Monday, January 15, 2007

SUPER BOWL XLI : Miami Hotel Rates Double For Event - NY Times

The Super Bowl Means Super-Size Hotel Rates

Published: January 14, 2007

Finding a moderately priced hotel room in Miami during the winter is never easy, but securing one over Super Bowl weekend (Feb. 2 to 5) is a totally different ballgame, regardless of availability.

This weekend, for instance, the rate for a double room at the Miami Airport Holiday Inn is $190. For the night before the Super Bowl , that room goes for $430. At the already pricey Delano, a city view deluxe room that would have cost $775 for last night is more than twice that amount, $1,625, on Feb. 4 (and it’s booked solid). Even the ultraexpensive Setai is requiring guests to stay a minimum of seven nights during Super Bowl week, at $950 a night for a double room.

Robert Tuchman, president of TSE Sports & Entertainment (, said his company was selling four-night Super Bowl packages with upper-level game tickets, but without air fare. For example, $5,850 a person gets a double room at the Westin in Fort Lauderdale, while $7,350 a person puts you in a penthouse suite at the Albion South Beach.

(The actual ticket prices are $600 and $700. Most tickets are technically available through the 30 National Football League teams, but are essentially sold out. Brokers charge far more for the tickets.)

“When you couple the Super Bowl with a great location like Miami, hotels can charge five times their normal price,” Mr. Tuchman said, adding that last year’s location, Detroit (featuring the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers, above), was a bit of a bust. “We only sent around 300 people,” he said. “This year, we already have a thousand.”

His packages include an autographed football, a celebrity golf tournament and a Sunday morning chat with a former N.F.L. player or coach.

Loyal N.F.L. team followers might prefer “fan packages,” starting this week, from Sports Traveler (, a Chicago-based company. It is $6,300 to $7,500, including three or four nights accommodation, reserved game tickets and air fare from your championship team’s city. A required deposit of $200 to $500 is refunded if your team doesn’t make the big game. But, as Mr. Tuchman said, “The Super Bowl has become such a spectacle, most people don’t even come anymore just for the game.”

CBS Has Only Sold 70 Percent Of Super Bowl XLI Ads - Mediaweek

January 15, 2007

By John Consoli Mediaweek

NEW YORK -- The Super Bowl has become a super pain for the broadcast networks to sell.

Case in point: CBS this year. With just three weeks to go until kickoff, the network has sold slightly more than 70% of the in-game commercial units. And with a total of 58 spots, the network still has about 16 slots available.

With so much potential revenue and prestige at stake—CBS could take in as much as $140 million on the three-hour game alone, in addition to millions from the six hours of pre-game programming—the three weeks prior to kickoff can generate severe angst for sales teams facing fourth and goal.

One media agency executive described this current Super Bowl selling season: "CBS is definitely in hustle mode, trying to come up with any innovative way possible to move those in-game units."

As the cost of a 30-second spot rises each year, so does the pressure on advertisers to come up with innovative and creative spots that will be talked about and acted upon by the 78 million viewers who tune in. The growing popularity of polls such as USA Today Ad Meter, which have consumers rate the in-game commercials the next day, has become a major factor in the decision-making process of advertisers as to whether or not they should create a spot and run it in the Super Bowl.

One network sales executive, who has sold past Super Bowls, said the next two weeks are crucial for CBS to get a bulk of the remaining units sold before Feb. 5. "It's OK to go into the week before the game with three or four units left, but it can be a real problem if you have more than that," the exec said.

The closer to game day, the more the ad community is in the driver's seat as far as trying to price down the spots because the network cannot sharply lower prices without running the risk of alienating clients who came in early and paid more.

While the remaining spots are mostly in fourth quarter and early birds most likely are in the first half when the attention level is usually higher, no advertiser, regardless of placement, is going to be happy seeing a straggler get in the game at a deep discount.

"There are always Super Bowl units still available at this point, but this year there seem to be more left than the norm," said one media exec, echoing the viewpoint of many contacted for this story.

But John Bogusz, CBS evp-sports sales and marketing, and Tony Taranto, svp of NFL sales at CBS, both insist the network is right where it was sellout level-wise when it televised the Super Bowls in '01 and '04.

"It is getting to be a harder sell, and we do wish more advertisers would embrace it for what it is and take advantage of the huge audience it draws," said Bogusz, acknowledging the harder slog to sell out. Added Taranto, "Advertisers should realize that in addition to the in-game units, those ads are going to be replayed all over the Internet in the days and weeks following the game. Awareness levels for those ads rise every year."

