This past weekend began the NFL Playoffs and what an exciting weekend it was. 3 games that came down to the wire and one game that saw a perennial one and done team once again shoot themselves in the foot. I did not get to see the games live on Saturday as my offline job got in the way, but looking at the highlights and the replays, I really enjoyed the drama. My recap is below and let me just say that if this weekend is any indication of how the playoffs are going to be leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb 6, the excitement and drama will continue….
Kansas City at Indianapolis –
Andrew Luck finally showed that his magic was not limited to just the regular season. Indy overcame a 38-10 deficit early in the 3rd quarter to bring the Colts all the way back to win 45-44 on Saturday, completing the second largest comeback win in NFL history. Luck threw for 3 interceptions and looked like he was going to give the game to KC, but he started to bring the Colts back early in the 3rd quarter after the Chiefs jumped out to that 38-10 lead. The defense stepped up to the plate in the second half only allowing 6 more points after Luck threw an INT on the opening series of the second half, putting the ball at the Indy 18 and the Chiefs scoring a TD to put the Chiefs up 38-10. The other star of this game was T Y Hilton, finishing with 13 catches for 224 yards, including a 64 yard TD that Luck placed perfectly over two defenders that put the Colts up for good in the 4th quarter. Hilton has been big for the Colts this year, especially after Reggie Wayne went down, becoming the #1 target for Luck for most of the season. The Chiefs had to overcome adversity from almost the start of the game when Jamaal Charles went down to injury, suffering a concussion and did not return after the 6th play of the game. After that they lost at least three more players to injury, including WR Donnie Avery and CB Brandon Flowers. Despite being up by 28 points the injuries eventually caught up with them and they could not hold on to the lead. Don’t get me wrong, this win could not have been possible had the Colts defense not been able to shut the Chiefs offense down in the second half, but this win belongs to Luck and the offense for never giving up and staying focused on their game plan and being able to come up with big plays when they were needed. On the Kansas City Plus side, Alex smith was brilliant, throwing for for 378 yards and four touchdowns. The only blemish on his stat line was a forced fumble by Robert Mathis that was the turnaround point for the colts, allowing them to start their comeback and get back in the game. The teams combined for 1,049 yards to set an NFL postseason record and the combined 89 points was the third largest in postseason history. The Colts now go to New England to face the Patriots, and they may need Luck to come up with some more magic if they are to advance tot he AFC Championship.
New Orleans at Philadelphia –
The New Orleans Saints had never won a road playoff game, they cant win away from the Superdome, the New Orleans Saints cant win in cold weather. The first statement is fact, the last two statements were what the pundits and experts said leading up to this game, and up to yesterday, the Saints had not proved any of them wrong. In a game that started out slow, with just 13 points in the first half, exploded in the second half culminating with a Shayne Graham 32 yard field goal as time expired giving the Saints 26-24 victory at Lincoln Financial field in Philadelphia. The Eagles rallied from a 13-point deficit with less than 5 minutes to play but a Darren Sproles 39 yard KO return and a horse collar tackle penalty tacked on to that put the Saints in position to get the ball in FG range at the Philly 48 yard line. The Saints ran the clock with the running game and Graham hit the game winner as time expired. The saints Defense, led by Coordinator Rob Ryan, held the most prolific run offense in the NFL to just a total of 80 yards. The Saints, in turn, put up 185 yards on the ground, even without Pierre Thomas on the roster due to injury. The Eagles, after going 4-12 last year under Andy Reid, followed that up with a final record of 10*-7 in Chip Kelly’s first year as head coach. They will get a lot of weapons back next year and show no signs of relinquishing the division crown next year and in my opinion, are the favorite to win that division in 2014. The Saints now have to travel to familiar territory when they face the Seahawks next week in the most unfriendly stadium in the NFL. They will have to be at their best, and after getting blown out of the building on Dec 2, 34-7.
