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Emotions ran high after the Baltimore Ravens earned a trip to the Super Bowl with a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. 

While the Ravens celebrated their victory with tears, chanting, laughter and even some post game trash talk, there were those on the losing side also experiencing a host of emotions, theirs, of the less joyful variety.

A screen shot of a status update posted on the Facebook page of Anna Welker, wife of Patriots receiver Wes Welker, went viral after the game Sunday as the post took aim at the personal life of Ravens team captain Ray Lewis.

Anna Welker tells PepperOnSports.com exclusively,

"I’m deeply sorry for my recent post on Facebook, including comments about Ray Lewis. I let the competitiveness of the game and the comments people were making about a team I dearly love get the best of me. My actions were emotional and irrational and I sincerely apologize to Ray Lewis and anyone affected by my comment after yesterday’s game.  It is such an accomplishment for any NFL team to even make it to the playoffs, and the momentary frustration I felt should not overshadow the achievement of these amazing teams."

It’s Time For The Giants To Pipe Down About The Patriots

Instead of talking about what an incredible game Super Bowl 46 was, we find ourselves tied up in pointless post-game controversy. I wish we could be focused on the positive things the game provided but a combination of exaggerated media coverage and comments made by a few of the Giants players have made that hard to do.  Here’s my take on the incessant criticism of Gisele Bundchen and Rob Gronkowski.  

 

Get off Gisele Bundchen’s back.

Seriously.

Why is it that people are criticizing Gisele for saying exactly what they were screaming at their televisions?

(click here to watch the video of Gisele: http://insdr.co/yYXeHQ )

Who watched the Super Bowl and DIDN’T say, “you HAVE to make that catch!” following Wes Welker’s drop on second and 11 as the Patriots were desperate for a first down to keep the clock running and the ball out of Eli Manning’s hands?

In fact, NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth responded to Welker’s drop saying  “Welker makes that catch 100 out of 100 times,” and play-by-play man Al Michaels replied “well this is 101.”

Personally, I think that catch wasn’t as easy as it looked given the fact that Welker had to spin his entire body around in mid-sprint,  but since he got his finger tips on it, the argument can be made that he had it and should’ve held on.

But Welker wasn’t the only one who dropped some pretty well-thrown balls by Gisele’s husband, Pats quarterback Tom Brady.  Veteran wide out Deion Branch and tight end Aaron Hernandez couldn’t get a grasp on some critical balls thrown their way in the Patriots’ final drive of the game.

"My husband cannot f*****g throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time,”  Gisele uttered with frustration inside Lucas Oil Stadium after the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17.  Brady didn’t play a perfect game by any means but Gisele has a valid point.

So why is everyone pouncing on Brady’s wife, Gisele, for speaking the truth?
Well, Gisele already has a few strikes against her:

1. People don’t want to hear a player’s wife criticize the team.
2. Since Brady and Bundchen got together in 2006, the Patriots have yet to win a Super Bowl.
3. Sports fans don’t want their favorite players distracted by anything off the field.
4. This was not the first time Gisele has stirred up controversy

Isn’t it funny how we enjoy freedom of speech and use it to be critical amongst ourselves, yet we don’t care to see others exercise that same right?  It’s okay for us to bash the Patriots receiving corps, but god forbid a player’s wife does it.  How un-Belichickian of Gisele.  Doesn’t she know the rules?  NO TALKING.

Boston seems to have turned Gisele into the Yoko Ono of the Patriots.  Fans are noting the fact the Patriots have yet to win a title since the two started dating, but you know what?  Neither have 26 other NFL teams in that time!  At least the Pats made it to the big game twice since 2006, which is more than can be said for every other team in the league aside from the Steelers and Colts who have also played for the title twice in recent years.  I think New England-area fans have been spoiled by successful sports teams over the last decade and it shows here.

Fans of athletes and celebrities alike tend to view their favorite stars as living in a bubble consisting only of career and public image.  If Tommy Brady can’t win a Super Bowl and be married to a smoke show at the same time, then clearly,  he needs to ditch latter.  After all, what could possibly be more distracting than a five-foot-11 inch Brazilian supermodel?  I highly doubt Gisele has cursed her husband just by being with him, but that logic doesn’t register for some.

I think a lot of people expect someone who makes a living off of their looks to be seen, not heard.  “Put on your lace, walk the runway, and be quiet.”  In reality, most celebrities are multifaceted just like the rest of us and Gisele happens to be quite outspoken.  In fact, I like Gisele because she actually has an opinion.  A while back, Gisele found herself in hot water after controversial comments she made about breast feeding.  Before Super Bowl 46, Brady’s wife emailed friends and family asking them to pray for her husband and the Patriots going into the big game.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything Gisele says, but I commend her for taking a position, speaking her mind and being more than just a pin-up girl.

