Beware The Patriots

Giants or Patriots?
Patriots or Giants?

I would have thought, immediately after the Conference title games of last Sunday, that the Patriots would have been favored going into the Super Bowl. And from what I have been able to gather, that's the way the early line went, New England favored by 3 1/2 and there has been some movement, but not much, and it is now 3.

But listen to sports talk radio and the conversation is all about the Giants. About a day after the games last week, all the talk seemed to be how the Giants really have the edge in the upcoming NFL championship. Former Giants players are interviewed, current Giants players are interviewed, the 2008 Super Bowl, in which the Giants beat the 18-0 Patriots, is re-hashed, the Patriots shaky defense is broken down and left broken. It sounds like there is a rush to announce to the world, "Not so fast, my friends! The Giants can win the Super Bowl!"

What if he plays better in the Super Bowl than
he did in the AFC title game?
And the response to that is, "Well, yeah, they can win the game, nobody said they couldn't." But while the whole world is looking over at the Giants have you noticed nobody is talking about the Patriots? Have you noticed the Patriots are not talking. Well, except where quarterback Tom Brady said he would play better. And I guess that was supposed to be a private conversation.

I think it's possible that the Patriots go into "nobody believes in us" mode. Now, that's a little hard to do when you are still a 3-point favorite, but Coach Belichik has the knack for building unity in a professional team like few other coaches. He can talk them into thinking nobody believes in them and preparing like it. It is possible this game may not be as close as we are presently expecting. Remember what happened after Spygate a few years ago? After being punished by the NFL, the Patriots played like they were possessed for the next few weeks, and were obliterating people.

I'm anticipating something similar this coming week. I think the Patriots won't be just playing to win. I think they will be playing to make a statement.


AFC Title Game Notebook

I had time on Sunday to jot some notes as I watched the AFC title game contested between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots. Now I'm going to write all that stuff again right here. It must have been really good stuff.

First Quarter
3:51 - The Patriots are going to win. (I didn't think of keeping notes of the game until this point. Don't worry, you didn't miss anything.)
3:41 - Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is intercepted. I went looking for art to illustrate this column and was surprised to find I don't have any Tom Brady cards. So I pulled an image from a book I have.
3:25 - Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finds a guy wide open for 42 yards. I still say the Patriots will win. By the way, when you type 'Flacco', it feels like a misspelled word.
1:57 - I love that architectural feature of Gillette Stadium, the iron arch that spans an opening on one end of the field. So cool. It's shown in the lower center-right of this link.
1:51 - "Blindside" guy, Michael Oher, just rolled his ankle. Bet he didn't see that one coming.

Second Quarter
14:27 - Baltimore was lucky to be in that spot, 4th and 1 on the New England 3, and they didn't go for the first down/touchdown. They may not get back there again - you never know. The Patriots appear to be the better team, so Baltimore should have gone for it. Again, the Pats will win.

12:53 - Looks like Brady is just a touch off, just missing his guys.
12:01 - Brady finally hits a tight end right, Rob Gronkowski, on the button.
10:57 - It's always a relief to not see a head inside those helmets that go rolling around on the field.
10:35 - BenJarvus Green-Ellis, whose head was not inside the helmet that was just on the ground, executes a nifty run for a touchdown. Got the handoff, hesitated, found his blocks, and then ran, nearly untouched, for a 7-yard score.

6:42 - Looking at Flacco, I'm wondering who were the best players to wear the number 5 in the NFL? It's not that common for playmakers. Paul Hornung comes to mind.

I like the Verizon commercial that features R2-D2 - pretty clever. "It's like a million dollars in gas."

3:00 - PATRIOTS 13, RAVENS 10
3:00 - The fact is, New England's defense has not been outstanding this year. Baltimore may be good enough to make this a game.

Third Quarter
9:06 - PATRIOTS 16, RAVENS 10. (I was thinking, but didn't note, that this would be when New England begins to pull away for an easy win. Hmmm.)
3:38 - I think the Ravens' receiver, Torrey Smith, was out of bounds and they are reviewing the play right now. It's 16-16 pending the review.

