And then there were four.
Harrison: The Final Four
Thirty-two teams have been whittled down to four. Elliot Harrison breaks down the matchups in each championship game. More ...
Considering that last week was the 30th anniversary of "The Catch" in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, the Niners' win over the Saints was particularly special. In fact, NFL Network re-aired that game last week. In related news, I chose to re-watch the 1992 NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and Cowboys -- also a classic and also played on the soggy floor of The 'Stick.
Seeing two great teams play outdoors, on a real field, actually hitting receivers over the middle while attacking the pocket aggressively, was nothing shy of awesome. The rules changes in the league just don't allow for games like the '81 and '92 championships anymore, which carries a bucket of irony since those Niner squads were always considered finesse teams.
Finesse is what you get when teams throw out of five-receiver spreads every other down. For once this season, that approach failed miserably. Well, except for those Patriots.
So let our special Championship Week rankings reflect the grim truth. And as always, let the dissension commence ...
San Francisco's success also goes to show that a team can win in the modern NFL without throwing three-yard outs all day in a spread offense.
Fittingly, the 4-3 defense, and this whole idea of getting pressure from just four down linemen, was created by one of the G-Men's own: Tom Landry. As New York's defensive coordinator from 1954-59, Landry spawned the scheme that much of modern defense is based upon. He -- like Buddy Ryan or any of the other great 4-3 innovators -- would've been extremely impressed with the manner in which the Giants won in Lambeau Sunday.
As far as jumping ahead of the Ravens in the rankings, look no further than Eli Manning's play. Over the last three games, he's gone 68-for-98 for 953 yards, nine touchdowns and one measly pick. That's a 126.8 aggregate passer rating. Wow.