Friday, October 24, 2014  
The Charger Bulletin

Best and Worst Super Bowl Commercials

by Liana Teixeira | February 5, 2014

I’m one of those people who watches the Super Bowl mainly because of all the great commercials showing between touchdowns. Here is a list of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) Super Bowl ads this year.

Best:

5. Dad’s Sixth Sense

This dad has excellent reflexes, and it actually scared me for half a second when I thought that toddler’s head was going to slam into the ground. In terms of car commercials, this was a new and creative way of showing how Hyundais are safe cars.

4. T-Mobile: No Contract

I never really cared for Tim Tebow, but after watching this commercial, I knew one thing – he could sure make me laugh. Each scene depicts all the exciting things Tebow can now accomplish while not tied to a contract, including delivering a baby and capturing Big Foot. In one word, hilarious. Great job T-Mobile, I’m proud to be a customer.

3. Dannon Oikos: Spill

The scene opens with John Stamos seductively eating his Greek yogurt next to his date. She kisses some off his lips and, oops! another scoop falls on his lap. Admit it, your dirty mind went into overdrive. Luckily, former Full House buddies Dave Coulier and Bob Saget swoop in to save the day. Still not a fan of Greek yogurt, but overall a funny commercial.

2. #EsuranceSave30

Despite having aired as a commercial after the Super Bowl, when actor John Krasinki says Esurance will give away $1.5 million to a lucky Twitter user, you don’t ask questions, espeically if you’re a college student with loans to pay off. You hashtag hardcore.

1. Budweiser: Puppy Love

What do puppies and horses have to do with beer, you ask? Who cares? Just let me “aww” at my television screen in peace.

Worst:

5. U2: Red

Is that Bono? He’s still making music? In all honesty, U2 could have come up with a less expensive way to promote their new single.

4. Audi: Doberhuahua

If you could understand the purpose of this commercial before the last five seconds, I give you credit. I felt lost throughout the entire thing. It was weird, kind of scary, and the only tolerable part was seeing Sarah McLaughlin look absolutely terrified.

3. Chobani: Bear

What is with all this Greek yogurt? Sorry bear, my heart belongs to John Stamos and the Oikos team on this one. At least pay for your food.

2. Transformers 4

I’m not paying for anything less than Shia LaBeouf, end of story.

1. Volkswagen: Wings

Congratulations for making the most sexist ad of the Super Bowl. Apparently all German engineers are white dudes with glasses. Not only were they all male, but when we finally saw a woman, of course she had just been smacked in the butt by a male engineer’s “wings.” I guess its better than having rainbows come out of it.

Beyoncé Is Back

by Jenn Harrington | February 14, 2013

The Super Bowl 2013 halftime show proved Beyoncé still runs the world after her performance had social media running at an all-time high. Some even renamed the game, “Beyoncé Bowl.”

Beyonce performing at the 2013 Super Bowl halftime show. AP photo

Beyoncé entered the stage in front of a personal silhouette that, of course, was lit on fire. She opened with “Love on Top” and “Crazy in Love,” accompanied by 135 backup dancers, while wearing an outfit of lace and leather that is still being brought up in the news.

Fans were in a tweeting frenzy throughout the entire football game. @BuzzFeed tweeted, “We are one football quarter away from Beyoncé, Twitter.” Post-show excitement brought stipulations of a surprise reunion of Destiny’s Child.

Beyoncé did not disappoint her fans. Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland made guest appearances to sing “Single Ladies,” “Bootylicious,” and “Independent Woman.” After they exited stage, Beyoncé closed the show with a rousing rendition of “Halo,” a song that won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 52nd Grammy Awards.

Post-show Twitter was even more excited: “Y’all can keep watching the game but I think it’s safe to say Beyoncé just won the Super Bowl,” tweeted Demi Lovato.

Was Beyoncé ever gone? Her adored performance came just in time. Media was bashing Beyoncé after she was found lip-syncing the national anthem at Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 21, 2013. A spokesperson stated that all music is recorded for the event each year, and the public is aware of her talent, which has no bearing on her decision to pre-record.

Regardless, the media was at full force to tear down Beyoncé in the moment. Her Super Bowl performance out shadowed any previous allegations, and even outshined the football game itself.

Following her show, the power at the Louisiana Super Dome went out for a half an hour. Many fans and media sources jokingly blamed Beyoncé, stating that her show was so big that it took the power with it. Additional reports cleared the air after the power outage was traced to a relay failure.

 

Super Bowl Ads Battle for Championship

by The Associated Press | February 8, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — The pressure was on. The tension was thick. And then, there were yawns in between.

An image taken from one of the Super Bowl Commercials that aired featuring John Stamos and the Greek yogurt Oikos.

The Super Bowl may have been a nail biter, but the ads were a snooze.

Actor Clint Eastwood waxed for two minutes about Detroit and Chrysler. An M&M candy stripped “naked” at a party. And stars from the 90s were everywhere, as were dogs and babies, of course.

Companies paid an average of $3.5 million for a 30-second spot for the right to duke it out Sunday in front of the expected 111 million-plus fans. But it was all so ordinary with fewer surprises.

