Unbeaten New England at unbeaten Indianapolis. The NFL’s best two teams meeting for AFC superiority and possibly home-field advantage in the AFC championship game. This game at 3:15 p.m. Sunday on CBS really needs no hype. CBS also will have a new toy for the game: a FreezeCam system that enables it to replay game action, then “freeze” the action while zooming in, out or around the frame, to show players setting up for a given play.
CBS’ main announce team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms and studio analyst Bill Cowher discussed the matchup earlier this week in a media conference call. Some of the highlights:
On “Spygate” controversy fueling New England this season:
Jim Nantz: I don’t think that there is any question that what they are doing on the field is totally related to what happened at the end of Week 1. All of us in the media took that opportunity to go back and review and somehow attach what happened in the “Spygate” episode and try to take it so far as to say that this stained their three championships. How did they win? Oh, no wonder they won, because they cheated. So now they have had their championships, their integrity, called into question. Maybe it is not verbalized in the sacred setting of the locker room, where it is just the coach and staff and 53 players, maybe it is not something that has to be talked about, but I think they have all internalized it. I think they are inflicting that punishment on a weekly basis with that right at their very core.
On Patriots running up the score:
Bill Cowher: This is a football team that plays with a tremendous sense of purpose and focus. I’m not so sure that when they’re out there they are even looking at the scoreboard. The fact that you have some of your premier players in the game with the margins being what they are is Bill’s (Belichick) prerogative. That is his decision. The risk that he’s taking is that one of those guys could get hurt in those situations. That is his decision as a coach and he has the right to do that. This is a team that is playing with a tremendous sense of purpose every time they step on the field and Bill has them playing that way right now.
On keys to victory:
Phil Simms: What could be the difference, and I NEVER say, because I am not just one that is all about the quarterback, I just don’t fall into the trap, but it could come down to which quarterback is just in a groove that day. It could be that close. By in a groove, I mean throwing it into windows that are not big, the velocity, the accuracy, it’s all there…Quarterbacks are a lot like pitchers. They have days when they can’t get that rhythm or they’re just missing a little bit. Peyton Manning down in Carolina last week. Physically it took him a while and he had some throws that you just don’t see him make. Look at Tom Brady last year in the playoffs at times. In Indianapolis he didn’t throw the ball physically as well as he is capable of throwing it. There are so many great components to this game, that it just might come down to which one of them is having that great day.
On whether Patriots have become a team that people love to hate:
Nantz: If there is a good guy and a bad guy set up in this game, I really think the bad guy would be New England with the whole running up the score chatter that is out there today…They’ve gone from that team that was very likeable and the underdog to where now there is this awe factor. I know that all coaches and players are programmed not to look ahead, but sometimes I can’t help myself as a fan. And if you start thinking about New England, if it gets past this game, there are a couple of spots there that they are going to be tested, they’ve got Pittsburgh at Foxborough in December, but now would be the proper time to start thinking about this team in some sort of context. They have the chance to be the ultimate super team…How well though it sets up for Indianapolis? You win 12 games in row including beating New England in the AFC title game. You win the Super Bowl. You’re undefeated this year. The last two weeks you have been pressed to go on the road in a six day stretch, both against teams with winning records, and you blow them out on both occasions. Now you get to come home to your own building and you’re a 4 ½-point underdog. You want somebody to give you a chip on the shoulder? Well, there it is.