Dream Game 2008 (cont.)
You know I'm feeling a bit happier about my bet now. OK, let's play this game. The Lombardies come out in multiple wides right away. I mean my gosh, why not? There's so much talent that their third wideout, the slotman Wes Welker, was tied for No. 1 in the NFL in receiving last year. The wideout group alone accounted for 336 catches in '07. That's more than any wideout corps in football could manage, more, in fact, than the total for all passes caught by 19 teams -- wides, tight ends, runners, the whole schemer.
Oh yeah, the Lombardies are putting it up early, especially with that undersized group of runners they have, but the odd thing is that they've signed up a primarily run-blocking O-line, but what the hell. Brady's going to get plenty of yards.
Bucky's countering with a thumping ground attack, with Steven Jackson and Brandon Jacobs pounding away behind an offense that can come in with a fullback and not one but two run-blocking tight ends, Kevin Boss and 286-pound Brandon Manumaleuna. It's effective. It's controlling the game. Lombardi's D-line is overloaded with pass rushers. He brings in the Ravens' Haloti Ngata early to shore up the middle. The linebackers are basically speed guys. MLB DeMeco Ryans is being suckered with counters. Thomas Howard, a speedy outside man, is overrunning the plays.
Brady puts up a couple of sixes but he throws a pick, too, underestimating the speed of the 49ers' Patrick Willis. The Brooksies are grinding and putting up field goals, but then they get a break on special teams. The 49ers' Michael Robinson, an underrated special teams demon, and the Chargers' Kaseem Osgood, force a fumble on a kick return, Robinson scoops up the loose ball and takes it all the way. It's a 20-20 tie in the fourth quarter.
Seven minutes left. Brady goes to work. The Brooksies have dressed only six D-linemen and that's their undoing. They're exhausted. The rotation is killing them. The rush has died. Brady works them over with his mini-backs, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ahmad Bradshaw. With three minutes to go, he runs Jones-Drew on a sucker-trap for six points. The Brooksies get the ball at midfield, after a nifty return by Devin Hester. Will this be an overtime contest, the first one in a title game since Colts-Giants?
But the numbers game kills Brees, too. The Lombardies have loaded their lineup with D-linemen, nine, count'em, nine! On third-and-long, the well-rested pair of wingmen, Dwight Freeney and Justin Tuck, get him in a squeeze and knock the ball loose. The Lombardies only have to run the clock now, but on third and long they run a draw play, over Shaun Rogers, who is too tired to get out of his stance, and little Maurice breaks it for 40 yards and the last score of the game, which gives the Lombardies a 34-20 victory. Dr. Z's bet, taking the 12½, sinks beneath the waves with all hands singing Nearer My God To Thee.
And I swear to you folks, that's the way it happened.