That’s mostly because nearly half of the 70 Super Bowl advertisers put their spots out online in the days leading up to the game. That’s a big difference from last year when only a few spots were released ahead of time. And the companies that did wait until game day for the “big reveal” didn’t take many risks. In fact, most settled on cliché plots with kids, celebs, sex and humor.

“Advertisers this year are playing it very safe,” said Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University. “They’re running spots that are clearly designed to appeal to a broad audience and not to offend.”

Here’s a look at the game’s ads, play by play:

SEX SELLS — OR AT LEAST ADVERTISERS HOPE IT DOES

Advertisers showed a little skin in their Super Bowl.

An ad for domain name-hosting site GoDaddy shows racecar driver Danica Patrick and fitness expert Jillian Michaels body painting a nude woman. A spot for clothing retailer H&M features soccer star David Beckham in black-and-white in his undies. And online florist Teleflora and automaker Kia both use Victoria Secret’s model Adriana Lima in their Super Bowl ads.

But perhaps the two most blatant examples of “letting it all hang out” came from car companies.

Toyota’s spot for its “reinvented” Camry features a “reinvented” couch made up of women wearing bikinis. “It also comes in male,” a voiceover in the ad says while showing a couch of shirtless men.

And among the few standouts for the night was a Fiat ad that equated seeing the car for the first time with making out with a sexy Italian super model. The tagline: “You’ll never forget the first time you see one.”

“They did a good job of showing that some decisions are made with the heart, some decisions are made with the head and the Italian car decision resides in the groin,” said Greg Dinoto, chief creative officer of advertising agency Deutsch in New York. “It was sexy and surprising and fun.”

BABIES AND DOGS, OH MY

Who doesn’t love cute animals and babies? Advertisers are banking there aren’t many among us.

That’s why Doritos used both. One Doritos spot shows a man being bribed by a dog with the chips to keep the animal’s dirty secret about a cat’s disappearance. In another spot, a grandmother uses a slingshot to hoist a baby up to grab a bag of Doritos that belongs to a boy in a tree who had been taunting the baby with the chips.

Those two ads were crowd favorites, said Peter Dabol, who analyzes advertising effectiveness at research firm Ace Metrix. The firm polled 500 viewers about the ads to find the most popular.

“It’s a typical Super Bowl, funny carries the day,” he said. “Advertisers are driving for attention and likeability.”

Likewise, Skechers shoe company introduced its new running sneaker with an ad showing a French bulldog winning a greyhound race by wearing the shoes, of course. The dog then moon walks across the finish line.

And software company 2nd Story Software’s ad used toilet bowl humor, literally. The ad to promote its free TaxAct software shows a boy who looks everywhere to find a respectable place to relieve himself. He winds up going in a pool.

The tagline: “Totally free. Feels good.”

THE STARS WERE OUT

Celebrities always draw attention. And advertisers took a gamble that using stars would be enough to grab attention.

Chrysler, one of nine automakers advertising during the game, aired a Super Bowl ad starring Clint Eastwood. The aging actor talks about the rebirth of Chrysler and Detroit. The two-minute “Imported from Detroit” ad, one of the few spots that weren’t released before the game, follows the company’s ad last year that starred rapper Eminem.

“How do we come from behind, how do we come together and how do we win?” he asks. “Detroit is showing us it can be done. What’s true about them is true about all of us.”

Chrysler’s ad was among the few standouts on Sunday. “Those very few ads that weren’t overexposed up front ended up with a real advantage,” said Raymond Taylor, a professor of marketing at the Villanova School of Business in Villanova, Penn.

Meanwhile, real-estate company Century 21’s ad shows that a real estate agent is able to outdo speed skater Apolo Ohno on the ice, business mogul Donald Trump in business and former football player Deion Sanders at an open house.

And in an ad for Pepsi, “The X Factor” winner Melanie Amaro belts out “Respect” for music icon Elton John, who plays a king in the spot. “Pepsi for all,” she says. At the end of the ad, John finds himself in the dungeon with rapper and reality TV star Flavor Flav.

REMEMBER THAT? NOSTALGIA FACTOR

Some advertisers attempted to tug at viewers’ heart strings by stirring up old, fond memories.

Honda’s ad for its compact sports-utility vehicle CR-V shows actor Matthew Broderick living a grown-up version of his 1986 hit movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The ad includes two dozen references to the movie.

An Acura NSX ad features 1990s comedic titan Jerry Seinfeld battling with late-night talk show host Jay Leno over the sportscar. The ad includes Seinfeld references like a cameo by the “Soup Nazi” character.

And during Downy’s pre-game ad, the company remakes one of the most classic commercials of all time, Coke’s 1980 spot “Mean Joe Greene.” In the original, a little boy gives a gruff football player Joe Greene a Coke as he comes off the field. The Downy remake stars Greene and actress Amy Sedaris (in the little boy role) giving Greene a can of Downy fabric softener.

Giants Top Pats for 2nd Super Bowl in 4 Years

by The Associated Press | February 8, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tom Brady let his final pass fly toward the scrum of players in the end zone, hoping for an incredible finish.

Eli Manning led another fourth-quarter touchdown drive and won his second Super Bowl MVP on Sunday night, leading the Giants to a 21-17 victory that provided a pulsating finish to an NFL season that started with turmoil and a lockout.

