In four of the last five Super Bowls, the game has been determined by a turbulent, exciting final drive. In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writer Austin Murphy (@si_austinmurphy) takes us through the history of the two-minute drills that make NFL games, especially Super Bowls, so memorable. From Unitas to Montana to Manning (Eli, that is), Murphy breaks down some of the most iconic drives. The piece also dives into the drill’s evolution, such as communication between quarterback and coach via headset, the growth of hurry-up offenses and the intense preparation of all the possible late game scenarios coaches stress to get ready for games.
“There’s so much more emphasis on [hurry-up offenses]. Especially in OTAS and training camp,” says new Cardinals coach and former Colts interim coach Bruce Arians (PAGE 34), who helped rookie quarterback Andrew Luck become a two-minute maestro this season.
Murphy also poses the question of which Super Bowl quarterback has the better chance to lead a winning two-minute drill in this year’s game. Will it be Joe Flacco, who already has 10 fourth-quarter comebacks to his name, or the elusive Colin Kaepernick, who showed at Nevada that he has the potential to be a “future maestro of the 2MD”?
“Flacco’s guys know he can do it. They’re going to have a confidence that the 49ers can’t have because they haven’t done it,” says Randy Cross (PAGE 32), the former 49ers center who was a part of in the winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII.
Ravens linebacker and team leader Ray Lewis is featured under the headline “Does God Care Who Wins the Super Bowl?” on the cover of the Feb. 4, 2013 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands Wednesday.
In a special piece for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Mark Oppenheimer (@markopp1), religion columnist for The New York Times, tackles the paradox of big-time football: The sport with the biggest Christian presence, most famous Christian athletes and most religious leaders affiliated with teams features a culture that seemingly goes against the values of Christianity.
“Church and pro football both revolve around Sunday, and 50 years into our national experiment of mixing the two, it is not at all clear that faith has won the day,” writes Oppenheimer (PAGE 40).
Oppenheimer notes what has become customary for many NFL players: They point to heaven, pray on their knees and thank Jesus in post-game interviews. This Sunday at the Super Bowl, Ray Lewis will wear his customary black T-shirt under his uniform that says PSALMS 91 and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, if successful on a big play, will kiss either his tattoo of the words GOD TO GLORY or the one that reads FAITH.
Justin Tuck, New York Giants defensive end and leader of the Giants’ team Bible study says:
“A lot of people rely on the game for their identity. My happiness and joy aren’t based on how well I play or if I get a sack. I should live a life that God is pleased with, not live a life total strangers are pleased with on Sunday.” (PAGE 40)
However, Oppenheimer wonders if the violent nature of the game, not to mention the lifestyle of many wealthy NFL players contradicts what the Christianity stands for. He writes:
“Football brings a level of violence that is deeply at odds with Christ’s message.” (PAGE 41)
He also notes that the Bible is filled with passages that emphasize the weak over the strong and the poor at the expense of the rich, and that it instructs followers to keep the Sabbath holy.
On the contrary, others argue, including many religious leaders, that football builds character and thereby makes a man more of a Christian—a commingling of faith and football now accepted by fans.
“God loves us just the way we are” says Les Steckel, a former NFL head and assistant coach, who now is president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, “but at the same time he does require excellence. And in the NFL, performance is ultimate.” (PAGE 38)
Former Redskins and Cardinals running back Tim Hightower, a devout Christian, understands the dilemma faced by religious football players. Hightower says:
“You have to stop and ask yourself: Am I a football player who is Christian, or a Christian who is a football player?” (PAGE43)
Download a high res image of the cover here
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who rushed for more yards—181—than any other quarterback in any NFL game, threw for another 261 and finished with four TDs in a 45-31 victory over Green Bay in the NFC Divisional playoff last Saturday, is on the cover of the Jan. 21, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday. This is the first time Kaepernick has appeared on the cover, and the first time a 49er was featured on the cover since Jan. 23, 2012.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Austin Murphy (@si_austinmurphy) says that after one of the most electrifying playoff debuts in NFL History, Kaepernick has silenced critics (the college coaches who didn’t find him worthy of a scholarship; the NFL teams who picked five quarterbacks before him in the ’11 draft; and the fans who preferred Alex Smith).
”I had a lot to prove,” Kaepernick shouted on the field after the game. “A lot of people doubted me and my ability to lead this team (PAGE 41).”
Perhaps it was fate that the 49er quarterback led his team to a win over the Packers. Kaepernick’s mother Theresa told Murphy about a letter she found that Colin wrote to himself as a fourth grader. It said in part: I hope I go to a good college in football, then go to the pros and play on the niners or the packers even if they aren’t good in seven years (PAGE 39).