The second round of the NFL playoffs is now in the books so here are the different thoughts and opinions I have on various things I witnessed this past weekend. Wow even a bigger shocking upset this weekend. And a near shocking upset in Kansas City, at least for a quarter. We are now down to four teams as the Super Bowl in Miami looms even closer.
Just remember I am a Dallas Cowboys fan and I'm extremely biased. Feel free to agree or disagree about anything mentioned here. All comments are welcome.
San Francisco 49ers 27 Minnesota Vikings 10
The Vikings were flying high after their big upset of the Saints last week. The Niners brought them back to earth with a heavy dose of reality by rolling all over them in a dominant 27-10 victory.
When watching this game it was easy to tell early on which team was on a short week after a grueling overtime game and which was coming off of a restful bye. The Vikings kept up with the Niners for nearly a quarter before running out of gas.
The Vikings took the opening kickoff and quickly went three and out. The Niners took possession and drove right down the field. QB Jimmy Garoppolo capped off the drive with a three yard TD pass to little-used WR Kendrick Bourne. Bourne only had 30 catches the whole season.
The Vikings responded with the bulk of their offensive putout of the day as QB Kirk Cousins hit WR Stefon Diggs with a 41 yard strike to tie the game 7-7. It was all downhill from there for the Vikings.
San Fran turned to their rushing attack to pound the hell out of Minnesota. RB Tevin Coleman rushed in a one yard TD, retaking the lead for the Niners. It looked like the score would stay 14-7 at the half, but Garoppolo threw an INT setting the Vikings up deep in Niners territory. Yet the Vikings couldn’t take advantage and settled for a field goal to make the score 14-10.
San Fran took the second half kickoff and used their running backs to set up a Robbie Gould field goal to extend their lead to 17-10. The Vikings took the ball and turned it over when CB Richard Sherman picked off Cousins. Tevin Coleman slammed in another TD to give Niners a 24-10 lead and the game was essentially over.
The Vikings offense never got out of first gear. They are at their best when they run the ball effectively, the Niners made sure that didn’t happen. RB Dalvin Cook was bottled up: 9 carries, 18 yards. That made Cousins shoulder the load on offense and he couldn’t muster up a lot of yards either: 21/29, 172 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. The Niners pass rush was all over him as he was sacked 6 times. Ouch. The Vikings only managed to record seven first downs the entire game.
I don’t trust QBs making their playoff start and Garoppolo’s numbers show why: 11/19, 131 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. No matter, the Niners are a run-first offense and they used their running game to batter the Vikings defense into submission. They ran for 186 yards as a team with Tevin Coleman (22 carries, 105 yards, 2 TDs) and Raheem Mostert (12 carries, 58 yards) doing most of the damage. Their success pounding the rock led the Niners to a huge advantage in time of possession, nearly 17 minutes.
The Niners had a simple game plan, pound the Vikings into submission, and it worked. Their fresh defense overwhelmed the Vikings offense. It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was effective.
Tennessee Titans 28 Baltimore Ravens 12
Last week the Tennessee Titans punched the Patriots right in the mouth. Surely they couldn’t do the same thing to the juggernaut 14-2 Baltimore Ravens? Well they didn’t. It was much worse for Baltimore, who were kicked in the nuts and told to lay there and die. The Titans mugged the Ravens in Baltimore 28-12. It was a good old fashioned ass-whooping.
There was a lesson in this game for NFL head coaches: don’t rest your top guys too much. With the #1 seed wrapped up early, Ravens head coach John Harbough rested most of his starters in Week 17 before their bye week. Those guys went nearly three weeks without playing a down and it showed when this game started. I expected the Ravens to get off to a slow start, I didn’t expect them to not show up.
The Ravens could do nothing with the ball on offense in the first quarter. QB Lamar Jackson threw an INT that the Titans used to put together a scoring drive that culminated when QB Ryan Tannehill hit WR Jonnu Smith with a 12 yard TD.
The next Ravens possession stalled on their own 45 yard line with a fourth and one. Harbaugh likes to gamble, hey why not with the NFL’s best rushing attack, and the Ravens went for it. The Titans were ready and stuffed Lamar Jackson for no gain. The ball was turned over to Tennessee and they took advantage once again. On their first play Tannehill hit WR Kalif Raymond with a 45 yard bomb to take a 14-0 lead.