But that heightened awareness of the commercials—not the price tag per spot, which this year ranges anywhere from $2 million to $2.6 million depending on pod location and quantity bought—can be the problem, according to media agencies charged with buying Super Bowl spots for clients.

"The decision an advertiser faces is not a price dilemma," said Marc Goldstein, CEO at media agency MindShare. "The reason advertisers may not go in is because of creative issues. No one wants to run an old commercial in the Super Bowl, so you have to go out and spend money to produce a new one. And the advertiser wants to make sure that this commercial does well in all the recall and opinion polls the next day. Many advertisers feel if they do not have a new product to launch, it is not worth the risk."

Giants Select Jerry Reese As General Manager - Only Third Black GM In NFL History -

Giants tap Jerry Reese as general manager wire reports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Jan. 15, 2007) -- The New York Giants hired Jerry Reese as their general manager, making him only the third black GM in NFL history.

Reese, who served as the team's director of player personnel the past four years, was considered the favorite among the Giants' in-house candidates to replace Ernie Accorsi, who held the post for nine seasons before retiring.

The 43-year-old Reese will formally be introduced as general manager and senior vice president at a news conference Jan. 16, the team said on its Web site.

The only other black general managers in the NFL are Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome and Houston's Rick Smith. There are several black men who have considerable say in front offices, notably Rod Graves of Arizona, whose title is senior vice president-football operations. Ray Anderson was vice president of the Atlanta Falcons for the past four years before moving to the NFL in August as senior vice president of football operations.

There were seven black head coaches in the NFL last season, the most ever. Two of them, Dennis Green of the Cardinals and Art Shell of Oakland, were fired after the season, although Shell will remain in the Raiders front office.

Critics of the NFL's minority hiring policy have generally praised the league for increasing the number of minority coaches, but have pointed out that there is a void in the front office.

Last month, when Reese was mentioned as the favorite for the job, Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, the senior black head coach, said: "That's great -- just to have an African-American mentioned that way is great."

A graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin, Reese first joined the Giants' scouting department in 1994 after working on the coaching staff at his alma mater.

As the Giants' player personnel director, he oversaw all aspects of college scouting and had most of the responsibility for the draft. Reese previously served as assistant director of pro personnel for three years.

The Associated Press News Service

Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson Goes Off On Bill Belichick And The New England Patriots; Calls Them "No Class" Organization

I've included the video version of LT's rant as well.

LT rips Pats' 'no class' dance on field logo

And so begins a nasty new rivalry. And this is one born not from two good teams in the same division, but from the way two good teams treat each other when they play. I think LT has something of a point. Moreover, my own mother pointed out that had it been Terrell Owens who was responsible for the nasty act at the end of the game, he'd have been criticized and fined. Not so with the Patriots.

By Jay Posner and Kevin Acee
January 15, 2007

No team wants to watch another team celebrate on its home field, especially after a playoff game. But several Chargers were particularly disturbed at the way New England celebrated after yesterday's AFC divisional playoff game.

And no one was more upset than league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, who had to be restrained by more than one Patriots player from going after another New England player. Tomlinson later accused some Patriots of showing “no class at all” and added “maybe it comes from the head coach (Bill Belichick).”

Said Tomlinson: “I would never, ever react in that way. You guys know me; I'm a very classy person. I wouldn't have reacted like that, so yes, I was upset, very upset.

“When you go to the middle of our field and you start doing the dance that Shawne Merriman is known for, that's disrespectful to me and I can't sit there and watch that.”

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he saw some Patriots pointing to the scoreboard, doing Merriman's “Lights Out” dance and stomping on the Chargers helmet logo at midfield.

“They won and they deserve a lot of credit,” Rivers said. “Personally I was disappointed in the way they handled winning. I mean, for as much as everybody said they expected them to win, they didn't act like it. But that's neither here nor there. They're playing next week and we're not.

“I think what got LT, and I was right there, was just a little of the taunting. Hey, celebrate – we'd have been sprinting on the field, too, I guarantee you. But it was a little finger pointing and I don't know where it came from.”

The teams will play in Foxboro next season, and Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips said he can't wait.

“Every time I will play New England it will be a personal grudge,” Phillips said. “That was very classless. . . . When we went in and beat their head in New England (last season), blew them out (41-17), we did nothing but compliment them and say they were a good team. We would never disrespect a team like that. We have class, and that's how classless individuals are. Shaun Phillips will have a grudge against them the rest of his career.”

Added Phillips: “What it is, they didn't expect to win and they won, so they were excited.”

