The Road to Superbowl XLVI: Championship Weekend

We've all felt heartbreak as sports fans - when your team loses the final; when you lose your best player for the whole season; when you get relegated with the last kick of the season. Last night, it was my turn.

My San Francisco 49ers team have gone from strength to strength this season - after what was arguably one of the worst seasons to have been a fan last year, we had a winning season for the first time since 2002, got through to the play-offs, and won. Then we played the NFC Championship game last night, and it all went a bit wrong.

I was a grown man, at 4 o'clock in the morning, with tears in his eyes as what was meant to be the fairytale ending to a marvellous season came crashing down with the same speed the ball left Kyle Williams' hands on the 20-yard line. Devastating blow to an already-fragile Adam. Long day, y'see.

The New York Giants - the opposition for the 49ers - played magnificently. Play after play; drive after drive - their first down percentage was through the roof (I would find out the actual stat, but it hurts to look at it...). Eli Manning, quarterback for the Giants, had one of his best games of the season. The defense of both teams played out their skins - the best in the NFL, against the most improved throughout the season. Nobody was expecting a really high-scoring game, but we were expecting lots of turnovers on downs, which didn't materialise.

Eli's power in his arms managed to pull the Giants through. When the 4th quarter finished at 17-17, we were heading for overtime. Theoretically, the 49ers should already have won the game, if it weren't for the aforementioned Williams' stupid run towards the ball after declaring a fair catch. It brushed his knee on the 30-yard line, resulting in a Giants ball, and that was that. Manning and his team were back in the game.

So how cruel would it be if Williams did something equally as stupid to lose the game? Having caught the ball from the kick-off, his quick feet and very quick brain told him to dart towards the opposite end-zone, and whilst not holding the ball correctly, it was fumbled, and recovered by the Giants. Not a good way to end a game, nor a season, and a field goal was enough to win the game in overtime, win the NFC Championship, and send the New York Giants through to the Superbowl in two weeks' time, with a 20-17 win.

It would be too easy to blame young Kyle Williams for the loss, and therefore the fact the 49ers aren't progressing to the Superbowl. There were lots of issues - and they were mainly with the offense. Quarterback Alex Smith doesn't know how to a) throw the ball in a straight line, b) how to look up, and c) how not to throw at the ground. Frustrating, aggravating, and that showed in the faces of the players after each broken play. Things just didn't go right on the day, and that's why I'm still sat absolutely gutted whilst writing this. But that's competition for you, and what's sport without competition?

But, the Niners game was the second of the day - earlier in the day saw the AFC Championship game between the Baltimore Ravens, and the New England Patriots. Equally difficult circumstances for the Ravens lost them the game, and that was tough to watch, as a neutral fan for the game.

In reality, the Patriots wiped the floor with the Ravens - 3rd down and out was quite a common phrase in the commentary whilst the Ravens were driving forward. They were better all across the field, but everyone loves an underdog, and the Baltimore Ravens most certainly were that.

It came down to the last drive of the game. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco tossed the ball high for wide-receiver Lee Evans, who seemingly caught the ball, got two feet down in the end zone, and then stumbled out of bounds. Now, theoretically, that should count as a touchdown - the ball was under control within the end-zone, by a player with both hands on the ball and both feet on the ground, and that was a scoring opportunity. However, it wasn't given, and because of the ruling on the field, it wasn't available for the Ravens to challenge. Arguably, a decision that they rued in the locker room.

However, it was with twelve seconds left on the clock that things got interesting. The Ravens had a 4th down 32 yards from the end-zone, and chose to punt. One field goal would level the score at 23-23, and force overtime. A miss would give the Patriots the ball back, enough time-outs to run out the clock, and send New England through to the Superbowl.

As you can imagine, it was the latter. Kicker Billy Cundiff put his kick horrifically left, pulling it very wide, and therefore, taking his team's Superbowl dreams with him. Sad, horrific for the player, but again - that's sport.

So the Patriots progress, as do the Giants. We'll see a re-match of Superbowl XLII in 2008, where the Giants, as underdogs, took on an undefeated Patriots side, and two big, big touchdowns from Manning's team won the Superbowl for the city of New York. That was the game that got me into American Football, so it's a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Giants, at the minute. Mainly hate.

February 5th. Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis. Revitalised Giants. Top seed Patriots. Manning. Brady. Superbowl XLVI.

See you there.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? You can follow me on Twitter - I'm @Adam9309 - or find me on my own blog!

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Comment by Stiggy_Villan on January 24, 2012 at 19:12

Brady will wipe the floor with Manning and once Wilfork sacks him a couple of times (hopefully gets them in the 1st quat) then frailties will show, we are still raw from '08 in where they ruined a perfect season for us, which to me doesn't hurt as I wasn't a fan back then but still disappoints me and when I speak to fans I feel their pain and understand how frustrated they still are, I also think '08 hurt the team and Brady so much as we haven't made a Super Bowl appearance since, until now, and how fitting on our return the obstacle which destroyed us be waiting, I think this will drive Brady, Welker, Wilfork and others who were Patriots for that game, even harder to succeed and Belichick will be doing all he can do heal the wounds, as they are sore not only due to the loss but to the ruining of a season which could have been so sweet, of course not the Giants fault no-one expects a team to go 'oh you are undefeated here have the SB' but just pointing how we view the pain from it.  So hopefully we shall have closure on '08 (although not as important for me).  I just hope we can do it, as I mentioned I was not really a fan in '08 (although did see the game, I was in NY at the time, was mad) and once I was a fan and decided Patriots were my team I understood all about '08 and obviously haven't seen my team while I support them in a super bowl let alone win one, so here's to hoping!

Comment by Adam Mills on January 23, 2012 at 15:07

I'd love to agree with you... But the Patriots are AFC, and therefore, Satan. So I'm going for another underdog Giants team to take on the Patriots everywhere on the field, and batter them. Close game, but Manning will power something through very late on and win it.

In my head, anyway...

Comment by Cra19 - A true Red 'head' Devil on January 23, 2012 at 14:57

Manning vs Brady, its giving me goosebumps already. Such a shame the 49ers didn't progress though, I would have enjoyed the banter.

SuperSunday was billed as a day for revenge, North London failed. Hopefully, come 5th Feb, Brady will not.

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