In the case of Sunday’s post-game comments, it appears as though Gisele did not realize she was on camera or that a microphone would be able to pick up her comments.  In fact, some of the women surrounding her when she made those comments were the wives of other Patriots players.  If we all had microphones in our faces every time we said something after being disappointed or upset, we’d all be in big trouble.  Lets cut her some slack.

I don’t fault Gisele for her comments since she was partly right.  It can’t be denied that the Patriots receivers were lackluster down the stretch, but a team sport is never won or lost by just one, or even a few plays.  The media has turned one impassioned utterance into a news story which is fairly silly given the fact that it just isn’t important. 

But surely it does matter to Patriots poster boy and NFL ambassador Tom Brady.  Many think this will alienate Tom from his teammates, but they all have wives and girlfriends as well.  They know the drill and I doubt any of them will care.  But for the QB himself, as if dealing with another loss to Eli Manning and the New York Giants wasn’t bad enough, now Brady will have to play spokesman on behalf of his wife, which is probably the last thing he wants to do. 

This is why we watch sports. 

Amazing. Unexpected. Incredible. Fabulous. Dramatic. Suspenseful. Joyful. Heartbreaking. Spectacular.  21-17 Giants.

I don’t know about you guys, but I felt physically and emotionally spent as the ball was just short of being bobbled for a game-winning catch by Rob Gronkowski as time expired making the New York Giants super bowl champions once again.

I’m not buying comparisons between Mario Manningham’s catch in this game and David Tyree’s back in Super Bowl 42 since the plays didn’t look the same, weren’t similar in terms of field position, did not happen in the same time frame, etc., etc. 

Nonetheless, Manningham’s catch was stellar, as was the throw by Eli Manning which was just one of several precision passes made by the Super Bowl MVP.  Luckily for the Giants, Ahmad Bradshaw’s failed attempt at going down at the 1-yard line didn’t hurt New York as the timing, coupled with the ineptitude of the Patriots offense down the stretch enabled the G-Men to avoid a Hail Mary upset. 

The irony for the Patriots is that it was their offense that lost the game, not the highly criticized, 31st-ranked defense. 

Going into the game, I had trouble imagining the Patriots losing if Gronkowski was anywhere around 60 percent healthy.  I thought perhaps this would be the revenge game the Patriots organization had yearned for over the last five years.   For whatever reason, I woke up this morning with a bad feeling about the Patriots and felt even worse after Tom Brady looked nervous (in my opinion) on the sideline during the National Anthem.

Then came the intentional grounding-turned-safety on the Patriots’ first offensive possession as that  play turned out to be the only play for the Patriots offense in the first 20 touches of the game.  Despite jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the first, both teams had the jitters.  Obviously, the Patriots giving up a  safety on their first possession was unforgivable and both the Pats and Giants were called for 12 men on the field penalties in the first half proving that nerves and anxiety really are a factor, even for two teams with veterans who have super bowl experience.

During the first half, this reminded me of the Patriots regular season game against the Broncos in Denver when New England looked discombobulated and spooked by the mystique of Tim Tebow in that first quarter before shaking it off and realizing, “we’re the freakin Patriots!”  This game seemed to be on a similar path as the Pats scored 17 unanswered points after an early 9-0 deficit, not to mention putting together impressive back-to-back possessions of 96 and 79 yards. 

But down the stretch, this contest felt more like a basketball game than a football game.  They say that basketball is a game of runs, and whoever goes on the last run usually wins.  The Giants hit a lull in the middle of the game, but picked it up toward in the end, doing enough on both sides of the ball to hang on for the victory.

In the end, one of the league’s top receivers in Wes Welker let a first down slip through his fingertips.  The Giants defense was perfectly placed on third and 11 prohibiting former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch from making a catch down the middle, forcing the patriots to punt.  In the Patriots final drive, Branch and Aaron Hernandez each dropped passes and the Giants pass rush played fast and furiously, sacking Brady. 

The Giants edged out the Patriots by slim margins in most offensive categories and owned New England in terms of time of possession, but both defenses were outstanding and New York got lucky breaks when they fumbled twice without losing possession, and when the Pats burned a timeout after a failed challenge on the Manningham catch.

Eli Manning was cool, calm and patient, connecting on 30 of 40 pass attempts for 282 yards and a touchdown.  He out-performed Brady, but not by much.  Manning’s teammates came through when it counted, and Brady’s did not.   

Brady and Bill Belichick’s legacies are already hall of fame caliber, and now Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin will join them as the pair has won two Super Bowls in five years.  The Jets might be the Patriots most popularly-loathed rival, just as the Cowboys are for the Giants, but this Super Bowl cements a legitimate rivalry between the Pats and G-Men that should last for years to come.  If these teams played each other next week, the Patriots would probably win by three.  It is a special match up I wouldn’t mind seeing again.  If only these two could play in the Super Bowl every year. 

