Sweet Play of the Championships: It felt as if Denver was blowing New England off the field, but when a Patriots touchdown made it 26-16 with 3:07 remaining, a deuce would have put the visitors within one score. New England showed a passing set, then ran a draw to Shane Vereen. Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips knifed in and dragged down Vereen by his ankles. Tom Brady hung his head, knowing the game ended on that play.
Sour Play of the Championships: With Denver leading 20-3 late in the third quarter, the Flying Elvii faced fourth-and-3 on the Broncos' 29. Needing points against the league's highest-scoring offense -- New England was unlikely to shut Denver out down the stretch -- Belichick rightly went for it. At the snap, Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton simply ran straight by his blocker, sacking Brady before he even had a chance to scan the field. Who was the blocker? Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, called by some the best offensive lineman in football. Mankins barely so much as slowed Knighton. Very sour.
Sweet 'n' Sour Play: Seattle trailing 10-3 in the early third quarter, Marshawn Lynch headed into the line left behind backup rookie tackle Alvin Bailey, who was playing in a six-lineman heavy package, then cut back right and went 40 yards for the touchdown that tied the contest. Sweet for the home team. The play occurred on third-and-1. San Francisco had eight defenders in the box and two deep safeties, an alignment that might give up a first down but should be impossible to get a long run against. Not only did Bailey take out two defensive backs with the same block, the highly hyped first-round draft pick, safety Eric Reid, whiffed on his tackle attempt. Sour for the visitors.
Disclaimer of the Championships : Reader David Lisitza of Silver Spring, Md., reports bottles of Palmolive dish soap proclaim "No unnecessary chemicals." He notes: "A plutonium trigger factory can probably make the same claim."
In the Nissan Rogue commercial in which the car leaps atop an imaginary elevated Amtrak train in San Francisco, a small-type disclaimer warns: "Fantasy. Cars cannot jump onto trains." The real fantasy of this ad is that when the urban hipsters reach their destination, they find ample vacant parking spots on the street in downtown San Francisco.
Concussion Lawsuit Subtext: The judge supervising the brain-injury settlement between the NFL and some 4,000 retired players put the deal on hold because of questions about whether enough money was being set aside by the league and whether the deal is fair to the "actual class members." The latter concern is that the deal as it stands would be fantastic for plaintiffs' lawyers (big payday up front) and fantastic for the NFL (liability shed with no admission of wrongdoing) but not so great for the "actual class members" (many former players would receive little or nothing). The proposed settlement is $765 million for players and $112 million in attorneys' fees. Did the league offer plaintiffs' lawyers a bag of gold doubloons in hopes that the lawyers would sell their clients the deal and make the former players go away? As the judge's ruling notes, lawyers expect this spectacular fee despite having bungled rudimentary aspects of the settlement proposal.