You may note this is the first – and only – post I’ve made – or will make – this week on THIS HERE BLIGGITY BLOG. Between busy summer activities out in the physical world and an utter dearth of football-related stories out there right now (other than the potentially very serious and very sad investigation involving Aaron Hernandez), this has seemed like a pretty good week to recharge the batteries before gearing up to write the 2013 team previews for each team. Look for those to start appearing next month. However, I’m making a brief appearance this morning to post the results to the conference championship rounds of the Greatest of All Time season. Which NFC behemoth will make it to the fictional Super Bowl – the ’85 Bears or the ’99 Rams? And how much credibility will WhatIfSports.com lose if the ’99 Jaguars are somehow the team that ends up representing the AFC in the Super Bowl? We’ll find out the answers to those questions…right about now.
Look, it doesn’t make sense to me, either, but the fact of the matter is Reggie Barlow caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Mark Brunell as time expired to complete a 15-point comeback and shock the Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl. Brunell finished 16-of-25 for 250 yards and two fourth quarter touchdown passes that lifted the Jaguars over the Pats. New England had built up a 21-6 lead early in the third quarter thanks to touchdown passes from Tom Brady to Randy Moss and Kevin Faulk and a 34-yard touchdown run from Sammy Morris. After a Mike Hollis field goal late in the third quarter, however, Brunell’s touchdown toss to Jimmy Smith cut the score to 21-16 with 9:07 remaining. On their next possession, the Jaguars drove from their own eight-yard line to the Patriots 11 with a little over a minute and a half remaining, but New England tackled Keenan McCardell short of the first-down marker on fourth down to force a turnover on downs. The game looked over, but after Jacksonville forced a quick three-and-out (and exhausting their supply of timeouts in the process), the Jaguars got the ball back at New England’s 38 with 22 seconds left. Brunell hit Smith with a 15-yard gain, threw an incompletion, scrambled for five yards and then hit Barlow with the game-winning Hail Mary on the final play of the game. Would ESPN lose its mind over a real-life playoff game that ended on a successful Hail Mary? PERHAPS.
Apparently the best football ever played occurred in 1999, as the Greatest Show on Turf moved on to the Super Bowl to take on the Jaguar team from that same year after a close win over the ’85 Bears. Marshall Faulk scored on consecutive 11 and 29 yard runs late in the fourth quarter to erase a seven-point deficit. The Rams had a 10-3 halftime lead thanks to a 65-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to Torry Holt, but the Bears tied the game early in the second half on a 52-yard touchdown toss from Jim McMahon to Willie Gault. Then Walter Payton scored on a 4th-and-goal from the St. Louis 2 early in the fourth quarter to give the Bears a 17-10 lead. The Rams drove 78 yards on nine plays on their next possession, however, to tie the game up on Faulk’s 11-yard touchdown run. After the Bears went three-and-out, the Rams’ dominance on the ground continued with a four-play, 73-yard drive that all came on the ground, punctuated by Faulk’s 29-yard touchdown scamper. The Bears drove to the St. Louis 29 at the two-minute warning, but McMahon was picked off by real-life Super Bowl hero Mike Jones on second down to end the Bears’ last great hope.
Next week: The culmination of the Greatest of All Time season occurs when the ’99 Jaguars take on the ’99 Rams.