The Patriots were not available to answer the Chargers' comments, although linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said San Diego's players “talked from the beginning to the end. We'll take the win.”

Reggie Bush - Gets Jacked Up By Eagles Sheldon Brown In NFC Divisional Playoff Game

This was the shot heard 'round the World when it happened, and it's still getting noticed today. Reggie Bush was in the middle of catching a swing pass, when Sheldon Brown rushed up and simply gave a hard, high textbook tackle using his shoulder and not leading with his head. Here's the video:

San Francisco-Based KNBR's Rod Brooks -- Who's Black -- Puts Down Black Coaches

Last Monday, January 8th, San Francisco-based KNBR's Rob Brooks (pictured) said, in response to a take that one college team should hire a black coach, "Notre Dame tried one of those and look what happened to them."

"One of those," sounds like a disease the way Brooks put it.

That comment led me to write this email to members of the California sports media community -- an email list that includes Tony Bruno and Rod Brooks. It's not just an email denouncing what Brooks said, but how KNBR conducts it's business. But more to the point on Martin Luther King's Birthday, it's terrible to know that there are African Americans who would waste no time in putting down someone else because they're black.

Here's what I wrote:

Greetings All,

I understand "Mr C In Heaven" but I have this take: what KNBR's Rod Brooks says goes out to millions of people locally in Northern California -- it's not small time at all. The San Francisco Bay Area has the highest ad costs per ratings point of any part of the country.

Some of those listeners form their opinions from what they hear on KNBR. I hear it from time to time, someone litterally parroting what was said on KNBR. People use sports talk radio to essentially "think" for them. And the more the message touches that person's more baser feelings -- like racial matters -- the more likely it is to stick. But that doesn't make it OK to be racist; indeed, it's every reason why one should not be. For all practical purposes, Brooks is a kind of role model, though a negative one at this time. I leave room for improvement.

That's why what someone like Brooks said Monday was socially irresponsible, not to mention a reflection of self-hatred. It does a lot of damage to the matter of the deconstruction and ultimate destruction of the racist way; what better tool to maintain racist thoughts amoung whites, Latino's, and Asians than a black person who puts other blacks down by referring to African American coaches as "one of those" tried by Notre Dame, as if black coaches were viruses.


Moreover, it -- this race-based approach -- is not even good ratings at all. Just because KNBR may claim good Arbitron numbers doesn't mean they can't be better. I'd be willing to bet that KNBR's numbers are actually terrible when compared to their potential. I could go on about how the radio station's website system is not only poorly designed, but not engineered for it to rank high in any Google-search of note related to KNBR's sports content and not even well-coordinated with its radio shows.

This hurts the radio shows and rating potential. If I bought KNBR, I'd tear it all up and rebuild from the bottom up.

Plus, KNBR's people -- it's personalities -- come off more often than not as "Angry white guys" -- attempting to stop any and all conversations about race by saying "You're playing the race card" and using this childish Right Wing term as if it was a kind of conversational hand grenade -- and it's almost laughable that a prominent black personality would assist them. But that seems to be what's happening. I've heard this before from others and as a constant listener to the show, I can document and write a book on them. People don't want to hear this at all. Please knock it off.

KNBR does not know how to reach the fan base of any of the major Bay Area sports teams. The smaller college sports organizations get no mention or play at all. The sponsorship program is lacking. KNBR knows how to develop personalities, but misses the boat in building a cohesive media information system. By a country mile. (And yes, I know what the answer to this is.) Moreover, there's little in the way of really substantive sports talk conversation. Here's an example:

On January 8th 2003, the Philadephia Eagles beat the Green Bay Packers in a wild-card playoff game which featured a 4th and 26 convertion by Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. On a recap of the game on KNBR, Ralph and Tom had on as a guest a female beat writer from Phili who really knew her stuff. She explained that the Packers middle linebacker was out of position and should have been deeper than he was in the coverage, thus allowing the pass completion.

While she talked, Ralph and Tom had little to offer to keep the conversation going. It was disheartening for me. Obviously by my recall of the event, it had an impact on me. I then started to monitor sports talk radio here with the "null hypothesis" that there was little of substance -- discussion of strategy, business, law, etc. -- that was offered. To date, I've had little content example from KNBR to cause me to refute my initial hypothesis.

Another example was when I was on as a guest regarding the Super Bowl and Jerry Brown in 2005. Rather than ask me substantive questions about why Oakland came to within eight NFL owner votes of landing the game Jacksonville won, Rod Brooks decided to take me on regarding Oakland as a host city.

