NFL16 Conference Cherry Picks: Halas n’ Hunt

22 Jan

“Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,                        5
Go wade like the crane;
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You ’ll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you ’ll walk like a man!”                                 10

Do You Fear the Wind?, by Hamlin Garland (1860 – 40 (W. Salem, WI)), contemporary audio illustration by J. Facenda, NFL Films

Dichotomy Bowl

Cherry Pick NFCC: Arizona Cardinals

Before big games it’s customary to look for common threads that run between the two opponents, maybe as a proof that there’s a winning template or something of the sort. But as “Donnie Brasco” might’ve said, “forget about it.”

Besides the obvious rare appearance in Conference championship play, memorable 2015 runs and a rare Heisman head-to-head in signal-caller spot, analogies between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers are few & far.

......Rozelle.Halas.80s.J.Summaria.wc.cca.thmCarson and Camster couldn’t be more different in poise (pocket v. run), personality (low-key v. high-flyin’) and roads taken (USC v. Auburn).

To the history buffs this 2016 NFC championship offers up a contrasting pair, pitting one of NFL’s charter-members in the Cardinals, Phoenix being their 3rd stop (CHI ‘20 / STL / AZ), against one of it’s newest clubs, the Carolina Panthers (‘95).

All that variety should help make for a top-notch tussle in Charlotte for Sunday’s Super selection game slotted in the late showing on Fox (1.24 / 6:40 EST).

And the winner can hoist high the coveted George Halas trophy, named in honor of one of the League’s original players (Decatur Staleys), founding fathers (“Papa Bear“) and long-time coach of the Monsters of Midway.

If you think Manning – Brady is big doings, even as Peyton’s embers may burn their final blaze, when you talk about sport rivalries, none was bigger than the Halas – Bears v. Lambeau – Packers – Lombardi battle that rocked back n’ forth for parts of five decades (1920s – 60s). Trophy hogs, these guys were.

.....Arians.9.8.14.wc.thmb.FF.SwamiAnother chasm in claim of commonality between Carolina and the Cards are the differing personalities and résumés of the two head honchos, Bruce Arians (AZ ‘13) and Ron Rivera (CAR ‘11).

You could say the former Hokie’s pathway to his present job took the “Long and Winding Road (‘75 VT / 14 jobs)” while Ron’s, comparatively speaking, is more like ‘the shortest distance between two points is a straight line (‘97 CHI / 5).’

After playing QB at Virginia Tech Arians went straight into coaching while Ron played 9 seasons with Chicago (‘84-95 (LB)) and five years later took a job with the Bears as a defensive coach. Shoot-from-the-hip (Arians) vs calculated (Rivera), Bruce tends towards offense (See Also: Harold Goodwin (OC)) while Ron is, not surprisingly, a defensive specialist (Sean McDermott (DC)).

What’s gotten both teams to the pinnacle of these playoffs is their coaches similar ability to expand their repertoires and fashion success on their lesser sides, with the respective help of top-notch staffers in Carolina’s Mike Shula and Cardinals’ James Bettcher (DC).

.....Rivera.6.10.11.R.Paraglide.wc.thmOf course, both clubs are red-flagging a smidgen.

Playing at home, AZ barely got by GB in the divisional (26-20 OT), Pack not exactly being juggernautious in 2016, while Carolina forgot the realtor’s mantra, ‘always be closing.’ Cats jumped out big against the defending NFC champ ‘Hawks only to invite Swing Time (’36) and see their sizable lead fritter away, lose all scoring punch (0 2H) and escape with the win.

That coach who can best work his left-handed talent, that coaching area to which he was not befitted by a natural inclination, may prove the winner in Sunday’s slugfest between these top dogs who tangled in last season’s WC round where Cats came out on top (27-16) of a Cards team that featured 3rd-stringer Ryan Lindley subbing for Palmer who’d exited late-season with injury.

Continuity Bowl

Cherry Pick AFCC: Denver Broncos

Since 1997 the Patriots and / or Broncos have been represented in the AFC title game fourteen (14) times, Bill Belichick at the helm for ten, with one head-to-head in 2014 (DEN 26-16). A 3-game stretch (2009 – 11) being the longest time w/out either club appearing. Stout stuff, to say the least.

....AFC.Hunt.trophy.2.2.13, A.Kirk,thumbThese franchises are on solid footing, to be sure, thanks to ownerships that have vested fully in success, Patriots Robert Kraft and Broncos’ Bowlen family (‘84) where Pat ran the club until diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014.

