Monday, 17 January 2011 16:40

New Orleans Still Has Skin In NFC Champion Game, Steelers vs. Bears

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Ed Staton, Louisiana SportsSummary: With the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFCand AFC championship games respectively, New Orleans Saints will not be playing but New Orleans and still have some skin in the game.  Mike Wallce of the Steelers grew up in the city,  Matt Forte of the Bears helped Chicago beat the Seahawks. 

It was a strange season for NFL receivers. Only 17 had 1,000-yard seasons, but those who crossed that level had incredible numbers.

Mike Wallace of the Steelers had a 21-yard average per catch, and Dwayne Bowe, former LSU standout, of the Chiefs led the league with 15 touchdown receptions.

Wallace, a second-year receiver from New Orleans, made his mark this season after replacing Antonio Holmes as the Steelers No. 2 receiver behind No. 1 Hines Ward. Wallace had 60 catches for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Wallace attended O. Perry Walker High on the West Bank where during his senior season, had 60 receptions for 1,039 yards and 19 touchdowns. He set records for total points and kick return touchdowns.

In 2004, Wallace signed with Oregon State, be changed his mind and after being recruited by assistant coach Frank Wilson (now at LSU) and signed with Ole Miss in 2005. Wilson coached at O. Perry Walker and was athletics director for the New Orleans Public School system before  moving on to Ole Miss.

He was a third-team All-SEC receiver as a senior at Ole Miss and was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2009 draft after running a 4.33 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Wallace finished his rookie season leading the NFL in average per catch with 19.4 yards. He just missed becoming only the third receiver in NFL history to lead the league in average per receptions in his first two seasons.

Before the Steelers' victory over the Ravens on Saturday, Baltimore cornerback Chris Carr said, "This year, Wallace is the most legitimate deep threat in the NFL besides Randy Moss."

"He's super," said Ravens linebacker Jarred Johnson. "He might be one of the fastest guys in the league. His ability to stretch a defense opens them up."

Wallace is still young and continuing to learn the game, but his speed often makes up for it.

"He did one thing I told him to do that I've been waiting for him to do," said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, "and that was on a deep ball, come back to it. That's something a lot of speed guys can't do. If it's short, they kind of let it go. I've been on him a lot about doing that. He stopped and he came back and made a play.I was happy to see that."

"He's a young player; a talented guy," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "He's got a desire to be a great player and he works at it every day. On Sundays you sometimes see the fruits of that labor, and hopefully it continues."

Wallace and the Steelers will play in the AFC championship game this weekend.

FORMER Tulane running back Matt Forte pounded out 80 yards on 26 carries as the Bears used a running game to defeat the Seahawks 35-24 on Sunday and advance to the NFC championship game. A running game is something the Saints didn't have in losing to the 'Hawks the week before. "That was our game plan going into the game," said Forte. "Once we established the run -- it just works to have balance and you can see the defenses wearing down when you start running like that." The Saints threw 60 passes against the 'Hawks. The Bears ran the ball 45 times for 176 yards as they wisely kept it on the ground, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler ran for two touchdowns. If an NFL team rushes for 150 yards it should win the game...

Sunday, 2 p.m. Fox

Sunday, 5:30 p.m. CBS
Morning Line: Packers 3 over Bears; Steelers 3 1/2 over Jets

SOME hither, others yon: Right guard Carl Nicks is the only Saints to make ESPN's John Clayton's 2010 All-Pro team. Writes Clayton: "The best guard duo in the league is Nicks and Jahri Evans, but Evans' league-high nine holding penalties kept Nicks in this slot." Colts receiver Reggie Wayne of the West Bank made the team and Ravens safety Ed Reed of St,Rose was selected. Wayne caught 111 passes for 1,335 yards and Reed led the league in interceptions with eight and only played in 10 games. Both Wayne and Reed played for the University of Miami. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was an easy selection with a 36--4 touchdown-to-interception ratio...

The Saints had the most-watched show and basic cable show of 2010. Football fans across the country tuned into the largest numbers ever the past season. According to The Nielsen Company, the 2010 regular season reached 207.7 million unique viewers, the most in history.  NFL games were watched by an average of 17.9 million viewers -- up 1.3 million viewers per game from last year and the league's highest viewership average since 1989 (18.0 million), before the explosion of viewer choice on television and online. The Saints-Falcons game, the season finale of Monday Night Football on Dec. 27, averaged 19.1 million viewers to rank as the most-watched cable program in 2010. The FOX Thanksgiving game (Saints-Cowboys) was the most watched Sunday Night Football game ever (25.73 million viewers)...

Year one of Champions Square was a success.  During its monthly meeting at the Superdome last week, the commission praised the entertainment square outside of the Superdome that opened this past summer. In just more than four months, and with just 16 days of operation, the 60,000-foot square that typically opened before Saints games and other big events at the Superdome netted the LSED more than $800,000 in revenue. Thai number is expected to more than double this year as more events are added. Doug Thornton, regional vice of SMG, the company that manages the Superdome and the Arena, said there has been early dialog with high-ranking Superdome and Arena staff  about the prospects of a long NFL or NBA lockout. Because the Saints and NFL pull in nearly all of the revenue generated from NFL games at the Superdome, Thornton said a lockout wouldn't put a major dent in the revenue that the stadium brings in, although it would lose revenue generated at Champions Square on Saints game days. If there is a lockout, Thornton could be faced with reducing staff at the Superdome.

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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