Divisional games weekend: Fans of defense, look away

Thanks to the countless commercial breaks during the football games this weekend, I am now aware of all the really awful shows on FOX that I’m not watching. In case you missed the promo the other 457 times they showed it, American Idol starts this week on FOX, now with new and improved judges! Except, not that last part. Well, OK, not the LAST last part. The judges are new, just not improved. Thanks, FOX, for giving me plenty of reasons to avoid your network once football season is over.

In other news, we have an Eli Manning sighting! But wait – it wasn’t Eli, but instead Eli’s older brother, Peyton, doing his best Eli impression on Saturday. With mere seconds left in the first overtime, Peyton Manning, under pressure from Baltimore’s defense, scrambled to the outside of the pocket. Uh oh. Manning and mobility don’t go together. Outside the pocket, Peyton attempted his brother Eli’s favorite stupid move of throwing across his body back towards the center of the field (although, nobody does that as well as Eli). Result? Interception! Manning left the field shaking his head, and it only took Baltimore a few plays to move close enough for a game winning field goal.

Isn’t it ironic that Denver spent all that money on Manning and the media hyped him up all year, only for his mistake to be what ultimately lost it for his team? Yeah, we can point fingers at Denver’s D for not covering down field when Baltimore tied the game on a 70 yard pass play, or we could question why, with 30 seconds left and two timeouts, did the Broncos take a knee to send the game to overtime. (Just ask Seattle what can happen to you in 30 seconds.) However, the play we’re all seeing on the highlight reel is Manning’s costly pick in overtime. There, there, Peyton. Maybe a ride in his Buick Verano while he calls “Papa Bear” and barks instructions for his XM radio will comfort him.

Also this weekend:

— Jim Harbaugh, resident genius.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh came out of the weekend looking like an absolute genius for choosing Colin Kaepernick over incumbent quarterback Alex Smith. Kaepernick personally sliced and diced Green Bay’s defense, rushing for a quarterback playoff record 181 yards. The Packers acted like they were unaware that Kaepernick could scramble, but every time I’d glance up at the TV, it was always, “There he goes again!” In addition, the 49ers put up nearly 600 yards of total offense. Last year’s MVP, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, now looks forward to filling his schedule with more commercials. I’m just waiting for the one featuring both him AND Manning. Maybe both Mannings if we’re lucky.

— Don’t ever turn off a playoff game even if you think it’s over.

Last I checked the score, the Falcons were up 27-7 and in complete control. Next time I checked back, it was 21-27, and Seattle had the ball and was driving. The last minute of this game was unbelievable – Seattle scored the go-ahead touchdown, but with 31 seconds left, Matt Ryan led the Falcons into field goal range with two quick throws. Oddly, when Seattle called timeout to try to ice the kicker, Matt Bryant kicked it anyway and missed – although he made the one that counted when play resumed. On the other hand, can someone please explain to me why Atlanta tried an onside kick? Maybe it was a squib kick, but still, hero kicker, can’t you squib it a little better than that? Sheesh! Kickers! So Seattle had pretty decent field position to try a heave-ho Hail Mary pass that was ultimately intercepted. Whew! I’m exhausted just from writing about this game.

— I was right about the sweatshirt.

Of course Bill Belichick was wearing “The Sweatshirt,” which is apparently the only thing in his closet. It’s also at least ten years old – or came from the garbage can, I’m not sure which. This cut off, ragged sweatshirt of his has almost become its own entity, sort of like “The Blob” or “The Thing” or, in this case, “The Sweatshirt.” I bet it walks itself in and out of the closet. But, oh yeah, the game… When I wasn’t distracted by Belichick and his classy wardrobe, I had enough time to catch that this game was pretty much like part two of the Patriots’ whoopin’ of the Texans back in the regular season. I groaned loudly when it became apparent that New England had the game well in hand. Breaking my own rule, I turned off the game before the end. Sadly, there was no miraculous comeback for the Texans. We all must endure “The Sweatshirt” again next week.

So the championship games are set. First, San Francisco heads to Atlanta in the battle of the top two seeds in the NFC. These were arguably the two best teams in the conference all year, so it’s a matchup we’ve been waiting for all year. While I refuse to make a prediction, I do like Jim Harbaugh, but not so much his brother, which leads us to…..

In the second game, Baltimore visits New England. This game makes me want to poke my own eyes out. Well, I’m exaggerating, but I can’t stand either team, so it’s one of those no-win situations for me. I mean, who do I boo mercilessly? Who do I laugh at for screwing up? I’m going to be so confused. Honestly, as poorly as Baltimore played to finish out the year, I’m surprised they’ve made it as far as they have. We’ll see if their magic continues, or if they too will succumb to…. “The Sweatshirt” (cue scary horror music and a woman screaming here).

Until next week, enjoy the championship games!

Hershberger can be reached at sdunder@timesleaderonline.com