NFL.Com Bracketology: 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers v. 1990 New York Giants

Roger Staubach ran for his life in Super Bowl X as Dwight White and the Steelers sacked him 7 times in the game.

Neither of these teams have cheerleaders. If they did they would have to wear shoulder pads for this one for it would be a bloodbath.  A game of nothing but hitting. The smashmouth Giants from the NFC East which began 10-0 and finished13-3 and the 12-2 defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers at the height of their power. Each had to endure physical conference championship games and Super Bowls to make it to this game.

In Pittsburgh’s scenario, they had to beat the revenge minded Oakland Raiders 16-10 to make it to Super Bowl X. However George Atkinson gave the Steelers a going away present by knocking out Lynn Swann on an icy field. Yes, we mean a boxing ten count! Joe Greene had to come take him off the field. Then hold off the Cinderella Cowboys 21-17 in the best of the first 10 Super Bowls. In that one, K Roy Gerela wound up with bruised ribs after tackling Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson on a kickoff return.

Did we mention knockout??

Well Terry Bradshaw was in the locker room for the last 6:24 of the game after suffering from a concussion after being hit by Cowboy Larry Cole. However the Steeler defense did most of the hitting during this era and in 1976 were so strong the league had to put in rules to legislate them out of dominance. In that year during a 9 game stretch, they gave up only 28 points while shutting out 5 of their last 9 opponents!! Yikes!! But alas we have to talk about the 1975 edition…

Leonard Marshall clobbers Joe Montana and knocks him out of the 1990 NFC Championship Game. He doesn’t return to action until the final game of the 1992 season against the Detroit Lions.

The ’90 Giants had to bludgeon their way through two time defending champion San Francisco on the road in the NFC Championship Game. In what was one of the most physical games in NFL history, each team had their quarterbacks knocked out of the game. For the Giants, Jeff Hostetler made it back onto the field to lead a game winning drive. As for Joe Montana?? Giant DE Leonard Marshall hit him with what NFL Films narrator Harry Kalas called “The Shot Heard ‘Round the Football World”. After evading a charging Lawrence Taylor, Montana sidestepped into a hit that would knock him out of football for nearly 2 years.

The injury list compiled on that play for Joe? A bruised sternum, bruised ribs, a concussion, and a broken bone in his hand. If you were a fan of hitting, it was the game of the century. Then the Giants outlasted the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV with a defensive masterpiece. They only employed 2 linemen and proceeded to funnel Bills receivers to the linebackers and started punishing Andre Reed crossing the middle.

Ottis “OJ” Anderson falling forward for positive yards was the tough runner that powered the Giants.

Each team was a run first team with Super Bowl XXV MVP Ottis (OJ) Anderson (The [[_]]) who would gain maybe 70 yards rushing to somewhat offset Franco Harris with about 95 yards. A young Terry Bradhshaw throwing to first time starters John Stallworth and Lynn Swann would have trouble with Mark Collins and Everson Walls. Collins was the best CB ever to cover Jerry Rice so putting him on Swann wouldn’t be an issue. Lankier Everson Walls on lanky John Stallworth would be a fun matchup.

What would keep the Giants in the game was the fact that they were the first team in NFL history that averaged less than a turnover a game. Only 13 in a 16 game season. Even in Super Bowl XXV, they didn’t commit a single turnover. Steeler DT Joe Greene and the late Ernie Holmes would jam the middle closed on C Bart Oates and Gs William Roberts and Bob Kratch. After all with Greene (Hall of Famer) we’re talking of the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year from 1974.

His play at “Stunt Tackle” would kill the Giants ability to call blocking audibles in this game. LT Jumbo Elliot would be able to handle the late Dwight White but RT Doug Riesenberg would struggle with LC Greenwood.  Hall of Fame linebacker’s Jack Lambert and Jack Ham would battle Anderson on running situations but were agile enough to track of Dave Meggett on 3rd downs. The “Tampa 2” defense really started in Pittsburgh with a 220lbs. Lambert who could get 20 yards downfield early in his career.

Hall of Fame member and 2 time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Joe Greene would wreak havoc on the Giants interior line.

With 3/4 of the Steel Curtain wreaking havoc on a backup in Giant QB Jeff Hostetler the Steelers would pull away 27-15. Lawrence Taylor and Leonard A. Marshall could run stunts on LT John Kolb who was smallish for a tackle and would struggle with double teams on Marshall and would flat struggle with Lawrence rushing hard upfield. LB Carl Banks at 250lbs. would manhandle Steeler TEs Larry Brown and Randy Grossman.

However with a few inside traps Rocky Bleier would flash for a few inside gains to keep Steeler drives alive. If Hostetler had more experience, the Giants would stand to win this but the Steel Curtain would get to him on passing downs. Joe Greene would easily be the MVP of this game. For that reason you have to go Steelers.

