourth quarter:

The Steelers defence is strangling Jake Plummer – who just got a lucky catch for a long gain – but like a greased-up eel, he’s been able to wiggle his way away from sack after sack and sent the ball downfield. And thanks to some bad Steeler coverage – and some sloppy play that led to some bad penalties – they’ve pushed their way deep inside Steeler territory and gotten a score from Mike “Mike” Anderson – and suddenly it’s 27 Pittsburgh, 17 Denver.

So Jake is trying to redeem his first half performance – and it looks like Pittsburgh is on the same road they took last week when they blew a huge lead to Indy and nearly lost the game. And unlike last week, there’s plenty of time for Denver to score ten points and tie the game up – or even win.

(Ominous Interlude: Nearly-Slanderous ads for the Liberal party come to air: When Stephen Harper gets elected he’ll not only make the country sad, he’ll make George W Bush happy [“At least someone will be smiling, right?”] – the Liberals are not only playing the anti-Conservative card, they’re playing the Anti-America card, too – is it just me, or does this seem like the Swift Boat Ads all over again? Hell, knowing the Liberals and their lack of both shame and tact, I’m almost surprised that there isn’t an ad out there yet where a cartoony Stephen Harper kills a homeless man and drinks his blood – while popping peyote like a drug-addled madman. Oh well – there’s still time.)

Four minutes left:

Plummer fumbles on a fourth and ten – suddenly the Steelers look like they can pull this off.

And my shirt is back on – I took it off during the third quarter (I was eating dinner with some other people) and suddenly the Broncos exploded for two touchdowns. But now it’s off and Plummer fumbles deep in his own end leading to Big Ben diving in for the score – it’s 34-17 and suddenly this is looking certain.

Post-two minute warning:
NDP ads are slamming the Liberals (Corrupt) and the Conservatives (Hidden Agenda) over soft piano music – why does this ad seem so different, so Canadian when stacked up against the shameless ads the Liberals have been putting on air?

Bill Cower tries to get away from his fate – but it still gets him as they dump the cooler all over him… It is too early to be celebrating? Granted nobody has scored three touchdowns in less then a minute – though the Raiders came close in 1968 – but my shirt is starting to look like it won’t get washed in a while… In two weeks, actually.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 34 – Denver 17

Bill Cower breaks his streak of losses as the Broncos lose at home and Jerome Bettis finally makes it to the Super bowl – held this year, in his last year, in his hometown of Detroit. Somehow it seems fitting, in a way, but in another it’s meaningless. CBS comes back from a break not ready – they put up a key for a few seconds, then just black – so it gives everybody a moment to reflect on this Steelers postseason… In many ways it’s the opposite of last year. After barely winning games against the Chargers (in OT, no less) they lost at home to the Patriots. But this year, they’ve been on the road and been underdogs in all three games. They’ve peaked at just the right time – not like how the Bengals peaked at then end of the season or when the Colts began to fall apart in week 13 – and now they have a ticket to Detroit, quite possibly the first time that they have ever bragged about going there.

Today the difference was Pittsburgh’s defence: They forced turnovers (like how Denver did last week), they shut down Tatum Bell and forced Jake “The Fake” Plummer to scramble wildly, without any target to aim at or anywhere to rush to – resulting in multiple interceptions (two, actually) and, the last one leading to Pittsburgh’s final score, the one that shut down the Broncos.

Bettis and co. are jumping around their locker room now – nothing to report on the Steelers for two weeks – wrong on my prediction – couldn’t be happier…

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Written by M.

January 22, 2006 at 8:58 pm

Posted in football, NFL, playoffs

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