AdultFYI Football Pool: Three-Way Tie with 4 Left to Play

from www.latomes.com:

Saints win big and easy over the Cardinals:

Reporting from New Orleans – New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton carefully avoided superlatives, even as his team chased perfection in bolting to a 13-0 record.

As the New England Patriots learned two years ago, it’s not about pursuing 19-0, it’s about pursuing victory in the final game. Maybe when this season is over, a three-game skid to end the regular season, including home losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will turn out to be the springboard the Saints needed for the playoffs. Momentum can be a fleeting thing, but the Saints grabbed firm control of it Saturday with a 45-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

A city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina nearly 4 1/2 years ago will play host the NFC championship game in the Superdome, which once was home to displaced residents.. A franchise that never has reached the Super Bowl is one victory from doing so Feb. 7 in Miami.

Afterward, Payton, whose team hadn’t played a meaningful game in three weeks, downplayed the victory over the defending NFC champions.

“I thought in all three phases we played a real good game,” Payton said. “We came off a stretch where we had all the advantages of being rested. We played with a lot of energy.”

Drew Brees completed 23 of 32 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns. He threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey, connected with Devery Henderson on a 44-yard touchdown pass off a flea-flicker and hit Marques Colston for a two-yard touchdown before halftime to put the Saints ahead, 35-14, against a defense that lost cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a knee injury and free safety Antrel Rolle to a concussion.

“We were tired of the questions [about the layoff],” Brees said. “We wanted to get it going. It was hard for anybody to understand that plan if you’re not a member of my team, but we trusted in that plan, that process. We executed throughout the week and it showed.”

There will be speculation about whether this was the final game for 38-year-old quarterback Kurt Warner, who led the Cardinals to this point. He was sidelined briefly because of a rib injury when Saints end Bobby McCray blindsided him as he tried to make a play on Will Smith after an interception.

“A big hit like that makes you think twice about playing this game,” Warner said with a laugh. “I have a lot of ideas in my head, but what I need to do is get away from the season and talk it over with my wife. As I’ve told you a million times before, [retirement] is something I will think about and answer later. I don’t think it will be a long and drawn-out process.”

Reggie Bush scored on a 46-yard run in the first quarter as the Saints took a 21-7 lead after Arizona’s Tim Hightower had a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. It was the longest run in postseason history for the Saints, and Bush later scored on an 83-yard punt return.

If the Cowboys win today at Minnesota, it will set up a rematch of the Week 15 meeting, when the Cowboys beat the Saints, 24-17, at the Superdome. It was the first loss of the season for New Orleans.

It’s Manning who still owns the Ravens:

Reporting from Indianapolis – Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is causing more heartache for Baltimore fans these days than Bob Irsay.

The Ravens were once again outdone by the four-time NFL most valuable player, who threw two touchdowns in the top-seeded Colts’ 20-3 victory Saturday night in an AFC divisional playoff game.

The sixth-seeded Ravens (10-8) failed to score a touchdown against Indianapolis for a third consecutive time and failed to stop Manning enough in the red zone.

The Colts (15-2) stopped their run of choking in the playoffs as a high-seeded team — they had been 0-3 after first-round byes — and will play host to the winner of today’s San Diego Chargers-New York Jets game in next Sunday’s AFC championship game.

Manning has now beaten the Ravens eight straight times, including twice in the playoffs. He stopped their Super Bowl run in January 2007 despite not having a stellar game. And he did it again Saturday in more Manning-like fashion.

His decisive blow came in the final two minutes of the first half, when he threw both of his touchdown passes to give the Colts a commanding a 17-3 halftime lead. Manning completed 30 of 44 passes for 246 yards against a Ravens secondary that had lost two starting cornerbacks during the regular season.

Ravens safety Ed Reed nearly turned the game around twice in the third quarter. But his first interception ended with him fumbling and his second one was negated by Corey Ivy’s pass-interference penalty.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t look injured, as he did like last week, but he didn’t look like himself. He completed 20 of 35 passes for 189 yards and two interceptions.

By the end of the night, it was another painful reunion with the Colts, who were moved from Baltimore on March 28, 1984 (9,425 days ago) by Irsay.

A 3-3 game turned at the end of the first half. The key play was when the Colts decided not to kick a 52-yard field goal and converted a fourth-and-four with a short pass to running back Joseph Addai. Five plays later, Manning found a wide-open Austin Collie for a 10-yard touchdown with two minutes left in the half.

The Colts held, got the ball back at their 36 with 1:26 left on the clock, and marched down the field with help from the Ravens.

Domonique Foxworth interfered with Reggie Wayne to stop the Indianapolis wide receiver from running past him on a double move.

Two plays later, Ray Lewis broke up a pass in the end zone by throwing his shoulder into Collie’s head, but the Ravens’ middle linebacker was called for unnecessary roughness. Referee Carl Cheffers explained that it was “a blow to a defenseless receiver.” Lewis could be heard responding, “That’s football.”

Manning eventually threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Wayne, who beat Ivy to the inside and extended the ball across the goal line before Lewis delivered a hit.

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With four games to be played before the Superbowl, here’s how the AdultFYI Football pool standings look with those still mathematically eligible:

Jeff Mullen, 181-81 [1-1 on Saturday]
Danny from Foxxx Modeling, 181-81 [2-0 on Saturday]
Scott David, 181-81 [2-0 on Saturday]
0 & 16 Chuck, 180-82 [2-0 on Saturday]
Gene Ross, 177-85 [1-1 on Saturday]

Here’s Sunday’s picks:

Jeff Mullen: San Diego, Minnesota
Danny: San Diego Minnesota
Scott David: San Diego, Dallas
0 & 16 Chuck: San Diego, Minnesota
Gene Ross: San Diego, Dallas

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