That article was the beginning of a day filled with enigmas, quandaries, and confusions, which would eventually lead to a pounding migraine.
Although my headache had been steadily increasing throughout the game, it became physically noticeable when Chad Pennington completed a 22 yard pass to McCareins for a first down at the 50-yard line...and my ears went numb. I looked at the time remaining in the game (4:48), did some quick math, and figured out that the Steelers might not get the ball back. Two plays later, the Jets were in field goal range. All the Jets needed to do was pick up a first down, run out the clock, and kick the field goal in order to win the game.
Thankfully, the Steelers defense stopped the Jets (as they did all game). Hence, even if the Jets scored, the Steelers would have plenty of time to respond. Then, things looked even brighter: with a little under two minutes remaining, Doug Brien missed a 47-yard field goal, and the Steelers had a chance to not just tie, but win the game. And, the feeling returned to my ears.
Alas, on the very next play, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception to the Jets. And, I felt as though blood was flowing from my ears.
Fast forward to Doug Brien getting his chance to redeem himself. As I sat there, in pain and disbelief, I kept thinking: is the Steelers' season really over? Then, with four seconds remaining, Brien missed his second field goal of the game; this time from 43 yards. It was better than Advil!
After stopping the Jets offense in over-time (as the Steelers defense did all game), the Steelers put together an impressive drive. With a combination of Bettis and Staley, and the occasional throw by Roethlisberger, the Steelers drove 72 yards, and Jeff Reed kicked the game-winning field goal. While there was no blood actually dripping from my eye-balls, all the pressure of the game left me feeling as though something had broken inside of my skull.
The next day, just as my headache had almost dissipated, sportscasters and radio personalities started talking about how the Steelers had "backed" into the AFC Championship game...and that Pittsburgh was going to be blown out by the Patriots.
I can understand the reasons that the Patriots are favored in the AFC Championship game. Considering that the Patriots held the league MVP to three points and the fact that Belichick should be able to rattle a rookie quarterback, it makes complete sense. Furthermore, the first time these two teams played (October 31st), New England was without Corey Dillon and Deion Branch. Hence, the Patriots should indeed be the favorites.
That said, I have a problem with people giving the Steelers no chance to win this game. For example, the local San Diego morning sports-talk radio hosts declared that the "Steelers" are going to get SMOKED by the Patriots. Others have said similar things.
The rational of these nay-sayers is: if the Patriots can fluster Manning, then they will absolutely dominate Roethlisberger. What everyone is forgetting is the fact that the Steelers still have Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley running behind Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings...and a couple of Pro-Bowl players on defense, as well.
People are acting like the Patriots are about to take on a terrible team. In case everyone missed it, the Steelers are 16-1, have a smash-mouth running game, and field a stout defense. It is not like New England will be facing Miami...wait a second (wink, wink).