Category Archives: NFL playoffs

The pulled Super Bowl commercial

This is the planned Super Bowl commercial that Fox, well, pulled. Can you imagine the uproar this would’ve caused had it been approved? My God.

That said, we came that close to witnessing a historic moment in television history, however crass it would’ve been.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, NFL, NFL playoffs, Sports, Super Bowl

Brees worthy of iconic status

For everyone who's been told "No..."

Peyton this, Peyton that.

It was clear who was supposed to win Super Bowl XLIV well before it started.

Maybe it was because the Indianapolis Colts were viewed across the board as the better team, or it might have been the two-week-and-beyond love affair with the Colts’ quarterback that had lulled the experts into believing that while the game might be close, the victor was pretty much all but decided.

Perhaps that’s because Peyton Manning, the four-time NFL MVP, is as good off the field as he is on it. Before he’s done between the white lines, Manning might be considered the greatest quarterback ever to play the game.

But that’s not the sole reason Manning is the face of the NFL. Far from it. He’s an ebullient television personality, moreso when the helmet and pads are off. His aw-shucks deprecating demeanor plays well in 30-second spots designed to make us chuckle, making him accessible to the masses — old and young, men and women, football fan and casual observer.

Drew Brees, however, is none of those things.

At least, not until Sunday night, when he cradled his 1-year-old son Baylen in his arms or lifted the boy into the rain of confetti. Confetti that Brees, not Manning, made descend down on the black and gold and fluer-de-lis.

A win for the Saints, a win for dedicated fans, and yes, a win for those who rallied around the team after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

But the win is also a vindication for Brees and his continuing — and until now, rather overshadowed — greatness. And in that sense, it may be something more.

Brees’ victory is a win for everyone who has been stepped on. For everyone who’s been told “No” too many times. For everyone who’s been left behind.

For everyone, who despite long odds and diminishing dreams, keeps grinding anyway, knowing that they are better than anything people may think of them.

For people like that, Manning and greats like him are untouchable. Unfathomable. No matter how commercials they are in playing the role of an everyday guy, they are unrelatable.

Not Brees.

Brees was a high school star in Austin, Texas, a pretty good state to be a star gunslinger — or a bad one, with the considerable talent that comes out of the Texas prep systems every year.

Brees wanted a chance to quarterback the beloved Longhorns, but standing 6-feet and with an arm few have ever classified as strong, he had to settle for the Big Ten and Purdue.

Brees never let on his disappointment, and made Purdue into an offensive juggernaut. He set Big Ten records in passing yards, touchdown passes, total offensive yards, completions and attempts, leading the Boilermakers to the Rose Bowl in 2001, Purdue’s first appearance there since 1967. He had two straight top-4 finishes in Heisman balloting and earned the Maxwell Award for the nation’s outstanding player of 2000.

And then came the NFL, where potential rewards players as No. 1 selections (Michael Vick) while others considered a bit too small, too unathletic, too closely associated with a specific system, are selected in a far more economical position, like the second round.

With the San Diego Chargers, Brees went through the expected growing pains of any young quarterback, only to watch the team trade for Philip Rivers on draft day two years later.

And so he got to work, and while Rivers held out of training camp, the Chargers were forced to start Brees. He took advantage, was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2004 and was his best in ’05 — before suffering a shoulder injury in the last game of the year.

The Chargers, ready to move on and away from a broken quarterback, lowballed Brees when he became a free agent. He generated interest only from Miami and New Orleans before the Dolphins broke off negotiations in favor of Daunte Culpepper.

The rest, now, is history.

Still, it needs to be remembered, that every level he’s competed at, Brees has found himself in the shadow of someone perceived to be better. Just in these playoffs, he matched wits with the best of his era — Kurt Warner, Brett Favre and Manning — and outplayed them all.

In their Super Bowl run, the Saints had been lifted as a symbol for the long-awaited recovery of an entire region, a place many would claim had been left for dead.

It turns out they had the right guy leading them all along.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, NFL, NFL playoffs, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl, The Sanford Herald

Super Bowl XLIV — before it happened

Maybe not the difference on Sunday.

Editor’s Note: This is my preview of Super Bowl XLIV. And by preview, I wanted to try to give an actual, you know, preview of what I think might happen. Here is one man’s vision of how the Colts and Saints will play out. It ends like any game does — with a winner.

For the first 20 minutes or so, it wasn’t much of a game.

Not a blowout. Not saying that. Just two teams overwhelmingly prepared — maybe too prepared. Nothing broke loose, and the two big-play offenses seemed a little stagnant. A first down here and there, but more punts than fans would have liked.

