Sunday, January 23, 2011

21 comments Liveblog: AFC/NFC Championship Games

(1:55, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Pittsburgh stun everyone by going empty backfield, Roethlisberger runs around and finds Antonio Brown for 15 and this game is over as Roethlisberger will take several knees. Pittsburgh progress an we have two of the most historic franchises in history in the Super Bowl. Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Keep checking in on Bottom of the Barrel for coverage and opinion. Pittsburgh 24-19.

(2:00, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Steelers will come out after the two minute warning facing a 3rd and 6 from the Jets 40. New York is now out of time outs and needs a miracle; provided they can first stop them on 3rd down here.

(2:43, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Ben typically escapes the pocket and throws to Miller for 14 and a huge, huge first down. Goes a very long way to finishing this game. Jets use their second time out.

(2:55, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Brown does some funky moves after the deep kick and gets out to the 41, unlikely to be especially meaningful field position. Can Pittsburgh get a crucial first down?

(3:06, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Got it. Cotchery on a quick out, Sanchez finds him and that will make it irritatingly 24-19, still need a touchdown. Onside kick? Probably not with all their timeouts. Pittsburgh 24-19 and trying to hold on, the Jets have scored 19 in a row.

(3:34, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - New York moving the ball but relatively slowly, down to the goal line now, but then how to play it? Still running the ball on first and goal with Tomlinson but cannot get it in.

(5:09, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Another 4th down fllowing Tomlinson's inability to convert a 3rd and short (potentially due to Nick Mangold's injury and subsequent taking out of the game. This time Sanchez hooks up with Edwards to convert.

(7:03, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Decent return on the free kick by Cotchery, 11 yards to the Jets 42. Followed by a great pass from Sanchez to Edwards for 22 yardsafter escaping the sack. He hasn't been perfect, but Sanchez has been very good in the second half.

(7:38, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - And they get the safety on a mishandled snap. Pittsburgh are lucky they didn't give up a TD. Pittsburgh 24-12 and the Jets are just breathing, just.

(7:44, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Tomlinson cannot do it. They passed on 3rd down and did get a yard with Tomlinson but not enough and that, considering the eight minutes the Jets soaked up there, is likely the game, unless they can force a turnover or safety. Pittsburgh get the ball on the 1.

(7:53, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Simms says two running plays to try and punch it in and I agree. It has to be 4th down territory and it's three yards.

(9:57, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Sanchez really has looked great on this drive but not there. Fumbls the snap, recovers but makes it 2nd and 18. They call draw and Green bounces around like a pinball and has a huge 16 run. This is a huge drive for New York but it has taken some time - all their chips are in on a TD here.

(11:15, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - No secrets there, 3 TE and Shonn Green gets it up the middle.

(11:34, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Sanchez does well to evade the sack and scramble, but it's yet another third down opportunity for Pittsburgh to blitz. The call was a pitch to Green, looked like a bad play from the get go and did not produce results. 4th and 1 and the thinking is this will be a go for it situation.

(13:23, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - A wide receiver screen to Cotchery (great blocking from Brad Smith and Edwards) and a third down quick slant to Keller gives the Jets another first down.

(14:33, 4th, New York @ Pittsburgh) - A slant to Edwards, a reasonable run up the middle from LaDanian and an out to Keller gets the Jets into Pittsburgh territory. Some atmospere to this game now.

(0:50, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Next play is a run, stopped for a 3 yard loss from David Harris and brings up a seeming Roethlisberger specialty, 3rd and 20. Not this time however, as Trevor Pryce gets to Ben for another sack, 4th and 25. Nice effort. Cotchery (back on the field after an earlier injury) calls for a fair catch at the 19 and they get another chance. This might have to be the drive though, might not be able to stall for much longer.

(2:20, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Ben runs for the first again, in truth, he hasn't looked like being sacked all night. The Pittsburgh line, even with Pouncey out since the first series, has bee so much better than expected. A defensive holding penalty adds another five yards. Pittsburgh are inching towards a clinching score here. As I say that, the Jets get their first sack of the night, from Calvin Pace.

(4:44, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Five wide again on third down, Roethlisberger takes off pretty quickly and the Jets seemed to be vaguely ready for it. Still, he puts his head down and trucks to get the four yards needed and a first down.

