Seven Things Punch-Out!! Taught Me about the NFL Conference Championship Games
I love video games. I love sports. When I can find a chance to marry the two, I'm the happiest gamer in the world.
One of my favorite games growing up was Punch-Out!!. It was the one game my dad and I would play while waiting for the Game of the Week to come on every Sunday afternoon.
That said, I've learned a lot from my days as a gamer, and I figured it'd be interesting to see how the Conference Championship Games matched up against the greatest game in the NES library.
Let's break it down.
The Best Offense Is a Great Offense
When a strategy doesn’t work, a pummeling just might.
A lot of talk going into the AFC Championship game was about how the Jets D was going to manhandle Peyton Manning and the Colts' aerial attack, much like they did Cincinnati and San Diego's offensive-heavy teams.
Admittedly, a lot of that talk came from the desk of Rex Ryan, but the sentiment was still there: New York and the entire whole of Revis Island were about to blast Manning through the Lucas Oil Stadium skylight, leaving nothing but a cartoon-shaped imprint of No. 18 in their wake.
And for the first half, they did just that.
But something happened when Round Two began. After eating linebacker sweat for two straight plays, Manning finally came to the realization that, yes, he is Peyton Manning, and that, yes, pummeling the ball down the Jets’ D was the best way to beat them.
The proof is in the line score. Prior to taking those two sacks, Indy was down 17-6. They then put up 24 unanswered points and sent the best defense in the league back to New York with a horseshoe imprint on their @ss.
The Colts ditched their traditional run game after Joseph Addai fumbled, and the aerial attack never let up. When it was all said and done, Manning had racked up 377 passing yards and three TDs for a QB rating of 123.6.
It’s a game the Colts have played before. In September, they controlled the ball for only 15 minutes against a relentless Miami Dolphins defense...and still won.
Glass Joe would disagree, but the best teams always find a win—even if it means knocking the croissants out of your opponent.
It Takes One Punch to Take Down a Bull
So you’re Brett Favre. No matter how many knocks you’ve taken, you still won’t go down, and it’s becoming pretty obvious to every Cajun in the Bayou that things aren’t lookin' so hot.
So there you are being all Favrey, driving your team down the field for a late-game drive that puts your kicker in a position to send your team to the Super Bowl. It’s what you came back for. It’s what drives you to keep going, even after those little runts in black have hit you with all they’ve got.
Then you go in for the kill...and take a straight punch to the gut.
You tumble back, knowing that you’ve just done the one thing you should never, ever do: forget that you’re known for late-game INTs that kill your team’s chances.
And that’s where the Favre story ends. Maybe. This is a guy who can’t be confined to touch football in a Wrangler commercial. But if Sunday was his last moment, he will have ended his tenure with the Vikings, Jets, and Packers with INTs.
The moral of the story? Wait for the three-step drop, then take down the Bull with a shot to the gut.
It took Little Mac to Super Macho Man, and it took the Saints to the Super Bowl.
Every Defense Has Its Weak Spot
I’m sorry, Jets fans. I had to.
The possibility of a grind-it-out game between the Colts and the Jets looked like a very real possibility going into Sunday.
New York, like Indy, decided to rely on the brute strength of their D, but forgot one tiny component: Communication is still king.
The key to beating Peyton Manning is to attack without blitzing. When pressured, Manning becomes erratic, but if attacked straight on, the man completes 68 percent of his passes.
Suddenly, they took shot after shot to the jaw, exposing their weak spot just enough for Manning to put up 30 points—several of which came on TD completions with virtually zero coverage.
The vaunted Jets D was exposed, and their entire game plan sputtered to a crawl.
There was no rest for Revis and company in the second half, and soon enough, the punches grew faster and harder until the Big Green Beast came down.
Mario Hates You
One of my biggest complaints of Punch-Out!! as a kid was the fact that, in the later rounds, Referee Mario would never award you a decision, no matter how much you dominated the fight.
This sentiment was shared by anyone who played the Steelers in the Super Bowl last decade. On Sunday, it was shared by everyone in Minnesota.
Several times during OT of the NFC Championship Game, the refs made calls that left the world wondering if they were taking shots with Soda Popinski during the half.
The most notable call was the 12-yard pass interference penalty against Ben Leber, but the Robert Meacham catch stands out because not only was the catch questioned, but the spot of the ball as well.
All three times, the calls favored New Orleans, bringing back memories of my frustrated childhood battles between my talent and Mario’s bias.
The calls didn’t kill Minnesota the same way the Favre INT did, but it did make it harder by not giving Favre another chance to ever take the field.
The Colts had better hope that the Saints don’t make their way to Miami via the Mushroom Kingdom.
New Orleans Is Loud
Like, really loud.
The in-house decibel reader on the field at the Superdome read 108. To give you an idea of how loud that is, cup your hand and pop yourself in the ear about 15 to 20 times really, really hard.
Actually, please don't: The music on Bourbon Street should be heard by everyone at least once. If you've already had the pleasure, pop away.
That kind of noise wreaks havoc on the mind, much like Don Flamenco's jig before every fight. You're mesmerized by it. It pulls you in, and before you know it, you're staring at the wrong end of a boxing glove while your opponent does a two-step on your face.
The Vikings handled the noise pretty well. It's been widely reported that a lot of the players wore earplugs and on several occasions even taped up the holes in their helmets.
Remember how communication is king? It makes a me wonder how that kind of lack of communication can hinder a team.
Playing in the Metrodome, the Vikings have benefited from that sort of crowd response for years. Turned against them, one can debate for eternity how it affected their play.
Either way, Bourbon Street is jumpin', and you can't hear it because you actually listened to me.
Not to worry. Just stare at Flamenco's picture. That always brightens my day.
The Favre Question, Part III
Take it from fans of The Matrix, Back to the Future, and The Godfather: The third act usually sucks.
Brett Favre should take note, as he's now about to enter his third straight offseason with questions about his future looming overhead.
But Favre has bounced back each time—and done so in style.
Coming so close to another Super Bowl might be just what the gunslinger needs to try again. In Punch-Out!!, getting back to the top meant having to go through Mr. Sandman again.
Lucky for Brett, the Sandman hasn't called on his skills just yet.
Wait and see.
Watch for the Right Hook
New Orleans comes into the Super Bowl riding the Feel Good Wave, while Indianapolis comes in having decimated everyone in their path who they felt like beating.
It's Guts n' Glory versus Tried and True, and it's what NFL fans were clamoring for since both teams were undefeated.
New Orleans' "all-or-nothing" defensive scheme might just be the thing that pressures Manning to make mistakes.
Indianapolis' well-balanced offense and crushing D might just steamroll the Saints for another Super Bowl championship.
Like Dream/Mac, the game pits the new and vindicated against the purest talent on Earth.
New Orleans will have to do everything it can to keep Manning and the Colts from developing a rhythm, just as Indianapolis will have to find ways to stop Drew Brees from tearing up their secondary.
Whoever wins, the NFL fans will get the matchup they wanted, and with any luck, this game will come down to the final drive.
Just watch out for the hook. It's a killer.