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Sports Then and Now

NFL Playoffs Include Many Familiar Faces 6

Posted on December 29, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Led by quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray the Dallas Cowboys seem to have their best chance at making a playoff run since the days of Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman.

Led by quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray the Dallas Cowboys seem to have their best chance at making a playoff run since the days of Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman.

Technically the NFL trend of having at least five teams earn postseason bids after missing the playoffs the previous season held to form with the 2014 season, but there is something extremely familiar about all the teams vying to reach Super Bowl 49 (if the NFL isn’t going to use Roman Numerals for 50, I feel no obligation to use them for the upcoming game).

Six of the eight division champions for 2014 also won their division a year ago with Cincinnati yielding to Pittsburgh (though both teams are in the playoffs) and the Dallas Cowboys soaring past the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.

Surprisingly, the longest playoff droughts to end this season belong to the Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, who both last reached the playoffs in 2009. The Steelers and the Detroit Lions last reached the playoffs following the 2011 season.

After winning the Super Bowl following the 2012 campaign, the Baltimore Ravens missed the postseason in 2013, but are now in the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years.

The four teams receiving a bye should be of little surprise, though in our “what have you done for me lately” society all four were written off at some point during the season.

Both the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots were sold down the river before the season had reached October, only to both rebound for 12 win seasons.

The defending champion Seattle Seahawks looked vulnerable after three early season losses and some less than inspiring offensive performances, but recovered to again win the NFC West and earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos looked powerful early, but seemed to lose some of their offensive compulsion in the final six weeks of the campaign and “limped” to a 12 win season, though that does represent the lowest victory total in Manning’s three seasons with the team.

The first weekend of playoff games should be quite interesting as each game has an interesting storyline.

The first game of the weekend will feature a team on their third quarterback traveling to face a team that finished the season with a losing record and actually had to win their last four games just to reach the postseason. The Carolina Panthers won five fewer games than in 2013, but surprisingly became the first team to repeat as NFC South champions since the division formed in 2002. Their opponents, the Arizona Cardinals, looked like a Super Bowl contender before losing their top two quarterbacks and leading rusher. Even with their third quarterback they seem to be a superior squad to the Panthers, but this will likely be a hard fought game where the home field could be enough to help Carolina pull out a win.
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Embarrassing No More: Seahawks Surprise the Saints 0

Posted on January 09, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Matt Hasselbeck tossed four touchdown passes to lead the Seahawks past New Orleans.

Some, including an article on this site, suggested that the Seattle Seahawks should be embarrassed to be playing in the NFL Playoffs with a losing regular season record. Well, instead of tucking their tails between their legs and sleeking off quietly into the night, the Seahawks pulled off one of the more surprising playoffs upsets in recent memory with a 41-36 victory over the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Because they have endured three straight losing seasons with three different coaches, it is easy to forget that for much of the 2000s, the Seahawks were a regular playoff visitor and their roster still includes a number of players with playoff experience and significance pride.

Perhaps the best personification of that past and that pride is quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

A three-time Pro Bowler and key reason the Seahawks went 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl in 2005, Hasselbeck has endured injuries and uncertainty over the last three years.

Despite being healthy enough to have probably played, Hasselbeck was held out of the do-or-die final game of the regular season against the St. Louis Rams. Many wondered if Hasselbeck had taken his final snap for the Seahawks.

But with his 7-9 squad heading into the playoffs to face the defending champions, head coach Pete Carroll called on the experienced Hasselbeck, rather than Charlie Whitehurst (who made only his second career start in the win over the Rams) to lead his team into what most expected to be a slaughter.

From the very beginning, there was something unfamiliar and uncomfortable about the game between the Saints and Seahawks. Seemingly everyone in America already knew how it would end, but after a predictable start the game seemed to be working against those certainties. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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