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Celebrity NFL Picks: After halftime, Steelers gave no quarter

Sal DeFilippo

Celebrity Picks

Final 2008 Standings
Wayne Newton, "Mr. Las Vegas": 31-19-1
Anthony Crivello, star of "Phantom - Las Vegas Spectacular": 30-21
Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas: 26-24-1
Danny Gans, Encore headliner: 26-25
Lance Burton, Monte Carlo master magician: 25-26
Kevin Janison, KVBC meteorologist: 23-26-2
Carrot Top, Luxor headliner: 17-33-1
Past Winners
2001 – Lance Burton
2002 – Clint Holmes
2003 – Rita Rudner
2004 – Oscar Goodman
2005 – Wayne Newton
2006 – Anthony Crivello
2007 – Rita Rudner
2008 – Wayne Newton

My first paragraph this week is a little long, and kinda wordy, but I apologize in advance and it’s on purpose so please bear with me. There’s a method to my madness, and when you get to the end, you’ll see where I am going with this. Trust me. OK, almost there. Keep reading for a little while longer, please. Any second now. There, that should do it.

If you read at an average page, the above paragraph should have taken you exactly 17 seconds to complete. The average reader covers 240 words per minute, or four words per second, and that shameless plea for you to continue reading was precisely 68 words if you trust the Microsoft program. And I’m far too lazy to count them. This paragraph is also 68 words, by the way.

Seventeen seconds. OK, so that’s not much time. Most things you do will take longer than that. Even Britney Spears first marriage made it past the 17-second mark. At least I think it did.

But on Sunday, the San Diego Chargers possessed the football for a grand total of 17 seconds in the third quarter of their AFC divisional playoff game at Pittsburgh. The Steelers kept control for the other 14 minutes and 43 seconds. Pittsburgh had the ball for 98.2 percent of the quarter.

That’s simply unfathomable. Think about this: In the third quarter of any NFL game, if a team just runs a play, and it’s either a running play, or a completed pass – even if the player goes out of bounds – and even if the team is running a no-huddle offense – they will use more than 17 seconds of game time. An incomplete pass, or a turnover, would stop the clock, but that’s about it.

Coming out of the locker room trailing only 14-10, the Chargers were in contention to complete the first road sweep in divisional round history, following the earlier weekend victories by Baltimore, Arizona and Philadelphia.

The Steelers mounted a nearly-eight-minute touchdown drive to start the quarter, converting several key third downs en route to opening an 11-point lead. Eight-minute drives aren’t unheard of in the NFL, certainly, and San Diego still had to be feeling pretty good when Darren Sproles returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the Pittsburgh 23-yard line.

In NFL annals, certain historic moments are referenced by short descriptions: Dwight Clark made “The Catch” in 1981. John Elway engineered “The Drive” in 1987.

With 6:57 remaining in the third quarter on Sunday, San Diego gave us “The Play.” But unlike the other highlights, this is not so-named because of its significance. I’m calling it “The Play” because it was the only one. That’s it. One snap from scrimmage. Philip Rivers’ pass was tipped in the air and intercepted. Thanks for playing, San Diego. We have some lovely parting gifts backstage.

The Steelers ran off a few more minutes, punted, and the Chargers muffed the punt, with Pittsburgh recovering deep in San Diego territory. A few more running plays and just like that, the third quarter – and with it, any real chance for a Chargers upset – was over.

Speaking of upsets – a 4-0 weekend against the number puts my playoff mark at 5-3 and overall season ledger against the spread at 37-20-2. This weekend, I’ll stick with the lower seeds plus the points, taking the Cardinals +3½ vs. the Eagles and the Ravens +6 at the Steelers.

WAYNE’S WORLD (3-5) Eagles -3 ½ at Cardinals; Steelers -6 vs. Ravens.

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