Kalif Raymond? Who in the hell is this guy? He had nine, yes nine, catches the entire season. It was a great play call because it caught Baltimore completely off guard. And Raymond made a really nice catch. Kudos to him for stepping up in the moment.
The Ravens moved the ball a little more in the second quarter and scored two field goals to cut the lead to 14-6 at halftime. It didn’t matter as the Derrick Henry show was ready to take over the game in the second half. The Titans decided Tannehill threw enough passes in the first half and told Henry the game is yours. He delivered.
In the third quarter the Titans rode Henry all the way down the field. Facing a third and goal from the three yard line, Henry took a toss and instead of running the ball he threw a three yard TD pass to WR Corey Davis. He is the first RB to throw a TD pass in the playoffs since 1987. 21-6 Titans.
The Ravens took possession and Lamar Jackson promptly gave it back to Tennessee with a strip sack fumble. Like they did all night, the Titans took advantage of the miscue to score another TD as Tannehill ran the ball in from the one yard line six plays later. 28-6 Titans. Good night and good luck Ravens.
Baltimore finally found the endzone in the fourth quarter but failed on the two point conversion. That was all she wrote as the Titans used Henry to pound the rock and run out the clock.
Ryan Tannehill didn’t do much last week against the Patriots and in my predictions post I said he would have to step up for the Titans to win. Well he didn’t and they won anyway. His numbers were rather anemic: 7/14, 88 yards, 1 TD. Over half of his yards came from that one TD pass.
Of course he didn’t have to do much because RB Derrick Henry has morphed into the Incredible Hulk on the field. He had another absolute monster game: 30 carries, 195 yards, 1 TD pass. Tennessee took advantage of every mistake Baltimore made to put points on the board and used Henry to chew up the clock.
If you only looked at the stats you would say Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson also had a monster day in the air (31/59, 365 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) and on the ground (20 carries, 143 yards). Yet the Ravens only scored 12 points because they routinely turned the ball over. Either by failing to convert on fourth down four times or giving up an INT or fumble. It was classic bend but don’t break defense by Tennessee. The Ravens could move the ball until they neared scoring range, then they were shut down.
Kansas City Chiefs 51 Houston Texans 31
The notorious slow starting Houston Texans jumped all over the Kansas City Chiefs, knocking them to the turf and daring them to get up. The Chiefs responded by wiping the blood off of their face and pummeling the Texans 51-31. It was like a classic Rocky Balboa fight.
The Texans received the opening kickoff and three minutes into the game QB Deshaun Watson hit a wide open WR Kenny Stills for a 54 yard TD pass as the Chiefs completely blew the coverage. Remember how I said the Texans were slow starters? It was the first offensive TD they scored in the first quarter all season. Wow.
The Chiefs accepted the kickoff, going three and out before having their punt blocked and returned for a TD by Houston. First time Houston blocked a punt and returned it for a TD in 101 games. Less than 5 minutes into the game the Texans take a 14-0 lead.
After trading three and outs, Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill muffed a punt and Houston recovered the fumble on the KC six yard line. Two plays later Watson found WR Darren fells in the endzone for a four yard TD pass. 21-0 Houston. Uh oh KC. Another massive upset seemed well on its way.
Early in the second quarter the Texans drove deep into KC territory. Facing a fourth and less than one, the Texans decided to kick a field goal instead of going for the jugular. It was a curious play call, but Houston made the attempt to take a 24-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.
At this point of the game the Chiefs could do nothing right. Watson was carving up their defense and the offense couldn’t run the rock while receivers were dropping passes all over the field. It was looking like we were going to get an unbelievable AFC title game of Tennessee at Houston. Yet Houston had a problem (I can’t resist that over-used pun). There was still a lot of time left to play and out of nowhere, like a phoenix from the ashes, the Chiefs rose from the dead.
KR Mecole Hardmen kickstarted the Chiefs by returning the kickoff for 58 yards. Two plays later QB Patrick Mahomes connected with RB Damien Williams for a 17 yard TD pass. 24-7 Houston.