"I’ve Gotten Twitter Messages Hoping My Cancer Comes Back."

Former Boston College football darling Mark Herzlich is wearing the red, white and blue on Sunday but as a member of the New York Giants, not the Patriots team he grew close to during his years as an Eagle. The rookie linebacker talked to me about how beating cancer has put plenty of things in perspective over the last several years, including winning and losing on the football field.  During Wednesday’s pre-Super Bowl media session, Herzlich and I discussed the nasty reaction of fans to 49ers special teamer Kyle Williams after the NFC Championship game and Herzlich’s own experiences with negative fans.  Plus, Herzlich told me about his relationship with the Patriots stemming from his years at BC and the fact that many of his friends are picking their hometown Pats instead of their own buddy.  Herzlich seems like an honest cat and he has a good sense of self and humor.  I’m not sure how I feel about his hair style, but I like the kid a lot and wish him success moving forward.

Brandon Spikes is a self-proclaimed changed man.  During a Super Bowl media session Wednesday, the Patriots linebacker told me he has cleaned up his act since joining the Patriots, as he finally “grew up” after college.  While Spikes might be big and scary up the middle, he’s just as anxious as the rest of us would be in his position, as he’s having trouble sleeping at night.  Check out my conversation with Brandon, who was wearing his plaid pajama bottoms to the interview session.  Classic.

Note to self: Do NOT slack off around Jerod Mayo.  The Patriots fourth-year linebacker and team captain plays hard on the field because of the upbringing he had off it.  At 25 years old, Mayo is regarded as a veteran by his teammates and head coach Bill Belichick, who sang his praises at a Super Bowl media session on Wednesday.  I relayed Belichick’s comments to Mayo who credited his grandfather, a former Sergeant in the Air Force, with instilling toughness and discipline in him at an early age.  Mayo said he’s not afraid to give his teammates a little kick in the pants if they fall out of line.  The video above is my conversation with Jerod. 

Super Bowl Week Highlights!  Thursday was JAM PACKED so here’s a recap of my favorite moments, anecdotes, interviews etc. from the Patriots and Giants heading into Super Bowl Sunday.

Skipping a mandatory media session is a no-no in professional sports, but that didn’t stop New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora from choosing to ditch the microphones, bright lights and seemingly endless questions heading into Super Bowl XVLI. 

Both the Giants and New England Patriots held interview sessions at their respective team hotels on Wednesday and Umenyiora was fined $20K for missing the 45-minute interview period. 

The Associated Press reported that Umenyiora did attend team meetings and practice, according to Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon, who did not address why Umenyiora was absent from the press period. 

Then I remembered something Umenyiora said during Media Day yesterday.  Take a look. 

Media Day: Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez

As if Rob Gronkowski isn’t tough enough for an opposing team to handle, throw in Aaron Hernandez, and you’re in deep trouble.  It’s interesting how the tides have turned since the Patriots drafted both Hernandez and Gronkowski in the 2010 NFL Draft. 

I covered the big guys’ rookie training camp where Hernandez - the Florida Gator standout and teammate of one Tim Tebow - received most of the attention and was the recipient of substantial media hype. 

While anyone who covers the Patriots knows Hernandez and Gronkowski are pals (their lockers are next to each other and they like to goof around and talk after practice), it does make sense that they were once rivals who have figured out that there is indeed room at the top for both of them.

Hernandez talked about the evolution of his relationship with Gronkowski, plus I asked him about the classic Belichickian strategy of playing guys at multiple positions. 

1-on-1 with Pat Chung

I couldn’t resist the rhyme with this one, but in all seriousness, as a reporter, Pat Chung is one of my favorite players to cover.  He is honest without hurting his team or offending opponents (or angering Bill Belichick, which is of the utmost importance) and he has a great sense of humor as well.  A reporter asked him how he would cover his beast-like teammates Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, to which he replied, ya right!  I’m not telling the Giants how to beat us.  It was great. 

I asked Pat about the difficulties being hampered by injury coming off of a breakout season, if there is a legitimate rivalry with the Giants and how he handles the bizarro schedule of Super Bowl week. 

We always hear about how the Super Bowl is an “international event.”  Why, when other nations around the world don’t have professional football leagues, would foreign press be so interested in our big ‘old American sporting event?  I walked by a reporter doing a stand-up (when the reporter talks right to the camera) and noticed he definitely wasn’t speaking English.  Turns out, I was watching Marc Behrenbeck, a sports reporter from Germany’s version of ESPN, Sky Sports News HD.  Marc told me about his previous Super Bowl experiences, why Germany misses “NFL Europe,” how tough it is covering a sport from another continent all season long and why he has a favorite in Sunday’s big game!