(6:44, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Weatherford makes a booming punt, and the Jets needed it after going three and out inside their own twenty. It's muffed by Randle El and goes out of bounds at the 30.

(6:56, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Jets go five wide, which you don't see very often, and maybe for good reason, Sanchez narrowly escapes an interception.

(7:42, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Jets go crazy blitz, like six or seven guys at Ben, who connects with Mewelde Moore. That's another third down conversion. Pittsburgh fumble the next snap but recover the ball. The escape a turnover only for one play however, as Ben's deep throw is again broken up, and this time, intercepted by Brodney Pool. He's forced out at the 14 however, so it's basically a goodish punt. Still, Jets ball,which is what they need.

(10:25, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Man, Pittsburgh love these five wide sets on third and short-medium. Nearly pay for it this time as Ben throws a strike to Kyle Wilson who drops it. New York need those plays. That's followed by my most hated rule in the game, running into the kicker, which costs the Jets a valuable first down.

(11:27, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Brown brings it back to the 28. Roethlisberger scrambles on the first play and threatened to break a big run, but DeVio grabsa handful of jersey and brings him down for just 4.

(12:13, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Sanchez on play action goes deep and finds Holmes, who had lost his man and is absolutely on his own and it's 45 yards for a touchdown. Well, again, pretty much the perfect start and that was necessary. You'd be surprise if the defense didn't stop Pittsburgh on th following drive, as that will pump everyone up. Just a sniff of hope now. Pittsburgh 24-10.

(12:50, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Apparently the timeout wasn't taken, a bizarre period of play. Sanchez to Holmes gives them another first down, and while this is still a million to one shot, they've done everything they needed to do.

(13:54, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Greene goes outsde the tackles on the left for 24 yards and Tomlinson backs up with a good carry as well. However there is confusion and for some reason the Jets have burnt a timeout. Just really does not seem like their night.

(14:52, 3rd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - And it begins like it ended. Another defensive squib like kick, which Smith fumbles on the bounce. Manages to recover, but quite late and the Jets start on the ten.

(Halftime, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Man, lol. Totally thought that kick would miss. At that point I think the Jets would have committed mass suicide. I think even Rex Ryan might be speechless at this carnage. The field goal makes it 24-3 and the Jets will need, obviously, a score on the opening drive and probably 2 turnovers here to have any hope, but realistically, what happens when Ben (7/14 for 96 yards and a pick) plays well?

(0:23, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Another Steelers penalty (where would the Jets be without them?) and a short completion to Keller gets the Jets currently in field goal range. God, no chance for a turnover right?

(0:39, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Sanchez connects on consecutive throws, an achievement. That's just the second first down by the offense (two from penalties) as Brad Smith scurries out of bounds. A field goal would be something.

(1:08, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Another defensive kick to the Jets 31. Now Cotchery is down. This is unbelievable. Sanchez is trotting out there, it looks like he's going to try.

(1:13, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Sack again, this time from Taylor, fumble, Gay picks it up and takes it to the house. Sanchez is also hurt. Basically Rex Ryan is in hell. There's a booth review as Mark Brunell warms up. It's confirmed. My God. Pittsburgh 24-0.

(1:46, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Steelers still kicking defensively regarding the Smith issue. It bounces into Smith's arms who returns it to the 33. Desperation time now for the Jets who open the drive with a sack, from Woodley.

(2:00, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Checkdown to Mendenhall, who has 127 all purpose yards in this half. Roethlisberger follows up by scrambling in for the touchdown and this is a beatdown at this point. The time of possession is getting worse, now 20:55 to 7:05. Pittsburgh has nearly ten times as much offense. First downs? 17-3. Rushing is 136-1. They have run three times as many offensive plays. If Mark Sanchez has any value, just must get points in the two minute drill. This is graphic stuff. Pittsburgh 17-0.

(3:51, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Ben, who had not completed a pass in his last five tries, completes a 24 yarder to Miller and the Steelers are back in New York territory once again. Two plays later, a 20 yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders, and the Steelers are threatening to break this one open.

(5:57, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - A tipped pass on 3rd down and another punt. The punt goes to the 24 and Randle El makes a reasonable return to the 33.

