The NFL’s two conference championship games were remarkably similar: Green Bay 21, Chicago 14, and Pittsburgh 24, New York Jets 19.
* Bitter cold weather. Temps at kickoff were 18 in Chicago, 15 in Pittsburgh, with wind chills below that.
* Spotty quarterback play. Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger both made lots of plays but lots of mistakes, too. Each threw two interceptions, and Big Ben added a lost fumble.
* Dominant starts, then hanging on. Green Bay led 14-0, and it seemed like 42-0. Pittsburgh led 24-0. Yet the Bears, with a third-team quarterback, rallied to get within 29 yards of a tie. And the Jets rallied to within a third-down stop of getting the ball back needing only a touchdown to win.
Now, the one big difference is that the Steelers-Jets didn’t have a Jay Cutler subplot.
The Bears quarterback was awful, but the criticism of Cutler NOT playing is silly. You can’t question the guy’s toughness. You can question his quarterbacking, which was terrible. You can question his leadership, for sitting sullen on the bench, detached from his team. But you can’t question his toughness.
Anyway, Steelers-Jets had none of that. No one is saying anyone on the Jets isn’t tough, with the possible exception of its tacklers, who let Rashard Mendenhall run wild. Give Rex Ryan his due: His Jets don’t quit. They play hard for him, even in awful circumstances, like a 24-point deficit in wind chill that would freeze a polar bear.