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NFL.Com Bracketology: 2006 Indianapolis Colts v. 1987 Washington Redskins

Timmy Smith ran for 204 in the biggest game of the year. Colts wouldn't have stopped him.

To best understand the nature of a fictitious tournament like this is you have to realize when the teams would take the field. Almost like a time machine, you’d have to transport them from how they were at the end of the Super Bowl and at their best. Otherwise from a first glance you would look and think “Well Peyton Manning’s offense would outdistance one of the weaker statistical (for a season) Redskins teams.” Yet upon further review this would be a little misleading…uh, make that very misleading.

The Redskins would bludgeon the Colts smallish defensive front with The Hogs. The 2006 Colts not only finished 21st in defense overall, they were the first team to win the Super Bowl with the NFL’s worst run defense! Ranked 32nd!! Even in their Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears, they allowed Thomas Jones to rush for over 100 yards in that game. The ’05 edition of the Colts was stronger than the ’06 team that won it all yet was upset by the Steelers in the divisional round. That light defense was able to play with leads and would have Redskin RB Timmy Smith coming at them from the start. Who?? Oh yeah, he set the Super Bowl rushing record for the Redskins with a 204 yard performance and was a very physical back. Behind OLs Mark May, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Jeff Bostic, and Raleigh McKenzie running downhill on Colt DEs Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, and getting out on MLB Gary Brackett?? Yikes!! “The Hogs” would be serving pancakes all day and that would get ugly in a hurry.

If we use Doug Williams’ Super Bowl MVP performance, 340 yards and 5TDs overall, this game wouldn’t be close. Just remember, 18 plays 356 yards of offense and 5TDs in the 2nd quarter of Super Bowl XXII was the greatest team offensive performance the Super Bowl had ever seen. In contrast, it took Joe Montana and the 49ers, who won SB XXIV 55-10, almost 3 complete quarters to equal Washington’s single quarter output! No one has EVER approached the 602 yards of offense the Redskins put up that fateful Sunday in Jack Murphy Stadium.

Redskin Dexter Manley chased John Elway all over San Diego in Super Bowl XXII

That withstanding we’ll go with the twin DE Dexter Manley and Charles Mann would be on Peyton Manning as they chased John Elway into oblivion in that game sacking him 5 times. Manley and Mann would have collapsed Peyton’s pocket and his happy feet would have caused him to throw incompletions and interceptions. Manning on his best day couldn’t evade a pass rush like a young John Elway. The Hogs would get Timmy Smith somewhere around 175 yards on Tony Dungy’s light defensive team. CB Darryl Green and Barry Wilburn match up well with Reggie Wayne and an aged Marvin Harrison. Redskins win 30-16. Adam Vinatieri wouldn’t even be a factor.

At only 5'11 and 235lbs, MLB Gary Brackett would have been walled off by Redskin C Jeff Bostic and the rest of the Hogs who area blocked under former OLine coach Joe Bugel.

Wait a second!! Upon further review you got me…for some reason I was thinking of the 2005 Indianapolis Colts. The ’05 edition was stronger than the ’06 team that won the Super Bowl.  Just kidding… we didn’t but to finish up:  Colts CBs Marlon Jackson, Nick Harper, and Kelvin Heyden would have been chewed up alive by Gary Clark, Hall of Famer Art Monk, and Ricky Sanders.  Sanders set the record for receiving yards in that game with 193. The Redskins set the Super Bowl record with 602 yards. In 18 plays during the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII, the Redskins gained 356 yards of offense, scored 35 TDs on 5:54 of possession time, and the lowly ranked Colts defense was going to stop that?? No chance…. In instances like this, most fans don’t know history and just vote for their own team or just modern history. Not us. Not here. In fact, I’m correcting my score…make that 44-16 Washington.

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NFL Bracketology: 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers v. 1981 Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals coach Forrest Gregg led the Bengals past the rival Steelers and into Super Bowl XVI.

Alright, raise your hand if you know who was responsible for halting one of the most revered dynasties in NFL history?? It was the Cincinnati Bengals THAT ENDED THE STEELERS DYNASTY!

In 1979, the final season the Steelers won a Super Bowl, they lost to an 0-6 Bengals team 34-10. Then in 1980 the Bengals SWEPT the Steelers who went 9-7 allowing the Browns to win the AFC Central 11-5 ending the Steelers dynasty. Then for good measure, in 1981 the Bengals SWEPT the Steelers again to hammer the last nails in Pittsburgh’s dynasty coffin enroute to their Super Bowl XVI appearance. The Bengals beat the Steelers 5 out of 6 times and you’re asking why would they belong here?

Terry Bradshaw drops back during the first half of Super Bowl XIII.

That being said, the ’81 Bengals would have lost in a competitive game to the ’78 Steelers who were at the height of their power (offense, defense & experience). As a defense they peaked in 1976 but once the offensive rules were liberated, Terry Bradshaw came into his own as an elite passer and threw for 28 TDs in 1978.

