So the NFL made up for their ho-hum Wild Card weekend with an amazing slate of football games! We had comebacks, crazy calls, and de-throning. With so much to talk about, let’s just take it in order.
Ravens at Patriots:
Very crazy back and forth contest. Baltimore took the wind out of the stadium with a quick 14 points, but the Patriots stormed back to tie it up. The Ravens then jumped to another 14 point lead only to see it squandered away again! It’s 28-28 going into the 4th and it’s clear we have a shootout on our hands. The Ravens constantly had the Patriots on their heels, and the only way they won was with trickeration. The first one was sweet, a fake reverse to Julian Edelman who then threw it 51 yards to a wide open Danny Amendola. The second one was smart, but a bit cheap. The Pats lined up only 4 offensive lineman, and Shane Vereen went wide and declared himself “ineligible.” Being smart, the Ravens should have blitzed the hell out of Brady, with essentially one of his lineman 25 yards away from him. But instead they tried to cover the ineligible player. It was technically a legal formation, but they didn’t get much time to figure it out. This drive led to another TD for the Pats, and eventually a close win. The final drive for the Ravens had me screaming at the TV. Flacco had 1:46 and a timeout left to go only 36 yards. They should have drove down the field and they would have easily had 4 shots to get in within the 10 yard line. Instead Flacco heaves a prayer that gets picked off. Even if that succeeds, you don’t want to give Brady the ball back with 1:40 and only a FG needed to tie.
I’m not particularly a fan of Chris Collinsworth, but don’t dislike him either. But for the second straight week, he has contributed a lot to the game in my opinion. He almost creates a storyline with his insight which makes the viewer pay more attention to that note. Last week it was the Le’Veon Bell analysis, how the Steelers essentially stopped the run on their own. This week Collinsworth made a comment when the Ravens kicked their field goal at the beginning of the 4th quarter. He said that settling for a field goal after having First and Goal and not getting a TD could be the deciding factor of the game. It doesn’t seem that profound, but keep in mind that Baltimore takes the lead with this play, had just held Brady to a 3 and out, and there are easily 2 more possessions for Baltimore in the game. Lo and behold, that FG became the deciding factor of the game. It’s a good thing that Collinsworth is broadcasting the Super Bowl this year.
Panthers at Seahawks:
Not a ton to talk about in this game, it was probably the worst one of the weekend despite the fact that it wasn’t truly out of hand until about 6 minutes left in the game. The Panthers actually did a good job of containing Russell Wilson, he had a couple first down runs but otherwise had 3 yards per carry. This forced him to beat the Panthers with his arm, which unfortunately for Carolina, Wilson had a near perfect passer rating and 3 TDs. I do have to mention Kam Chancellor though, who had a crazy game. First off, the halftime Field Goal kick was one of the most dramatic kicks I’ve ever seen. Kam Chancellor perfectly timed his leap over the center, untouched, and barely missed the ball as it went sailing. Penalty on the Panthers forced a re-kick and exact same play. This time the kicker missed, almost purposely kicking to the left to avoid the flying Kam. But this time was a running into the kicker, time for a 3rd kick. No block attempt this time and the kick was good. Chancellor would later have the game sealing 89 yd INT return for a TD.
Cowboys vs. Refs….I mean Packers:
It’s a shame that another controversy is overshadowing a great game, but we’ll get to that in a second. There were questions about how efficient Aaron Rodgers could be with his calf injury, and you could tell a big difference in his game. Not that he runs that much, but when the pocket was collapsing, you could almost see him give up since there was no way he could get out of the fire. Dallas took a 14-10 lead by halftime, and ran another effective slant with Terrence Williams who outran the entire defense for a second straight week. Packers receiver Davante Adams responded with a huge yards after the catch of his own, and the Packers took the lead in the 4th quarter. Two things would come to haunt the Cowboys. First, that stupid 3rd and 1 where they decided to throw it, despite the fact that Murray was running all over the Packers and had converted three 1 yarders in the game already; this led to a missed FG which would be huge. Second, the 4th and 2 miss on Dez Bryant…
Technically I should title this “the rule,” because that is what is causing the controversy. Bryant caught the ball at the height of his jump, immediately secured it, and as he fell and rolled into the endzone, it hit the ground and popped out. My personal feeling is that this was a catch. He caught the ball and secured it. However I agree with the ruling, that it’s incomplete. The major issue here is the rule, not the refs. The rule is AS idiotic as the tuck rule was. Watching Calvin Johnson’s catch 4 years ago, I still think that’s a catch. I realize it’s tough to have any grey area here, but the NFL needs to look at this rule. Ironically enough, this was the only challenge Mike McCarthy won all season; couldn’t have come at a better time. Horrible rule, but a good call.
The reaction from players, fans, opponents, and twitter was amazing. One thing I’d like to point out was how classy Jason Garrett’s response was to the call, and the guts he had to say this rather than whine about it. “But let me make it really clear: This game wasn’t about the officiating. We had 60 minutes. We had an opportunity to come up here and win a football game, and at the end of the day we didn’t get that job done. That play was big in the game, but there were other plays in the game and unfortunately we didn’t do the things necessary to win the ballgame.”