(6:35, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - A foolish mistake from Pittsburgh as they kick it out of bounds and the Jets will take the break to start the drive on their 40. Need some points here. They have 22 yards of offense. They've had 25 yards in penalties.

(6:52, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Pittsburgh 20 rushes, 10 passes. Time of possession, Pittsburgh 16:58, New York 6:11. Nevertheless, the Jets put in a goal line stand and force the field goal. Just barely hanging on here. Pittsburgh 10-0.

(8:13, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Redman picks up 8 and 13 in consecutive runs. Pittsburgh have 124 yards on 18 carries. No one runs like this on the Jets. The Packers run defense might be getting worried about now.

(9:54 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Ben goes deep and gives everyone who bet on the Jets or cheers for them a coronary. Revis had shifted to Wallace and not only breaks it up but nearly picks it. He's amazing. New York survive the first Roethlisberger bomb, but they still cannot stop Mendenhall, who runs around the outside and picks up an amazing 35 yards. He has 85 yards and we're not halfway through the second quarter.

(10:32, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - While the Jets O-Line does a customarily great job holding off the blitz, but Sanchez had no one to throw to on a 3rd and 13 play, as one would expect against the Steelers and the "drive" comes to an end. To cap a rather depressing few minutes, Weatherford shanks the punt and it goes out on the Pittsburgh 47, gaining just 29 yards.

(11:37, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - An end around with Cotchery loses four yards. They don't put up with that shit in Pittsburgh Brian Shottenheimer. A false start makes this 2nd and 19 and against Pittsburgh, that's spelt P-U-N-T.

(12:32, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Jets make their first statement here, stopping the Steelers on a important third and short. The field goal is considered untenable, would be 50 yards in Heinz and so cold, so the Steelers leave the offense out there. They throw (?) and it is tipped at the line and intercepted by Bryan Thomas. Hey. Maybe we got a game now.

(14:49, 2nd, New York @ Pittsburgh) - The Jets are not getting to Ben Roethlisberger with the regularity that I had envisioned. They break up a couple of pass plays, but still more penalties here. Unnecessary roughness gives Pittsburgh 12 and they are staring down more points.

(0:13, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Rashard Mendenhall has been absolutely brilliant, with 41 yards on the ground on 10 carries - an excellent return against this defense. He also bailed Ben out with an eight yard reception on a broken play and finishes the first quarter with a screen pass for 18 yards. Ha dominated this game so far.

(1:43, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Drive comes to the end, Pittsburgh are trying to jump these screens/quick outs and sending lots of men at Sanchez. While that was a reasonable drive of 29 yards, Pittsburgh's defense seems very, very switched on. Weatherford punts to the Pittsburgh 13 where Randle El claims a fair catch.

(3:01, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Steelers really stacking the box, but the Jets haven't been very keen to run it, understandably. A pass interference call keeps things moving.

(4:17, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Sanchez, with plenty of help from his line, does convert though. Pretty big play considering how early it is. He follows that up by going deep to no one in particular, but does, however, draw an illegal contact call and the Jets get a free first down and five yards.

(5:17, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Pittsburgh seem to be kicking away from Brad Smith, as the kickoff is quite short. Cotchery gets it and takes it to the 27. A tipped pass and a draw which I said would work which didn't and it's 3rd and long. Not a good place to be.

(5:54, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - A nine minute, six second opening drive. 15 plays. Quite a statement. Punctuated with a Mendenhall, who rushed eight times, touchdown. Pittsburgh 7-0.

(6:14 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Just a battle to hold them to a FG here. A battle the Jets seem likely to lose, as the drive looks to enter its tenth minute. It won't just yet as Pouncey is taken away. That offensive line looks awful thin now. Nevertheless, 1st and goal at the one here as Ward gets a key catch over the middle.

(7:15, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - More classic Roethlisberger. You're almost more worried in 3rd and 12. He takes off with it and has a paddock to run in. No one was close and he could have gotten more but dies at the first down marker.

(8:44, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Mendenhall has started this game great, he has not had a poor rush as yet, 24 yards on 5 carries. Redman also getting involved to get the fourth first down on the drive, this one on the ground. Ben responds with a big completion to wide open, diving Heath Miller, 21 yards, challenged and overturned, no catch.

