NFL Divisional Round Rundown

http://www.thechiefly.com/sports/nfl-divisional-round-rundown/

A league dominated by offense? That’s what they tell us. But the divisional round saw only two teams score over 24 points and just one cracked the 30 point mark. Three of the four NFC teams that played this weekend are there mostly thanks to their dominant defenses, and the one that wasn’t got handled relatively stress free in Seattle. The AFC is a little bit of a different story but still saw opportunistic defense win out. The Patriots defense put on a turnover clinic against Andrew Luck and the Colts while Denver and San Diego played a surprisingly low scoring game on Sunday afternoon.

Monday Night Football may be gone, but it’s still there in our hearts. Time for a Monday night Divisional Round NFL Rundown.

Seattle Seahawks 23 – New Orleans Saints 15

How the game was won: Seattle’s historically great pass defense teamed with the weather to basically pitch a shutout for the first three quarters, holding the high powered Saints to 113 passing yards and no touchdowns. The Seahawks Belichick’d the Saints best weapon as Jimmy Graham was a total non-factor after displaying his fiercest internet muscles before the game, catching one of six passes thrown his way for eight whole yards. Marshawn Lynch literally caused an earthquake and Russell Wilson didn’t have a great day, but did enough Russell Wilson Things to help move the ball in key moments.

How the game was lost:

 

Well, the game wasn’t completely lost on this play, but if Marques Colston ducks out of bounds like any human being with two functioning sides of their brain would, there’s 3 seconds left and the Saints are on the Seahawks 35; that’s a legitimate opportunity to score. This game was really lost in the first three quarters when Drew Brees couldn’t get the ball to anyone but Colston. If you take away the 52 yard should-have-been-intercepted “completion” to Meachem, Sproles was their 2nd leading receiver, catching 5 check downs for 32 yards.

Historical significance of the contest: The Saints’ offense mostly no-shows for another game in bad weather. Seattle gains more street cred as a miserable place for visiting teams to play. Marshawn Lynch wins the Power RB title belt after shifting the ground beneath his feet.

Player Talking Heads will talk most about this week: If you turn on ESPN at any point in the next few days, you’ll probably hear someone screaming something like this at a semi-terrified anchor:

“YANNOW, THIS GUY EARL THOMAS, HE, HE IS A FOOTBALL PLAYER LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! HE JUST MAKES PLAYS, AND YANNOW, HE HAS THAT VETERAN LEADERSHIP…EVEN THOUGH HE’S A YOUNG PLAYER. IF I HAD COACHED ELEVEN EARL THOMASES, I WOULD HAVE WON ELEVEN SUPER BOWLS!”

New England Patriots 43 – Indianapolis Colts 22

How the game was won: 146 of LeGarrette Blount’s 166 rushing yards came before contact. You do the math. The Patriots offensive line put on the best performance by any unit so far in the playoffs, repeatedly blasting the Colts undersized front seven off of the line of scrimmage. Brady made enough plays that the Indy secondary had to worry about the play-action while Blount waltzed down the field at 7 yards a pop, and the Patriots cruised to the easiest victory of the weekend.

How the game was lost: Pick any one of Andrew Luck’s four interceptions; it made the Colts play catch up against a team that they couldn’t stop and who doesn’t turn the ball over. Luck needed to play perfect to make up for the shortcomings of his defense, and he was anything but.

Historical significance of the contest: Brady makes another AFC Championship (8 in 12 years, yet you still hear too many people complain in Boston, I’ll let Charles Barkley explain what the Boston Globe means by “playoff fatigue”). The Colts’ “never quit on a football game” credibility took a bit of a hit on LeGarrette freaking Blount’s nearly untouched 73 yard touchdown run combined with Chuck Pagano’s punt down by 21 points on 4th and 1 from his own 30 yard line with 10 minutes left.

Player Talking Heads will talk most about this week: We’re entering into the Brady-Manning vortex, so in honor of Dan Dierdorf’s last game, we’ll let him give the parting word:

“WHEN I FIRST STARTED WATCHING FOOTBALL, I WASN’T SURE IF I DIDN’T WANT TO PLAY ANY POSITION BUT QUARTERBACK. WHEN I PICTURED MYSELF PLAYING, I PICTURED MYSELF NOT LOOKING LIKE SOMEONE WHO WOULD NOT LOOK LIKE TOM BRADY. THE MAN IS JUST A WINNER. HAVE YOU SEEN HIS WIFE? HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HOW NOT TO NOT WIN…‘DORF DA DOUBLE NEGATIVE OUT!” 

**drops mic**

**realizes his headset is still on and that he actually dropped a sandwich**

**eats sandwich**

San Francisco 49ers 23 – Carolina Panthers 10

How the game was won: San Francisco’s defense stiffened in the 2nd half, along with the bum knee of Cam Newton’s only reliable target (quick aside: Can we please stop with the Herculization of football players when it comes to injuries? After Steve Smith’s first half touchdown, the announcers exclaimed that Smith’s knee was “just fine.” No, it wasn’t. He just received a common injection to mask the pain, something that is terrible for your body long-term, gives you an artificial advantage for a short period of time, and apparently is in no way shape or form like steroids or other “performance enhancing drugs”).

