Tag Archives: playoffs

How good was Gronk’s postseason?

Rob Gronkowski, finally healthy again, was worth a touchdown a game to the Patriots in the playoffs. That’s not an average or an approximation. He caught a TD pass against every opponent as the Pats made off with their fourth Lombardi Trophy.

A postseason trifecta like that is rare for a tight end. The only other one who’s done it Gronkowski’s way — division round, conference title game, Super Bowl — is the 49ers’ Brent Jones in 1989. Interesting parallel, don’t you think? After all, Gronk’s quarterback was Tom Brady, who was in the process of winning his fourth ring, and Jones’ quarterback was Joe Montana, who was in the process of winning his fourth ring in ’89.

Just four tight ends have had touchdown receptions in three games in a single postseason. Here’s how they compare:

ROB GRONKOWSKI, PATRIOTS, 2014

Opponent Rec Yds Avg TD Length
Ravens 7 108 15.4 1 5
Colts 3 28 9.3 1 5
Seahawks (SB) 6 68 12.3 1 22
Totals 16 204 12.8 3

DENNIS PITTA, RAVENS, 2012

Opponent Rec Yds Avg TD Length
Colts 2 27 13.5 1 20
Broncos 3 55 18.3 0
Patriots 5 55 11.0 1 5
49ers (SB) 4 26 6.5 1 1
Totals 14 163 11.6 3

DUSTIN KELLER, JETS, 2009

Opponent Rec Yds Avg TD Length
Bengals 3 99 33.0 1 45
Chargers 3 19 16.3 1 2
Colts 6 63 10.5 1 9
Totals 12 181 15.1 3

BRENT JONES, 49ERS, 1989

Opponent Rec Yds Avg TD Length
Vikings 3 24 8.0 1 8
Rams 4 46 11.5 1 20
Broncos (SB) 1 7 7.0 1 7
Totals 8 77 9.6 3

Gronkowski’s postseason certainly measures up to any of these. But in terms of total touchdowns, Dave Casper’s 1977 and Vernon Davis’ 2011 are still the gold standard in the playoffs, even though neither got to the Super Bowl. Their game-by-games:

DAVE CASPER, RAIDERS, 1977

Opponent Rec Yds Avg TD Lengths
Colts 4 70 17.5 3 8, 10, 10*
Broncos 5 71 14.2 2 7, 17
Totals 9 141 15.7 5

VERNON DAVIS, 49ERS, 2011

Opponent Rec Yds Avg TD Lengths
Saints 7 180 25.7 2 49, 14*
Giants 3 112 37.3 2 73, 28
Totals 10 292 29.2 4

*game winner

Davis, amazingly, had three of the four longest touchdowns scored by these tight ends — 73, 49 and 28 yards. That explains his equally ridiculous 29.2-yards-per-catch average.

As for Casper, his game against the Colts in the ’77 playoffs — when they were still in Baltimore — was one for the ages. In addition to his three TDs, the last in the second overtime period to give the Raiders a 37-31 win, he also had a 42-yard catch late in regulation that tied it up.

That’s the famous Ghost to the Post play (Ghost being the pale-white Casper’s nickname). Watch:

Casper had a classic quote about his touchdown in OT:

The final play was K-17 and was designed for me all the way. We wanted to do something they didn’t expect. The cornerback was doing his job, protecting against the run. He was in a tough situation.

I faked inside and went outside. Any stiff could have done it. I’m glad I’m the stiff that did it.

The video:

So, yeah, Gronkowski had a terrific postseason — and unlike some of the others, he has a ring to show for it. But he didn’t go quite as wild, touchdown-wise, as Casper and Davis did, and he didn’t have a signature moment like Casper’s Ghost to the Post (or Dave’s overtime TD, for that matter). Perhaps that’s still to come. I mean, the guy’s only 25.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski beats Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright for a 22-yard touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski beats Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright for a 22-yard TD in the Super Bowl.

Final Four quarterbacks

The NFL didn’t even have a Final Four until 1967, when it split the conferences into two divisions and added an extra playoff round. Before that, there was only a Final Two — the championship game. So when we talk about Final Four quarterbacks, we’re talking only about the Super Bowl era (which began in ’66).

In those 49 seasons, no QB has been to the Final Four more often than the Patriots’ Tom Brady, who’ll play in his ninth AFC title game Sunday against the Colts. In fact, Brady has gotten to the

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Final Four as many times as Hall of Famers Dan Marino, Bob Griese and Fran Tarkenton (3 each) combined.