It was not a smart move on his part, as I knew my subject and he did not. Moreover, I was very angry that Brooks and KNBR would continue a pattern of not only non-support, but attempted destruction of our Super Bowl Bid efforts and attempts to insult me.

My own mother observed that KNBR "could not stand someone who was smart and Black." I reminded her that it was radio, but then I thought about the matter from her point of view and the fact that I was assuming some KNBR people didn't know I was Black when they may have, and then recanted my initially polyanic view. I started thinking about my past experiences with KNBR.

It started in 2000, when Radnich had me on and asked how could we sell out the Super Bowl, when the Coliseum had sell out problems. Why ask that? I pointed out that all Super Bowls were sellouts. But here I am BUSTING MY ASS to bring this thing to the Bay Area, and KNBR's taking pot shots at me and the bid. It's like getting shot by what are supposed to be your own troops.

I told Agnew about this -- actually was real pissed about it -- because it would NOT have harmed KNBR to be a booster for the Super Bowl. Not at all. The Bay Area needs the shot in the arm. But we can't improve economically with KNBR pulling the rug out of what we do. It's stupid. It really is. I could not get over what the reason for the treatment was and so then, absent any logical explanation, figured that maybe my Mom had a point. After all, KTVU has never treated me that way; not at all and not even to this day. Neither does KPIX or KGO. So I had an example of how I was supposed to be treated by the media in working on a Super Bowl Bid and doing anything of substance in the community.


It's one thing to ask good questions, but the ones aimed at me were just plain bad and nasty. All of my friends who listened to me were happy that I not only defended myself, but basically made Rod sound less than informed, which was true. Moreover, it's all too common at KNBR.

The standard idea is that the people don't want substance (that's what Bob Agnew contends); but I charge that KNBR does not know how to give it in an entertaining way. When you have people who know sports so well they can talk about it in plain english, it's fun to listen to.

Tom Tolbert KNOWS basketball, and so is a joy to hear him talk on that subject, it really is. But football? KNBR has no one on the talk shows who really does know modern football strategy, methods, trends, and techniques. No one. It seems that the station has decided to allow more of the "emotion stirring" words and that opens the door to a point of view that is hard to mistake as anything but racist at times.

The point I'm making is that the station can't afford to have racist content, regardless of who it's coming from. It's bad for business. It's terrible for society. It's retrograde. PLEASE I emplore you all to reach for a higher standard. The Bay Area is becoming what it seems to hate the most in what it things Southern cities are -- racist. (Just take a look at the comments made by some Oaklanders toward Ignacio De La Fuente on Monday. Or the SF 49ers VideoGate scandal. Or the SF Police Video. Or the frightening high arrest rate for Blacks in San Francisco. I could go on and on.)

Atlanta is now much more progressive than the SF Bay Area -- ever hear the "Two Live Stews" -- but the SF Bay Area is under the age-old fantasy that it's better.

I do hope that we as a collective wake up and improve this matter.


Zennie Abraham, Jr.
Chairman and CEO
Sports Business Simulations

"Colts Can Mix Toughness With Finess" - Tony Dungy - AP and Random News From Indy

Dungy: Colts can mix toughness with finesse


Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Tony Dungy couldn't help but smile when asked about the Colts' toughness in the closing minutes of their playoff victory over the Ravens.

All season, Dungy's Colts have been criticized for being just a finesse team. But Indianapolis clinched the 15-6 win Saturday in Baltimore with a smash-mouth, 13-play, 47-yard drive that included 11 runs and took more than 7 minutes off the clock.

The drive ended with Adam Vinatieri's 35-yard field goal with 23 seconds left that sent the Colts into the AFC championship game at home next Sunday against New England.

"I was proud of the way we won," Dungy said. "We went in there and you had to win a dogfight. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't the type of game we normally play, but we were able to get it done."

Dungy said the effort was extra special because it happened in Baltimore against a Ravens team that prides itself on toughness.

"To be able to go on the road and win in a hostile environment, to be able to outperform a team that's built for that, that's really built for a running game and defending the run ... when we had to run against the No. 1 defense, we were able to do that. Whatever it takes."

Lost among Vinatieri's five field goals was the fact that Colts running back Dominic Rhodes had 10 carries for 35 yards on the final drive. He finished with 14 carries for 56 yards.

Dungy said Rhodes' effort epitomized the Colts' performance.

"Dominic Rhodes, I thought, was outstanding in the second half, keeping things going," Dungy said. "He made a couple of big third-down runs and using up that time. That was really a big drive against a great defense."

Rookie Joseph Addai started the game at running back, but he sat out most of the second half after he aggravated a shoulder injury.