Colin Kaepernick played a more efficient game than his numbers would suggest (15/28 for 196 yards, 1 TD 0 INT, 8 rushes for 15 yards, 1 TD), as he made big plays in key moments with both his legs and his arm against a tough defense who came to play. Frank Gore, a battering ram rented by the FBI in the off-season, finished off Carolina’s terrific front seven in the second half, averaging 5 yards per carry.

How the game was lost: By indecision and a lack of execution on the one foot line in the first half. Aggressive play calls on 4th down with their power run game fueled the Panthers’ offense all year. San Francisco’s defense stopped a Cam Newton sneak on 4th and a foot from the end zone in the first quarter (which subsequently lead to a three and out by the 49ers, a punt, a return to the 49er 30 yard line, then Cam’s aforementioned touchdown pass to Steve Smith on the very next play, demonstrating the “benefits” of not scoring the first time).

Ron Rivera, influenced by the gamblers fallacy, decided to kick a field goal the next time his team faced 4th and a foot from the end zone in the second quarter. Graham Gano’s try went through the uprights as Carolina scored their last points of the afternoon, going up 10-6 before San Francisco scored a touchdown a few minutes later to end the first half, and even though they didn’t know it at the time, the Panthers season.

Historical significance of the contest: Cam Newton still doesn’t get to join the “Approved Young Guns Club” (comprised of Luck, Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson…I think RGIII has been excommunicated). The 49ers strengthen their case for “Best NFL Franchise Ever” by appearing in their 15th NFC Championship game, tying Dallas and Pittsburgh for most all time Championship Game appearances. Personally branded touchdown celebrations have officially become the new East Coast-West Coast hip hop feuds.

Player Talking Heads will talk most about this week: Turn on any of the eight million sports channels and you’ll find some “quarterback expert” parroting some version of:

“I’LL TELL YOU WHAT, THIS KID, KAEPERNICK, HE HAS ALL OF THE TOOLS TO BE THE BEST QUARTERBACK IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE GUYS. THE KID’S GOT A CANNON AND HE CAN PUT IT RIGHT ON YOU ANYWHERE ON THE FIELD, AND GUYS, I’LL TELL YOU WHAT, WE KNOW THAT HE CAN RUN, BUT HE SCRAMBLES LOOKING TO THROW. YOU CAN’T OVERSTATE HOW VALUABLE THAT IS TO YOUR OFFENSE GUYS.”

Denver Broncos 24 – San Diego Chargers 17

How the game was won: Peyton Manning should get credit for playing outstanding football and throwing darts all over the place; the Broncos would not have had to sweat at the end of the game if his receivers had held on to several passes early on. Denver never punted and should have cruised to a victory if not for a handful of ill-timed mistakes.  Jack Del Rio’s defense played a lot of man coverage and held the Chargers to a minuscule 51 yards passing prior to Chris Harris’ departure from the game with 12 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter after tearing his ACL.

Two under appreciated game ball recipients are the two snow plows on the right side of the Broncos offensive line: former Charger and current Pro Bowl guard Louis Vasquez, and Orlando “I look like I should be in that Key and Peele sketch” Franklin.

Peyton and the receivers lead the charge for most of the afternoon, averaging 6.4 yards per pass, but the Broncos dominated the ball in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, rushing for 73 yards on 17 carries (a 4.3 average), grinding away valuable time on the clock. Bottom line, if Peyton hands the ball off, the run is probably going behind these two dudes. They were just as good in pass protection too, as Manning was sacked a grand total of zero times on the day.

How the game was lost: The play at the 30 second mark of this video. If Shareece Wright holds on to the ball and San Diego goes down and scores, we might be listening to a different narrative crafted around Peyton Manning right now. Sports are funny.

Historical significance of the contest: Peyton avoids another disastrous one and done. Phillip Rivers earns the begrudging respect of Broncos fans. Keenan Allen’s “look at me!” performance earns him the ire of old-schoolers everywhere. It sets up not just Manning vs Brady, but a game between two original members of the AFL with 2nd place in total AFC Championships on the line (Pats have won 7 to Denver’s 6, Pittsburgh is first with 8). Lastly, we cannot forget Phillip Rivers’ gift to Broncos fans that will live on long after mankind has gone extinct.

Player Talking Heads will talk most about this week: It’s obviously Peyton, so in the interest of variety we’ll go with #2, and WEEI in Boston will bring us the call:

I TELL YAH WHAT, THIS WES WELKAH, HE’S A TRAITAH! AND HE’S NO GOOD ANYMORE. EVERYONE WHO EVAH LEFT A BOSTON TEAM IS NO GOOD! BESIDES, WE’VE GOT JOOLIEN EDELMAN, AND WE CAN SAY HIS NAME LIKE LOOCHEECH, WHICH MAKES HIM A GOOD, HAHD NOSED PLAYAH…LOOOOOOOOOOCH!! WELKAH WILL NOT, I REPEAT, NOT…DO ANYTHING TO HURT THE PATS IN. THIS. GAME.”

So who is going to play in the Super Bowl?

In the all-out brawl in the NFC, whomever can stay upright the longest. And in the AFC…alright, I’ll level with you, check out my bio at the bottom of the page, I can’t be objective about this game.

All hail the Dark Lord Welker. Go Broncos.

Jacob Weindling
Pure bred Coloradan with a dash of Masshole (go UMass). Sports and politics junkie. If I've learned one thing in life to this point, it's that stupid loses more games than smart wins.
Jacob Weindling
Jacob Weindling

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