One touchdown, scored by the New Orleans Saints on their first drive, the opening series of the game. But you can never take too much from the first drive — those first 15 plays are always scripted. And besides, Peyton Manning nearly answered, and would have had Pierre Garcon held on for the touchdown. Instead, the ensuing drive resulted in a Matt Stover 31-yard field goal.

Not much after that, though. A turnover by each team, but the defenses held. Drew Brees ran a nice 2-minute offense down the field at the end of the half, which netted a field goal, and a 10-3 Saints lead at the break.

Kind of surprising really. Just about everybody figured this would be a shootout.

Then came the second half.

As if he’d gone over game film while The Who was blasting through “Won’t Get Fooled Again” — and look, he’s Peyton Manning, so maybe he did — the Colts looked sharp on the first series of the second half. They found the end zone, on a 1-yard plunge by Joseph Addai, and knotted it up at 10.

Looking back, that may have broken the seal. Even though the Saints didn’t answer right off the bat, neither did the Colts after forcing the three-and-out. But New Orleans got the ball back, and with Dwight Freeney stuck on the sideline after a nondescript and limp-filled first half, Brees found Reggie Bush over the middle on a slant, which went from a nice little 8-yard gain to a 67-yard touchdown.

Manning didn’t let that slide, though. Indy marched 74 yards on five plays, and there was no stopping Garcon on his 5-yard slant. Tied at 17, 4 minutes left in the third quarter.

And now, we’ve got a heavyweight fight. The league’s two best teams throwing haymakers.

With little-to-no pass rush, Brees is picking apart an Indy secondary that features a rookie who was once third on the depth chart.

Manning, though, after shaking off a couple of close-but-not-quite-dirty hits in the first half, is gesturing at the line like he always does — and now is killing the blitz. Reggie Wayne might be a little gimpy with his sore knee, but Garcon and Austin Collie look like Pro Bowlers. They seem so wide open.

Brees and Marques Colston. Manning and Dallas Clark. It’s 24-all heading into the last half of the fourth quarter.

Saints with the ball. They pound it a couple of times with Pierre Thomas. Third-and-five, Brees finds Lance Moore over the middle for the first down. Move the chains.

Pound it again. Mike Bell gets the call. They don’t want to leave too much time for Manning. But it’s third-and-7 now, at midfield, and time to go to the air.

Here come the Colts, rushing off the edges. Brees escapes Robert Mathis’ grasp and keeps rolling to his right.

Then he sees him. Colston streaks across the field, coming from the left and down to the right corner near the end zone. He’s behind safety Antoine Bethea. Brees heaves, and Colston hauls it in for the touchdown. 31-24, Saints.

2:31 to go, though.

Manning’s in the shotgun. He’s hollering what may or may not be instructions. Who really knows?  Maybe they are audibles, maybe they are dekes. Maybe a little of both.

Whatever they are, he’s working his magic again, magic that wasn’t there four years ago. This looks like the second half against the Jets in the AFC Championship — or the second half of that AFC title game against Brady and Patriots.

Colts are marching. A chunk here. Another chunk there. Piece by piece. Moving chains. Down to the red zone.

Of course.

This is it, here, 43 seconds left. Manning drops back, looks left, pumps, goes back to his right.

Wayne, in the right corner, closely defended.

Doesn’t matter. Wayne leaps. The ball is there, just over the outstretched right hand of Tracy Porter.

Tied again. 31-31. Incredible throw.

Saints try a couple of desperation heaves in the middle of the field. Too many yards, too little time. Brees takes a knee and regulation runs out.


Saints win the toss. Hope rises again now. We’ve marveled at Manning, can say for sure that he’s one of the greatest, that nothing he did on this night cost the Colts anything. Maybe it’s just karma for Katrina. All they need is a field goal.

Brees takes the snap, turns and hands off to Thomas. Careful and precise, the Saints pick up a first down on two plays. Bubble screen to Bush nets another five yards. Handoff to Thomas, and it’s third-and-two. Slant to Colston. First down.

They move past midfield. Just 20 more yards and they have a chance. Two first downs, and the Super Bowl could be theirs.

They get there — and stall.

Fourth-and-4 from the 30. It’s a 47-yard attempt. Garrett Hartly trots out. He hit a 40-yarder in OT  to send the Saints to Miami.

But he’s kicked just 14 field goals all year.

Move over Scott Norwood. This one just went wide right.

