Wildcard weekend in review

I’m a pretty big football junkie, but three of the four games this weekend bordered on unwatchable for long stretches.  Thankfully, the last game on Sunday provided a full sixty minutes of entertainment, and possibly a story line to last through the offseason.  Here’s what I saw in the four games this weekend:

Bengals – Texans:  In what was one of the least appealing playoff games in recent memory, the Texans won by six points and by the balance of play, should have won by three touchdowns.  Letting Cincinatti hang around, the Texans were within an Andy Dalton overthrow of AJ Green late in the 4th quarter of losing.   For the third time in four years, the Bengals flame out on wildcard weekend.  Overall Houston looked good save for the intercepted pass returned for a TD.  The running game and passing game were both highly efficient.  The Texans secondary dominated the Cincinatti wide receivers all game long. One thing I didn’t like about Houston’s performance – tentative coaching.  Punts and field goals were called for on a number of 4th and short situations in the Bengals’ territory.  It didn’t end up hurting Houston, but its effect was to keep the game close which almost backfired.  The coach of this team rarely challenges his team to go win the game with his decisions, prefering to “play the odds” (incorrectly, I might point out – when you’re averaging almost 6 yards a run play, the odds favour you more going for it on 4th and 1 than punting away and giving up possession).  The coaching will have to be bolder next week against the Pats.

Vikings – Packers:  This game might have been decided when Joe Webb was named starting QB for Minnesota due to an injury to Ponder.  The Packers defence could focus their full energy on stopping the running game without fear of Webb hurting them in the passing game.  Once the Packers strung together a couple of scores to stretch out their lead at the start of the 3rd, it was game over.   It’ll be interesting to see if their defence can stop the 49ers offence next weekend after not facing any real challenge this week.

Colts – Ravens:  Even for someone who is sick of hearing about Ray Lewis, I’ve got to admit he played a pretty good game in his last one ever in Baltimore.  The Ravens defence confounded the Colts and applied consistent pressure on Luck all game long.  The Colts will need to address their offensive line this offseason.  Flacco’s up and down season was “up” for most of the game hitting on a number of deep passes to Anquan Boldin who in my mind was the player of the game.  The Colts overachieved this year and were lucky to win 11 games.  Their luck ran out, but if I was a fan of their team, I’d have been happy with watching that season.

Seahawks – Redskins:  This was the game I was most looking forward to, and through the first half it had everything.  Huge hits, big plays, scoring (something absent from most of the other games this weekend) and some genuine dislike between the teams.  The postmortem on the game will focus on Shanahan’s decision to leave RG III in the game with his knee injury.  After aggravating the injury on his second touchdown pass, his performance tanked.  He couldn’t plant his back leg on throws (most of which he starting missing high and wide) and he was limping when he had to scramble.  Once Seattle realized this, they blitzed him relentlessly and he was ineffective as he couldn’t move in the pocket.  When he was finally forced to leave the game after a fumble late in the 4th quarter, it appeared he may have sustained a serious injury.  The Redskins had a better chance to win with their backup QB and in my mind, a poor coaching decision deprived them of that chance and put their star at risk of further injury.  All of that said, I loved the Seahawks resolve in this game coming from down 14 early to win.  Their defence is intimidating (there were a number of passes that Redskins receivers didn’t stretch out for in the second half – you could see them protecting themselves – that’s the sign of a hard hitting D) and their rookie QB looks wise beyond his years.  Right now, I think Seattle is one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the NFL.  I’ll be pulling for them next week.

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