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.
Add a Comment