Uh-uh, Tom. Not in this city, and not in this game.

Indianapolis is a Manning town, whether it’s Peyton or Eli pulling out the wins. And the Super Bowl is suddenly the province of the New York Giants, who have figured out how to topple Brady and the New England Patriots in the biggest moments.

Eli Manning led another fourth-quarter touchdown drive and won his second Super Bowl MVP on Sunday night, leading the Giants to a 21-17 victory that provided a pulsating finish to an NFL season that started with turmoil and a lockout.

“It’s been a wild game,” said Manning, who now has one more Super Bowl title than his older brother. “It’s been a wild season,”

A wild finish was certainly fitting.

The Giants (13-7) almost didn’t make the playoffs, needing a lot of help at 7-7 with two games left. Their defense finally came together, and Manning gave them a chance in every game with his penchant for comebacks — a league-record 15 touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Of course, his greatest career comeback was in that Super Bowl four years ago, when the Patriots were undefeated and Manning led a late scoring drive that included an enduring Super Bowl moment — the incredible catch David Tyree made by trapping the ball against his helmet.

The Patriots (15-4) had a chance to avoid more such history on Sunday. Brady, trying to match boyhood hero Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four Super Bowl titles, had New England in range to put it away late in the fourth quarter.

Wes Welker dropped a pass at the 20-yard line with 4 minutes left, forcing a punt that gave the Giants another chance trailing 17-15.

“It comes to the biggest moment of my life, and (I) don’t come up with it,” said a red-eyed Welker. “It’s one of those plays I’ve made a thousand times.”

Manning’s turn for more Super Bowl magic.

He threw a spot-on 38-yard pass down the sideline to Mario Manningham, fitting the ball perfectly between two defensive backs barreling down on the receiver. Manningham got both feet down before getting smacked out of bounds in front of the Patriots’ bench, a catch that was upheld on replay and reminded the 68,658 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium — one in particular — about that other catch four years earlier.

“In those situations, you are always looking to see who is going to be the guy,” Tyree said, in the Giants locker room.

Once Manningham came down with it, the Giants sensed things had turned their way, just like four years earlier.

“I think they are both spectacular catches,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I think with Mario’s earlier tonight, the way he kept his feet inbounds and held onto the ball (while) going out of bounds was a remarkable thing.”

The Patriots were thinking the same thing, too.

“I thought that play they made on our sideline was a phenomenal throw and catch,” Brady said. “That got them going.”

They got down to the 6-yard line with just over a minute left and the Patriots down to one timeout. New York could have run the clock down to a few seconds and kicked a field goal.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did the math and decided on a trade-off: Give up a touchdown for some time. New England pulled up and allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to run the final 6 yards with 57 seconds left.

Once Bradshaw realized what was happening, he tried to stop at the 1-yard line to keep the clock going but ended up falling backward into the end zone.

Brady would get one last chance with the Giants defense bearing down on him, as it always does. Defensive end Justin Tuck huddled the New York defense after a touchback on the kickoff left the ball at the 20-yard line.

“I think a lot of guys had their eyes lit up,” Tuck said. “This is what we’ve been working for all year, and we’ve got 57 seconds left to be world champs.”

Brady set a Super Bowl record by completing 16 consecutive passes earlier in the game, topping Montana’s record. When he needed several quick completions to get moving in the last minute, he couldn’t do it.

The Patriots got only as far as midfield with 5 seconds left. Brady threw a desperation pass into the end zone, where the ball was batted around in a scrum before falling incomplete just beyond the reach of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, bringing the spray of confetti from above.

“You come down to one play at the end,” Brady said. “If we make it, we’re world champs. If we don’t, we’re wishing we were.”

Brady’s had a tough time against this Giants defense. During the regular season, it pressured him into mistakes during a 24-20 New York win in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots went on to win their next 10, a streak that ended when Brady faced that same defense on Sunday.

It just seems to have his number. On his first pass of the game, Brady was pressured by Tuck in the end zone and threw the ball to an open spot downfield to get rid of it, resulting in a safety.

By contrast, Manning didn’t make any big mistakes and, again, was at his best under the last-minute pressure.

“He’s become confident over time, kind of grew into it,” said his father, former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning. “I always felt like you have to experience those situations before you become confident. He’s certainly had his share.”

And nobody will question anything he says again.

Manning was criticized for insisting before the season that he’s an elite quarterback. Then, with the Giants struggling, he was overshadowed by a different Manning drama.

Peyton and the Colts were hoping to reach a Super Bowl in their stadium. Instead, the quarterback had neck operations and the team came apart, prompting ownership to clean house. The week leading up to the Super Bowl was overshadowed in town by talk about Peyton’s future.

Eli insisted he wasn’t bothered by sharing the spotlight. In the fourth quarter on Sunday, he had it all to himself.

Manning was 10 of 14 for 118 yards in the final quarter with his seventh game-winning drive of the season. Overall, he completed 30 of 40 for 296 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, leading the Giants to their fourth Super Bowl championship — two behind Pittsburgh for the record.

In the end, a Manning got to hoist the silver Super Bowl trophy in Indianapolis.

