Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys (Recap)
Headley – Going into this game I knew both teams wanted to run the football and rely on their defense to win the field position battle. My thought process was it would come down to the 4th quarter and one team has Russell Wilson a former Super Bowl winner and the other team has Dak Prescott who has never won a playoff game. It was the latter that made the big plays late in the game to seal the victory for the Cowboys. Much has been said about the Seahawks stubbornness of sticking with the run when you have Wilson as your QB, but I was not surprised as the Seahawks have followed this approach all season of committing to running the football. Like a great 3 point shooting team in basketball, you live by the 3 you die by the 3 and the Seahawks went down doing with what got them to the dance.
Drew – Watching this game one thing became very apparent, Seattle was playing right into Dallas’ hands. They continued to run the ball over and over and over regardless of down and distance until it became the dreaded 3rd and long. Making them extremely predictable and boring. Seattle’s offense reminded me of old school football, Big 10 football from back in the day. I’m all for doing what got you there, but when it isn’t working you have to implement PLAN B and I don’t mean the meds you get from pharmacy the morning after. Last year Seattle’s offense was Russell or bust, or as Chris Simms called it, “It’s a fire drill every pass play.” Seattle should have tried some of that last Saturday. Dallas’ defense is one of the best in the league and I enjoy watching them but when Russell started to keep it on those option runs, things started to open up; but for whatever reason Seattle and I weren’t watching the same game and kept banging their heads against the proverbial wall.
Juice – Dallas sold out to stop the run and made the necessary plays to garner an elusive playoff win. Perhaps most impressive was that the Cowboys seemingly found away to put a drive together and respond each time Seattle threatened. As for the aforementioned Seahawks it’s really quite simple… Russell Wilson was brilliant albeit seldom called upon; Shaquill Griffin had perhaps the worst game of his young career. He certainly had his worst game of the season having been beaten for a Michael Gallup touchdown, completely losing contain on a 41-yard Ezekiel Elliott scamper and forgetting that the sideline is an extra defender in run support. I could go on and on regarding the abysmal coaching effort Pete Carroll and specifically Brian Schottenheimer managed BUT this tweet and the subsequent thread from Warren Sharp summarizes it nicely.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Headley –The Colts came into Houston and handled business just like they’ve done for 9 of the previous 10 games. They started early with back to back 9 play drives to start the game cultivating into 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. Credit goes to their offensive line that has dominated all season long as they kept Andrew Luck clean and opened up huge lanes for Marlon Mack to run for 148 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the ball it was tough sledding for DeShaun Watson and company. The Texans failed to get anything going on offense as the Colts mixed up coverage which often times fooled Watson. Kudos to Pierre Desir as he took on the challenge and held the NFL’s best receiver DeAndre Hopkins to a mere 5 catches for 37 yards.
Drew – This is one of those games where one team is just better than the other and it’s not even close, or as some would say they have their number. The Colts offensive line dominated the vaunted Texans defensive line. Rookies (Smith, Nelson) vs Vets (Clowney, Watt), Rookies 1 Veterans 0. Even when the Texans defensive line finally got some pressure Luck was able to by time and make a play either by running or throwing the ball down the field. Remember the Colts passing game is quick strike and made to get the ball out of Luck’s hands quickly. So when you allow him all the time in the world that in my opinion is you signing your death certificate out of the playoffs. As for the Texans offense, the offensive line played as poorly as I assumed they would coming into the season. Run game non-existent and too many passes going down the field.
Juice – The outcome of this one may have come as a surprise to some but it really shouldn’t have. The Colts have won 10 of their last 11 games, they dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, Houston is T.Y. Hilton’s home away from home, Andrew Luck was NOT sacked (again), Marlon Mack has impeccable balance and Bill O’Brien is OVERRATED.
Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
Headley –A lot of the blame for the Ravens loss was attributed to Lamar Jackson’s play but he had no shot as the Ravens coaches were out-coached and out-schemed. Similar to the Seahawks defeat, the Ravens lived by the run and died by the run. No adjustments were made throughout the game until it was too late. More embarrassing for the Ravens was the fact that the Chargers knew exactly what was coming as the coaches watched tape from the regular season and noticed some tells from the Ravens offensive line. In their last 253 run plays the Ravens pulled the RG 73 times and pulled the LG a total of 0 times. Also, when LT Ronnie Stanley set his feet even it was a run play, when he lined up with his left foot back, it was a pass play nearly 100% of the times. How the Ravens didn’t self-evaluate and pick up on this is an ultimate fail.
Drew – If you are going to allow me to come out in my favorite Madden defensive sub package (quarters), with my seven defensive backs and stay in it for majority of the game by not effectively running the ball down my throat then you deserve to lose. For most of the season quarterback position has been under construction in Baltimore between the underwhelming play of Flacco and the athlete college ball treatment Lamar Jackson has been receiving and for the latter that didn’t change this past Sunday even against a defense like the Chargers.
Juice – It’s easy to pile on Lamar Jackson (youngest QB ever to start a playoff game). He was bad. He was really bad. Ball security (3 fumbles; 1 lost) is a significant problem and his inconsistent accuracy is well documented. But he never had a chance. The Ravens were thoroughly out-coached, the offensive line could not block a soul, the receivers (when Marty Mornhinwheg) decided to throw predictably on 3rd & long could not create separation and dropped passes… Hell! Justin Tucker MISSED a field goal WTF!?!. The lack of adjustments and inability to design (or simply just call a screen) some easy completions for the overwhelmed signal-caller could be deemed malpractice. Still, I like the fact that he was allowed to see it thru and take his lumps.
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Headley –In a defensive battle in Chicago, the Eagles led by Foles Magic made the plays when it counted while the Bears missed on the opportunity to win their first playoff game since 2010. All momentum looked to be going the Bears way with their suffocating defense and Mitchell Trubisky peppering Allen Robinson with reception after reception but you can never underestimate the heart of a champion. The Eagles defense, especially their front 4 is back to controlling the line of scrimmage and Nick Foles is back playing like playoff Foles which is a scary sight for the rest of the NFC.
Drew – You can talk about the missed kick, or rather blocked kick, you can talk about playoff Foles, you can talk about the Eagles defense or Mack and that Bears uber talented defense but if I decided that I am only going to give my best player on offense the ball 4 times then I should lose. Tarik Cohen is the most dynamic player on the Bears roster and is one of the main cogs for that Bears offense to be as deceptive as it is. Cohen’s nick name is “the Human Joystick” for a reason. Players most certainly can lose games but this is equally as true for coaches/play callers and as for this past Sunday the latter holds the blame here! Ask yourself would you allow Julio to only touch the ball 4 times, how bout Tyreek Hill, Lebron, Curry, how bout Zeke “the Freak”?!
Juice – Matt Nagy went FULL Andy Reid and forgot about Tarik Cohen (4 touches). The Bears defense was stout as usual but couldn’t keep Philly out of the end zone when it mattered most. Mitchell Trubisky was pedestrian at best in the 1st half but made a few timely throws to give Chicago a shot until a Cody Parkey tipped field goal attempt double-doinked and the “Foles” magic continues. Philadelphia is back to controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and Foles gets the ball out of his hands faster than Carson Wentz. Let me ask YOU, “If Nick Foles hoists the Lombardi Trophy and is named Super Bowl MVP again are you trading Carson Wentz?” Keep in mind Foles turns 30 years old in a couple weeks BUT Wentz turns 27 this year.