A Masters commercial in January? In other words, CBS doesn't have the Super Bowl this year. They last had it in 2010 (Saints 31, Colts 17) and will have it next year (Seahawks 81, Broncos 6).
3:36 - The ensuing kickoff return is fumbled by Danny Woodhead and recovered by Baltimore. Kathy says, "Uh-oh. Your team is going to pot."
1:41 - CBS keeps showing Woodhead on the bench between each Ravens play.
0:50 - Baltimore field goal is good.

Fourth quarter
12:19 - Quarterback sneak and Brady is into the end zone for a go-ahead TD - unless it is overturned. And it is.
11:29 - Brady up and over for a touchdown. Patriots get to keep that one.

It's turnover time.
7:22 - And there it is. Flacco gets picked by Brandon Spikes.
7:07 - And the Patriots give it right back. Brady gets picked by Jimmy Smith.
4:55 - The Ravens are in field goal range.
2:55 - It's 4th and 6 on Patriots 33 and the Ravens are going for it. Or not. Time out is called. They do go for it but Flacco's pass is incomplete. The Patriots wind up taking over on downs.

I just CAN NOT take the new Hawaii Five-O seriously. Neither does Steve McGarrett.  The real one.
2:18 - Did the Ravens get anything out of Anquan Boldin today? Answer: Yes. Six catches for 101 yards.
1:44 - Here is the game. New England just executed a nifty three-and-out, so the Ravens have one more shot at it.
1:20 - On a 3rd and 5, a pass completed to, who else, Anquan Boldin. Thirteen yards to the Ravens 39 and a first down.
1:05 - Mayo on Rice, a recipe for an incomplete pass.
0:50 - On a 3rd and 1 from the 48, Flacco completes a pass to Boldin who tears down the sideline to the 23 yard line. Boldin got 60 yards here in this last series, so that's why it seemed he hadn't done much when I asked the question earlier.
0:23 - Pass incomplete to Lee Evans in the end zone. Looked like a TD to me.
0:15 - Field goal attempt to tie the game is - - - NO GOOD. Are you kidding me? Welcome to Scott Norwood's world, Billy Cundiff. Unreal.

Later, the Giants beat the 49ers in overtime to win the NFC title. So to sum up the Super Bowl semi-finals: one missed field goal, one made field goal, and two Harbaughs out.



I was touched the other day by a customer's name.

I can't remember his first name, it might have been Kenneth. But his other two names were Eghosi Eke. I was looking at his ID and asked him how he pronounced his middle name. He told me and, it's pronounced pretty much as it appears, "egg-hosey", but it's a hard 's', not a 'z' sound. Then I asked if his name meant something and I asked that question because he was a native of Africa and I was nearly 100 percent certain that it did have a meaning. I was right and what a meaning.

It means "God's way is the best way". If you know us, you know the last year has been challenging and, headed into 2012, we are uncertain about a number of things. We have been talking about plans and how best to attack the new year. We have been praying and seeking God.

Then, standing before me was prophecy personified. The man's name - "God's way is the best way". It was an affirmation that our God has not forgotten us, He knows all about our trial, and, indeed, has sent us into it. It is His way. And it is best.


Life From a Dry Tree

The Lord was pleased to touch my heart this past Sunday during our pastor's sermon. His text was Isaiah 56:1-57:21. What meant the most to me was the gospel-drenched first eight verses of chapter 56:

1 Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my righteousness be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.”

What touched me was the part about God's kindness toward the eunuch. The eunuch has no hope of having any family heritage. He is, in a sense, a counterpart to Sarah, the wife of Abraham. However, as in Sarah's case, God promises the eunuch a heritage. Granted, Sarah's was physical, in the form of Isaac, but God promises to give the eunuch a monument and a name better than sons and daughters (verse 5). God, as He often does, is telling us to see things differently, to value things differently. The everlasting name that God gives is better than sons and daughters as the world evaluates them.

God, as He has done so many times before, brings life out of lifelessness. Like when He saved me.