Sideline View: AFC Championship Mojo

The feel, the vibe, the electricity! The stage was set for a climatic showdown as Craig Wolfley took his place on the sidelines for the Steelers and Ravens as they squared off at Heinz Field in a virtual "Surround-sound" of Mojo.

Testosterone was ultra high, Rush Limbaugh, Hank Williams, and Martina McBride headlined the pre-game festivities of who's-who in attendance along the sidelines. And best of all, I got my pre-game bag of Jolly Ranchers so I was ready for the brawl because one of the security people ringside smuggled them in to me.

This game had more high velocity slobber-knockers than any game in recent memory. From the opening kickoff when Carey Davis covered downfield like a heat seeking missile to Limas Sweed dishing out a case of de-celeration trauma to Corey Ivy, it was brutal. Lawrence Timmons took to de-cleating Edgar Jones on the opening second half kickoff (the only reason he didn't make the tackle was because he tripped over Edgar's facemask). Ryan Clark on Willis McGahee was the grand finale of this headbanger's ball. This game had more hi-light reel knockouts than a Toughman contest pitting a private academy chess club against some oilrig roughnecks.

Ben's the man. Yep, when all chaos breaks loose, 7 makes like 007 and gets the job done. That throw to Santonio was pure gold. Staying alive like John Travolta with ants in his pants, he slid around in the pocket long enough for Holmes to turn his man around and then dazzle'em with open field running. You can't coach that folks, that's God-given ability by both guys.

DeShea Townsend shows why he's still got it on that interception. He baited Flacco into making that throw. 'Shea laid off just long enough to draw Flacco's attention then undercut the route as only a veteran knowing he's got people over the top can do. Just the right mixture of brains and gambling rolled into one coverage.

Lamar Woodley continues to grow in his role as one of the bookends of the most dominating pass rush duo in the NFL. Lamar has the uncanny ability to climb a man with his forehead in the man's chin and get those powerful ham hocks churning up Heinz Field mud. When Lamar adds the excellent hand fighting of Aaron Smith to his repertoire, which will come about over time, he'll add a few more sacks a season to his total.

Speaking of, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel were constantly pushing the pocket from the inside so that Flacco had no pocket to step up into. Even a gifted athlete like Flacco can't get away from that rush. Again I was struck by the closing speed of "The Diesel." When Brett sheds a blocker his closing speed to the player with the ball is remarkable. Remember too that for much of the game the Ravens were max-protection, using guys to chip at the Silverback and Woodley.

Ray Lewis can still play. The fire x blitz that has the weak side inside linebacker (Bart Scott) firing through the line first and the strong side 'backer (Lewis) in high gear scraping behind Scott was in high gear when Ray knocked the ball loose from Willie Parker. I for one thought Lewis was on the way down. He misses more tackles than he used to, but he's still a force to be reckoned with.

Limas Sweed is a likeable young man who works hard, but needs to step up. What I like in a young player is after a gaffe like the dropped ball in the second quarter, he battled back to apply a knockout block, catch an important 3rd down howitzer, and break up an end zone interception. How a young buck handles a miscue is important, it says something about him.

How in the world can James Harrison hardly draw a flag? They finally got Gaither for holding, but they (the refs) seriously need to get an eye exam or something. Almost every pass rush around the corner involving Harrison and Gaither had a holding call potential. In the second half Harrison once again blew the doors off Gaither on a rush. Harrison was busy running at the quarterback with a 6' 9" 330lb man giving him a face wash and screaming at the referee who was standing five yards behind Flacco. I watched this from the end zone. I easily saw this from 30 yards away. Yet the ref couldn't. Harrison is the most invisible (in the eyes of the officials) big play performer in the history of the NFL.

Samurai wisdom says the eyes are the "window to the soul." The man from Troy ripped the heart and soul out of the Ravens with that pick six. Troy locked onto Joe Flacco's eyes like a homing beacon and stepped in front of Derrick Mason to snatch the ball. Weaving his way through cross-town traffic like the old cartoon character "Ricochet Rabbit" Polamalu went into the end zone standing up and bringing the house down.

In the ensuing madness that erupted after the game Steelers NT Chris Hoke picked me up and swung me around, flinging Jolly Ranchers everywhere. It's hard to be cool and look professional when you're being swung around like a Raggedy Andy doll. It ain't easy being me folks.


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