(11:14, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - Classic Roethlisberger as a broken play leads to an impromptu pitch to Mendenhall. Eight yards but Roethlisberger comes up hobbling somewhat.

(11:59, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - It's a struggle, but the Steelers are moving the ball, and the offensive line has started OK, holding their own. Another first down on a throw to Mike Wallace.

(13:02, 1st, New York @ Pittsburgh) - David Harris pulls off a great tackle on Hines Ward to stave off the first down. Cromartie, as expected, opens on Wallace. 3rd and long, blitz situation and the Jets come, Sanders drops the reception but the Jets give up an illegal use of hands penalty and the games first first down.

(Kickoff, New York @ Pittsburgh) - The big question is - how much can the Jets get to Ben? The Jets have won the toss, and as they are want to do for some reason, will defer. If you like to run, wouldn't you want to establish a lead early? Guess it's not such a big deal. Had a great feeling about this game all week. I think it could be very special. Antonio Brown to return, and does so to the 34, good effort.

(Pregame, New York @ Pittsburgh) - I'm especially hoping New York win now, as Revis vs Jennings would basically be the entire Superbowl. I fancy Revis heavily in that matchup. I think both these defenses are substantially better than Chicago, and based on that performance, I wouldn't be rushing to take Green Bay there. Much like against Philly did not capitalise on their chances, in both games should have scored much more than 21. A better team would have had them. It's 14 degrees farenheit in Pittsburgh tonight, but clear. Let's see what the Jets and Steelers have in response, Shaun Ellis will play.

(0:50, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Chicago's record on 3rd down's continues with a very ambitious end around on 3rd and 3, creating 4th and 3. Hanie finally turns into a pumpkin as Sam Shields picks it off and returns to the 43. Rodgers kneels to finish this one off. Green Bay really should have won this easily. Had a very poor second half but escape Green Bay 21-14.

(1:21, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - They convert and Matt Forte (again!) gets a pass for a first down and 13 yards. Forte has 10 catches for 90 yards.

(1:54, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Hanie under constant pressure at the moment, and it costs an intentional grounding call. Consecutive checkdowns to (who else?) Forte leaves Chicago in a must have 4th and 1 at their 49. Two minute warning.

(2:38, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Hanie is nearly sacked, and then nearly fumbles a snap in the shotgun. Starting to think that last drive was something of a fluke (perhaps obviously). But he does make a huge third down conversion (Chicago's first), escaping a seemingly sure sack and finding Greg Olsen for just enough.

(2:53, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Rodgers has to scramble but gets just 1 yard. At least the clock continues to move. Hester is waiting for the punt. It's a good punt near the sideline and keeps Hester under control. He's stopped at the 29.

(3:50, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Woodson returns to the 25. Back to back runs go nowhere and Rodgers is in a 3rd and 12. Rodgers has been generally good in this situation, what does he have here?

(4:43, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Bennett gets a throw and runs between a seemingly confused Nick Collins and Charles Woodson. A mixup for Green Bay there, and bizarrely, Chicago get a 35 yard touchdown pass. A 65 yard drive in 5 plays and 81 seconds. Surely this is over right? Green Bay 21-14.

(5:02, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Green Bay continue to selectively kick away from the return men of Chicago, especially on kickoffs. This time Davis again gets the call and returns to the 35. That's followed by three good completions from Hanie and two first downs.

(6:04, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - More Matt Forte inevidably leads to another 3rd down situation. Chicago are still waiting for their first conversion, as Raji drops into coverage to confuse the unknown QB and picks off the pass, waltzing into the endzone. Finally, finally, Green Bay have iced this game. Green Bay 21-7.

(7:22, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - They love that quick slant to Jennings, who gets his eighth catch and 130th yard there, but Rodgers cannot complete either of his other passes and it's a three and out. Rodgers is 7/16 in this half. Masthay's coffin corner effort isn't that great, Chicago at the 16.

(8:22, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Same old story, 5th three and out for Chicago this afternoon and still waiting for their first third down conversion. The Maynard punt is a terrible one and Green Bay gets yet another short field on Chicago's 44 with yet another chance to put this game away for good.

