If anyone had basic expectations for this year’s playoffs, this past weekend has proven that the NFL Playoffs are anything but basic. They are extraordinary, shocking, thrilling and in some situations heart-stopping. They provide football fans the highest highs and the lowest lows. There is nothing better than pulling off an upset victory or to come back from the second largest deficit in NFL history to win by one point. There is nothing more disheartening than to watch your team, once again blow it in the playoffs due to a poor performance by your Quarterback. All this and more took center stage during the 2013-2014 NFL Wild Card weekend… (Continue Reading)
Indianapolis Colts defeat Kansas City Chiefs 45-44
Going into this game, we were all expecting a good game. We knew that this game could go either way, especially since the Colts were able to beat some of the strongest defenses in the NFL this year when they beat the 49ers and Seahawks earlier this year, so the KC defense was not going to be a factor, right? Well, in the first half it was. The KC defense forced two interceptions and a fumble and their offense put up 31 points in the first half alone, and this without Pro-Bowl RB Jamaal Charles who went out of the game on the sixth play of the game with a concussion.
The second half was not quite what everyone expected. The Colts could not be stopped in the second half on their way to outscoring the Chiefs 35-13 in the second half to win in the second largest (21 points) comeback victory in NFL history, second only to the 1993 Buffalo Bills (25 points) 41-38 OT win over the Houston Oilers. The difference in the second half may have been that the Chiefs were dropping like flies. After losing Charles, they also lost big playmakers from their defense when Brandon Flowers and Justin Houston went down with injuries. Also, Andrew Luck was playing out of his mind and scored on, what I consider, the play of the year when Donald Brown was going in for a short TD but fumbled the ball. The ball bounced off an offensive lineman and bounced right to Luck who picked it up and dove into the end zone.
Even though Alex Smith had a great game (378/4/0 with 1 fumble), He was not able to move his offense consistently in the second half and overthrew a WIDEOPEN Cyrus Gray that would have been a game saving TD.
New Orleans Saints defeat Philadelphia Eagles 26-24
This was supposed to be cut and dry for the Eagles. This was supposed to be Nick Foles coming out party. McCoy was supposed to run free all day, but it was not meant to be for Chip Kelly and the Eagles on a brisk day in Philadelphia. Surprisingly, the Saints out rushed the Eagles 185 YDS to 80 YDS. The game started as a defensive battle but things loosened up in the second half.
Drew Brees was not at his best on this day. He threw for 250/1/2 which is well below his standards but was able to come out with a victory thanks to a strong showing by the defense. It would not have been that close if Keenan Lewis (CB) did not have to leave the game with a concussion in the third quarter. After he departed, the Eagles started taking advantage of a weakened secondary.
The turning point was probably during a third quarter drive where Riley Cooper dropped an easy check down pass on 3rd and 4. Instead of a first down, the Eagles were forced to punt and the Saints respond ed quickly by scoring making it 20-7 with less than four minutes in the third quarter.
The Eagles were able to come back and take a 24-23 lead with four minutes to play but on the ensuing kickoff, Darren Sproles made a great return to get his team near mid-field and was horse-collared to the ground which tacked on another 15-yard penalty. This all but gave the game to the Saints. They only needed one first down to get into Shayne Graham’s FG range, and he delivered. Not bad for a guy who was unemployed three weeks ago.
Two story lines stand out in this game to me. The first is that the Saints finally break the losing streak. This win marked the first playoff win on the road in New Orleans Saints franchise history. The second is Nick Foles and his odd statistical differential (home/away), see for yourself…
AT HOME – 59.1% Comp PCT, 7.5 YDS/Pass, 6 TDs and a 94.1 QBR
ON ROAD – 67.8% Comp PCT, 10.4 YDS/Pass, 21 TDs and a 138.4 QBR
This was not a shocker. Everyone knew that the Chargers, similar to the 49ers where coming into the playoffs hot with a strong defense and capable offense. This was a defensive game from the beginning and was a lot closer than the final score indicates.
Andy Dalton, the black sheep of the playoff QBs, actually started pretty well. He threw his first TD of his playoff career (in 80 attempts) which is never a good sign for a franchise QB. You do not want to follow in the foot steps of a Matt Ryan who does not tend to play well in the postseason. Overall, the game went slow and neither offense did much. It was mostly a defensive stance in the first half. The first big play of the game came with less than two minutes to go in the first half. Gio Bernard, the dynamic rookie running back caught a pass inside the red zone and turned to go for the end zone but did not tuck it away and was stripped at the three yard line. The Bengals were able to get the ball back and kick a field goal to go to half time up 10-7 but it was definitely a turning point in the game as it would have likely resulted in a TD.