“It just feels good to win a Super Bowl,” Eli said. “Doesn’t matter where you are.”

Madonna Headlines Super Bowl Halftime Show

by The Associated Press | February 8, 2012

The NFL and a major television network are apologizing for another Super Bowl halftime show.

Madonna had admittedly been nervous about her performance, hoping to position herself as the queen of a new generation of pop stars with an opulent show and a sharp performance that mixed her new release with more familiar songs.

There was no wardrobe malfunction, nothing like that glimpse of Janet Jackson’s nipple eight years ago that caused an uproar and a government scrutiny. Instead, it was an extended middle finger from British singer M.I.A. during Sunday night’s performance of Madonna’s new single, “Give Me All Your Luvin.’”

In front of some 110 million viewers on NBC and uncounted others online, she flipped the bird and appeared to sing, “I don’t give a (expletive)” at one point, though it was hard to hear her clearly.

The NFL and NBC wasted little time in responding.

“The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans,” said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, which produced Madonna’s halftime show.

The risque moment came during the biggest TV event of the year. The screen briefly went blurred after M.I.A.’s gesture in what was a late attempt — by less than a second — to cut out the camera shot.

“The NFL hired the talent and produced the halftime show,” NBC spokesman Christopher McCloskey said. “Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers.”

Jackson’s infamous oops during the 2004 halftime show raised a storm of controversy and put CBS in hot water with the Federal Communications Commission amid questions about the responsibility of TV networks to police their airwaves.

Justin Timberlake ripped off Jackson’s bustier, exposing her breast for nine-sixteenths of a second, a moment for which CBS was fined $550,000 by the FCC. The network challenged the fine and last fall, a federal appeals court ruled against the FCC despite an order from the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The three-judge panel reviewed three decades of FCC rulings and concluded the agency was changing its policy, without warning, by fining CBS for fleeting nudity.

This year’s game, in which the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17, is expected to challenge last year’s record of being the most-watched U.S. TV event ever.

M.I.A. is best known for her 2007 hit “Paper Planes,” a Grammy nominee for record of the year that memorably features a sample of the Clash song, “Straight to Hell.” It was featured on the soundtrack to the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”

After the incident, McCarthy said that M.I.A. had not done anything similar during rehearsals and the league had no reason to believe she would pull something like that during the actual show.

Madonna had admittedly been nervous about her performance, hoping to position herself as the queen of a new generation of pop stars with an opulent show and a sharp performance that mixed her new release with more familiar songs. She seemed like Roman royalty when muscle-bound men carried her extravagant throne across the football field to the stage for her opening song, “Vogue.”

Guests Cee Lo, Nicki Minaj and dance rockers LMFAO also appeared with Madonna. The singing and dancing on “Vogue” was smartly choreographed, as Madonna moved more deliberately — she is 53 — but still adroitly. She briefly appeared to stumble at one point while trying to make a step on the stage set, but recovered in time.

She let a tightrope walker make the more acrobatic moves during a performance of “Music.”

Madonna carried gold pompons for a performance of her frothy new single. Twitter was alight with questions about the vocals being lip synched or augmented by tapes, particularly during this song.

The best guest was clearly Cee Lo, who joined Madonna for the final song, “Like a Prayer.” They were joined by a robed chorus in the show’s most soaring performance. With a puff of white smoke, Madonna disappeared down a trapdoor in the stage, and lights on the field spelled out “World Peace.”

The performance was also carried live on SiriusXM Radio, giving Madonna the biggest single audience of her career. For all the elaborate choreography and flashy effects, the finger incident is the more likely headline from the event.

Earlier, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert offered some pregame patriotism. Shelton and Lambert did a twangy duet on “America the Beautiful” and Clarkson, in a simple black dress, sang “The Star Spangled Banner” without a hitch after last year’s performer, Christina Aguilera, flubbed a line.

Manning, Giants Heading to Indy to Face Pats Again

by The Associated Press | January 25, 2012

Hey, Indianapolis. A Manning will be playing in your Super Bowl, after all.

No, not that one.

It’ll be Eli Manning leading the New York Giants to a Super Bowl rematch against the New England Patriots — and this time on older brother Peyton’s home field.

“It doesn’t matter to me where you’re playing it or the fact that it’s in Indianapolis,” Eli Manning said. “I’m just excited about being in one.”

And if the Giants can pull this one off, Eli will have sibling bragging rights with one more Super Bowl ring than Peyton, who missed this season for the Colts after having neck surgery.

It sure won’t be easy for the Giants, though. Four years after New York stunned previously undefeated New England in the Arizona desert, they’ll play a Super sequel.

Eli vs. Brady. Coughlin vs. Belichick. The Giants vs. the Patriots.

Sound familiar? Here we go again.

“It’s awesome and we look forward to the challenge,” Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “They are a great football team. They have always been a great football team. We are looking forward to it, and it’s going to be a great game.”

Well, judging from the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl — David Tyree’s jaw-dropping, helmet-pinning catch and all — it just might be.

“Being in this situation is a great moment,” Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “You have to cherish this moment.”

New England (15-3) opened as a 3-point favorite for the Feb. 5 game against New York (12-7), but the Patriots know all about being in this position. They were favored by 12 points and pursuing perfection in 2008, but New York’s defense battered Brady, and Manning connected with Plaxico Burress on a late touchdown to win the Giants’ third Super Bowl.