He didn’t miss by much, but Manning doesn’t miss at all. Taking over on their own 37, the Colts move methodically. A 6-yard pass play to Clark. Seven to Collie. Over the middle to Garcon. He’s spreading it around.

The Colts drive to the 31. Then the 20. Two rushing plays up the middle puts them at the 18. Manning trots off and hands it over to the 20-year veteran Stover on third down, just in case something goes wrong with the snap.

It doesn’t. Snap. Spot. Kick.


Colts win, 34-31.

Alex Podlogar is The Herald’s sports editor. Reach him at and at (919) 718-1222. Read his blog at

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, NFL, NFL playoffs, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl, The Sanford Herald

The PODcast — Super Bowl XLIV edition″

Alex Podlogar and Ryan Sarda break down Super Bowl XLIV and make their picks before Alex launches into a diatribe over North Carolina basketball. Things settle down with an upbeat Bobcats segment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, New Orleans Saints, NFL, NFL playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels, Virginia Tech Hokies, WDCC 90.5 FM

The PODcast, Jan 29″

The guys break down local hoops before some NFL quarterback talk about Kurt Warner, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, who Ryan says may become the best ever. After that, it’s North Carolina and Duke basketball and a quick nod to the Charlotte Bobcats.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Arizona Cardinals, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Charlotte Bobcats, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Grace Christian, Lee Christian, Lee County High School, N.C. State Wolfpack, NFL, NFL playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, Tri-9 Conference, UNC Tar Heels, WDCC 90.5 FM

The PODcast, Jan. 20, 2010

Jump onto the Bobcats' winning bandwagon here.″

Sanford’s top-rated sports talk radio show breaks down NFL Championship Sunday, discusses the best — and worst — Super Bowl storylines, then ponders the problems facing UNC basketball before an extended edition of the Kitty Corner. Jump on the winning Bobcats Bandwagon here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Brett Favre, Charlotte Bobcats, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, NBA, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, NFL, NFL playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels, WDCC 90.5 FM

The PODcast, Jan. 6, 2010

OK, so maybe they aren't picking Tony Romo and Cowboys to win the Super Bowl, but the PODcast guys have Dallas beating Philly.″

Sanford’s top sports talk radio show looks at the second half of the boys’ basketball seasons for the area teams before breaking down the BCS, the first round of the NFL playoffs and UNC hoops. Then, it’s the long-awaited return of the Kitty Corner.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, BCS, BCS Championship, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Charlotte Bobcats, College Basketball, College Football, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Lee Christian, Lee County High School, NBA, NFL, NFL playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, Tri-9 Conference, WDCC 90.5 FM

The 12 sports (notes) of Christmas

It’s that time of year.

No, not the holiday season.

Well, OK, it is the holiday season, but it’s something else, too.

The end of the year.

And with the end of the year comes columns and columns of lame lists reflecting on the past year.

So here’s mine.

The carefully crafted image.

12 Mistresses flirting

Actually, at last count, the number is up to about 15 women who have claimed an affair with Tiger Woods. His astonishing fall from grace has supplanted Barry Bonds and baseball’s steroid rage as the story of the decade, and it’s become impossible to turn away. And the story is far from over — when will Tiger come back to golf? (Three weeks before the Masters.) What kind of player will he be when he returns? (Dominant — and angry.) When will Elin divorce him? (Finalized July 2010, the week before Tiger wins by 1,476 shots at St. Andrews.) Will we ever revere athletes to this degree again? (Yes, as evident in last week’s fawning Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year article on Derek Jeter.)

Sports' biggest heartbreak — if you don't count Elin Nordegren.

11-footer misses

Tom Watson, at 59, was on the cusp of perhaps the greatest sporting achievement in history until his approach shot from the 18th fairway took an improbable high bounce over the green. He chipped and needed to make a putt for par to win the British Open by a stroke, but missed badly and faded in a playoff to Stewart Cink. It was sports’ most devastating near-miss in… well, maybe ever. (I still can’t talk about this out loud. I thought about not including this at all. It hurt just to write it. Let’s just move on.)

Could've written more about Jimmie, but I mentioned Danica...

10 Boring races

NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup doesn’t seem like it will have much drama as long as Jimmie Johnson is around. Until Danica wrecks him…


9 Yankees spending

A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia, Burnett, Rivera, Damon, Matsui, Posada, Teixeira — nine Yankees players made at least $13 million for last season. (Andy Pettitte just missed the cut at $10 million). They cruised to the World Series title, their first in eight years, and while baseball isn’t as much about the money as we’re led to believe — yes, it’s about the money, but not just the money — the Yankees’ ability to cash in (or should it be cash out?) during last season’s hot stove period helped push them to the top again.