It’s been an incredible run for him and the Patriots, especially since there’s free agency now, which is supposed to make it harder to sustain success. Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and Ken Stabler never had to worry about losing a key offensive player to another team. Brady, on the other hand, has seen receivers Deion Branch (Seahawks) and Wes Welker (Broncos) and linemen Damien Woody (Lions) and Logan Mankins (Bucs) either take the money and run or get traded for salary cap reasons. Yet here he is again, going for another AFC championship.

Granted, it’s easier to make the Final Four these days with so many more playoff spots available (12 instead of the original eight). If you can just sneak in as a sixth seed, you’ve got a shot. But that doesn’t really apply to Brady and the Pats. Every time they’ve qualified for the postseason, they’ve done it as the division champs.

Anyway, here’s the company Brady keeps:

QUARTERBACKS WHO REACHED THE MOST FINAL FOURS, 1966-2014

Quarterback, Team(s) Seasons W-L Total
Tom Brady, Patriots 2001*, ’03*, ’04*, ’06, ’07, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14 5-3      9
Joe Montana, 49ers (6)/Chiefs (1) 1981*, ’83, ’84*, ’88*, ’89*, ’90, ’93 4-3      7
John Elway, Broncos 1986, ’87, ’89, ’91, ’97*, ’98* 5-1      6
Terry Bradshaw, Steelers 1972, ’74*, ’75*, ’76, ’78*, ’79* 4-2      6
Roger Staubach, Cowboys 1971*, ’72, ’73, ’75, ’77*, ’78 4-2      6
Brett Favre, Packers (4)/Vikings (1) 1995, ’96*, ’97, ’07, ’09 2-3      5
Donovan McNabb, Eagles 2001, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’08 1-4      5
Jim Kelly, Bills 1988, ’90, ’91, ’92, ’93 4-1      5
Ken Stabler, Raiders 1973, ’74, ’75, ’76*, ’77 1-4      5
Peyton Manning, Colts (3)/Broncos (1) 2003, ’06*, ’09, ’13 3-1      4
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers 2004, ’05*, ’08*, ’10 3-1      4
Steve Young, 49ers 1992, ’93, ’94*, ’97 1-3      4
Troy Aikman, Cowboys 1992*, ’93*, ’94, ’95* 3-1      4
Daryle Lamonica, Raiders 1967, ’68, ’69, ’70 1-3      4

*Won Super Bowl.

Some other fun facts:

● Stabler played in the most consecutive Final Fours — five. This will be Brady’s fourth in a row, tying him with McNabb, Aikman, Kelly and Lamonica. Kelly played in five in six seasons;

Ken Stabler

Ken Stabler

Bradshaw and Staubach played in six in eight seasons.

● Brady’s nine Final Fours have come in a 14-year span (2001-14). That puts him second only to Favre, who played in five in a 15-year stretch (1995-2009).

● Griese (Dolphins) and Kurt Warner (Rams/Cardinals) were 3-0 in conference title games. Jim Plunkett (Raiders) and Len Dawson (Chiefs) were 2-0. (Dawson’s games, like most of Lamonica’s, were AFL championship games.) Elway was 5-1, Kelly 4-1.

● Aikman and Young faced each other in three straight Final Fours in the ’90s (1992-94). Troy won the first two games, Steve the last. Bradshaw and Stabler did the same in the ’70s (1974-76) — with the same result. Terry won the first two, Snake the finale. Finally, Elway and Bernie Kosar (Browns) squared off three times in four seasons in the ’80s (1986-87, ’89), with John taking all three games.

Footnote: As impressive as Bill Belichick’s Patriots have been in the 2000s, their nine conference title games in 14 seasons don’t quite measure up the 14 in 17 seasons by Tom Landry’s Cowboys (1966-82) or the nine in 11 seasons by Al Davis’ Raiders (1967-77). Of course, the Pats might not be through. Brady certainly doesn’t look like a quarterback who’s losing his edge, even if he is 37.

The last of Joe Montana's seven Final Fours was with the '93 Chiefs.

The last of Joe Montana’s seven Final Fours was with the ’93 Chiefs.

Marvin Lewis and the perils of January

The Bengals have made the playoffs in six of Marvin Lewis 12 seasons. You’d think congratulations would be in order — first for surviving a dozen years in any coaching job, and second for steering his team to the postseason so often. But Lewis’ 0-6 record in the playoffs has folks wondering, rightfully, whether he’ll be working in Cincinnati much longer. This is, after all, the Not For Long League. It’s not enough to just win, baby. You have to keep on winning, baby, into January and beyond.