That TD came, of course, a few moments after one of the biggest plays in playoff history: Manning escaping the grasp of Patriots defenders and finding Tyree, who put New York in scoring position by trapping the football against his helmet.

“Hopefully, we will have the same result,” Umenyiora said. “We still have one more game to go, but this is truly unbelievable.”

Especially since the Giants appeared on the verge of collapsing with Tom Coughlin’s job status in jeopardy just a month ago, when they fell to 7-7 with an embarrassing loss to the Washington Redskins on Dec. 18.

“We’ve been here before,” linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said at the time, “and we’ll get back.”

Boy, was he right.

The Giants were facing elimination against the rival Jets and Rex Ryan, who boldly declared that his team ruled New York. Well, Coughlin’s crew silenced Ryan with a 29-14 victory. The Giants followed that with a 31-14 win over Dallas in the regular-season finale to clinch the NFC East and get to the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season.

New York dominated Atlanta at home in the opening round. Then came a stunner: a 37-20 victory at Green Bay — knocking out the defending Super Bowl champions.

On Sunday, Manning extended the best season of his career with one more solid performance, and Lawrence Tynes kicked the Giants past the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in overtime for the NFC title.

“I’m just proud of the guys, what we’ve overcome this year, what we’ve been through,” Manning said, “just never having any doubts, keep believing in our team that we could get hot and start playing our best football.”

The Patriots are rolling into the Super Bowl having won 10 straight, with their last loss being to — you guessed it — the Giants, 24-20 back in early November.

“We know they’re a great team,” Manning said. “We played them already this year. They’ve been playing great football recently.”

They sure have. And now Brady and the Patriots are in familiar territory, playing in the Super Bowl for the fifth time in 11 years — and first since the stunning upset in Arizona.

New England hopes to avoid all that sort of drama this time around. Unless it goes in the Patriots’ favor, as it did in the AFC title game.

Brady was unusually subpar in the Patriots’ 23-20 victory over Baltimore, throwing for 239 yards with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no TD passes. But he got some help from the Patriots’ much-maligned defense, which made some crucial stops down the stretch.

A few mistakes by the Ravens helped greatly, too, as Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left — soon after Lee Evans had a potential winning touchdown catch ripped out of his hands in the end zone.

“Childlike joy. It’s all about childlike joy,” linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “Last night felt like the day before Christmas for me and I haven’t had that feeling in a long time.”

New England last won the Super Bowl in 2005, a long drought considering that the Patriots took home Lombardi trophies three times in four years. There are only a handful of players left from that team, with guys like Corey Dillon, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison replaced by young up-and-comers such as Mayo, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

“It doesn’t even feel right, especially playing with the veterans here,” Gronkowski said. “I watched them go to the Super Bowl as I was growing up, and now I’m part of it? It is an unreal moment.”

The constants, though, are Brady and Bill Belichick. And that’s been a winning combination for New England, combining to become the first QB-coach combination to win five conference championships in the Super Bowl era.

Belichick did perhaps his finest coaching job this season, piecing together a defense that ranked second-to-last in the league during the regular season. That led to plenty of shootouts, and Brady was more than up to the task, throwing for a career-high 5,235 yards while tossing 39 touchdown passes.

“They’re an amazing team,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. “They’re a great brotherhood; they’re a family.”

And they’re all looking to lift another Super Bowl trophy together. Patriots-Giants. One more time.

Patriots in Super Bowl, Beat Ravens 23-20

by The Associated Press | January 25, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady got all the help he needed to get the New England Patriots into the Super Bowl.

Thank you, Billy Cundiff.

The Baltimore Ravens kicker shanked a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left and the Patriots escaped with a 23-20 victory in the AFC championship game on Sunday.

Usually, vintage Brady doesn’t need much assistance in championship settings, but the Patriots much-maligned defense came through, and Brady’s 1-yard touchdown dive with 11:29 left proved to be the winning points.

“Well, I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us,” Brady said after throwing for 239 yards, with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no TD passes. “I’m going to try to go out and do a better job in a couple of weeks, but I’m proud of this team, my teammates.”

Brady waited out the final tense minutes on the sideline, and then celebrated with the rest of his team when Cundiff’s attempt went wide left. The Ravens looked on in stunned horror.

Cundiff had no excuse.

“It’s a kick I’ve kicked probably a thousand times in my career,” Cundiff said. “I went out there and didn’t convert. That’s the way things go.”

Next up as the Patriots chase their fourth Super Bowl trophy in Brady and coach Bill Belichick’s tenure in New England is the New York Giants, who beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in overtime Sunday night.

The Patriots were installed as 3-point favorites for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.

In their last trip to the big game, the Patriots had an 18-0 record when they were stunned by the Giants four years ago. They won the NFL championship for the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. This time, they head to the Super Bowl with a 10-game winning streak.

Before Cundiff missed, the Ravens had a chance to go ahead two plays earlier, but wide receiver Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone by backup cornerback Sterling Moore, who earlier was victimized for a touchdown that gave Baltimore (13-5) the lead 17-16.

