NFL Wild Card Round Recap
I can’t recall the last time that a NFL playoff weekend provided so many back and forth, wire to wire, edge of your seat games like what we just witnessed. Aside of the Seahawks controlling the injury depleted Eagles from start to finish, the remaining three games were spectacular! From two overtime games, late game drives to tie the score, to a coach manipulating a loophole in the rules, and witnessing a coach, who’s done the same exact thing, get utterly peeved from it. While I am still excited about what has transpired, I am a bit upset over the fact that I went 1-3 on my picks this weekend. I am happy that I missed out on a winless weekend, but I’m just annoyed by it, that’s all!
This week’s recap will be different from the ones that you’ve come to know. Considering that we’re in playoff football, we’ll avoid the “Game of the Week” moniker, as well as my providing some thoughts on games that I don’t provide full coverage too. No, this is the playoffs, and every game gets a share of the coverage! That said, let’s ride this out in the order that they were played, and see where the discussion leads to!
Texans turn it around in the Second Half, Rally behind Watson to Eliminate the Bills
The excitement that was built around the Bills and Texans matchup on Saturday afternoon was more than it just being the first playoff game of this season. This one had eyes on it for the potential of a future. With Bills’ QB Josh Allen and Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson considered the “futures of their respective franchises,” some figured that this could be the first playoff matchup of multiple over the course of their careers. If this is true, then sign me up for more next season please!
The first half was all Buffalo in this one. With only three possessions and 20 plays in the first half, the Texans offense looked sluggish and mismatched against this stellar Bills defense. Bills CB Tre’Davious White was doing exactly what was asked of him and kept Texans star WR DeAndre Hopkins to no receptions on two targets in the first half. While this is going on, Josh Allen was quick to go to his favorite targets, WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley, and rely on the legs of RB Devin Singletary, and the Bills offense was able to secure a 13-0 lead at halftime. At this point, the question wasn’t “who will win?” but “how badly will this Bills defense beat down the Texans?”
Halftime isn’t just for a quick rest period, but for coaching staffs to make their adjustment plans known and start working out the issues for the remainder of the game. The Texans accomplished this to near perfection. Once Hopkins was moved around and found some occasional freedom from White, he went on to nab 6 receptions on 6 targets for 90 yards. He did end up with a costly fumble early in the third quarter, which was caused by White, which led to a Buffalo field goal. With Hopkins back in the mix of the game, you could almost see the life being brought back into Watson, who took complete charge of this offense and, after being down 16-0 late in the 3rd quarter, roared back to take a 19-16 lead. Next thing you know, a turnover on downs from the Bills stuffing a QB sneak by Watson that nearly everyone watching knew was coming, and Josh Allen has the chance to be a hero.
11 plays and 41 yards later, along with two first down conversions on third down which were simply ridiculous, and Allen enabled the Bills to get the tying field goal to push the game into OT. After a quick swap of possessions, the Texans got the ball back, and we all were witnesses to this play:
All of this eventually leads to the game winning field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn, and the Texans are on their way to Kansas City next Sunday. By now, we’ve heard the reports of how Watson “knew” that he wasn’t going down on this play and have seen the replay to many times to count, but I’m all for one extra view on this. A spectacular game capped off with Deshaun Watson reminding of us who he is, and why he’s going to end up being a major part of the new elite players in the NFL for a very long time.
Derrick Henry Keeps his Dominant Ways Going, Rushing the Patriots out of the Playoffs
In my preview for this game, I called for the Titans to continue to give the rock early and often to RB Derrick Henry, this season’s NFL rushing champion. I didn’t fully expect it to break down to 34 carries, however. I did say Henry would rush for over 100 yards, but 182 yards with a 5.4 average was more than anyone could ask for. The Titans knew that the weakest portion of the Patriots was their rush defense, and they exposed it all night long. Don’t believe me? QB Ryan Tannehill, who has found a new lease on his football career in Tennessee since taking over for the then struggling Marcus Mariota, only had 15 pass attempts, completing 8 of them for 72 yards, with a passing TD and interception.
Regardless of how Henry played, the Titans as a whole showed up and kept the Patriots in check all game long. They were able to keep the Patriots run game in check, holding RB Sony Michel to 61 yards on 14 carries, and also managed to keep ‘checkdown’ RB James White to only 5 receptions for 62 yards. By doing so, this forced QB Tom Brady to look to his WRs, and outside of Julian Edelman, were able to find a major success. CB Logan Ryan was able to keep Edelman down to 3 receptions for 30 yards on five targets, while fellow WRs Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, and Phillip Dorsett managed only 38 receiving yards off of four receptions combined. Even more impressive that the three were targeted a combined 16 times!
Why is that important? This is due to the fact that the Titans did something that would’ve been deemed as ‘heresy’ in the football world only a few seasons ago, and that was force Tom Brady to throw the ball. Coming off of his worst passing season statistically, particularly in completion percentage, TD passes, and yards gained per pass completion and attempt, Brady showed not only the Patriots lack of depth in receivers, but potentially, his age. Brady has already come out since this and said that he plans to play again next year, but the question remains, “For who?” This if the first time in his career that he will become an unrestricted free agent, and some may wonder if the lack of receiver depth played a factor in his decline. Regardless, the Titans did what they had to, and have a date with the Ravens in Baltimore on Saturday.
