Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 19, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Time to order more wings

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — As it kindled a slow, simmering fire along my palate, even the mango habanero buffalo wing sauce greeting my tastebuds and dripping from my fingers couldn’t compare to how hot the home team was on the big screen before me.

It takes an awful lot for me to leave Buffalo Wild Wings short of a three-hour stay, but I didn’t put up a fight when my lovely wife and two little ones were ready to hit the exits on Sunday afternoon.

The Atlanta Falcons were well ahead of the Seattle Seahawks, 20-0, at halftime. The future Hall of Fame tight end whose name graced the jersey I was wearing, well, he was doing his thing.

The old Chiefs attire from the back of my closet was worth brushing the dust off of — it allowed me to support one of the all-time good guys of the game. Chief-turned-Falcon Tony Gonzalez had a tip-toe touchdown along the back of the end zone that showed why he left himself some wiggle room when talking about retirement.

So, my work was done. Gonzalez and the Falcons were one win away from a Super Bowl berth.

Not so fast.

An hour or so passes by, and curiosity struck a brainwave. I reached for my iPhone, actually to check the Michigan-Ohio State basketball score before scrolling to football. But a certain NFL score caught my attention first: Falcons 27, Seahawks 21. Whaaaaaat???

Were the Seahawks really going to pull it off a crazy comeback again?

I had to listen to the last few minutes in the car, and as you know now, the Falcons barely pulled it out at home, of course with the help of a Gonzalez catch setting up the game-winning field goal.

Moral of the story? Don’t leave Buffalo Wild Wings early.

NFC Championship

49ers at Falcons, Sunday at 3 p.m.

In their three losses this season, the Falcons’ running game was virtually non-existent (I’ll refrain from Manti Te’o girlfriend jokes here).

Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers will have to run like they did last weekend in order to quell the Colin Kaepernick craze.

San Francisco’s head-turning quarterback will probably have his way — similar dual threats Russell Wilson and Cam Newton torched Atlanta’s defense for big yardage both on the ground and through the air within the last few weeks — so it’s up to the offense if the Falcons are to fly on to the Super Bowl.

Turner and Rodgers combined for 162 yards on 24 carries in Atlanta’s 30-28 doozy of a win on Sunday.

If the Falcons become to predictable and one-dimensional, prolific pass rushers Aldon Smith and Justin Smith will feast on Atlanta QB Matt Ryan, dashing Gonzalez and company’s hopes of living another two weeks.

The deafening Georgia Dome is another check on the Falcons’ list of positives, and it’s enough to narrowly push them over the edge in a somewhat surprising outcome.

Snyder says: Falcons 34, 49ers 31.

AFC Championship

Ravens at Patriots, Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

As much as I’d like to see a Ray Lewis-Gonzalez matchup in the Super Bowl — both all-time greats on the verge of retirement — I think the Ravens will come up just short in this one.

Guess the reason ...

Have I given you enough time?

His name rhymes with Zom Zady.

His name is also synonymous with Super Bowls, as this will be Tom Brady’s sixth appearance if he leads his team to victory Sunday.

The Ravens keep it close in this AFC Championship rematch because, even with an aging defense, they still step up in these moments. Evidence? The Mile-High madness from a week ago.

Joe Flacco and Ray Rice will do some damage for the Baltimore offense, but I see some drives coming up just short, opening the window for Brady’s bunch to pull away in the fourth quarter on a cold night in Foxborough.

Snyder says: Patriots 28, Ravens 19.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.