(8:59, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Brent suggests Green Bay needed points there. I'm not so sure, I mean it's Caleb fucking Hanie for God's sake. It's Matt Forte or bust right now for Chicago, and that train only goes so far. His first rush on the new drive nets no gain.

(9:19, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - The 38 yard drive comes to an end with a Rodgers incompletion. 29 of the yards from penalties. Rodgers has looked profoundly mortal in the second half. The punt is a touchback, as Green Bay try valiantly to down it inside the five.

(11:08, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Huge roughing the passer penalty bails Green Bay out of a 3rd and long. Chicago are furious, seething about the call, but Rodgers doesn't look too flash and is bleeding.

(11:23, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Starks with a vanilla return to the 22 and Green Bay rushes immediately for no gain. They've been very rush conscious in the second half, but need Rodgers to have the ball here as the crowd begins to find it's voice.

(12:02, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Hanie completes a pass and the crowd goes wild! Knox for 32 yards, is pushed out at the 1, and Taylor stomps in. Green Bay 14-7 but you still have to have serious doubts for the Bears here with this kid at QB, they ran all but twice on that drive, with six rushes. Green Bay remain strong favourites.

(13:22, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago ) - Forte has picked up all three Bear first downs on this drive and is the only hope remaining as Chicago get, for the first time in this game, to the Green Bay 30.

(15:00, 4th, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Matt Forte 101 all purpose yards, rest of Chicago 46. 31 if you factor in sacks.

(0:57, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Urlacher, who is having a big game, gets into the backfield and smashes Brandon Jackson for a five yard loss. Brings up 3rd and 13, and a subsequent punt. Mysteriously Hester isn't back there but Bennett. A great punt and a very good return leaves us on the Chicago 33. Approaching last chance saloon now for the Bears and some dude named Caleb Hanie is on the field at QB.

(2:59, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Collins throws another near pick but again it's incomplete. This is just pathetic, Chicago still have just one completion to a non running back. They have just six completions in all. It's a miracle they even have those six first downs. Tramon Williams continues his horrible returning day with another fumble. Again it is recovered, and Green Bay gets a bonus five yards due to an ineligable man downfield, just to rub salt into the wound for the Bears. Packers start on their 32.

(4:29, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - It's been a while since Chicago have forced a punt but they do just that and Hester can get back in the game. But he slips and gets just two yards. Time for more Todd Collins! They'll start on the 18.

(7:18, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - A holding call negates another big run from Starks, but Rodgers again finds his way out of tough down and distance. Tell me if you've heard this before - a 22 yard completion to Jennings. Green Bay has 21 first downs. Chicago has 6.

(8:26, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Pretty chaotic out there as Collins throws a pick (just before they had his numbers on the season, 10/27 with 0TD's and 5 INT's, safe to say this game is over) to...Collins. Nick Collins is down immediately but gets up and runs regardless. It's challenged and the call is overturned, it bounced. The Bears 4th third and out is followed by a Maynard punt which is not returned at the 21.

(8:50, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Following a pass interferance goal, Rodgers throws a pick to Urlacher who returns to the 45, Green Bay were lucky not concede a TD, as Rodgers is required to trip the linebacker up and it seemed on a reasonable field Urlacher would not have gone down. Really poor throw, unlike the first, unlucky pick. And my God, Todd Collins is in at QB...panic stations for Chicago

(11:06, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - This is almost getting tedious, 20 yard reception to Jennings (98 receiving yards) and Starks follows it up with a 9 yard run. Wasn't this Chicago defense supposed to be good? They've conceded 304 yards.

(12:07, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - The only thing Chicago have taken away is the deep throw, Rodgers has tried to connect with Jennings on a couple of 30+ yard completions and has not had success. He doesn't here either, but does find Nelson on 3rd and 8 for 22 yards and Green Bay are on the march again.

(13:22, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Another three and out (Chicago's third in this game) as another Cutler pass hits the turf. The punt is not returned and Green Bay start on their 17. Chicago is 0/6 on third down and you just wonder if the Packers can put the game away on the upcoming drive.

(14:52, 3rd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Ridiculous kicking to Devin Hester when this first possession so huge. Mike McCarthy is fucking insane. He returns to the 40, relatively good considering the risk.