"Joseph wasn't 100 percent and Dom was running well," Dungy said. "I think Joseph could have played, but again, like last week, there was no need because Dom was getting the job done for us."

Dungy didn't give a definitive update on Addai's status for the AFC Championship Game. He had missed most of last week's practices with the injury.

"I think he'll be pretty much the same way he's been," Dungy said. "Having another day of rest should help him. It's a little early to tell, but I think it's going to be fine."

The roles were reversed for Addai and Rhodes for much of the season. Rhodes would start, but would see limited action after halftime. Addai would come off the bench and close.

Addai was the up-and-coming star during the regular season. He ran for 1,081 yards and seven touchdowns and quickly became a crowd favorite. Rhodes, who waited patiently for years as Edgerrin James' backup, ran for 641 yards and scored five touchdowns.

When the game at Baltimore was on the line, Dungy went with his five-year veteran. Dungy said Rhodes handled losing his starting slot well and showed professionalism by stepping in and performing well.

"It wasn't a demotion and he understood that," Dungy said. "We were just going to start the game with Joseph. Dom's ended up finishing the last two games. Dom knew he was still going to be involved. He knew he was still get a lot of carries and be in at critical times, so it really hasn't been that much different. They both still split the carries relatively evenly."

The toughness the Colts showed to get that last field goal left one of the game's toughest players, Ravens quarterback Steve McNair, with little time to work his magic. The Colts had faced McNair twice a year when he played for the Tennessee Titans, and knew better than to give him an opportunity.

"We've been involved with Steve McNair many times," Dungy said. "You don't want to give him the ball back with a six-point lead and any time left on the clock, so we knew we wanted to make at least two or three first downs there. If we could get into field-goal range, that was the ultimate."

After Beating Michael Strahan In Court, Jean Strahan Says "I'm Going to Disney World!" - NY Post

Wow. It reads like Michael Strahan really treated his wife terribly.


January 13, 2007 -- A judge sacked Michael Strahan's bank account yesterday, ordering the New York Giants defensive end to pay his ex-wife Jean a whopping $15.3 million plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support as part of their divorce.

Judge James Convery blasted Strahan in a written ruling, saying the arguments he used to get out of coughing up the dough lacked "any credible evidence."

The ruling means the gap-toothed grid standout will have to give his ex-wife more than half his net worth - as Convery held him to a prenuptial agreement stipulating he give Jean 50 percent of their joint marital assets and 20 percent of his yearly income from each year they were married.

Strahan tried to argue that he wasn't responsible for the 20 percent because his wife failed to ask for it every year. But the judge said that "the plaintiff is not credible in his claim that the defendant never asked for her separate funds."

Jean, who married the football player in 1999, celebrated the ruling yesterday.

"It pays to tell the truth, and I told the truth," she said. "I never asked for a penny more than the prenup that Michael and his lawyers wrote and made me sign. And all I ever asked for was that to be upheld.

"I'm thrilled that it was."

The decision came after a divorce battle that left the popular player's stellar reputation battered by allegations of adultery, forgery, lying and perversion.

It is also a huge financial tackle. Strahan must pay the $15.3 million and the extra child support even though his net worth is only about $22 million, according to court records.

With his career in its twilight years, this could be a blow from which his bank account never recovers.

But Jean said yesterday that it was his own fault. Strahan himself devised the uneven distribution spelled out in a prenup.

"He and his lawyer wrote it and made me sign it the night before we got married," Jean said. "We were, at the time, very much in love."

Jean Strahan had originally sought roughly $14 million, but the judge gave her back interest on the 20 percent annuity, raising the payout by $1.25 million.

The Giant will also have to pay $18,000 per month in child support, and will have to hand over a $311,150 lump sum for support dating back to August 2005. Jean will also get one of his four houses, but will have to pay him back for half of the mansion in Montclair, N.J.

Strahan lawyer Vicky Zigler declined to comment after receiving the decision in Essex County Family Court yesterday.

The couple was officially divorced last July after an acrimonious court battle that included allegations that Strahan:
* Ditched his wife and twin 2-year-old daughters, Isabella and Sophia, to hang out with alleged mistress Nicole "Cupcake" D'Oliveira on a trip to Phoenix.
* Jetted off to Caribbean islands with various other women, including the woman who sold the family their antique chairs.
* Secretly videotaped Jean's sister, Denise, while she undressed in a guest bedroom. Cops were called, and Jean left him for a while, but he then allegedly came back after he deposited $30,000 in her bank account.
* Forged her name on financial documents that were entered into the case.
* Hounded her and tried to use lawyers to intimidate her into changing their prenup.