It was Bill Parcells who re-awakened New England pro football which hadn’t had a title-test since their crushing loss in SB20 (Bears), in guiding Patriots to SB31 (GB 35-21 (L)), and then Mike Shanahan, building some on Dan Reeves’ work, did the same in Denver where in SB32 John Elway would run & gun the Broncos to their first NFL crown in besting the Green Bay Titletowners, 31-24.

Add in Tom Brady and the near perennial playoffer Peyton Manning and Sunday’s early game (3:05 CBS) at Sports Authority field drips with cachet, if not for the haters, of which both teams and QBs have gaggles.

‘America loves a winner’ someone once quipped but may, in these present times, love even more trying to tear one down.

....Belichick.8.28.09.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumbWho prevails Sunday at Mile High stadium even has the sporting gods hedging.

Trendy talk says Peyton’s running on fumes with Denver’s home-field and D not enough to deny a Patriots destiny that has confidence of a champion (SB49).

Pragmatists liked what they saw from Denver against Pitt in the divisional (23-16 W). Come-from-behind victories reflect more than “Whew, that was close (Close Encounters ‘75)!”

Against Pittsburgh, Mr. Mustang orchestrated a 65 yard, 14-play drive for the go-ahead TD, took 6+ minutes off the 4Q clock and converts the 2. Holding your pot (defense) and cashing in your opportunities in crunch-time shows a team laden with leadership in any football fan’s book.

....Kubiak.wc.J.Beall.10.5.08.thmExpect New England’s glamour grabbers (Gronk, Edelman) to suit up but they’re still feeling the pain. Patriots’ run game is nearly nil (0) with Blount out and late pickup Jackson’s game looking gone which only puts more pressure on pocket-passer Brady. Whereas, an admittedly lesser Peyton compared to the one who won AFCC in2014, has a more reliable motor-pool in Anderson & Hillman.

And not exactly ‘advantage Denver’ with the likes of Steve Gostkowski kicking well for NE, but watch if it comes down to the leg-men (Ginger Rogers had the best). Broncos’ Brandon McManus went 5-5 v. Pitt and hit a 50+ yarder.

Cheese & Whine: Arizona 26 v Green Bay 20 (OT (NFCD 1.16))

It wasn’t always this way (I lived in Packerland in 70s & 80s), but ever since the good times began “rolling” again at Lambeau (‘92) no franchise, jocks and fans alike, has more consistently served up the ‘whine’ in casks after a defeat, quite like Packer-backers. Unbefitting of this a glory-laden franchise, the gripe-fest has become as standard as the pre-game tailgate (See: Cheese-Melt 2015).

....Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.12.7.8.thmThe Cardinals – Packers game went long (OT) and Aaron Rodgers got the call, heads or tails. Then something unusual happened: Coin no flippy.

Since the NFL rules do not specify necessity for at least one complete rotation of the fly-coin (It will now), referee Clete Blakeman did Pack a solid, his common sense, no doubt, by affording a 2d toss that was not mandated. In effect, Packers got two tries at winning the toss. Not exactly gripe-able.

The reigning MVP has been quoted as saying the ref called “off” the first toss to “avoid the embarrassment.” Hardly, Mr. Double-Flip. My guess is he, as Aaron (“we obviously thought it was unfair”), simply believed a non-flip toss was “not right” nor w/in the spirit of the act, i.e., toss a coin so it rotates to enhance probability of chance for either team to win the side-show (head-tails).

...Favre&Lopez.11.7.08.E.Durie.USN.thmbThere is regulation fairness and there is overtime fairness, a different balance that seeks to afford opportunity (If that’s your defense stopping the opponent’s offense, so be it) while encouraging a conclusion to a game that’s gone long.

Aaron Rodgers may someday equal or surpass his predecessor, the well-decorated ironman, former Wisconsin demi-god but now back in the fold quarterback Brett Favre in key statistics, MVPs and Super Bowl starts, but the Chico, California native will never match the peerless one in style. There is where Brett will always have him beat.

Record: 103 – 100

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Rozelle-Halas, 1980s, wc.cca, J.Summaria; G.Halas, wc, therakishfellow, 1922; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; R.Rivera, wc, 6.10.11, R.Paraglide; AFCC.Hunt.trophy, 2.2.13, A.Kirk, wc; B.Belichick, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.9; G.Kubiak, wc, J.Beall, 10.5.08; A.Rodgers, wc, M.Morbeck, 12.7.8; B.Favre-Lopez, 11.7.8, E.Durie, USN; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 1.22.16 @ 1:31pm EST; Copyright © 2016

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