(Halftime, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Cutler has been simply atrocious, after a reasonable start, he has completed three of his last eight throws for 31 yards, sacked once and with a pick. Chicago also cannot stop Green Bay on the ground, 104 yards on 18 carries total. Rodgers has been great but really, those first two points are enough for Chicago to get killed today even if he was just average. If not for a very fortunate turnover, Chicago could be down by much more than just 14. They must score on the opening drive of the second half.

(0:32, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago)- And there is the inevidable Cutler INT. Shields running back on a streak, leaping back and takes the grab. Hard to be too tough on Jay there as it was near the ten yard line when it was taken and was a truly exceptional catch. Considering where Green Bay will start here (on about the 11) that should end proceedings in this half.

(0:42, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Forte's one man show continues as he gets 17 out of a checkdown as Chicago sneak towards FG territory with two time outs left.

(0:48, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Rodgers scrambles for 12 and then sneaks to convert on third down. Against the run of play, Rodgers throws the first pick, was very unlucky, as it comes off Driver's boot and Briggs takes it. A break the Bears desperately needed.

(1:44, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Sack #2 given up by Chicago, this one causes a fumble, but the Bears recover. Putrid offensive performance by Chicago thus far, 86 yards total. Maynard's punt is not returned and Green Bay get it on a short field again, this time from their 36. Rodgers in the two minute drill is scary.

(2:00, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Cutler has one completion so far to a non running back.

(3:51, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - The first Cutler interception candidate is a little loop out about 12-15 yards to the right to Forte. Gets away with it though. Follows up with another, similar throw to Olsen, who has to knock it away from Clay Matthews. A thirteen yard run from Forte bails Cutler, who hasn't made a completion in forever it seems, out.

(4:18, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - A good, but not great punt is not returned (the most important thing considering Hester) and Chicago resume on their 11. Every field is short for the Packers and long for the Bears.

(5:03, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Rodgers could be whistling out there this looks so easy for him. Hooks up with Jennings for 9 and Green Bay has 230 yards of offense with 5 minutes left in the half.

(6:32, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Brent mentions that Chicago now are in a situation where they have to throw. As I mentioned in my preview, this was exactly the scenario Chicago were worried about. I couldn't agree more. Cutler was always going to throw at least one in this game, even if he played well. The pick is coming. Meanwhile Starks gets ten on a rush and Rodgers scrambles left again for 25. Green Bay have 91 yards rushing on 13 carries with two touchdowns. Impossible for Chicago to win if Green Bay get yards on the ground.

(7:40, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Holding penalty negates a first down completion and Chicago stalls on the 32, in these conditions, Chicago again decide to turn the field goal down. Maynard's punt is a touchback.

(10:24, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Cutler finally gets something through the air; 24 yards to Knox. Chester Taylor makes a nice move on a screen to convert a first down as Green Bay throw a poorly timed blitz at them. Feature of this game so far has been the receiving of backs, difficult to stop them on this field on those short throws that invite one on one tackling.

(11:08, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Brent suggests the poor field conditions may help the offense more than the defense, due to defenders needing to make more reactions and decisions in terms of movement. Certainly seemed like that on that Brandon Jackson reception. Green Bay opts to kick deep as normal this time, and Daniel Manning has a nice return but nothing more to the 34. Packers will live with that.

(11:13, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Two plays, two first downs. Another gash on the ground, this time Starks for 13 yards. Rodgers then hits Nelson for 15. All pretty easy here as Green Bay are at the goal line. Followed up by a five yard rush from Starks for a TD, no challenge from Lovie Smith although it was close. Green Bay 14-0.

(12:50, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Brandon Jackson, who is having a nice game here, takes a checkdown and jukes out Urlacher (easier said than done, especially on this field) and gets a first down from 2nd and 13.

(14:06, 2nd, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Chicago again get nothing. Nearly sacked Cutler in the endzone, and stopped Forte for a loss on third down that was also nearly a safety. Tramon Williams muffs the punt which costs the Packers about 10 yards but they maintain possssion at Chicago's 44. The Bears have 1 first down in three possessions and it seems only a matter of time before they concede more points, especially continuing to give Rodgers short fields.