In yesterday's ruling, Judge Convery also blasted Strahan for not remembering his wedding anniversary or wife's birthday.
Jean Strahan got the news of the decision at her lawyer's office. She exclaimed: "I'm going to Disney World!" - USC Assistant Coach Steve Sarkisian Rumored To Be Favorite Of Raiders For Head Coaching Job

The point of this process is that the Raiders job is not the mot sought after in the NFL. Otherwise, why focus on an unproven college assistant coach? And why not talk to a person like Hue Jackson of the Bengals?


There's increasing chatter in league circles that USC assistant coach Steve Sarkisian could be in line to become the next coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Sarkisian, 32, would become the youngest coach in the league.

As one league insider pointed out to us, why not simply hire Sarkisian to be the offensive coordinator? It would still be a step up for him, and he likely would accept it. With John Shoop recently gone, the spot is wide open.

No hire can be made to replace Art Shell until at least one minority candidate is interviewed. And if too many people around the league become convinced that the position is going to Sarkisian, it might be hard to persuade a minority candidate to sit for the job.

Another candidate who has generated some buzz, but who has not yet been interviewed or named as a candidate, is former Vikings and Cardinals coach Dennis Green.

Indianapolis Colts Await The New England Patriots For The AFC Title Game

What is a classic battle is well-recounted in this Indy Star article.

Familiar foe, in the dome
Patriots meet Colts for crown in AFC

By Mike Chappell

Brace yourself, Indy, for the most important football event that's ever visited the Circle City.

One step away from their first Super Bowl appearance in more than three decades, the Colts will attempt to take that monumental step against nemesis New England on Sunday evening in the RCA Dome. The No. 4-seeded Patriots earned their spot in the AFC Championship Game by upsetting No. 1 seed San Diego 24-21 on Sunday, sending the conference title game to Indianapolis.

The third-seeded Colts (14-4) reached their third AFC title game since 1995 by stuffing the second-seeded Baltimore Ravens 15-6 Saturday. They then sat back and waited for their opposition to be determined.

Hello, Patriots. They advanced when rookie place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski made a 31-yard field goal with 1:10 remaining.
Talk about instant karma. The Colts KO'd the Ravens on the strength of five field goals by former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, who was replaced in New England by Gostkowski.

"There will be a lot of (story) angles there, with them finally having to come here, with Vinatieri on our side, with all the history between the two teams,'' Colts coach Tony Dungy said before Sunday's game when asked to address the possibility of the Patriots visiting Indy.

All will unfold in front of what promises to be a raucous sellout crowd in the RCA Dome.

"Playing at home,'' Dungy said, "is what you like for your fans.''

Now, it's up to the Colts to seal the deal. And there's perhaps no more appropriate final hurdle to clear than the Patriots.
New England (14-4) has won three of the past five Super Bowls, and used the Colts as steppingstones twice, each time in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots dismissed the Colts 24-14 in the AFC title game after the 2003 season, then dominated them 20-3 the following season in the divisional round.

The Colts have gained a measure of revenge in the past two regular seasons, again in Gillette Stadium. They snapped a six-game losing streak to the Patriots in 2005 with a 40-21 victory, then posted a 27-20 win on Nov. 5.

New England, Dungy said, "obviously is an organization and team we have a lot of respect for.''

"Tom Brady is still doing all those things that cause you to win games,'' he said. "I don't think they're a team anyone wants to play.''

The Colts, though, welcome the opportunity. The last time the franchise reached the Super Bowl was after the 1970 season, and it still called Baltimore home. The Colts defeated Dallas 16-13 to win Super Bowl V.

There won't be a lack of story lines:

Brady versus Colts' counterpart Peyton Manning. Brady is 12-1 in the postseason, Manning 5-6.

Vinatieri kicking against the team that opted not to re-sign him after the 2005 season. All he's done for the Colts is convert all eight of his field goal attempts in the postseason.

Manning and offensive coordinator Tom Moore matching wits with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

The Patriots making their first visit to Indy since 2003, when they stopped running back Edgerrin James short of the goal line in the closing seconds to preserve a 34-31 win.

The Colts attempting to finish what they were unable to a year ago. They squandered home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by losing to Pittsburgh 21-18 in the RCA Dome in the divisional round.

Dungy attempting to become the first black coach to take his team to the Super Bowl.

All Dungy requires of his Colts is to continue to play at a high level and with poise even though they must do so on a pressurized, national stage.