Wheelin', dealin' — and losin'.

8 Bobcats trades

In his continued effort to make the Charlotte Bobcats relevant, Larry Brown has overhauled the roster three times over with a wide array of trades. So far, relevance eludes all, aside from one particular local sports talk radio show. (Note: this number could be nine, it could be seven, it could be 10, it could be six. Like I said, relevance eludes them. So let’s just say eight. Nobody cares; it’s the Bobcats.)

C'mon, the Pac Man-Mayweather fight better happen.

7 Title belts

Manny Pacquiao may be on the verge of resurrecting boxing all by himself (with a little help from Floyd Mayweather Jr. in March 2010). In 2009, Pac-Man was busy, destroying Ricky Hatton before demolishing Miguel Cotto for his seventh title, a first in the sport.

Now if only he could move up from welterweight to heavyweight, boxing would be back.

The best in 2009.

6 Tourney blowouts

North Carolina came into the college basketball season as a heavy favorite to win the NCAA championship. The Tar Heels lived up to the billing, winning each tournament game by at least 12 points, setting an NCAA record for something other than time outs unused.

Jake — and the Panthers — are done.

5 Cardinals picks

The end of the 2008 Carolina Panthers season only foreshadowed what was to come in 2009. When Jake Delhomme was picked off five times against Arizona in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, a 12-4 team built on defense and the running game went meekly into the night. Now, without hope for a savior at QB for a long time to come, the Panthers may be headed for darker times. I’m sure Chris Weinke is available.

No words needed.

4 Wins in Cameron

I know, I know. Another Tar Heels’ reference, this one about the four straight wins the Class of Hansbrough enjoyed at Duke. And yes, I could’ve gone with Jimmie Johnson here.

Whatever. My school. My column.


3 Drug tests failed

Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Three titans of the game.

Three cheaters.


2 Feet a-dragging

Remember when it seemed every Super Bowl ended in a 55-10 drubbing? Not lately. A year after the Eil and Tyree Miracle, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled, then lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone. Santonio Holmes made a fingertip grab and tippy-toed his cleats in bounds to cap a thrilling last-minute drive to lift the Pittsburgh Steelers past the Cardinals and ensure that the apocalypse would be held off for at least another year. (’Cause surely the end would be nigh if the Cards ever win the Super Bowl, right? It’s in Revelation somewhere, I think.)

Addition by subtraction?

And a new team for Milton Bradley

Chicago Cubs fans are, by nature, a hopeful bunch. So maybe now after the team has found somewhere other than 1060 West Addison for the clubhouse cancer of all clubhouse cancers to play ball, fans of the North Siders won’t be singing the wait-til-next-year blues at spring training. (Too bad their current optimism is just the egg nog — or Old Style — talking.)

Happy holidays.


Filed under Alex Podlogar, Alex Rodriguez, Arizona Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, British Open, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Cubs, College Basketball, Danica Patrick, David Ortiz, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Golf, Jimmie Johnson, Major League Baseball, Manny Ramirez, NASCAR, NBA, New York Yankees, NFL, NFL playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl, The Sanford Herald, Tom Watson, Tyler Hansbrough, UNC Tar Heels, World Series

The PODcast, Nov. 11, 2009″

Sanford’s only sports talk radio show — featuring the triumphant return to the studio of Ryan Sarda – caps the Southern Lee soccer season and delves into the lousy ACC football season, the lousy Carolina Panthers season and the lousy Kitty Corner segment. Wait, not lousy, another Kitty Corner segment.

Leave a comment

Filed under ACC, Alex Podlogar, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, Designated Hitter, NFL, NFL playoffs, Northwood, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Rant, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels, WDCC 90.5 FM, Western Harnett

The PODcast — Nov. 4, 2009″

Sanford’s only sports talk radio breaks down Lee County’s big win last week, closes the book on Southern Lee’s football season and then goes into the World Series, a bit of NASCAR and the Panthers. And of course, the Kitty Corner.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Alex Rodriguez, Burton Cates, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, Designated Hitter, Eric Puryear, Lee County High School, Major League Baseball, N.C. playoff brackets, N.C. State Championships, NBA, New York Yankees, NFL, NFL playoffs, Philadelphia Phillies, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Rant, The Sanford Herald, Tri-9 Conference, Union Pines, WDCC 90.5 FM, Western Harnett, World Series