Not that he’ll take any comfort in this, but Lewis is hardly the first coach to trip over that final hurdle. Heck, there are guys in the Hall of Fame who tripped over that final hurdle — and several others who rank high on the all-time victories list. Indeed, if there were a Misery Index for coaches, it might look something like this:

100-WIN COACHES WHO HAD A LOSING RECORD IN THE PLAYOFFS

Span Coach (Titles) Teams Regular Season Playoffs
1986-01 Jim Mora Saints, Colts 125-106-0, .541 0-6, .000
2003-14 Marvin Lewis Bengals 100-90-2, .526 0-6, .000
1955-74 Sid Gillman (1) Rams, Chargers, Oilers 122-99-7, .550 1-5, .167
1931-53 Steve Owen (2) Giants 151-100-17, .595 2-8, .200
1966-77 George Allen Rams, Redskins 116-47-5, .705 2-7, .222
1984-06 Marty Schottenheimer Browns, Chiefs, 2 others 200-116-1, .613 5-13, .278
1973-86 Don Coryell Cardinals, Chargers 111-83-1, .572 3-6, .333
1992-06 Dennis Green Vikings, Cardinals 113-94-0, .546 4-8, .333
1973-94 Chuck Knox Rams, Bills, Seahawks 186-147-1, 558 7-11, .389
1967-85 Bud Grant Vikings 158-96-5, .620 10-12, .455
1994-14 Jeff Fisher Oilers/Titans, Rams 162-147-1, 524 5-6, .455
1996-08 Tony Dungy (1) Bucs, Colts 139-69-0, .688 10-12, .455

(Note: If you want to be technical about it, Grant won the NFL championship in 1969, then lost the Super Bowl to the AFL’s Chiefs. Also: Schottenheimer’s other teams were the Redskins and Chargers.)

That’s 12 coaches with 100 regular-season victories who have lost more playoff games than they’ve won. Four are in Canton (Gillman, Owen, Allen and Grant) and another has been a finalist (Coryell) and may eventually get elected. Clearly, then, a poor postseason record doesn’t have to be a reputation-killer for a coach. (And yes, Gillman’s and Owen’s situations are much different from the others’. All but one of their playoff games was a title game — back when that was the extent of pro football’s postseason.)

The biggest problem for Lewis, obviously, is the goose egg. Aside from Mora, everybody else in the group had at least one notable postseason. Owen, Gillman (AFL) and Dungy won titles; Grant, Allen and Fisher reached the Super Bowl; and Schottenheimer (three times), Coryell (twice), Green (twice) and Knox (four) all made multiple trips to the conference championship game.

As for Lewis and Mora, well, Jim probably said it best:

Source: pro-football-reference.com

One Easy Pick

You’ve gotta love the interception Terrell Suggs made in the fourth quarter Saturday night to help the Ravens beat the Steelers, 30-17.Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 2.34.24 AM

How did he do it, you ask? I’m guessing he got a pep talk at halftime from Jack Nicholson:

FYI: That’s part of a classic scene from the 1970 movie, Five Easy Pieces (in case you’ve never seen it).

“Stump the Football Stars”

Sportscaster Dick Enberg was in the news recently as the winner of baseball’s Ford Frick Award. He’s also done some fine football work, of course, calling eight Super Bowls and serving as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Rams. (He’s already, in fact, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.)

Since we’re closing in on Christmas, I thought I’d post these clips from his syndicated game show, Sports Challenge. This episode pitted three Kansas City Chiefs (quarterback Len Dawson, linebacker Willie Lanier and wide receiver Otis Taylor) against a trio of Miami Dolphins (fullback Larry Csonka, halfback Jim Kiick and wide receiver Paul Warfield) — the year after the teams played their classic Christmas Day playoff game, won by the Dolphins in double overtime, 27-24.

Four of these six guys are now in Canton (Dawson, Lanier, Csonka, Warfield), and another (Taylor) probably belongs there. It’s always surprised me that ESPN hasn’t tried to revive Sports Challenge, just for fun. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing pro athletes stumped by relatively easy questions about their game’s history? Check this out:

Nobody knew the answer – not even Dawson, who at the time of the alleged Greatest Game Ever Played was a third-string quarterback for the Steelers. (The others had yet to play pro ball.) That’s almost — almost — like players not knowing that Adam Vinatieri won Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII for the Patriots. (You know what would have been a great follow-up question, by the way? “For 10 points, what is the correct spelling of Myhra?”)

As I said, though, many of the questions on Sports Challenge weren’t very, well, challenging. Like this one, also about the NFL:

Come on! Do we have to dumb things down that much?

I’ll finish with this clip from earlier in the show. Enberg talks about Garo Yepremian ending the Chiefs-Dolphins overtime thriller with a field goal and asks Csonka, “Where were you at that time?” You’ll love the response:

The players weren’t always well-versed in their game’s history, but at least some of them had a sense of humor.