The Texans next drive stalled with a fourth and three on their own 33 yard line. They decided to try a fake punt, but the Chiefs caught on and stopped them for a turnover on downs. Hmm, the Texans went for it on 4th and 3 in their own territory after kicking on a 4th and a foot deep in KC territory. Odd. The backfire was complete when Mahomes threw a 5 yard TD pass to TE Travis Kelce to cut the lead to 24-14. The Chiefs scored two TDs in 2 minutes.
Now the tide had completely turned. The Chiefs kicked off and Houston fumbled the run back with KC returning the bobble to the Texans six yard line. Mahomes hit Kelce for another TD pass and suddenly the score was 24-21. KC scored 3 TDs in 3:24. That is a comeback of epic proportions.
But KC wasn’t finished. Houston’s next drive stalled without points and they punted back to the Chiefs. Mahomes made a few big runs before finding Travis Kelce again in the endzone for another TD pass. The Texans large lead was now gone entirely as the Chiefs pulled ahead 28-24 at halftime. Holy shit.
It was a record setting first half. The 52 combined points is the most ever in the first half of a playoff game. Mahomes threw 4 TD passes in the second quarter, tying QB Doug Williams for the most TD passes in a quarter of a playoff game. Travis Kelce caught 3 TD passes in the second quarter, a new playoff record for most TD passes caught in one quarter.
Now the question was would the Texans be able to recover from their massive second quarter letdown? No, they wouldn’t.
The Chiefs kept hitting on all cylinders in the second half, quickly scoring two more TDs in the third quarter to extend their lead to 41-24 (they missed an extra point). Houston’s defense crumbled, committing penalty after penalty to aid the Chiefs. Houston finally scored another TD near the end of the third quarter when Watson ran for a 5 yard TD, but it was their last gasp. KC tacked on 10 more points in the fourth to win 51-31. Amazing.
On Saturday night the Ravens never recovered from their lousy start. The Chiefs fell down even farther faster (24-0 early in the second quarter), yet they not only recovered, they roared back to hang half a hundred on the Texans. KC became the first team in NFL playoff history to trail by twenty+ points and comeback to win by 20 points.
Patrick Mahomes not only had a big game in the air (23/35, 321 yards, 5 TDs), he was the Chiefs top rusher as well: 7 carries, 53 yards. Houston had no answer for TE Travis Kelce: 10 catches, 134 yards, 3 TDs.
Houston QB Deshaun Watson had a great game (31/52, 388 yards, 2 TDs, 1 rushing TD) but the Texans offense couldn’t keep pace with Kansas City. A couple of questionable play calls on fourth down also helped the Chiefs take the momentum away from Houston. Blowing a 24 point lead in that fashion is going to lead to a long and agonizing offseason for the Texans.
Green Bay Packers 28 Seattle Seahawks 23
Last week in Philly the Seahawks did as little as possible to get by the injury-decimated Eagles. This week in Green Bay the Seahawks did as little as possible in the first half and it came back to bite them in the ass as they fell into a hole that even a great performance by QB Russell Wilson in the second half couldn’t dig them out. The Packers charged out early and held on to win 28-23.
The Packers showed Seattle right away that they weren’t going to be as offensively challenged as the Eagles. Green Bay took the opening kickoff and RB Aaron Jones broke off a 23 yard run on the Pack’s first play. QB Aaron Rodgers finished the drive off with a 20 yard TD pass to WR Davante Adams and Green Bay took an early 7-0 lead.
The Seahawks took the ball and caught a break early that prevented the Packers from seizing complete control of the game. On Seattle’s first play, Wilson hit TE Jacob Hollister for an 11 yard gain. However Hollister fumbled the ball before he hit the frozen tundra and after a scrum the Packers came out with the ball. The referee’s missed the fumble and ruled Hollister down, so they didn’t pay attention to the scrum or whoever ended up with the ball.
Green Bay challenged the call and the replay officials concurred it was a fumble, but they claimed it wasn’t clear who recovered so Seattle kept possession. This was really bad officiating. Replay showed the Packers emerging from the pile with the ball so I don’t know how they could say it wasn’t clear. The Packers were right, but still didn’t get possession and lost a timeout to boot. What a joke. Fortunately it didn’t affect the outcome of the game.
