SUPER 16 – After the closest Super Bowl in Super 16 history the Arizona Firebirds have beaten the Birds of Prey, 215.00 – 213.50, in overtime to become the 2017 S16 Champions. In a game that was separated by just a half-point margin at the end of play on Christmas night, the Firebirds prevailed through the Fantasy Overtime of stat corrections to come out on top and win their first ever Super 16 League Championship over BoP in the first ever Association Championship decided in overtime.
Super Bowl VI was a rematch of Super Bowl II between these two perrenial powerhouses of the S16, both teams finishing the 2017 regular season with 10-3-0 records with their Division Championships, and both were 2017-18 Pro Bowl Nominated teams. The two of them are also among just a handful of Association Gold Star franchises and the only two of them in the Super 16, each with more than 50 all-time wins. With an 84 point advantage in total season scoring, Coach Crash’s Firebirds were the #1 seed in the post season, and after defeating the Who Dat Saints 242-207 in the semifinals, advanced to the Championship round for just the second time ever, set to face the very same opponent. As the #2 seed, Roger Tripp’s Birds of Prey beat the Steel Curtain franchise, 211-159 to advance to the big game for an unbelievable 5th time in 6 seasons, including the 2014 4-way Super Bowl. They’ve won in 3 of those appearances, including once against the Firebirds and twice against their old rival the Ice Cold Bruschis (retired). Besides Super Bowl II, the two franchises have faced off a total of five times, and the Super Bowl VI victory is just the scond time Arizona has been able to best the Birds, and this one was just barely a victory.
Things started off slow for Arizona with one of their DB’s playing Saturday along with their kicker and flexback, but only producing 19 points between the three of them, squandering the chance for them to get out to a bigger, early lead, however, the 10 points their kicker put up on the board had the chance to become very important later. The Birds of Prey’s hometeam Falcons took the field in the early game on Sunday, facing hated foe New Orleans, and combined to put 74 points on the board for BoP. Their three biggest stars – Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan – each turned in below average performances for the Birds, but defensive captain Deion Jones came through with 30 points, his second highest outing of the season. The Firebirds, however started three of their own Saints players in the same game and countered with 60 defensive points to stay out in front, and countered Ryan’s 22 points at QB with 31 points from their signal caller, Tom Brady.
In other early game action, the Birds of Prey’s tight end scored 4 points, and Arizona’s tight end matched his 4; BoP’s lead back, LeSean McCoy turned in 147 all purpose yards for 15 points, but Arizona’s lead back Kareem Hunt, scored a touchdown to go with his 106 yards for 19 points; the Birds’ defensive end gave them 7 and a half points, and the Firebirds’ end gave them 19. Throughout the day, Arizona matched Birds of Prey punch for punch, yard for yard, and touchdown for touchdown, holding onto the lead, and slowly pulling away. In the afternoon games, the Falcon franchise made strides in closing the gap, particularly from their other two defensive ends – Demarcus Lawrence (12) and former Firebird Calais Campbell (19) – along with 7 points from their kicker. Going into the Sunday night game, the Firebirds were still holding onto the lead, and both teams were running out of players when Birds of Prey unleashed their secret weapon: Arizona’s own Cardinal defense who they had started against the Firebirds. The Redbird D gave Birds of Prey an impressive 33 points, but Arizona syphoned 18 of those off with Cardinal IDP’s, and in the same game, the Firebirds’ franchise receiver, Larry Fitzgerald was clutch, producing a 9/119/1 statline for 24 points, his second best of 2017.
By the time Sunday Night Football was done, and Santa was airborn on Christmas Eve, the Firebirds still held the lead 215.00 – 198.50, and had no positions left to play, but the Birds still had Eagles’ defensive back Ronald Darby and hopes for a Christmas Miracle. As the Eagles-Raiders game progressed on Christmas Day, Darby managed to rack up 3 tackles and 3 assists for Birds of Prey, good for 9 points, closing the score to 215.00 – 207.50. He added a pass defensed for another pair of points, and the clock began to wind down with Birds of Prey still 5 and a half points short of a comeback when, with :57 seconds left in the game he picked off a pass for 6 points, giving Birds of Prey their Christmas Miracle and their first lead of the entire game. And :56 seconds later, the regulation period of Super Bowl VI came to an end with a score of 215.00 – 215.50 in favor of the Birds of Prey.
For the first time ever in the Super 16 or any other Association league, the Championship entered Fantasy Overtime. With a score that close, particularly with as many IDP’s as the S16 starts, stat corrections are almost inevitable, and scores can fluctuate by a couple of points in either direction. Should they wind up locked in an actual tie, League Rules named kicking points as the first tiebreaker, and Arizona had the edge there with 10 points to the Birds’ 7, though it didn’t end up coming down to that. Late on Wednesday night, over 48 hours after the final whistle, the Grinch stole the Birds Christmas Miracle as a stat correction came in, erasing one of Calais Campbell’s passes defensed – he had been credited with a tip, which, on closer review, he did not get a hand on. It cost him, and Birds of Prey, 2 points….and a Super Bowl Championship. With all stat corrections official for the NFL at midday on Thursday, the final score of Super Bowl VI was finally final: Arizona Firebirds 215.00 to 213.50 for Birds of Prey.
Though a bit delayed, the Arizona Firebird’s Super 16 Championship is no less sweet, made even sweeter having been fought for in, perhaps the most exciting Super Bowl in league history, and won against the winningest team in the Association. In the SBVI preview, AF posted a graphic showing these two franchises’ 2017 week by week scores which showed that, had they played each other every week of the season, it would have produced 7 wins for Arizona, 6 for the birds, and 1 tie, and that’s about how this Championship turned out….a game of inches, the Firebirds with a slightly longer beak.
Because of the schedule formula, as Division Champions, these two will be scheduled to face each other again in 2018, meaning this surely isn’t the end of this rivalry, and each will also have to face the North and East Division Champions Northern Fins and The Dawg Pound. Birds of Prey will twice have to compete with dangerous division rival Who Dat Saints who stole the Division from them in 2016, and because the South plays the East next year, must also face the juggernaut that is Steel Curtain. That makes all of the five other playoff teams that the Birds will have to get through to make it to Super Bowl VII, while Arizona will have to come out on top of the annual battle royale that is the West Division, as well as facing old division rival, the relocated Motor City Kitties, if they have any hopes of repeating. Fourteen other franchises have designs on the crown as well and will be ready to write a new story, their story. Untill then, only one team will be calling themselves the Super Bowl Champion Arizona Firebirds.