Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Wild Card Thoughts

Chiefs 30, Texans 0

- There was a way for Houston to be competitive, and even win this game. From the opening kickoff, the Texans did absolutely nothing according to that plan. They allowed the Chiefs to run the opening kickoff back for a touchdown (Don't give up any big plays on special teams). They threw an interception on their 2nd drive, and turned the ball over 5 times on the day (No turnovers). They went 0/1 in the red zone (Maximize their red zone opportunities). Other than their defense in the first half, Houston literally did nothing they needed to do to have a chance in this game.

- The one upside to this disaster? Houston knows they need to address the quarterback position early. A playoff win might have convinced the Texans Hoyer could be an acceptable starter going forward, leading them to avoid committing too many resources to the position in order to spend them elsewhere. You cannot win a Super Bowl with Brian Hoyer as your quarterback, and Houston will be under no illusions to the contrary.

- As complete as this win was, it was a 2-score game at halftime, and could easily have been just a 6-point lead had Brian Hoyer not self-destructed in the red zone. If Kansas City wants to make a deep postseason run, their offense will have to play 60 minutes in their upcoming game(s), not just 30.

- (This will be a theme) This may well have been a pyrrhic victory, as the Chiefs will be hard-pressed to make a deep postseason run without a reasonably healthy Jeremy Maclin.

Steelers 18, Bengals 16

- On the one hand, you have to feel sorry for the Bengals. They were primed to get the playoff moneky off of their backs, only to literally flush the win down the toilet because they couldn't be professionals and keep their emotions in check. On the other hand, the Bengals gainfully employ Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones, nothing either did was at all out of character.

- The Bengals did a terrific job holding the Pittsburgh passing game in check. The reason so many people feared Pittsburgh coming into these playoffs was because of their deep, dangerous passing game, and the Bengals pretty much held the Steelers' receivers in check. It was Pittsburgh's running game that won them this game, as they averaged 5.8 ypc on 29 carries. The worry coming into this game was that the Steelers would suffer because they wouldn't ave any semblance of offensive balance, and that simply was not the case.

- The Burfict penalty (and resulting 3-game suspension) from the final Pittsburgh drive was completely deserved. It was a malicious cheap shot and any cries that Brown was faking are willfully obtuse. Just watch Brown collapse to the ground after the hit. The Jones penalty was a mistake. Pittsburgh coach Joey Porter should not have been on the field, and certainly should not have been jawing at the Bengals players. Personally, I hold coaches to a higher standard than players, as the coaches aren't physically exerting themselves, so they don't have an excuse to let their emotions get the best of them. The officials should have a) dealt with Porter before things escalated and b) flagged Porter as well as Jones for instigating.

Seahawks 10, Vikings 9

- While thankful he missed the kick, I feel for Blair Walsh. It is going to be very difficult for him to live this miss down.

- Each defense gave up but one sustained drive on the day (Minnesota's 3 and Seattle's 1 field goals all came from very beneficial field position): Seattle ended theirs with a touchdown, and Minnesota ended theirs with the missed kick. So why were the Vikings in position to win? Seattle made more mistakes, at least in part due to the freezing temperatures. Minnesota deserves kudos for handling the elements much better than the Seahawks did.

- Seattle's run defense has been terrific all season. You can't really fault Peterson for not getting more yards, he didn't have anywhere to go. You can fault him for fumbling (again!) as without that fumble, I don't see Seattle scoring more than their initial 7 points.

- Teddy Bridgewater outplayed Russell Wilson. Part of that was game situation, as Bridgewater was rarely asked to throw downfield (and didn't have to because the Vikings were winning), but overall he was less affected by the weather (something Russell has struggled with throughout his career) than Wilson. It was almost enough for this game. But if the Vikings want to take the next step to becoming true contenders, Bridgewater will have to step up his downfield passing game.

Packers 35, Redskins 18

- I said going into this game that yes, the Packers offense is a wreck, but no, the Redskins are not the team to take advantage of that fact. That's exactly how this game played out. The Redskins didn't have the defense to make Green Bay one dimensional, or the offense to grind the Packers' defense down during the quarter-and-a-half it took for their offense to get going.

- DeSean Jackson has all the talent in the world. But he cost the Redskins 3-4 points on their drive after the safety when he nonchalantly stepped out of bounds instead of ducking into the corner of the end zone. Instead of going up 9-0, Washington had to settle for 5-0 when just a little more effort would have gotten DeSean the touchdown.

- Green Bay did a terrific job in the second half adjusting to limit Jordan Reed's effectiveness. I question why it took them a half to realize Reed needed to be a focal point though.

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