The two teams traded punts before Russell Wilson hit WR Tyler Lockett with a 28 yard pass to move into field goal range. The drive stalled and Seattle kicked a 45 yard field goal to make the score 7-3 as the first quarter ended.
The second quarter is where Green Bay took control of the game. Aaron Rodgers continuously hooked up with Davante Adams to move the ball into Seattle territory. A couple of Seahawks penalties advanced the Pack into the redzone where Aaron Jones finally punched the rock in for a 2 yard TD and a 14-3 lead.
Seattle stubbornly stuck to a running game that was not working and struggled to gain yardage. They missed a 50 yard field goal attempt and the Pack took advantage of the field position for another TD drive that once again was finished off with a short TD run by Jones. 21-3 Packers at the half.
As the second half started, Seattle finally realized they were going to have to keep the ball in Russell Wilson’s hands if they wanted any chance of winning. The Seahawks took the kickoff and Wilson used his legs and his arm to put together the team’s first TD drive. It was completed with a 1 yard TD by RB Marshawn Lynch. The lead was cut to 21-10.
The Packers responded with a few big plays of their own, culminating in a 40 yard TD pass from Rodgers to Adams. Midway through the third quarter the Pack extended their lead to 28-10.
Unfortunately for Green Bay that was the end of their scoring for the day. Fortunately for Green Bay they built a big enough lead that Seattle didn’t have enough time left to come back. Wilson led the Seahawks to two late TD drives to cut the score to 28-23 (they failed a two-point conversion attempt), but when Green Bay got the ball with a little under three minutes to play Rodgers made a couple of crucial throws on third down to keep possession and run out the clock. Game over.
Aaron Rodgers had to carry the day for the Packers as Seattle clamped down on RB Aaron Jones (21 carries, 62 yards, 2 TDs). Rodgers was up to the task. His numbers weren’t spectacular (16/27, 243 yards, 2 TDs) by his standards, but he made numerous beautiful passes to keep the chains moving. WR Davante Adams was his favorite target (8 catches, 160 yards, 2 TDs) as Seattle couldn’t find a way to slow him down.
The Seahawks spent the first half desperately trying to get a running attack going, but it never did. RB Marshawn Lynch (12 carries, 26 yards, 2 TDs) is not the player he used to be. Seattle waited too long to set Wilson loose and it cost them. Wilson was sacked 5 times but when he was able to get his passes off he made the Pack pay: 21/31, 277 yards, 1 TD. If that wasn’t enough he was the Seahawks top rusher as well by a mile: 7 carries, 64 yards. Wilson is now 0-4 for his career in Green Bay and Seattle hasn’t won a game in Wisconsin since 1999.
A little HOF preview
I was so close to finally having a MMQB post without mentioning my beloved Dallas Cowboys, then the Hall of Fame saved the day. Don’t blame me, blame Canton Ohio.
Before the Ravens/Titans game, Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker walked onto the set of the CBS pre-game show to inform Bill Cowher he was elected to the Hall of Fame class of 2020. It was a very nice surprise on live TV and Cowher was left a little speechless at first as his family came on the set to congratulate him. Cowher was a long time head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who led the team to two Super Bowl appearances and one Lombardi Trophy.
On Sunday, during halftime of the Seattle/Green Bay game, Baker once again showed up on live TV out of the blue. This time he joined the Fox pre-game crew to tell Jimmy Johnson he was also elected to the Hall of Fame class of 2020. Johnson saw Baker walking in and immediately became choked up as he was able to guess what was going to happen after what took place on Saturday. For those that are unaware (what the hell do you live under a rock or something?) Johnson took over as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 and quickly built the team up as the team of the 90’s, winning two Super Bowls before he finally decided he had enough of Jerry Jones’s shit and walked away. The talent he left behind in Dallas was able to capture a third championship without him.
As the Cowboys #1 fan (it’s my post so I’m giving myself the title), there is one moment in Johnson’s tenure that always sticks out in my mind. It’s the post-game speech he gave to the team after upsetting the San Francisco 49ers in the 1992 NFC Championship game. The sound bite Cowboys fans love and all the haters hate.
How ‘bout them Cowboys!
Let me know your thoughts on Divisional playoff weekend.