San Diego at Cincinnati –
It was cold, but no where near the cold of that famous 1982 playoff game in which the Bengals beat the Chargers in the AFC Championship. Today would not be the Bengals day. Andy Dalton once again proved that he may not be the answer to the quarterback position in Cincinnati due to imploding over and over again. The Bengals QB threw 2 costly picks in the second half and the chargers got hot in the second half with a 20-0 run beating the Bengals 27-10 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. After this loss there are a lot of questions remaining for the Bengals the first and foremost question is the future of Andy Dalton. Is he the QB this franchise needs? Is he going to be able to overcome his demons and get the Bengals over the hump? They haven’t won a playoff game in 23 years and are 0-5 under Marvin Lewis as the head coach which leads to the other question facing the Bengals in the off season. Is Lewis the coach that the Bengals need to get them to the next level? It seems a lot like the situation the Bucs faced in 2001 while under Tony Dungy. Dungy, while fielding the NFL’s top defense, could not field an offense to score points and get through to the Super bowl. They had a series of losses, particularly to the Eagles, and after the NFC Championship in 2001, the Bucs fired Tony and brought in Jon Gruden, and the rest, as we all know was history. The Bucs lost to the Eagles during the regular season the next year but came back for the NFC Championship once again and finally got the monkey off their back and beat the Eagles and would go on to win the Super bowl. My point is this, the Bengals are a good team, with great players, and a good coaching staff. They have not ben able to win in the playoffs, and despite not being a fan of Mike Brown, the owner of the Bengals, son of legend Paul Brown, he has to be as frustrated as the fans that his franchise seems to fail time and time again when it matters most. The Bengals were undefeated at home this year, and went 4-0 against playoff teams this season, but once again, when all the stars seemed aligned for them in this game, the fall flat once again and are one and done. A lot of questions for this team in the off season. As for San Diego, they will now travel to Denver to face the Broncos, a team they beat in Denver a few weeks ago, surprising everyone. The Chargers are riding on a 5-game winning streak. They were 5-7 on December 1, but here they are, in the divisional round, playing to go tot he NFC Championship. I really believe the Broncos were rooting for Cincinnati today because I don’t think they wanted to face San Diego, a team that knows them well, and has come close to sweeping the Broncos, if not for an epic comeback by Peyton Manning in San Diego earlier this season. It will be a great game, it will be cold, and Rivers is getting hot at the right time. This is by no means a done deal in Denver, San Diego will give the Broncos all they can handle.
San Francisco at Green Bay –
- It was cold, but it didn’t matter to the San Francisco 49ers as they went to the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field and beat the Green Bay Packers with a last second 33 yard field goal by 38 year old Phil Dawson for a 23-20 win, sending them on to the divisional round against the Carolina Panthers next Sunday. Colin Kaepernick once again showed why he is clutch, throwing for 227 yards and a TD while also running for 98 yards, the most ground yards for any player from all teams that played this weekend. the play by Kaepernick culminated when while at the Packer 38, 3rd and 8 with 1:13 left in the game, Kaepernick escaped the pocket and ran down the sidelines for an 11 yard gain, a first down and putting San Francisco into FG range for the winning kick. This is their 3rd straight win against the Packers in both regular season and playoff games, the first two at Candlestick Park, while this last one coming on the Packers home field. the 9ers took advantage of a depleted secondary and Kaepernick was just brilliant showing poise and leadership in the victory. Though they lost, the Packers seemed down and out when Aaron Rogers went down to a broken collar bone earlier in the season. he missed 7 games while out and the Packers went 2-5-1 in that span, including the game he got hurt, but still managed to win the division after Rogers came back against the Bears for the division clinching game. one has to wonder what the Packers season might have been had Rogers not gone down, but the what-ifs and the what could have beens mean nothing when you are sitting home in January, your season over. San Francisco, on the other hand seems ready for another run at a championship with the return of Michael Crabtree, who was not in the game earlier this year against the Panthers in San Francisco, they have all of their weapons in place and are riding the momentum train. I feel this game will be different than the last, it will be a defensive battle yes, since these two teams have two of the best defenses in the NFL, if not the two best, but with the return of Crabtree, and the return of form of Kaepernick, the 9ers have the look of being prepared to pay back the panthers for that earlier loss at home, and seem on a collision course with Seattle for the NFC championship. Seattle has to get by the Saints, but the last time they played new Orleans the sent them home with their tails between their legs with a aforementioned 34-7 drubbing. It is tough to beat Seattle at home, the have only lost one game since Russell Wilson has been QB, and that was a week 16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. If they get past Carolina, I am quite sure they will be watching that AZ film to see how it’s done, as will Carolina if they win.
thanks for reading, and remember the Sports Nerds are on the air for a live Spreecast every Sunday night at 7:30. with the NFL season winding down, and Super Bowl XLVIII right around the corner, look for us to get a bit creative for the 90 minutes we are on the air each week. Just cause football season ends, we don’t stop and we will continue as normal. there are plenty of sports to talk about, and we will try and keep it entertaining and enjoyable for all.
Have a great week everyone!!
Get in the game… Or sit on the bench….. it’s up to you
Scott “The Sports Nerd” Wright