The defense didn’t have to be as good as 1976 because the offense, still with 1,000 yard rusher Franco Harris, was the most complete in the NFL. Still they only allowed 195 points for the season (Denver was second with 198) and this team roared to a 14-2 record. Their dynasty apex (ed) somewhere during the 3rd quarter of Super Bowl XIII against the Dallas Cowboys.

In that game we watched Roger Staubach, after the Jackie Smith TD pass drop, start hitting receiver after receiver bringing Dallas back from a 35-17 deficit to within 35-31. Thank God Rocky Blier recovered that onside kick. The Steeler defense was running on fumes by the end of the game and it carried over into 1979 and especially in the 1979 playoffs. They were never as strong as this 1978 team.

The Cincinnati Bengals were built to compete with the Pittsburgh Steelers and were strong on the line of scrimmage. Pete Johnson and Charles Alexander would be able to run but not with as much success as Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Steve Furness and John Banaszak would bend but not break.

Also in 1978 and 1979 the Steelers had to blitz more to get pressure on the quarterback.Look at the Super Bowl XIII and XIV highlights and you’ll see it. How do we know this? In Super Bowl XIII against Dallas, the Steelers blitzed with an 8 man front that Staubach burned for a 39 yard TD to Tony Hill to tie the game at 7-7.

Bengal QB Ken Anderson would have success throwing intermediate passes which are effective against this blitz. You forget that Bill Walsh and the west coast offense is really Paul Brown’s offense as it was taught to Walsh in Cincinnati.

You also forget that Ken Anderson had been a league passing champion in the mid 1970s and led Cincy to the playoffs in ’73 and ’74. So the Bengals had some success and would have been able to get deep at least twice in this game with lanky rookie Cris Collinsworth.

The difference is that LB Reggie Williams, DE Eddie Edwards, DE Ross Browner, and LBs Glen Cameron and Bo Harris were physical and emotional players but couldn’t make enough big plays against the 1978 Steelers and would lose. 34-18. Against the ’78 Steelers they wouldn’t win but I already showed you how they owned the Steelers after that…so don’t doubt their being mentioned in this tournament.

NFL.Com Bracketology: 2000 Baltimore Ravens v. 2001 New England Patriots

Ray Lewis being introduced before Super Bowl XXXV. Calm before the storm?

If they were STILL playing Super Bowl XXXV, the New York Giants STILL wouldn’t have a touchdown against the Ravens defense. The 2001 Patriots were a hodge podge group of old grizzled veterans and a young holdover quarterback who performed admirably with a short passing game. Needless to say if they were to play back then, he isn’t the Tom Brady we know now of the 50TD passing season and 3 Super Bowl championships.

You have to take him as a new quarterback who played a layman game in Super Bowl XXXVI. He only threw for about 180 yards and his passes were mainly to running backs on that last drive. Against the Ravens formidable rush Super Bowl MVP and NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis, would have made life miserable for journeyman RB Antoine Smith. The same circle routes out of the backfield that nearly got Tiki Barber beaten into oblivion in XXXVI would have had the same effect against Lewis and Jamie Sharper.

An unlikely hero emerged in the Super Bowl XXXVI upset in Patriot QB Tom Brady.

The Ravens were #1 against the run (best in history allowing 970 yds) and were stout up front with Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa. Lewis roaming free would have tipped or intercepted intermediate routes where Patriot WR Troy Brown, David Patten, and Charles Johnson couldn’t get deep. Duane Starks (The [[_]]) and Chris McAlister teamed to form the most underrated CB tandem in the Super Bowl era. They along with Safeties Ken Herring and Hall of famer Rod Woodson would have picked off at least 5 passes.

After all in Super Bowl XXXV, they were able to pick off Kerry Collins who had just tied the NFC Championship record with 4TD passes and 5 overall in a 41-0 trouncing of Minnesota. In all actuality the 2001 Patriots had two lucky breaks happen for them. The first was “The Tuck Rule” which was one of the worst calls in NFL history that demoralized the The Oakland Raiders. The second came when in preparation for the AFC Championship, Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis in trying to come back from a hamstring injury, took a painkilling shot that struck a nerve in his leg…rendering him ineffective for the game. Without their running game the Steelers fell 21-17.

Yet had these two played on full strength, the Steelers were the better team. The Patriots had situational substitute veterans in LB Bryan Cox, LB Roman Phifer, NB Terrell Buckley, DB Terrance Shaw, and a soon to be famous ex Steeler in LB Mike Vrabel that they still would have confused Trent Dilfer into a few interceptions.

However the 1-2 punch of Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis would have overpowered the Patriots by not allowing them to sub. That would open up the play action pass to Quadry Ismail, and Brandon Stokely once they substituted and crowded the line. This was the only pass that Trent Dilfer through well was the deep up routes. At the height of Baltimore’s defensive power and against a QB making about his 13th start in Brady…the Ravens would shut them out 23-0. Lots of punts in this game…

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