On his touchdown, Brady took a huge hit from Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, then emphatically spiked the ball as he walked away. Earlier, Brady showed his fire by barking at Lewis following a hard tackle on a 4-yard run.

“It’s a pretty mentally tough team,” said Brady, whose fifth trip to the Super Bowl will equal John Elway’s achievement with Denver. “There’s really some resiliency. We’ve shown that all season. Even in the games we’ve lost, the three games we lost, we fought until the end. We’re always going to fight to the end. It’s great to be a part of a team like this.”

Baltimore had the touted defense in this matchup, but New England’s unit, ranked 31st overall, was just as powerful.

“We stepped up,” Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “We all stepped up big time. Being in this situation is a great moment. You have to cherish this moment.”

The Patriots shut down Ray Rice, the league’s total yardage leader, who was limited to 78 yards. Brandon Spikes made a fourth-quarter interception of Joe Flacco, who played well before that and threw for two touchdowns. And when the Ravens were threatening to score a late touchdown to win their first conference title in 11 years, New England clamped down.

“It’s two great football teams, two gladiators, I guess, just kind of going at each other at the end, and I’m proud of our guys,” Harbaugh said. “You know, we’ve got 53 guys, mighty men, as we like to call them — and they fought, and we came up a little bit short, as 53. You know, 53 win and 53 lose.”

With Rice a nonfactor, Baltimore had to rely on Flacco, and he delivered one of his best performances. Flacco has led the Ravens into the playoffs in all four of his pro seasons, but not to the Super Bowl. He was 22 for 36 for 306 yards and touchdowns of 6 yards to Dennis Pitta and 29 to rookie Torrey Smith.

The loss hardly could be blamed on Flacco.

“I don’t know if I ever will prove anything,” he said. “I just play the same way. We lost; someone has to. But we laid it all out on the field.”

Operating against a porous secondary missing its top cornerback, Kyle Arrington, who left in the second quarter with an eye injury, Flacco gave Baltimore its first lead. His short pass on third down to explosive receiver Smith turned into a 29-yard scamper down the right sideline after Moore completely whiffed on the tackle.

Danny Woodhead’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff set up Baltimore at the Patriots 28, but a third-down sack forced Cundiff to kick a 39-yard field goal, making it 20-16.

New England didn’t flinch.

Brady took the Patriots 63 yards in 11 plays, and seemed to score on a 1-yard run. The call was overruled by replay, though, and on fourth-down, he dived just high enough over the line for the winning points.

“Every inch counts in this game and every foot counts in this game,” said 12-year veteran guard Brian Waters, who joined the Patriots this year and is headed to his first Super Bowl.

Defense was particularly dominant early on. The Patriots held Baltimore to minus-4 yards on its first three first-down runs and forced the Ravens to go three-and-out each time. Meanwhile, the Patriots put together a methodical 13-play, 50-yard drive helped greatly by an illegal contact penalty on Lardarius Webb that negated a tipped interception by Bernard Pollard.

But Brady was sacked for the first time by Paul Kruger and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 29-yard field goal.

Late in the first quarter, the Ravens changed tactics after Webb picked off a pass intended for Julian Edelman at the Baltimore 30. Flacco rolled right on first down and threw deep down the sideline to a wide-open Smith. Had the pass not been short, Smith likely would have sprinted into the end zone. Instead, it was a 42-yard gain, not bad at all given Baltimore’s previous ineptitude with the ball.

Cundiff’s 20-yard field goal momentarily tied it.

Brady, perhaps peeved by his poor throw that Webb picked off, hit two passes for 29 yards on a 75-yard drive to make it 10-3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 36 yards on that series, and also drew a personal foul against Webb, who ripped off the running back’s helmet on a short rush. Green-Ellis surged into the end zone from the 7, then pointed to the patch on his jersey honoring Myra Kraft, the late wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

In the locker room afterward, Kraft was asked about the motivation the team got from dedicating the season to his wife of 48 years. Kraft tapped an MHK pin on his left lapel and kissed his fingers before pointing upward.

“They’re an amazing team, they’re a great brotherhood, they’re a family,” Kraft said.

Going back to the pass, the Ravens tied it on a 6-yard throw to Pitta — yes, Baltimore has some dangerous tight ends, too — that concluded an 80-yard march. Flacco opened the drive with a 20-yard completion to Evans and then Anquan Boldin escaped Arrington’s attempted tackle to gain 37 more yards on a reception. Flacco was finding holes in New England’s coverage, particularly when he moved out of the pocket.

New England’s All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski made an error at the end of a 63-yard drive, failing to keep two feet in bounds on a catch. Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal made it 13-10.

Gronkowski left for a while with a left leg problem, but soon returned.

“It doesn’t even feel right, especially playing with the veterans here,” Gronkowski said. “I watched them go to the Super Bowl as I was growing up and now I’m part of it? It is an unreal moment.”

Notes: Brady won his 16th career postseason game to tie Joe Montana for most in NFL history. … New England’s seventh Super Bowl appearance puts it one behind Pittsburgh and Dallas. … The Patriots are 7-1 in AFC title games, 4-0 at home. … Brady and Belichick are the first QB-coach combination to win five conference championships in the Super Bowl era. … Baltimore was 7-0 against playoff teams this season before Sunday’s loss. … The Ravens finished 4-5 on the road. … In three career games against the Patriots, Rice averaged 145.7 yards, nearly double what he managed Sunday.

