Playoffs a Showcase For Trio of Cal Alumni
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Category: Sports > Fall > Football
America's pastime is almost coming to a close after a fall filled with compelling storylines. (Let's be honest here; the NFL is crushing every other sport in viewership and revenue, seizing hold of the title from baseball.)
Although you wouldn't have guessed it based on the results of Cal football's latest lackluster season, the Bears actually had 14 former players make appearances in the playoffs.
With Super Bowl XLV now two weeks away, let's take a look back at how a few Cal alums have done in the football postseason.
One of the most talked-about tales of 2010 was Brett Favre's return to the Minnesota Vikings. Missing the playoffs a year after one of his greatest seasons, the quarterback finally appears to be ready for retirement. If so, an injury-plagued swan song coupled with, ahem, off-field indiscretions did not make for the most graceful exit.
Favre's Green Bay successor, on the other hand, now has the top career pass rating (98.4) in NFL history. Although Aaron Rodgers has racked up statistics ever since he debuted as a starter back in 2008 - he topped 4,000 yards passing in each of his first two seasons - his detractors have brought up his lack of success winning playoff games.
Now that he's set to become the fifth former Cal quarterback to ever start in a Super Bowl, the former Pro Bowler has finally taken an unquestioned place among the NFL's signal-calling elite.
Most stunning was the sheer clinic he held at Atlanta. In a duel against another young QB talent in Matt Ryan, the 27-year-old threw only five incompletions, shredding the Falcons defense for 366 yards and three touchdowns. The 48-21 blowout moved the Packers into a rematch against the Chicago Bears.
Although Rodgers didn't have his most brilliant showing in Sunday's NFC Championship - 17-of-30 for 244 yards and two picks - he still scored a rushing touchdown to back up his status as one of the better scrambling quarterbacks in the league.
Green Bay's other Cal alum is one of the Packers' key players on defense. A former transfer from San Francisco City College, Desmond Bishop started all 25 games he played at Cal and, in 2006, became the first Bear to lead the Pac-10 in tackles since 1993.
The starting inside linebacker ranked second on the squad with 103 combined tackles in the regular season, and has the team's postseason lead with 18.
Most notably, he opened the playoffs with a 9-yard sack of the Philadelphia's Michael Vick on the first play of the NFC Wild Card match-up.
Although his Seattle Seahawks already spent last week watching the games from home, Marshawn Lynch still deserves mention for putting his unique stamp on his team's miraculous upset of the New Orleans Saints.
If David slew Goliath, Lynch may as well have been the stone slung from the sling. As the Seahawks fought to hold on with a 34-30 lead late in the fourth quarter, the former Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year turned a routine play into arguably the greatest run in NFL playoff history.
Lynch burst up the middle, then cut to his right to start a 67-yard journey to the end zone and the emasculation of about a half dozen tacklers. Even if his career never again sees such a bright spotlight, his stiff arm of Tracy Porter will live forever on YouTube.
Jack Wang covers football. Contact him at [email protected]
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