San Diego came out strong in the second half putting up a quick TD to take a 14-10 lead and extended that lead by capitalizing on multiple turnovers by Dalton. Though Dalton threw for 334 YDS and a TD, he threw two interceptions and fumbled on a keeper that would have given them a first down. All of Dalton’s turnovers came on three consecutive third quarter drives and they only lead to 6 points by the Chargers.
To make matters worse, AJ Green dropped a long pass that was in his hands with six minutes to go. The catch and probable TD, would have made it a 20-17 game and would have surely changed the momentum for Cincinnati but it was not meant to be. It was a shocking finish for the Bengals (11-6) to say the least, they won the AFC North, went unbeaten at home and had their top-ranked defense for the playoffs. With everything in their favor, they fell apart, getting outscored 20-0 in the second half.
Last but certainly not least, the Niners come up big in the fourth quarter to pull out a close game. This is close to my heart. I am a die-hard Niners fan and bleed Scarlet and Gold!… I have since I was a kid watching Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. I know, I am spoiled but went through my down years too and stayed true to my team, never wavering! No bandwagon fan here! Well at least I am not sleeping on the coach like my friend because his wife is a big Packers fan… She was not happy about the outcome to say the least. We love you still!
As for the gut-wretching Niners, is there a team that is more difficult to watch? They are SO talented and seem to make things difficult on themselves time and time again. Can someone please tell me why the Colin Kaepernick and the coaching staff cannot call a freakin’ play without the play clock being UNDER 5 seconds??? They had to use a timeout on the first play after halftime for god sake! How absolutely frustrating is that! I know, Colin is young, he is still learning…but hurry the hell up. If you know it takes awhile then hurry up. Why not just hike the ball and play on instincts? You have them right?… Geez…
As for talent, Colin is filled with it. As poor as his throws were to start, he started playing really well once he got warmed up. I would say after the interception he threw and then made the tackle himself, that was his wakeup call. After that, he dropped the fear and started playing like he knows how. He started slinging the ball and running WITHOUT HESITATION!!! He had a modest day with 227/1/1 but added in a 98 rushing yards which led both teams. How dangerous are the Niners? Kaepernick and Crabtree are starting to get into a groove. Everyone knows that Crabtree is Colin’s favorite receiver yet he was able to catch 8/125 yards. Vernon Davis did not have many touches but he had a big TD late in the game.
The Packers did not look to strong to start the game. Back to back three and out and very low output by the offense in the first half had everyone thinking that the Packers were just overmatched and could not match the 49ers intensity. That would not be the case. Some miscues by the 49ers on offense forced the offense to settle on two early field goals and whenever you have Rodgers on the other side, you know that you have to put up touchdowns. After a 6-0 start, and though they were field goals, the defense was holding strong and not giving up anything. We had great field position, until Colin Kaepernick threw the Interception to Williams. Rodgers and the Packers offense took advantage and quickly moved the ball down the field and scored to go up 7-6. At that point I was concerned as our offense was not looking very good and I knew that we would not beat the Packers with field goals. The Packers began to play a much better game both offensively and defensively. They ran well with Eddie Lacy in the second half who was doing well but I found it odd that he was “taking plays off” as in on the sideline on a number of plays. One specific play was the third down play near the end of the game where Rodgers could find anyone open and ended up running for a short gain. Why was Lacy on the bench during this play and multiple third down scenarios throughout the game? This was a coaching mistake in my opinion, a mistake that could have cost them the game.
Luckily, some big plays by Colin on offense with both his arm and feet, a TD by old reliable Frank Gore and a big time defensive stance by the defense to hold the Packers to a game tying field goal instead of a go ahead touchdown allowed us to move the ball and drain the clock until there was no time other than to kick a game winning field goal which Phil Dawson delivered, same as Shayne Graham for the Saints the day before.
In my opinion, any time you hold Aaron Rodgers to only 177/1, your defense was successful and 99% of the time, it is a win for us! It looks like Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers now have a winning streak against the Packers and I am not looking to give that up anytime soon!
Next UP (from Las Vegas)… Carolina Panthers… On our way to another Superbowl! Quest for Six Continues…