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« Week 14 Championship »

Baltimore Sunk, November 21, 2010
Turnovers Doom Bolts in 24-21
Playoff Loss to Connecticut

McNabb Fumbles Away Golden Opportunity
in 4th Right After Barnett’s Sack, Recovery

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by Chet Peake
In their long-awaited return to the EFL playoffs, Donovan McNabb and the Bolts’ offense were sloppy with the ball and failed to convert on third downs. Ultimately, 4 turnovers doomed them to a disappointing 24‑21 defeat to the visiting Connecticut Comets.

Vincent Jackson lost two fumbles, one at the Connecticut 18, to end the Bolts’ first possession, and the other midway through the 3rd quarter, with the score knotted at 14. Following that fumble the Comets drove 52 yards to take the lead for good on a 3rd down, 4-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Jermichael Finley.

Desperate for a spark, the Bolts got one with 12:14 to go when Nick Barnett sacked Brady, Brady fumbled, and Barnett recovered at the Connecticut 24. The spark was extinguished on the next play: Justin Tuck left Phil Loadholt flatfooted and knocked the ball from McNabb’s grasp. Brandon Chillar recovered for Connecticut.

On the ensuing drive the Bolts’ defense lost its composure. Trent Cole and Dannell Ellerbe were called for roughing Brady on consecutive plays, enabling Connecticut to get the Nate Kaeding field goal that be the eventual difference in the game.

The Bolts broke a 7‑7 tie late in the first half. To do that they needed to take their own points off the board. Jeff Reed kicked a 31-yard field goal with 0:22 left, but the Comets were offsides on the kick. Baltimore accepted the penalty, and on the next play Ahmad Bradshaw slipped away from coverage and caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from McNabb. With the Bolts to that point having held the Comets to 92 yards, Baltimore’s 14‑7 halftime lead seemed relatively healthy.

It wasn’t.

 

Wilmington Snooze-Terminal, November 22, 2010
Jackson Smokes Cherries,
Syracuse Advances, 36-30

Speedster Scores 3 TDs, 2 on Punt
Returns, Comeback Falls Short

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by Rip Snorter
The mercurial DeSean Jackson and the Syracuse Crush denied the Cherries’ bid to host a 3rd consecutive EFL championship game. Jackson took 2 punts to the house in the first half, his 8th and 9th of the season, and added a 29-yard touchdown catch in the 3rd quarter to propel the Crush to a 33‑7 lead. To their credit the Cherries mounted a frenzied comeback in the 4th quarter, but they couldn’t make the game close soon enough to matter, and Syracuse prevailed, 36‑30.

The Crush advanced to the championship game where they’ll face the Comets at Connecticut Sunday, looking to do as they did in 2006 — win the title as the wildcard without any home playoff games.

Philip Rivers, who threw for 382 yards last month in Syracuse as the Cherries beat the Crush, was awful in the first half: He completed only 10 of 26 passes for 106 yards. Early in the 2nd quarter he made a poor decision trying to force a screen pass to Ray Rice, resulting in an interception by Shawne Merriman and great field position for Syracuse at the Delaware 13. Two plays later Aaron Rodgers hit Brent Celek at the goal line, giving the Crush a 14‑0 lead. At the half the Cherries were down 23‑7, having gotten on the scoreboard only by virtue of Jackson’s charity — a muffed punt recovered by Tony Richardson at the Syracuse 22.

Delaware’s rally was punctuated by touchdowns and 2-point conversions by Ray Rice and Sidney Rice, Stefan Logan’s 83-yard kickoff return to the Crush 2, and Lee Evans’ subsequent touchdown catch with just 8 ticks remaining. The miracle the Cherries needed at that point eluded them as Celek gobbled up John Kasay’s onside kick and Rodgers knelt in victory formation.

Coach Jon Brams’ decision to have Kasay kick deep with 5:19 left and the Cherries having crept to within 33‑23 was questionable. He tried to justify it: “The ‘D’ had made a quick stop on [Syracuse’s] previous possession and I was counting on them to do it again.” The strategy backfired as Rodgers drove the Crush 64 yards and took 4 minutes off the clock to get a David Akers field goal. A pair of bone-headed personal fouls against the Cherries during that drive typified Delaware’s difficult morning. For the game the Cherries were flagged 7 times for 71 yards — Syracuse only twice for 10 yards.