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Mehno: NFL has terrific weekend

PITTSBURGH — If you can pardon the mixed metaphor, the NFL hit it out of the park with Conference Championship weekend.

In other words, it was a real slam dunk.

The games were fabulous, the drama was compelling, the outcomes were in doubt until overtime, and there was even some controversy to carry over into the new week.

It’s the New England Patriots, perfect villains, in the Super Bowl again, cast against the upstart Los Angeles Rams. It’s senior quarterback Tom Brady against trainee Jared Goff. East coast vs. west. Cranky old Bill Belichick vs. ebullient young Sean McVay.

The controversy came when officials missed a blatant pass interference penalty that could have affected the outcome of the game. Saints fans will be a long time getting over this. It’s spurred debate about the quality of officiating (these are “all-star” crews in the postseason) and exposed the flaws in a replay system that is supposed to correct the worst mistakes.

It may not shine a positive light on the league, but it has people talking about football in the blah week with nothing but the useless Pro Bowl. As long as they’re talking about you, that has to be good, right? Or have we all been corrupted by Antonio Brown?

Some other scattered thoughts from the weekend:

n Tony Romo is drawing much praise for his work as a CBS analyst. It’s well deserved.

Romo is smart, well-prepared and enthusiastic. He’s also only two years removed from the field, so he’s up to speed on the current personnel and trends.

n The Patriots didn’t have a great regular season by their standards, but they know how to gear up when it matters. Their consistent success in the salary cap era is amazing.

n Of course, the regular season is a formality for the Patriots because they play in a weak division. Then again, the Steelers weren’t exactly in a powerful AFC North this season, and look what happened.

n Poor Andy Reid. What is it about the postseason that makes him look so bad. It wasn’t his fault that a player lined up in the neutral zone, but that mindless gaffe contributes to Reid’s lousy postseason record.

n Wonder how St. Louis, the city the Rams abandoned, feels about seeing them in the Super Bowl?

n A 57-yard field goal to win a conference title in overtime on the road? That’s clutch. Or maybe it seems extra impressive after watching Chris Boswell miss so many “routine” extra points.

No deal

The report that the Pirates were willing to trade Starling Marte to the Dodgers has been discredited. It didn’t make sense from the start, unless the Pirates were going to acquire someone to play center field this season. With Austin Meadows gone, there is no logical in-house replacement.

Stormy conditions

There was debate about whether Pitt fans should storm the court with an upset of No. 2 Duke.

Last year the issue was storming the exits at halftime.

John Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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