(0:22, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Urlacher gets Rodgers on what looked like a coverage sack, Rodgers had time. Big play as it takes them out of field goal range. Masthay's punt is downed by Green Bay on the 3. Wow. Green Bay's coverage team actually made a play. A flag on the play will bring it to the 2.

(2:14, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Rodgers finds Jennings again, this time for 21 yards. Jennings has 69 receiving yards already.

(2:50, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - First sack of the day from the Pack (Cullen Jenkins) forces a punt, three and out from Chicago who have been extremely conservative on offense. It's the all Matt Forte offense at the moment, he has all of the Bears 33 yards (he actually has 38, but the sack lost 5). Tramon Williams returns to the Green Bay 49.

(4:49, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Masthay's first punt in two weeks goes straight to Hester, but Hester gets only three yards and Green Bay fans can exhale. Comes on the back of three straight incompletions for Rodgers, he is human after all it would seem. Chicago will resume on their own 16.

(5:45, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Another run. Brandon Jackson converts a 2nd and 9. This is looking a bit ominous for the Bears.

(7:44, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Starks carries for 16 yards. Big problem that for Chicago. If they let Starks run, they have no chance whatsoever today.

(7:53, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Maynard punts to the Green Bay 11, in what looked like a kickable field goal. The Bears were on the 34 but not great conditions out there, lot of players slipping and sliding. Cutler checked down to Forte again (who touched the ball on 4/5 snaps) but without success this time. Thought the Bears O-Line dealt with the 3rd down blitz (albeit a very predictable blitz) quite well actually.

(10:03, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Cutler checks down to Forte on 2nd and long and the Packers do not deal well with it, concede 24 yards. Is this a long term strategy, the underneath route thing?

(10:45, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Green Bay does a kind of squib, low kick and gives away a few yards in the process. The kick is "returned" by Kellen Davis to the 37. More or less just fell on it. Green Bay are well aware of the special teams issue and are prepared to pay insurance to keep away from Manning and Hester. I'll keep an eye on this issue throughout the game.

(10:50, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Raji in at fullback in the goal line set, and Rodgers scrambles to an empty left side for a score. Starks looked awful on that drive, barely getting in second gear on the return and tackled at the 15, and doing nothing at the goal line. But none of this matters with Rodgers putting on a clinic. He is 4/4 for 76 yards in the first 4 minutes of the game. Green Bay 7-0. Chicago really don't wanna get in an air war.

(12:40, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Rodgers showing his mobility, escaping the pressure with ease and completing outside of the pocket for a third first down on the drive.

(14:09, 1st, Green Bay @ Chicago) - After a sluggish return from Starks, first throw of the day is a 21 yard completion by Rodgers, followed by 26 yards, both to Jennings. Following the script early.

(Kickoff, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Brent mentions the gulf of an advantage the Bears have on special teams and I couldn't agree more. I think even with Masthay kicking away from Hester he will be a factor and almost expect a touchdown from him. But it seems a fools gambit to pick against Rodgers at the moment - I think Atlanta were better (especially at home) than Chicago and he just mutilated them by 27 points...and they got a special teams TD. No snow in Chicago as yet, Green Bay will be looking for points early in case that comes to fruition. I think for both these reasons, Hester (and Manning for that matter) returning the kickoff, and Green Bay's need to strike early, make it a surprisingly important toss to win, and Green Bay get the first break of the day and will receive.

(Pregame, Green Bay @ Chicago) - Hello and welcome to the liveblog to the AFC and NFC Championship games. I will be your Bottom of the Barrel sherpa for the next seven hours or so. Comments are very much appreciated also. It is currently 20 degrees farenheit and snowing in Chicago, which you would think will keep scoring down and give Chicago more of a chance. I've actually been surprised how much support the Bears have coming into this game, I really am of the opinion Green Bay will tear them up, however maybe the weather will be the great leveller. Looks like Bears starting safety Chris Harris is going to play. As for the matter of picks, Pittsburgh and Green Bay are both favoured by 3.5, as the last word before the game, here's what we've picked;

Ben - Chicago and New York
Dylan - Chicago and New York
J.S. - Green Bay and New York
Bill Simmons - Green Bay and New York


brent daniels said...

I really see Rodgers playing better and having better numbers than Cutler, but somehow the bears squeak out a win. I feel like a couple big plays on special teams will help the Bears, and one or two bad turnovers by Green Bay.

