The finals we had all been waiting for – the #1 Patriots against the #3 Steelers. While the seeding didn’t do justice for the Steelers, the team had been rolling since their blockbuster trade at the deadline.
The game started off as a back-and-forth affair. QB Ali Haroon found Rising Star Khalil Najarali for two touchdowns and Rising Star nominee Farhan Khan for another. Even though the Patriots went into half-time a little deflated, their first play from scrimmage in the second half was a beautiful catch and run by the speedster Mohamed Railey. After dominating his matchup against one of the best man defenders in the semis, Ali Merali struggled to get separation in this one. His INT off Kumail Meghani served as a bittersweet moment as the defensive performance as a whole wasn’t up to par. In the end, it was the turnovers that really put the nail in the coffin, as Ali threw two end-zone INTs to Ammar Dayani and Asad Hussain. The Patriots had an incredible regular season, but will forever be haunted by plenty of ‘what ifs’ from this game – including the absence of their blossoming rookie Shane Nanji.
For the Steelers, Kumail Meghani did what he does best – spread the ball to the open man and let them use their talents to do the rest. Top to bottom, there was no one person that the Patriots could hone in on to defend, but it would’ve helped if they had paid particular attention to Asad Hussain (a close runner-up for Playoff MVP), who dominated with four touchdowns. Ammar Dayani caught a touchdown you’ll soon see on ‘Toe Drag Swag’ and Mighty Mouse Mohammad Sabowala carved through the Patriots defense. Captain Ahsan Raza even got in on the fun defensively with an interception of his own.
Congratulations to the whole Steelers team for an outstanding performance in the playoffs, scoring over 40 points in each of their three matchups. A BIG congratulations goes out to QB Kumail Meghani, who finished the season off as the back-to-back regular season and playoff MVP!
Going into this game, one could’ve wished this was actually a Finals matchup and not a game in the semis. Both the Steelers and Ravens boasted extremely deep teams and were riding hot into the playoffs. Ravens QB Noor Zia started the game off throwing absolute lasers, including a beautiful dime in double coverage to Kazim Raza for a touchdown. But mental mistakes, not spreading the ball around, and veering away from what was working is what did the Ravens in. While Hisham Ali ate up the Steelers’ defense, the Ravens couldn’t capitalize on gaps once the Steelers turned to a man defense.
While the debate of rest vs. momentum is on-going, the Steelers entered this game rolling from their quarter-finals game against the Colts. The game plan looked to be the same – feed Ahsan and Asad. The two combined for 12 receptions and 5 TDs. But as these games often do, this game came down to defense. Kumail Meghani snagged two INTs off the Ravens, including a deep shot that looked like he had no shot to get to. The feeling before and after this game was that the winner of this game could be the one holding the trophy, and unfortunately for the Ravens, they fell short at their chance to make that a reality.
This game might have been the matchup of the day, especially when you factor in the #1 seed taking on a team that consistently has played smash mouth defense. But when it came to defense in this game, there was one name you could NOT ignore, and that was captain Farhan Ratansi. Just when you thought the Patriots energy was dwindling, he made two critical pick sixes, showing off why he’s always a perennial DPOY candidate and previous winner. On the offensive side of the ball, QB Ali Haroon played an extremely efficient game, riding the back of his hot hand Ali Merali, who really earned his #9 draft slot in this game alone.
As has been the story all season, the Lions weren’t one to give up without a fight. QB Said Samater started off extremely hot, throwing deep bombs to Areeb Akhter and Mustufa Wadiwala. It really came down to the two mistakes, and perhaps that was on the game plan, as the Lions receivers ran quite deep on most of their routes. Often times, the steamboat clock was winding down, and the check down option was just not as open as it had been all season. Even with all that, the game down to the last drive, where an overthrown ball just ricocheted off Areeb’s hands and landed in the lap of Mohammed Altahan.
In their fourth matchup of the season, this battle between the Colts and Steelers turned out exactly how captain Muhammad Ali envisioned his trade to work out. However, the Colts just couldn’t keep up long enough. QB Ahmad Sharifi played perhaps his best game of the season, marching the Colts down the field on repeated drives and spreading the ball out to all his targets. He found his safety blanket in Asghar Molu, who was making ridiculous catches all game long (much like his career). Playing as a massive x-factor, Raza Mawji put ample pressure on the opposing team, even racking up two sacks in the process.
Coming into this game as the ‘massive’ favourites, the Steelers showed off their offensive prowess again and again. Marching down the field came with relative ease, especially behind MVP QB Kumail Meghani. Somehow turning into a flag grabbing machine, captain Ahsan Raza also commanded the middle of the field on offense, finding every little crease he could. In the end, the Colts had no answer for rookie phenom Asad Hussain, who is a threat to take it to the house on any catch he makes.
In what started off looking promising for the Broncos, especially on their first drive, quickly turned to disaster. QB Imran Ebrahim couldn’t complete drives for his team, throwing three back-breaking interceptions. The Broncos struggled to get down the field on a consistent basis and could only muster one scoring drive behind a QB run from near midfield. Even with two deep completions to Jawad Yusufali and Khizer Jamal, the Broncos couldn’t stop themselves from getting in their own way.
On the other side of the field, the Lions played a near flawless game and managed to save plenty of energy for their upcoming semi-final. QB Said Samater completed 75% of his passes, connecting on TDs to Khaleel Kassam, Murtaza Shah, Qumber Ali, and Inayat Shivraj. As has been their mantra for the whole season, their man defense was lockdown, resulting in two interceptions by Murtaza Shah and one by Areeb Akhter.