Madonna to Perform at Halftime of Super Bowl

by The Associated Press | December 7, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — The Material Girl will be taking the stage on football’s biggest night.

Madonna, who has sold more than 300 million records, will perform at halftime of the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The NFL and NBC announced Sunday during the Detroit-New Orleans game that the Grammy Award-winning singer will highlight the show at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 5.

The show is the most-watched musical event of the year, with more than 162 million in the U.S. tuning in to see The Black Eyed Peas’ performance with Slash and Usher in Dallas at halftime of Green Bay’s Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh last February.

Madonna, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, will join such acts as Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Prince, U2, Paul McCartney, The Who and the Rolling Stones to perform during recent Super Bowls. She will collaborate with a team from Cirque du Soleil, choreographer Jamie King, and artists from Moment Factory.

Madonna, currently in the studio working on a new album, has a new film “W.E.” which she directed, wrote and produced and will open nationally two days before the NFL’s signature event.

The Super Bowl and halftime show, sponsored by Bridgestone Americas, will be broadcast worldwide on NBC.

MVP Rodgers Leads Packers Past Steelers 31-25

by The Associated Press | February 9, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas – Absolutely no need to bring up Ol’ What’s His Name ever again. Aaron Rodgers is a Super Bowl

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers poses with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl XLV football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won the game 31-25. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

championship quarterback in his own right.

And he’s the game’s MVP, too. That’s an honor Brett Favre, his Green Bay Packers predecessor, never earned.

With precise passes and cool under pressure, Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday night to lead the Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers for Green Bay’s first NFL title since Favre’s in the January 1997 Super Bowl.

Rodgers is 27 years old, just as Favre was then. And after biding his time as a backup until the Packers split with Favre, Rodgers has quickly established himself as one of the game’s best. This was his third full season as a starting QB, and he was particularly good throughout the playoffs, leading the No. 6 seed Packers to three NFC road victories before winning the championship Sunday.

“I’ve never felt like there’s been a monkey on my back. The organization stood behind me, believed in me,” said Rodgers, general manager Ted Thompson’s first-round draft choice six years ago. “I told Ted back in 2005 he wouldn’t be sorry with this pick. I told him in ‘08 that I was going to repay their trust and get us this opportunity.”

Sure did, then made the most of it by throwing two TD passes to Greg Jennings and one to Jordy Nelson.

Don’t forget, Rodgers’ strong performance came against Pittsburgh’s defense, the one that limited opponents to a league-low 14.5 points per game this season, and the one that features NFL Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison.

“He is the reason they won,” Steelers defensive lineman Brett Keisel said.

Added Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin: “He showed his mettle and continued to stand in there and throw the football accurately.”

That’s not all Rodgers did. He changed plays at the last moment, reading the defense before the snap and adjusting. He overcame a poor start, a couple of key drops and a third-quarter lapse. And he did it all without the benefit of any help from a Packers running game that was limited to 50 yards.

“We put everything on his shoulders,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He did a lot at the line of scrimmage for us against a great defense.”

Rodgers was hardly perfect all game. But perhaps he could be forgiven if he was experiencing some jitters: After all, the guy only played in one playoff game in his career before this season.

“We kind of struggled at times on offense,” Rodgers said.

That’s true. He began the game by overthrowing receivers and generally being off-kilter, completing only one of his first five passes. But he knows a thing or two about slow starts.

Just look at Rodgers’ career arc. Despite record-setting years during high school in Chico, Calif., the skinny Rodgers — he was 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds back then — was not seriously recruited by major college football programs. That was OK, though. Never let it bother him.

Rodgers went to a community college. Then he starred for two seasons at California. Finally, he was on everyone’s radar, although he wound up sliding to when Green Bay picked 24th overall in 2005.

How good does that choice look now?

Against Pittsburgh, Green Bay’s second drive began with Rodgers overthrowing Jennings. And then? Rodgers couldn’t miss. He went 5 for 5 for 63 yards, finishing the possession with a 29-yard toss to Nelson.

“It was actually a screen play, but he (changed) to a go route,” said Nelson, who set a team record for yards receiving in a Super Bowl with 140. “That’s what we hit.”

And when they did, Rodgers simply raised both arms in the familiar “Touchdown!” signal, then briefly embraced guard Daryn Colledge. Rodgers is a generally laid-back guy, and he does not engage in any of that wild running around and helmet-slapping Favre was so famous for when he was the player Cheeseheads loved the most.

Late Sunday, it was clear who’s got their hearts now: Packers fans filled Cowboys Stadium with choruses of “Aa-ron Rodg-ers!” and “M-V-P!”

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, with his two previous Super Bowl championships, was supposed to be the one who would relish the grand stage. But while he was throwing two first-half picks, it was Rodgers who shined.

“I didn’t expect anything less from A-Rod,” Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji said.

Rodgers zipped a 21-yard pass down the middle to Jennings to put the Packers ahead 21-3. At that point, Rodgers was 11 for 16 for 137 yards and two TDs — making him 10 for 11 in the stretch that followed his rough start.