Colts at Broncos:
The only upset of the weekend, and the stark reality of the difference in having a young, vibrant quarterback vs. one on his last legs. The best comparison is watching Andrew Luck outrun DeMarcus Ware for a TD (later nullified), yet Peyton Manning had a 3rd and 4 and was 25 yards away from any defender, yet still threw the ball down the field for an incompletion. Manning was hurt, which didn’t surprise anybody, but he also looked old. The Broncos had a very strange gameplan in my opinion. Every single play seemed to be a 25 yard bomb down the field, and it never worked. In Week 1, the Broncos won by exploiting their Tight End, and Thomas had 3 TD’s. They went to him the first drive of the game and had a 32 yd completion, but only dinked and dunked with him after that. The Broncos fell behind early, and that may be part of their gameplan change. Two running back plays actually stick out in my mind for this game. First, Colts RB Daniel Herron is typically a 3rd stringer and doesn’t see the ball much. He tore it up against the Bengals, but got hurt on one of his first carries. He gritted it out the entire game to carry his team, and experience a playoff game, but looked in pain the entire time. Second, the 4th and 1 conversion by CJ Anderson was a thing of beauty. He broke 3 tackles behind the first down marker to get it. Would have been the play of the game had the Broncos won.
After Sunday’s loss, I thought there was no way that Manning would retire; you can’t end on a game like that. However after the Broncos office shakeup and the Free Agents they have, I’m not so sure that Peyton wants to start over from scratch. I am now pretty pessimistic on his return. I think the only way he stays is if Adam Gase becomes the Broncos new head coach. If I have a favorite player in my lifetime who wasn’t on my favorite team, it’s definitely Peyton Manning, and it kills me to think that he won’t have another shot at a Super Bowl. He can still play at an extremely high level in the NFL.
Stat of the Week #1:
Andrew Luck has passed for the most yards in his first 5 playoff starts than any other QB
Stat of the Week #2:
Peyton Manning finished 2nd in TD passes this year, 4th in passing yards, and 4th in passer rating. Sounds just like a guy who’s past his prime
Stat of the Week #3:
The Jets’ past 6 coaches have all come from the defensive side of the ball. Good luck Geno.
Stat of the Week #4:
The Patriots have made it to the AFC Championship 4 years in a row.
Stat of the Week #5:
Tom Brady passed Joe Montana for the most TD passes in postseason history
Stat of the Week #6:
The Packers are 12-2 since Aaron Rodgers told fans to “R-E-L-A-X”
Stat of the Week #7:
For the first time since the 2005 season, the defending NFL champion won a playoff game
NFL Thought of the Week:
Julian Edelman was a quarterback in college and transitioned into a WR. How was Sunday his first NFL pass after playing 6 seasons?
Non-NFL Thought of the Week:
As some might know, I struggle to get into College football despite my obsession with the NFL. But the College Football Playoff this year worked wonders. Having a 4 seed win it all in the first year is essentially the ideal situation for the NCAA. And it’s crazy to me that Cardale Jones started 3 games in his career, which was winning the Big Ten Championship, beating the #1 team in the Sugar Bowl, and beating the Heisman Trophy winner in the National Championship game. No wonder he didn’t go to the NFL, how do you top that!
Nobody has cared about who the new Bills coach is as much as they are this year! Rex Ryan is already landing with a bang, and bringing life to a city that needs it. He reported asked his Realtor “which area of the city gets the most snow, I want to live there.”
On another note, Jim Harbaugh was the first “mutually agreed to separate” reason I have ever seen. Just 2 weeks later the same thing happened to John Fox and the Broncos.
The league has almost turned cutthroat, as Fox turned a 4-12 team around to winning 4 straight division titles and a Super Bowl appearance. If that’s not good enough, I don’t want to see what is! On a side note, one of those division titles was with Tim Tebow at QB, that almost deserves coach of the century!
Colts at Patriots:
Not particularly the AFC Championship people wanted to see, but we once again have the young gun vs. the proven veteran. Can Andrew Luck pull it off again on the road, against a team he has struggled against? The past 2 meetings have been rough for Indy. Last year the Patriots beat the Colts 43-22 in the playoffs, and this year was another lopsided affair with New England winning 42-20 in Indy. The Colts still struggle to cover tight ends, and they’ll be facing the best one in the league on Sunday. I have it being slightly closer, but Patriots 38, Colts 27.
Packers at Seahawks:
And we’re back to Week 1 again, let’s hope we get a better game. The Packers struggled mightily in the first matchup, with Marshawn Lynch running all over the defense and Rodgers was held to under 200 yards passing. The Packers lost 36-16, but that almost seemed closer than the game actually was. Rodgers is still hurting, but Packer nation is “Relaxing,” So I think it has the possibility to be closer. Once again, my deciding factor is whether they can control Russell Wilson’s legs, especially on 3rd down. To me that is the blueprint for beating these guys. But the Seahawks at home are nearly impossible to beat. Seahawks 24, Packers 23.
Super Bowl Prediction:
I find it tough to forsee any other possibility other than Seahawks vs. Patriots in the Super Bowl. This is my worst case scenario with the 2 teams I dislike the most, but I think it would be an excellent showdown.