Divisional Playoff Recap: Unproven Quarterbacks Step It Up
This was the kind of weekend that makes NFL fans drool, causal NFL watchers fans, and non-fans, well, fans. Everything that the Wild Card round didn’t provide, the Divisional did. Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Colin Kaepernick, three very different schools of quarterback, all showed that they have what it takes to step up in big games. Let’s break down what we saw (or didn’t…).
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
This was the only successful pick I made this weekend, which isn’t saying much. I’m pretty sure most six-year olds probably had this pick. What we saw from New England was exactly what we expected to see. An extremely well prepared offensive unit confusing the defense, and making big plays. Tom Brady’s stat line is always the same, I swear. 300-350 yards and three touchdowns… like clockwork. He made ridiculous throws to a multitude of receivers, and propelled this offense to the AFC Championship. The loss of Gronkowski is big and should not be understated just because they’re winning. He’s really the second best player on this offense and makes Aaron Hernandez a much better player. But, as history has shown, someone always steps up for this Patriots team. Enter, Shane Vereen. This guy was a sideshow to Stevan Ridley all year, then they put him in this “Woodheadish” slot and he makes play after play. So Belichick.
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
This game was like Rocky, if Rocky battled back, and then got knocked out in the last second. The greater Seattle area must still be hung over
from this one. After rallying from a 20 point deficit, which took an entire half (or 29:29 of a half), Seattle still found a way to give up a field goal in the closing seconds. I don’t blame them for this last second kick. Any team, who is playing at home in a dome, with a kicker who has a really solid leg, has a quality shot to win.
The Pete Carroll timeout call is quite perplexing to me. From everything I saw of the replay, it appeared that he did call for a timeout. It wasn’t how he responded to the initial call (of course, he’s going to be a little annoyed after Bryant misses the kick), but after the game, he was absolutely irate. This sort of prolonged anger makes me wonder if he just walked over to the official and said “I’m just trying to make it look like we’re going to take a timeout here, I don’t actually want one,” or something to that effect. If that is the case: he definitely won’t be trying that fake again.
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers
When Sam Shields ran back that interception a mere two minutes and change into the game, I already thought my Packers pick was secure. However, I underestimated Colin Kaepernick. This guy has a rocket launcher attached to his arm. Some of those passes must have been coming out at 60 mph. It wasn’t just the fastball throws that Colin showed he could make, it was the touch passes that he also had going. I was simply blown away by how well he threw the ball. The San Fran defense also clamped down on one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and held Rodgers to 257 yards passing, and just under 22 minutes of possession time. Keeping him off the field was always going to be a winning formula for this team. They consistently did this with the running game. The 49ers piled up 323 yards on the ground, and finished with two 110+ yard rushers. The thing that I love about how this 49ers team utilized (and has utilized) Kaepernick in the past is that he puts up great rushing numbers, but isn’t taking the punishment of his contemporaries. The way he and RGIII play are very similar, but RGIII is constantly getting murdered. The 49ers have taught Kaepernick to take care of his body. This will go a long way for the future of this franchise.
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos
Tons of people are high on the Ravens after this game. Maybe it’s my inner Peyton Manning fan, but it seems that the Broncos lost this game, more than the Ravens won it. I hate to use weather as an excuse, but Peyton just did not look like the same guy that we’ve watched for weeks now. In undoubtedly the coldest game of their season (I was cold just watching), Manning just never looked comfortable. He took a bunch of hits from this brutal Ravens defense, and it looked like the combination of the weather and these hits got to him. On the NFL Network Shannon Sharpe said that with injuries like Peyton’s, it’s incredibly hard to get loose in these conditions, and on some of his passes, it showed. We also did not see him make any throws on posts or fly routes. Not one. That’s exactly the type of pass Manning thrives on.
While Flacco played a great game, and I respect his deep ball (the throw to Jacoby Jones on the late TD was an absolute bomb), Rahim Moore has earned a timeout or a dunce cap for his late “heroics”. After trying to undercut the Flacco pass by backpedalling and jumping to try to bat the ball down, he ended up looking like a bad centerfielder. He did the one thing they could not allow. He let someone behind him. I don’t like to blame losses on one play, but this was about as bad of a play in a critical moment as I’ve ever seen.