Early in the second half, though, Rodgers threw five consecutive incompletions. Drives were stalling. But Rodgers led a 55-yard touchdown drive after Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall fumbled.

On third-and-10, Rodgers connected with Nelson on a 38-yard catch-and-run, with the receiver eluding would-be tacklers. That set up Green Bay at Pittsburgh’s 3, and on first down, Rodgers showed good judgment, holding onto the ball when he appeared to be looking to throw a jump-pass. Instead of forcing matters, Rodgers took the sack.

On second-and-goal from the 8, Rodgers spun a spiral to Jennings in the far corner of the end zone to put the Packers ahead 28-17. After Pittsburgh pulled within three points, Rodgers led Green Bay right back down the field for a field goal. On one vital third down, he hit Jennings for 31 yards down the seam.

“Outstanding throw,” Jennings said.

Rodgers’ work was done.

After the Packers stopped the Steelers’ last drive, all he had to was walk on the field and kneel down to run out the clock. A short while later, Rodgers was clutching the Vince Lombardi Trophy, having joined Favre and Bart Starr as QBs who brought Super Bowl championships to the place they like to call Titletown USA.

The Half Time (Dirty Bit): The Review

by Dave Iannacone | February 9, 2011

Seeing as last week’s article was about the Super Bowl Half Time show, I wanted to write about something different this week.

he Black Eyed Peas are easily one of the most popular groups of the past few years, and have been known to put on a great show. Whether or not they lived up to the hype is a completely debatable topic. Without a doubt, the performance was a visual spectacle, starting with the foursome descending onto the stage kicking into their biggest hits.

However, this year’s performances, not just at half time, but throughout the whole event, were so noteworthy that I couldn’t resist.

The festivities kicked off with (somewhat unfortunately) the best musical performance of the night: Glee star Lea Michelle’s rendition of “American The Beautiful.” There wasn’t anything particularly exciting about the song, but she sang all of the right notes and didn’t over-sing the song, thus immediately putting her ahead of the pack. Next came the singing of the National Anthem, which can, on occasion, be just as exciting as the half time show. This year, Christina Aguilera had the honor of performing the song, which was pretty much guaranteed to be a success. Unfortunately, it was pretty much the complete opposite. Christina has been almost universally praised for her amazing vocal abilities and stage-presence, but she completely missed the mark this time around, to pretty much everyone’s surprise. The most glaring misstep was obviously her lyrical flub by singing, “What so proudly we watched” instead of “What so proudly we hailed,” but also missed some key notes and over sang pretty much the entire thing. Luckily, she didn’t look too shaken up about it, and the audience supported her all the way through.

As far as the half time performance, well this one was a doozey. The Black Eyed Peas are easily one of the most popular groups of the past few years, and have been known to put on a great show. Whether or not they lived up to the hype is a completely debatable topic. Without a doubt, the performance was a visual spectacle, starting with the foursome descending onto the stage kicking into their biggest hits “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow.” However, it was immediately apparent that the auto-tune was pretty much an awful decision for this kind of live venue, and Fergie didn’t seem to be finding the right notes. That proved to be one of the biggest downfalls of the show when former Guns N Roses guitarist made a pretty irrelevant cameo to perform “Sweet Child O’ Mine” with her. Outside of being a cliché song performed with a cliché guest guitarist, it did not fit in with the rest of their set at all. Fergie’s poor vocals were just the icing on the cake.

She was then re-joined by the rest of the group to perform their minor-hit “Pump It” along side a pretty much inaudible marching band followed by “Let’s Get It Started” featuring some more Fergaliciously awful vocals. Then group-leader will.i.am was left on stage alone kicking into the big (but currently totally irrelevant) Usher hit, “OMG” featuring (you guessed it!) Usher, himself. This was even more ridiculous than the Slash duet, because Will just kind of stood there throwing in a few adlibs while Usher sang a couple of notes over a backing track and performed one of his usual dance routines. It’s always nice to feature duets, but this one was completely pointless.

The entire stage was then transformed into the word “Love” (even through it may have taken a couple of reads to get it) where the group performed their break-through hit “Where Is the Love?” which kicked into their most recent single “The Time (Dirty Bit).” Luckily the latter was not heavily focused on before kicked back into “I Gotta Feeling” to close up the show. Overall, this would have been an incredible performance if watched on mute. This was visually one of the best Half Time shows I have ever seen, but musically probably the worst. The use of auto-tune just did not work, and the group’s only true vocalist just wasn’t singing well at all. The group’s lesser members, Taboo and apl.de.ap didn’t get much featured time (as usual) making this almost entirely a Will/Fergie-love fest. However, the staging was incredible; the dancers on the field did some amazing things in their light-up outfits, and the choreography was really spot on. It was really cool to see the stage start out relatively small and transform the way it did.

On the flip side, there wasn’t really anything in this performance that wasn’t just regurgitated textbook-B.E.P. From the Tron dancers to the entire mood of the performance, it was completely the same-old, same-old. Coming from a group that completely missed the mark with their current album, that just didn’t fly.

So although this year’s Super Bowl was (arguably) a great game, its music was pretty much just an awful experience.

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