"If you can do the things you normally do . . . when the stakes are really high, that's what it takes,'' he said.

Bill Belichick''s Adjustments and Tom Brady's Mental Toughness Lead Patriots To AFC Title Game - From ESPN

Patriots teach Chargers a lesson in playoff football

By John Clayton

SAN DIEGO -- Sunday's AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Chargers was a clinic in why BelichickBradyball is a Super Bowl success and Martyball continues to fall flat in the playoffs.

Following the Patriots' 24-21 win, Belichick is 13-2 in playoff games. Schottenheimer is 5-13 and has lost six straight postseason games. The uncanny way in which the Patriots rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final 8:35 is why Belechick could be heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame once he gives up coaching. Despite 200 career victories -- a total that should qualify him for those honors -- Schottenheimer isn't even guaranteed a job with the Chargers next season despite a 14-3 season.

Schottenheimer may not have gone as conservative in his offensive play-calling as in past playoff eliminations, but the failures against the Patriots hit on a striking theme. The Chargers played not to lose. The Chargers called 19 first-down running plays for LaDainian Tomlinson, including five in which he gained 11 or more yards. Belichick and Tom Brady were all over the place. Brady couldn't find his rhythm in the first half so they junked some two-tight end sets and went to a three-receiver offense, sprinkling in some no-huddle once he got a rhythm.

The Chargers continued playing not to lose, while the Patriots just tried to make enough plays to be one play ahead of San Diego at the end of the game. That strategy is why the Patriots, who were outplayed and somewhat dominated by the Chargers early in the game, sneaked away with a three-point victory and a chance to go against their playoff rivals -- the Indianapolis Colts.

"The definition of mental toughness is not letting anything get to you," Brady said after the game. "It's just staying focused not matter what's swirling around you, just continuing to mentally fight through whatever obstacles there might be, whether that be a certain play or situation or a bunch of things that come up as a football player. We have a bunch of mentally tough guys. Even though it doesn't all go well you still have to believe in yourself and have the confidence that you can go out there and play."

Peyton Manning and the Colts have developed that type of mentality. Despite a run defense that was one of the worst in NFL history during the regular season, the defense tightened up in playoff wins over the Chiefs and Ravens. Manning hasn't played his best but the Colts are winning the type of playoff games they lost in the past. The Patriots have been doing that for years.

Here's the lesson Belichick and Brady taught Schottenheimer and the Chargers on Sunday. Do whatever it takes.

Brady was awful for all but the final drive of the first half. The Chargers executed a solid, conservative game plan. Tomlinson was great on first downs, but the Patriots defense wasn't concerned as long as Tomlinson didn't bust long touchdown runs. Tomlinson wasn't going to beat them with 10-yard runs. Eventually, inexperienced playoff quarterback Philip Rivers had to make a play, and the Patriots were ready to stop him.

The Chargers led 14-3 and could have started running away with the game. Brady was frustrated, but like a hitter who keeps coming to the plate, he still had a chance to hit the home run. Brady completed only four of his first 12 for 38 yards. But he completed five of seven passes in a two-minute drive before the half and hit Jabar Gaffney with a 6-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 14-10.

"I couldn't get into a rhythm," Brady said. "We were trying to throw quick stuff. That wasn't working. We tried to throw screens. That wasn't working. We tried to call runs. That wasn't working. We couldn't find any rhythm as an offense. Every time I would come to the sidelines, I'd say, 'Let's try something else."'

Belichick did. Brady went completely to the air in the second half. The Patriots spread the field with three receivers, which is pretty amazing for a team criticized for not wanting to pay receivers David Givens and Deion Branch.

In the second half, Brady completed 18 of 32 passes for 177 yards. Sure, he threw three interceptions on the game. But Belichick kept trying to let Brady improvise and make the plays that would eventually let the Patriots win.

"We kept battling for 60 minutes," Belichick said. "It was a very competitive game. There was an ebb and flow. At times, they had a little bit of the upper hand. At times, we had a little bit of the upper hand. It was a physical, tough football game. We just made one more play than they did."

As he has done so often in these big games, Schottenheimer played the field-position game. The Chargers' average starting point was their 37, but they had three possessions that started at midfield or in Patriots territory. The Chargers had a touchdown and two punts in those possessions. The Patriots had six starts inside their own 20.

Perhaps the strangest call of the game came in the first quarter. Schottenheimer went for a fourth-and-11 instead of attempting a 49-yard field goal by the AFC's Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding. Naturally, the fourth-down play didn't work. The Patriots drove for a 50-yard field goal by rookie, Stephen Gostkowski to take a 3-0 lead.


