NFL Wildcard Playoff Weekend

NFL Wildcard Playoff Weekend: Good, bad & ugly

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Wow! What a weekend of football! This was perhaps the best Wildcard round I've seen in quite some time. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Derrick Henry is a cyborg. The Titans' running back is listed at 6'3 and 247lbs. How a man that size moves the way he does is unreal. He pounded the Patriots defense into submission to the tune of 182 yards on 34 carries. But my favorite play of his was the screen pass he took 22 yards to set up his only rushing touchdown of the game. Catching the ball was a knock on him and he showed he could do so on that play.

-In that Titans/Patriots matchup, Mike Vrabel got the best of Bill Belchick and used a Belichick-esque knowledge of a loophole to aid him in bewating his former mentor and coach. The rule allows teams to take penalties and run clock outside of five minutes left in a game. On 4th&5, they took the clock from 5:52 and didn't actually punt until 4:51. A delay of game and a false start helped them run the time off. Brilliant strategic move!

-Russell Wilson is elite. He hasn't had a good offensive line, no a true number one receiver, and only had a number one running back when Marshawn Lynch was there his first go round. Yet he's managed to get his team to double digit wins in all but one of his eight seasons, the only time they missed the playoffs at 9-7. He led the Seahawks to a 17-9 win over the Eagles and look to be a problem for the NFC. Don't look now, butrookie DK Metcalf is emerging as his number one target after that 160 yard performance.

The Bad

-Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady went 20/37 for 209 yards and threw an interception. The Titans made him look very average. Granted, he doesn't have the same type of weapons he used to have in the past, but there are other quarterbacks who don't have weapons and manage to do more. Speaking of the Patriots...

-What happened to that vaunted defense? The Titans manhandled them. They ran 40 times and only attempted 16 passes. Sure the final score isn't indicative of a dominant win, but having that big of a run to pass differential shows that one team knew what they were good at and stuck to it.

-With the Eagles down 17-9 in the 4th quarter, Doug Pederson decided to go for it. He dialed up the right play, backup quarterback Josh McCown threw a good ball, but Miles Sanders dropped it. They were in field goal range, but knew they needed a touchdown and two point conversion.

The Ugly

-Carson Wentz left the Eagles after their second possession of the game. It appears as if he suffered a concussion. He was scrambling and threw a pass to Boston Scott when Jadeveon Clowney hit him. As Clowney landed on him, it seemed to have mashed Wentz's head into the ground.

-Saints coach Sean Payton decided to go for the 10 second runoff at the end of the regulation instead of using their last timeout. It brought the clock down to 11 seconds instead of 21 seconds. This didn't cost them the game, but it would've been nice to have more time to possibly take shots at the end zone from the Vikings' 31 yard line with extra time.

-Josh Allen should look in the mirror when he looks for reasons why the Bills lost to the Texans. He made several boneheaded plays that cost his team a chance to advance. Perhaps the most puzzling was his alley oop lateral to his fullback that they miraculously managed to not lose the ball on. I've never seen a play that dumb in quite some time.

This was the first time the NFL had not one, but two overtime games in Wildcard round. Every game was decided by one score, every game was competitive, and every game had us on the edge of our seats. The top four teams in rushing yards per game all made the playoffs (Ravens, 49ers, Titans, and Seahawks). Two had byes, the other two advanced in road wins. If this doesn't emphasize why the run game is still very important to today's game, I don't know what will. The ages of the remaining quarterbacks in descending order: 36, 31, 31, 31, 28, 24, 24, and 22. Goes to show you that age doesn't matter, it's all about how you play the game. Also shows that the younger guys are stepping up and ready to take the throne from the older guys. These next couple weeks should be fun to watch!

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

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The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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