If you had been asked in September which former UK receiver would step up and nearly win the Super Bowl for his team, youâ€™d probably have said, â€œRandall Cobb. Who else?â€
How about Chris Matthews?
â€œChris Matthews? Is he in the NFL?â€
He might not have been playing in September. But in February, he made four excellent catches (one a touchdown), that almost â€“ probably should have â€“ led to a Seattle win.
What I remember about Matthews in Lexington was a big, athletic, full-of-promise receiver who could do everything outstanding receivers are supposed to do . . . except catch the ball. I just have this memory of passes bouncing off his chest, out of his hands, through his fingers. You always kind of hoped the next pass, the next game, the next season would be different.
Iâ€™m glad it finally happened. Those were his first NFL receptions!
Oh, am I being paranoid, but if that were Harry Douglas catching those balls, would that have been a lead story in the Courier-Journal? Rather than a last paragraph in an AP story that didnâ€™t even mention Matthewsâ€™ local connection?
Yeah â€“ paranoid â€“ probably.
Another thing about the Super Bowl. After two weeks of mostly nonsensical media coverage about the air pressure in footballs and whether this selfish, clueless player would answer reportersâ€™ questions NBC redeemed itself a little during the post-game.
Somewhere deep inside the stadium, Carolyn Manno conducted the usual losing locker room interview. Most reporters hush their voices and ask things like, â€œHow hard was that…?â€ and â€œWhat did you tell your team…?â€ and generally behave like theyâ€™re covering the scene of a horrific automobile accident.
But Manno, to her credit, stepped up and asked Pete Carroll directly about that late-game decision to pass on the three-yard-line rather than to hand it to the guy they call â€œBeast Mode.â€ And Carroll, to his credit, stepped up and answered directly that it was certainly the wrong call and definitely his fault. Class act from a really good coach who may now be known forever for this one call. (Of course, it was his quarterback who threw the ball.)
One more Super Bowl observation.
Malcolm Butler made a spectacular play on the interception â€“ and then tried to run the ball out of the end zone. Stay put, and his team has the ball on the 20. Tom Brady takes a knee, gameâ€™s over. Instead, the Patriots are on their own 1.
So now they had to get the ball out of the end zone. If someone were tackled behind the line, Seattle would get two points and the ball back. Crazier things have happened.
But then, one of Seattleâ€™s vaunted Legion of Boom defense, linebacker Michael Bennett, jumped into the neutral zone â€“ five yards â€“ and Seattleâ€™s whole Legion decided this was a fortuitous time for a brawl. Fifteen more yards. One and done.
And Brady gave all us old people a spring in our step. He canâ€™t scamper like Russell Wilson. His passes sometimes seemed to lose the old zip (much like Peyton Manningâ€™s did a few weeks ago). He was picked twice, a very un-Brady thing.
But when he ambles onto the field, late in the fourth quarter, 80 yards away from paydirt, you just know heâ€™ll do what has to be done, you can see it in his eyes.
Happened in 2002. Still happening in 2015.
Of course, Patriot and Giant fans know it didnâ€™t always happen in between. When Brady and Bill Belichick saw Jermaine Kearse catch that ball while lying on his back, they must have flashed to David Tyree in 2008, Mario Manningham in 2012. Those games did not end so well.
Asked after the game if he had ever seen a catch like Kearseâ€™s, Belichick responded, with his usual dryness, â€œYeah. . .two of them.â€
CATS: WHAT MORE IS THERE TO SAY?Â
Even before visions of undefeated seasons danced in BBNâ€™s heads, these next couple SEC games looked like a gauntlet on the schedule. Always difficult at Florida, on Saturday. And LSU, in Baton Rouge next week, with Jordan Mickie (16.4) and Jarell Martin (16.0). Theyâ€™re big, they can shoot and they can rebound.
And Kentucky is likely without Trey Lyles. Heâ€™s the fourth Wildcat to miss games because of unspecified â€œillness.â€
Photo by Victoria Graff | Contributing Photographer