Wild Card Weekend Recap: Only One Rookie QB Remains
The first weekend of the 2013 NFL playoffs went as advertised. After it was all said and done, there was plenty of action to report on. Let’s dive right in.
Indianapolis Colts, 9 @ Baltimore Ravens, 24
Andrew Luck got absolutely crushed in this game. I think he got hit 10 times, and that kind of game (on top of a regular season in which he took a consistent pounding) will wear a quarterback down. It’s hard to stand in the pocket confidently with such pressure. He handled it decently well, and his receivers did not have their best games. Hell, even Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal from 40 yards. Also, I think it goes unnoticed that without Bruce Arians (hospitalized for illness) this was not the same offense. Clyde Christensen (quarterback coach) took over the play calling and it showed. He ran a critically conservative offense, running the ball way too much on first down, and failing to get this team to 3rd-and-short opportunities. I think even Phil Simms said on the broadcast at one point that they needed to convert their 1st and 2nd down plays for 8-10 yards because 3rd and long against this defense is just bad news. Arians would have been more aggressive calling plays.
For the Ravens, I’m not sure I thought I would ever say this about Joe Flacco in the playoffs, but he made some big plays. Down the stretch he connected with Anquan Boldin on a few amazing pass plays that really made the difference. To be a winning quarterback in the playoffs, you have to be able to make the big play. Well, Flacco connected on just 12 passes, but they went for 282 yards. That’s definitely in the big play range. Ray Rice coughed up the ball twice, which was uncharacteristic, but it ended up not killing them. Out of all the AFC Wild Card teams, Baltimore is by far the most dangerous going forward.
Seattle Seahawks, 24 @ Washington Redskins, 14
As great as the first quarter was for Washington, the last 3 were horrendous. Washington’s offense had 129 yards on their first two drives, but finished the game with 203. How much this is due to RGIII’s knee injury is up for debate. The Redskins receivers couldn’t get open down the field even when RGIII stayed in the pocket to pass. The running game was not the same, and the Skins threw out all the designed QB runs after seeing what kind of shape RGIII was in. This probably made Alfred Morris’ life a little harder.
You have to hand it to Seattle though. Down 14-0 on the road, the FedEx Field crowd roaring, Russell Wilson hadn’t gotten comfortable yet, and they put together a drive to just get a field goal on the board. This seemed to have settled Wilson down, and they went on to control the rest of the game. Wilson played about as well as you could ask for (other than the early rookie playoff jitters), the defense really buckled down and held Washington scoreless in the last three quarters, and Marshawn Lynch was… well, Marshawn Lynch. If there is one blemish on this Seattle performance, it’s the loss of Chris Clemons, their leading pass rusher. He tore his ACL and MCL in this one, and his ability to attack quarterbacks will surely be missed.
Cincinnati Bengals, 13 @ Houston Texans, 19
Of any team who has to be most upset about their performance, and feel like they had a chance to win the game, it’s Cincinnati. Andy Dalton overthrew A.J. Green twice on deep balls, and that seemingly would have made the difference in this game. Dalton just did not play the way he needed to in order to advance. This was not the game that made Houston fans say “oh my god the team we had from Week 1 to Week 11 is back,” it’s just not. Matt Schaub looked really uneasy at best, throwing one pick-six. His receivers don’t really help him, and Andre Johnson can’t do it all by himself. The Patriots have to be absolutely thrilled with how this game played out.
Minnesota Vikings, 10 @ Green Bay Packers, 24
Christian Ponder was out on Saturday night, so Joe Webb got the start. I’m not sure it mattered much who was playing quarterback for the
Vikings on Saturday night, because the Packers finally decided that they we’re going to contain (don’t mistake this for shutdown, because he still ran for 99 yards) Adrian Peterson. After they did that, the Vikings were really stuck. If I think Houston’s receivers are bad, Minnesota’s are awful. Without Percy Harvin, their best option was a 30-year old Michael Jenkins, followed by that guy who flipped into the end-zone for Cincinnati last year, Jerome Simpson (do not confuse this with the AT&T “Hello!” commercial). I’m pretty sure Simpson got a contract for that play alone. Even Shane Falco would have a hard time with this group.
DeJuan Harris added a new and surprising pop to this Green Bay rushing attack. This was the weak spot for this team all year, but I’m not sure it is anymore. He has good cutting ability, can make some defenders miss, and also isn’t afraid to lower his pad level and take defenders on. On top of adding a bit of a ground game, the Pack seem to have their full compliment of receivers back at the right time, something they haven’t had most of this season. This was far from a true test for the Packers. Next week, San Francisco will provide just that.