"The definition of mental toughness is not letting anything get to you. It's just staying focused not matter what's swirling around you, just continuing to mentally fight through whatever obstacles there might be, whether that be a certain play or situation or a bunch of things that come up as a football player."
Tom Brady, Patriots QB


"I thought we had a play that we could use that would make the yardage," Schottenheimer said. "The intention was to be very aggressive. I thought we had a play that would get it and Cam Cameron said, 'I've got one' and we went ahead and did it."

That three-point swing came back to haunt the Chargers, as did so many plays Sunday. Things started unraveling in the third and fourth quarters. Chargers cornerback Drayton Florence got a 15-yard unnecessary roughing penalty after Brady was stopped on a third-down sack at the Chargers' 36-yard line. That kept the drive alive, with Gostkowski eventually hitting a 34-yard field goal to cut the Chargers' lead to 14-13.

Tackle Shane Olivea got an unnecessary roughing penalty after an extra point following a Tomlinson TD that put San Diego ahead 21-13 in the fourth quarter. Kicking off from their 15, the Chargers handed great field position to the Patriots.

But after driving to the Chargers' 41, Brady was picked off by Marlon McCree with just over six minutes left in the game. Troy Brown stripped the ball from McCree's hands, though, and Reche Caldwell recovered it, giving the Patriots a first down and new life.

Five plays later, Brady hits Caldwell with a 4-yard touchdown. Kevin Faulk took a direct snap and ran it into the end zone and just like that the game was tied.

The final straw came with 2:31 left in regulation. Brady spotted the Chargers in press man-to-man coverage at the line of scrimmage. He hit Caldwell down the sideline for a 49-yard completion that set up Gostkowski's game-winning 34-yard field goal.

It was the last play the Patriots made to win the game. The Chargers played not to lose. The Patriots played to stay in the game and give themselves a chance to make winning plays. In the end, that's exactly what they did.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for

Steelers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt Is Arizona Cardinals New Head Coach - ESPN

He did place his personal stamp on the Steelers offense and that was more than revealed in Super Bowl XL.

Whisenhunt hired as Cardinals' new head coach
By Len Pasquarelli

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, one of the hottest candidates during the current NFL hiring cycle, has signed a four-year contract to become the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Whisenhunt will be introduced as the successor to Dennis Green at a Tuesday news conference. Financial details of the contract -- which includes a team option for a fifth year -- were not yet available. Based on what the Cardinals have paid coaches in the past, Whisenhunt probably will earn an annual salary in the $2.5 million range.

"I'm really excited," Whisenhunt said by phone Sunday evening. "I really think it's a great opportunity. It's a team with a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. The more I studied the situation, the better it looked, and the more I wanted that job. I can't wait to get started."

Whisenhunt, 44, met for a second time with Arizona officials on Friday, as the Cardinals continued their follow-up round of interviews aimed at finding a new coach. The Cardinals interviewed eight candidates in the initial round, then brought back Houston Texans assistant head coach Mike Sherman and Whisenhunt for second interviews.

"In the end, we felt that Ken was the best fit for this organization," said Rod Graves, Cardinals vice president for football operations, "and we felt that because of the leadership that he portrayed. He presented a well-organized and thorough plan moving forward. We liked it.''

The second interview went well and the two sides opened negotiations on Saturday. There had been reports the Cardinals first offered the position to Sherman, but team officials denied that.

"It became apparent to us, particularly when we got into the second phase of our interview process, that Ken began to separate himself from the other candidates," Graves said.

Whisenhunt also interviewed for openings with the Steelers, the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins.

An Atlanta native who played collegiately at Georgia Tech, and then played tight end for the Falcons for four (1985-88) of his nine NFL seasons, Whisenhunt certainly seems a good fit for a Cardinals team that is loaded with young offensive talent.

Arizona was seeking a coach to work with quarterback Matt Leinart, and Whisenhunt's development of Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh impressed the Cardinals' brass. Arizona also has solid young players on defense and Whisenhunt might retain current coordinator Clancy Pendergast to lead that unit.

A fearless playcaller, and adept at creating advantageous matchups, Whisenhunt has been Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator since 2004. Under his stewardship, the Steelers' offense statistically ranked No. 7 in the NFL in 2006. The Steelers were 16th in 2004 and 15th in 2005, when they won Super Bowl XL.

Although some perceive Whisenhunt's strengths as the creative use of formations, motion and personnel packages, he also believes in a power-based running game.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for The Associated Press contributed to this report.