Green: Thrilling finishes in NFL playoffs give COVID-weary Americans something to cheer

Detroit News

Detroit — Those historic 13 seconds — while Patrick Mahomes was performing his first magic act — nearly 52 million weary Americans were transfixed in therapy!

Therapy?

Yep!

After 22 stupefying months of misery — of deciding whether to wear a mask or not; of the searing hatred that has divided our nation, of American citizens who dared to get needles jabbed into their arms vs. those who defied vaccinations; of bickering, isolation, and wonderment; of the bloody COVID — we were united again. One year after America’s capitol building was invaded and despoiled, and with those images permanent in our brains, we were reunited for one weekend.

We were watching football melodrama — and the only sides those nearly 52 million of our fellow Americans took was which team we wanted to win. Or which team so many of us had bet on.

And I dare say that was a helluva lot better than the sicknesses and family deaths and agonizing so many folks had endured for nearly two horrid years. The four NFL playoff games over the weekend made me feel good again. Even a bit optimistic. Perhaps, a tiny less fearful that we’ll be embroiled in another terrifying World War ignited in Europe.

More: Green: Joe Schmidt turns 90; celebrating a pillar of the Lions’ championship teams

We were together last Saturday and Sunday.

And those four football games — fun and games viewed on television screens — amounted to the best therapy we’ve had since the damned pandemic started.

Biden vs. Trump? Republicans vs. Democrats?

We could purge our minds of all that stuff for a couple of days. Escape what has become reality.

It was the most enchanting pro football weekend — at least in my memory.

And the enchantment of Mahomes outdueling Josh Allen -— of Aaron Rodgers walking off the field in his knit cap and cape, slowly as defeat set in — of Tom Brady being outplayed by Matthew Stafford — that enchantment lingers. And ignited again, the longtime controversy over the NFL’s coin-flip rule that gives no chance at all with the ball if the heads-or-tails loser yields a touchdown..

“Tails,” said Allen of Buffalo’s visitors.

“Heads,” said the ref.

And Mahomes staged another magic act. Allen could just sit there and watch, embittered. He never touched the ball in OT.

So, the postmortems become permanent. And the copouts flourish.

“I watched it on video, and I watched it over and over in my head a million times, in my stomach a million more,” Bills Coach Sean McDermott told sports journalists at a news conference Tuesday in Buffalo.

There was no indication how many times McDermott second-guessed his coaching. The Bills allowed two yard-gulping passes by Mahomes to drive the Chiefs into field-goal range to set up the kick that tied the game. The plays that sent the two slugging rivals into overtime.

But McDermott never mentioned whether he second-guessed his decision to order his kicker to boot the ball into the end zone after the TD that sent the Bills ahead by three points with the 13 seconds left.

“I’m just going to leave it at the execution, and that starts with me,” McDermott told reporters grilling in the postgame media session

I figure the 51.7 million therapy seekers watching on TV at the end of the Sunday classic, according to Sports Business Journal ratings, did ample second-guessing.

I am normally a placid person when viewing football on television. But this time I shrieked:

“What the (likely expletive) are they doing?”

The Bills could have spent another four or five of KC’s 13 seconds with a short kickoff, forcing a return. Pooch it or roll it or squib it, start the clock, and deprive Mahomes of some essential seconds.

In the aftermath over the past couple of days, I read criticisms of McDermott’s strategy — all of it from a variety of NFL coaches and former coaches criticizing the kickoff decision. All hiding their identities to the quotes.

Whatever, it was stirring game, the climax to a magnificent pro football weekend.

And it left us with tons of material to debate without bringing COVID or politics or the Russians’ menacing overtures into our conversations.

For us, here in Detroit, Stafford has proven — twice now — that he was talented sufficiently to win playoff games. All he lacked with the Lions were suitable receivers and running backs. And a stingy defense.

All of those essentials.

He proved that through generations the Lions were flawed in acquiring accredited football minds for their front office. He confirmed, for me, that the Lions lacked proper NFL talent procurement departments — over and again. The flaw goes back to 1960s, with occasional exceptions.

The target Matthew inherited with the Rams is immense — Cooper Kupp. And in mid-season the Rams bolstered their roster with Odell Beckham Jr. — an interested Odell — and Von Miller. Discarded elsewhere.

Imagine how intense the reaction in Detroit, if Matthew outduels Jimmy Garoppolo in the NFC Championship Game and advances to Super Bowl LVI. But Matthew already has his therapy from his seasons with the Lions.

We have much therapy left, but the Rams did indeed outslick the Lions in the trade for Stafford a year ago.

AT LEAST, RIGHT NOW.

All in the shortened countdown to the Super Bowl. (No loud hullabaloo week this year in Los Angeles).

And nationally, the enraged self-adoring talk-show TV savants — I mean Fox Sports and ESPN — won’t clam up until Brady and Rodgers disclose their plans about playing some more. Or dawdling into retirement.

Perhaps, Brady should flip a quarter! (Does he even touch quarters?)

After all, the media savants had Rodgers and Brady paired during the regular season in competition to determine which would be anointed the NFL’s most valuable player.

Turned out, it should be Mahomes or Josh Allen, or even Matthew Stafford, who was once judged incapable of winning — in Detroit.

Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sports reporter.

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