In yet Another Potential Missed Pass Interference Call, the Vikings Take Down the Saints
For years, we’ve heard about how the NFL was always there to coddle the Patriots, making sure that they got the calls that they needed from the refs to win games, and make deep runs in the playoffs. Today, one has to wonder if the NFL now has something against the Saints? As for the second year in a row, they’ve been eliminated due to a ‘potential’ missed pass interference call. Vikings fans, please don’t think of this as a way of saying that I don’t feel that you earned this victory in any way, shape, fashion, or form. The Vikings did what they had to, and after that huge fumble by QB Drew Brees late in the 4th quarter, it looked like the path to the Divisional round was all but paved for Minnesota.
As we know, the Saints were able to tie the game, and we end up in overtime, with the Vikings winning the toss and electing to receive. At this point, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins flipped a switch in his head, and started a drive that appeared was fully in control by him. The 43-yard pass to WR Adam Thielen, which placed the Vikings on the 2-yard line, was nothing short of perfect. Then, after a two rushing attempts by RB Dalvin Cook to find the end zone, Cousins made one last pass attempt to TE Kyle Rudolph, and for the third straight year, the Saints were eliminated on the last play of the game. That, however, isn’t the issue. How Rudolph was able to create space to catch the ball is.
To be fair, this was a complete mismatch, one that even FOX color commentary and Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman identified prior to the snap. This was the right play call by the Vikings coaching staff, and a great pass by Cousins to give Rudolph the chance for the ball. That being said, all of those mean nothing when you push off. I’ve been known to quote the 2019 NFL Playing Rule Book a few times in my recaps, and I’ll do it once more here.
Seems pretty cut and dry to me, as the more I watch this replay, it shows Rudolph initiating the full contact, and extending his arm which creates a yard of separation from CB P.J. Williams. I’ll always be the first to call out a flop when I see it, but there is little to no evidence in my eyes, that Williams’ is trying to sell a push off from Rudolph. Again, I fail to see how NFL Officiating can simply pass this off and move along, especially considering this wasn’t the only missed call with major ramifications during this game. Adam Thielen’s first quarter fumble should never have happened, due to LG Pat Elflein moving prior to the snap, yet the false start was never called.
D.K. Metcalf Leads the Charge as the Seahawks Move on after Topping the Eagles
While this game also has some controversy to it, it doesn’t compare to the prior three wild card games, competitively speaking that is. While I’m not entirely surprised by the result, as this was the only Wild Card game that I correctly predicted, I figured that it would’ve been more back and forth. This could be in due part to the fact that this Eagles team seemed like they were almost to the point of a mid-season open tryout to try and fill the gaps that were apparent due to multiple injuries. Icing on the cake was watching Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney come from behind and hit a falling Carson Wentz in the back of the head with his helmet, all while Wentz was being tackled. Just eight plays into his first playoff start, and Wentz was already out of the game.
I really don’t see how this kind of hit is still considered ‘legal’ in the NFL. Clowney can clearly see Wentz is going to the ground prior to lowering his shoulder/head for the hit. There’s no way that you can convince me that Clowney didn’t think that he was going to hit Wentz in his back, though I will agree that hitting Wentz in the back of the head was NOT the primary goal. Regardless of this, reports are already coming out that Clowney has been receiving death threats, and other “positive” messages, since the incident. I respect fans being passionate about their teams, but regardless of what the ‘intention’ is, anyone who makes a death threat to a player (while we’re at it, toss in politician, activist, really just anyone), and/or their families should be exiled to some far away land with no outside communications. That’s just my two cents though.
Regardless of what occurred with Clowney and Wentz, the primary focus for this game should, and deserves to be on Seahawks rookie WR D.K. Metcalf. Seven receptions off of nine targets for 160 yards and a TD reception, which is the greatest performance by a rookie WR in their first playoff game, should be the talk of the land for this game. I’m still a bit stunned of all the negative talk that Metcalf received coming out of Ole Miss. While I never saw him play in person, I saw plenty of him on broadcasts and highlight packages, as well as word of mouth from other alumni of Mississippi State, or Ole’ Miss fans who wanted to remind us of how great of a WR he was/is. Metcalf dominated the Eagles secondary on Sunday night, and his performance will be remembered for many seasons to come.
And now we’re down to eight! So far, the Texans have been the only team to host a playoff game and secure a win. Will this trend continue into the Divisional Round? We shall have to wait and see!
Saturday, January 11
Vikings @ 49ers (1:35 PM PT/4:35 PM ET on NBC)
Titans @ Ravens (5:15 PM PT/ 8:15 PM ET on CBS)
Sunday, January 12
Texans @ Chiefs (12:05 PM PT/3:05 PM ET on CBS)
Seahawks @ Packers (3:40 PM PT/6:40 PM PT on FOX)
Previews for the AFC Divisional round games will be up later in the week, written by yours truly. Be sure to follow Whole Nine Sports on Twitter and Facebook for the NFC Divisional round previews that will be up later in the week as well! That being said, a major thanks to co-writers Tyler Habursky and Devin Jackson for taking care of the NFC Wild Card rounds this past weekend and saving me from an insane writing schedule. Time to rest up and get ready! This weekend should be a great one!
Comments? Complaints? Gripes? Praises? When will the Browns announce Jason Garrett as their new head coach? Hit me up! Find me on Twitter: @ThatBankaiLife