||Raiders WR Jerry Porter:
When you can grab the spotlight from Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, you've accomplished something.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
While "Lord of the Rings," "CSI" and "Friends"
were big winners last night at the
this-can't-really-be-us People's Choice Awards, the
NFL divisional playoffs had their own winners and
Winner: Rich Gannon. Low-key MVP outplayed
ultra-hyped Jets QB Chad Montana. No
surprise that the Raiders got hot and pulled away when
the team finally figured out to go to Gannon's arm in
second half. If the Titans thought Tommy Maddox was a
Loser: Raiders' postgame trash-talk. Is a
divisional-round win so big that the team had to dump
on the Jets so much? So what if the Jets started it?
Oakland sure isn't yapping like it has championship
Winner: Achy vet QBs. Steve McNair, Donovan
McNabb and Brad Johnson showed how it's done. But
don't forget the obviously huge bye-week factor
(bye teams 4-0), which gave them extra time to heal
Loser: Hyped QBs. Winner: Defenses. Pennington,
Mike Vick and Jeff Garcia were engulfed by the
week-long hoopla around them, but not as much as they
were by stifling, sack-heavy playoff D from the
Raiders, Eagles and Bucs. If they learn from it, the
QBs might begin to approach their Super Bowl
potential. Meanwhile, the Eagles-Bucs game is the best
playoff matchup of defenses in a long time.
Loser: NFL's OT policy. Once again, the
toss of a coin determines a winner -- this time to
advance to the AFC title game. Unfortunately, it will
probably take a "Coin Flip Super Bowl" (and who
doesn't think the NFL is on a collision course with
that during this wacky season?) to change this
Winner/Loser: Titans kicker Joe Nedney.
Redeemed himself with second-try winning FG, but "When
I'm done, I might try acting" quote about
roughing-the-kicker call is bad for booters
Loser: Titans-Steelers ref Ron "Uh, Let Me Check on
That" Blum. For a playoff ref to not be completely
versed in all replay-review policies -- then to
broadcast it to the world -- was yet another NFL
embarrassment. The hot discussion will be about
whether or not the league should hire full-time refs,
||"NFL FINAL FOUR" EDITION
|CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE IN PLAY:|
1. Bucs' hurdle: Winning in Philly|
2. Raiders' hurdle: Winning AFC finally
3. Refs' hurdle: Spotlight gets more intense
|CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE SO OVER:|
1. The Steelers' "We Were Robbed" crying|
2. Entertaining displays from Terrell Owens
3. Chad Pennington-Joe Montana comparisons
an assumption that full-time would
eliminate the recent mistakes. Seems like a
no-brainer, but a lot of really great refs might drop
out because they don't want to give up their day job.
Who wants full-time mediocrity?
Winner: NFL director of officials Mike Pereira.
Quickly quashed RefGate II talk, saying the NFL
reviewed the Steelers-Titans game and stood by the
roughing-the-kicker call on the Steelers. So don't
look for any apologies on that, but ...
Loser: Pereira. ... What about the Steelers'
ignored timeout call on the final play? Out of timeouts? Please. Call came after the snap? Replays show
otherwise. Weren't game-affecting final plays supposed
to be reviewed before the game was declared over? Of
the non-timeout, Pereira said: "I have not been able
to study that." I thought he just said they reviewed
the game? But somehow they overlooked this
controversial call? Dubious.
Loser: Steelers whining. Missed timeout call
aside, was there anything less impressive than the
Steelers' postgame complaints? It starts at the top,
where head coach Bill Cowher's much-lauded intensity
just made him look out of control. Pittsburgh should
take a page from the Giants, who got screwed a lot
worse: Accept responsibility for all their own
breakdowns (say, porous defense) that led to the loss.
Loser: Whoever made the call to start that first
set of fireworks. Without a roughing-the-kicker
penalty, let's assume the Steelers go on to win, and
that display becomes the "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment
of sports history.
What's the latest on Steve Mariucci's future in San
Len Pasquarelli has the latest scoop. His take?
Chances are he'll stick around next season, the final
year in his contract. My question: If the Jags really
are interested in Mooch, would they be willing to give
up a draft-pick package, like the Bucs did for Jon
Gruden? The Jags could use the draft help a lot more
than Tampa Bay did.
Early conference-championships picks: Rematches from two regular-season stinkers. Raiders over Titans: After two years of
knockouts, Raiders finally do the KO'ing. Bucs over Eagles: Like
MJ's Bulls finally getting past the Piston Bad Boys,
last game for the Vet notwithstanding ... It's an
all-Pirate Super Bowl! Arrr ...
||Steelers LB Joey Porter:
"The ref took this away from us." No, shoddy defense took it away from you.
|Which teams are headed to the Super Bowl?|
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|Today on ESPN.com|
|NFL: Morning after|
|IN: Coaching rumors|
|NBA: Stein Line|
Defending Aussie Open champ J. Capriati lost in the
first round, the first women's player ever to do that
in Open era ...|
Ernie Els set Tour record, 31-under for tourney, and looked primed for many strong
seconds to Tiger ...
Duke crushed Wake Forest to eliminate the only other
unbeaten team in the country. Not convinced about Devils
Lakers won fourth straight, but it was vs. Heat. Real
tests this week at Hornets, Rockets ...
So LeBron drives a Hummer. Now Ohio state athletic
people care? ...
The NBA's senator-owner, Herb Kohl, is selling his
stake in the Bucks. What an investment opp: overpaid
People's Choice: All-Star starters Jagr? Roy? NHL fans
can do better ...
Mike Mularkey is a good candidate, but the Bengals
need to stop dawdling and hire great-fit Marvin