In the second game there is almost no way I can bet against the Steelers winning this game. Big Ben is gonna make just enough plays to win and afterwards everyone will say how lucky they always are in the playoffs.

Chicago 23-17 Pittsburgh 17-13

brent daniels said...

Doesn't seem like the Bears are gonna be able to cover Jennings. Not that it matters but in Madden earlier today Jennings killed the Bears and my brother had no answer for stopping him.

brent daniels said...

Big mistake by Williams. Wonder if that will cost the Packers some points. Why am i the only person commenting? Its giving me a complex.

brent daniels said...

I have wondered all week why there was so much talk of the field slowing down the Packers. I always thought bad footing was an advantage for the offense since they know where they're going and defenders have to react more.

brent daniels said...

My earlier prediction was all based on the Bears coming out and getting a lead. I really hate their team trying to play catch up. Cutler is gonna make a bad pick here soon and the game will get out of hand quickly.

brent daniels said...

What a pointless punt. The way Rodgers is playing they need to be more aggressive in that situation. Although I could be totally wrong.

brent daniels said...

Chicagos D always gives up a lot of yards. Their real strengths are eliminating big plays and forcing turnovers. They force teams to slowly move the ball downfield and force mistakes. Their O is completely killing them and benching Cutler is borderline retarded.

brent daniels said...

Apparently Cutler is hurt. I left the room and thought he was benched since he was standing on the sidelines. Hard to believe he isnt out there no matter what his injury is.

brent daniels said...

Big drive here for Green Bay. They need to score some kind of points.

brent daniels said...

You might be right about Hanie not being able to score again, but I still would go for it on 4th and 1 there everytime. Gain 15 yards of field position instead of killing alot more time. Bears receivers stink, but they are all fast one slip up by a Green Bay corner and this could be all tied up.

brent daniels said...

Maybe the Bears can put Forte in at QB now. His pick last week wasn't that awful

brent daniels said...

If Packers lose this it might be the worst choke job of all time. Even though I don't believe in a lot of the clutch nonesense this is starting to look like one to me.

brent daniels said...

I wonder how much Chicago will overreact to Hanie's "performance". Probably spend all offseason talking about ditching Cutler and playing him more. I still feel he has one more pick in him.

brent daniels said...

Still feel Big Ben makes enough plays to win this game, but it could really go either way. Could be two six seeds in the Superbowl take that BCS.

Bengoodfella said...

I know Chicago will overreact to Hanie's performance. He didn't do badly at all, no doubt about that, but I am not sure there should be a QB debate.

I say the Steelers win...obviously.

brent daniels said...

Cutler is just a really hard guy to root for even if he is on your team. Chicago fans want to love him, but even if Cutler is hurt people will still act like he quit on them.

brent daniels said...

Im sorry I'll only do this once. I-L-L!!!!

brent daniels said...

Steelers look great on that drive doing whatever they want. Really important Jets get a couple first downs and give their D a breather.

brent daniels said...

If Ben doesn't put so much air under the ball its a TD. Wallace had at least 3 steps on Revis. Wallace is such a dangerous player, that was a tremendous recovery by Revis to save the play.

Bengoodfella said...

Cutler is tough to root for, but I wonder if he was injured badly or not. I think he probably was, but it was weird to have him be "questionable" to return and he didn't return. I just think unless it is an ACL then he probably should have been out there.

Of course what do I know.

I would like the Jets to make this a decent game.

Nunyer said...

I don't quite get all the rage that Cutler is getting today... apart from the obvious conclusion that most sports fans and writers are simply idiots.

He wasn't terribly effective before the injury. He came out afterwards and was even less effective. What choice did he or the coaching staff have in that situation? Remove any hope of making the SB by riding the ineffective, and now injured, starter straight into the brick wall?!? It wasn't like Cutler left with a 28 point lead, jogged around the sidelines and watched his backups piss it all away. The only time the Bears offense didn't look like shit the entire game was when they let the 3rd stringer run the no-huddle. The loss had nothing to do with Cutler's toughness... percieved, actual or otherwise.

Of course, as BGF stated, Cutler is hard to root for... which makes him an easy scapegoat for the kneejerk morons.