The NFL’s Winter Wonderland

By John Focht

Week 14 of the National Football League has to rank among one of the greatest weekends in NFL history.  And if you include the SEC Championship game between Auburn and Missouri on Saturday night, it was probably one the greatest football weekends of all time.

Starting with Saturday nights SEC Championship showdown between the Auburn Tigers and Missouri Tigers, this was as good a championship game as you can get.

Now, by admission, I prefer a defensive game.  I enjoy the defensive struggles of years-gone-by when pounding the ball up the middle ruled college and pro football.  The days of epic 13-10 grudge matches in the snow and mud are the games I would take over any gimmicky, offensive tilt.  But the Auburn-Missouri SEC Championship game was one for the ages.

Until Auburn finally pulled away in the final minutes for the 59-42 win, this game had the look and feel of an old school-yard, last team with the ball wins type game.

Even more impressive for Auburn was their ability to play a game like this after last weekend’s Iron Bowl win over Alabama with an ending that eclipsed “The Play” between the California Golden Bears, the Stanford Cardinal, and the marching band from back in 1982.

The NFL followed with a Sunday of football that won’t soon be forgotten either for the cities, teams, players, and fans who were involved.

The snowstorm and blizzard conditions that blanketed the east coast late morning and early yesterday afternoon just in time for the 1pm kickoffs was something purely from a snow globe.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions played a football game in blizzard conditions that came directly from the days of kid football in the backyard when school was closed due to snow.

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Fumbles, no field-goals or extra points (one blocked extra point attempt), snow in the face after tackles, more fumbles, and lots of running were the emphasis of this game.

Six to eight inches of snow quickly dumped onto Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.  Visibility was essentially zero as the snow storm blinded the playing surface.

After falling behind 14-0 with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Eagles outscored Detroit 34-6 on their way to a 34-20 victory that was capped off with a Brent Celek open-field catch and slide in the snow for good measure.

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Just ninety miles to the south, the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings played their version of backyard snow football.  A 7-6 Baltimore lead after the third quarter quickly turned into a wild fourth quarter with Baltimore outscoring Minnesota 22-20 in the fourth for the 29-26 win.  Joe Flacco hit Marlon Brown with a nine yard touchdown pass with just four seconds remaining on the icy covered snow field.

And speaking of “The Play”, in a snow-covered frozen Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the Steelers came within inches of pulling off the NFL’s version of “The Play”.

Trailing the Miami Dolphins 34-28 with three seconds left, and Pittsburgh 80 yards from the end zone, the Steelers completed an initial twenty yard pass on fourth down from Ben Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders.  A series of lateral’s later, the ball was in Antonio Brown’s hands as he raced down the snow covered field for what could have been a frozen memory forever.  Instead, the play was whistled dead because Brown had stepped out of bounds.

The images from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh won’t soon be forgotten for the players and fans.

The blizzard in Philadelphia was reminiscent of the 1948 NFL Championship game the Eagles played in Philadelphia.  If it weren’t for FOX and their modern day technology, it would have been hard to tell the difference between video highlights of the ’48 Championship game vs. yesterday’s game at The Linc.

The snow brought a great ending to a great weekend of football.  And if your team won in yesterday’s blizzards, you probably didn’t even mind the three-to-four commute home on the frozen expressways and highways.

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