Day Two of the playoffs

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 5, 2003

Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 23. If the NFL gave out an award for &uot;Most Sympathetic Player of the Year,&uot; Tim Couch would be a lock. After tearfully blasting Cleveland fans for booing him after a loss earlier in the season, Couch ripped through the remainder, helping his team to win five of their last seven, including last week’s 24-16 defeat of Atlanta that put them in the playoffs. Unfortunately, he went down with a broken leg in that game, leaving the offense in the hands of William Green, who rushed for 726 yards in the last seven games. But as talented as Green is, the Steelers have far more offensive weapons. Tommy Maddox led Pittsburgh to two victories over the Browns this season, and receivers Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress are fine targets.

San Francisco 45, New York Giants 42. This game will be an offensive war, as the Giants have quarterback Kerry Collins, the NFC leader in passing yards with 4,044; Tiki Barber, who rushed for a career-high 203 yards last week in a win over Philadelphia and finished second in the conference with 1,387 yards; Amani Toomer, the conference leader in receiving yards and Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey. The 49ers had four Pro Bowlers selected from their offense: quarterback Jeff Garcia, receiver Terrell Owens, former Giants guard Ron Stone and center Jeremy Newberry. Therefore, this game will be won or lost by the defense, and that’s why the Niners get the Pick; their defense shut down the Giant offense for a 16-14 win earlier this season.

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