by Ryan Meehan
Wild Card weekend this year was very seed specific. Every 5 and 6 seed lost, and every division leader moved on. We had the first non-sudden death overtime game in NFL history, sort of. We saw the Steelers go home earlier than I think a lot of people expected them to exit the postseason. The Texans won their first playoff game in franchise history, the Saints and the Lions gave us the shutout we expected, and the Giants embarrassed the Falcons. I should also mention that I actually picked one of the winners correctly this year (New Orleans), as opposed to last year when I got blanked. Let’s take a closer look and see what transpired.
Texans 31, Bengals 10
This game didn’t end up the way it began at all. The Bengals looked impressive on the road in the first half and then caved in. It shouldn’t really surprise anybody because when you think about it, this is the day Andre Johnson’s been waiting his whole life for. It still was a tad shocking, especially to see TJ Yates rack up 31 points in the manner in which he did. I was a little bit disappointed by Cincinnati not showing up at all in the second half. They’ll be better next year, and maybe even finish ahead of an aging Pittsburgh team, but in this case they just ran into a brick wall in the Texans who weren’t going to let anything stand between them and their first playoff win.
There’s not much for me to say about this game altogether, other than despite their impressive showing I don’t expect the Texans to go any further into the playoffs than this. It was a good win and they’ve taken the next step in a conference that is on its way back into the doldrums like it once was, but it’s a long shot that it would actually make a difference this year.
Saints 45, Lions 28
Drew Brees surely has to hate his life. At some point, you have to stand back and say: “What happened to me? I am a Super Bowl winning MVP quarterback with a gorgeous wife and two kids, and breathed life into an entire city that was devoured by a hurricane and all I have is these millions of dollars to show for it. WHY ME?” Life’s like that sometimes. The Saints did exactly like we expected: Scored a shitload of points and then played a defense that for all intensive purposes was virtually ineffective, but just effective enough to prevent the other team from scoring less points.
The Saints set several new NFL records, including most yards gained in a playoff game and tied for highest number of points scored, which they could have easily broken if they hadn’t have killed the last two minutes of clock, which they just did out of respect and to not run up the score on the Lions. As for the Lions, after the game Matthew Stafford mentioned something about how the Detroit will learn from this experience and be better next year, and then work on winning the division so they can host a game in the playoffs. Guess which part of that I’m not buying? The NFL is full of teams like the Lions: Good, just not good enough or (gasp) great.
Giants 24, Falcons 2
The Falcons have some explaining to do. How can you get into the playoffs and not even score once on the offensive side of the ball? Not to take anything away from what the Giants did, but the Falcons literally brought nothing to the table. They looked shaky, unconfident, and couldn’t convert on fourth and 1 or less to save their life. No there is going to be some criticism about Falcons coach Mike Smith going for it on 4th down in those situations, but come on…What else was he going to do? Plus, you had to figure they were going to convert at least one at some point. The Giants’ defense looked like a that of a team which could be champions, and on this day it just so happened the offense was also firing on all cylinders. Barry Wilner’s column title from the Associated Press’ wire said it best: “Giants put it all together” Very true. It probably also didn’t hurt that they had the ball for ten more minutes than Atlanta did, something that hurt the Giants in both of the Dallas games.
This is Atlanta’s second year in a row of biting it in the playoffs their first game out. When that happens, at first you start to question yourself, then you start to question whether or not you have the best quarterback for the job. But you almost have to look at the Falcons’ defense before you make any quick judgments about Matt Ryan. This was a defense that looked great on paper but when crunch time came, they “couldn’t stop a nosebleed” as Bart Scott would say. I’ve watched the Giants struggle all year on 3rd down and that entire game Eli kept moving the chains as if they’d never had a problem with it. Two touchdowns to Nicks, one to Manningham and the just like that the Giants are in the second round.
Broncos 29, Steelers 23
Well, this one couldn’t have ended any better for John Elway, no way in hell. Denver won in overtime AND Tebow only took one snap in that fifth quarter. Now of course the Steelers were pretty banged up, with Mendenhall and Pouncey both out, but at this time of the year there are no excuses and you have to just roll with what you have. And they did for a while: The Steelers were buried in this game and were able to come back and force overtime. Tebow’s just buying time with Elway, but you have to admit, in the meantime he’s earning a lot of money for the contract he’ll sign when he leaves Denver so good for him with regards to that.
The eighty yard touchdown Tim Tebow threw to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of the extra period made this the quickest ending to an overtime game in NFL history at just eleven seconds. Indeed he did “pull the trigger” just as Elway suggested, and made it look like a brilliant play call while doing so. And regardless of the fact that I like the guy it turns my stomach a little bit to report that Tebow threw for 316 yards, even if 80 was on one play and he only completed nine other passes all game long. On a side note, Steelers wide out Mike Wallace (who is without question their number one option when he’s healthy) only caught 3 passes for 26 yards.
Back to Speech 101: I do have a little bit of a problem with the way the overtime rules were explained by the head referee. We know this is something new for the fans, and we know that most of the fans aren’t familiar with how the rules are going to go. So the head refs in every one of these games should have been rehearsing this in front of a bathroom mirror in case it happened. I was watching this overtime period with my father, and he brought up the point that after the ref explained it, he had no idea how it worked until CBS put up a graphic. NFL.com should have had these rules on their homepage the second regulation was over.
Bonus note about the new “Overtime structure”: We’ve discussed on this site before that to only have these new overtime rules during the playoffs is clearly the work of a maniac, but I guess I wasn’t as familiar with them as I thought I was. If the team who wins the toss scores a touchdown on the first possession, then the game is over, so technically that IS sudden death. I was under the impression that the overtime rules were getting closer and closer to those of college football, but I guess that is not the case. Sure, it made the solution to the problem a little bit more exciting, but the problem remains.
So these are the divisional playoff matchups set for next weekend:
New York Giants (10-7) at Green Bay Packers (15-1)
New Orleans Saints (14-3) at San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
Houston Texans (11-6) at Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
Denver Broncos (10-7) at New England Patriots (13-3)
Divisional Playoff weekend should be a lot of fun, which figures because I will miss all of it. At least I’ll get to see the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is the one where they dance with ribbons, right?
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