Even with the higher quality of teams in the playoffs, the NFL just can't get away from the blowouts. Just like last week, only one game came down to the end. Peyton Manning had no problem dismantling the Ravens vaunted defense. Brett Favre became the first 40 year old QB to win a playoff game. The Cardinals defense gave up 45 points for the second straight game. And the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, proved they belong in the post season after all.
Jets 17, Chargers 14
For anyone who wants to be there, the victory parade through the Canyon of Hero's will be held on February 9th. At least according to Jets head coach Rex Ryan. When the regular season came to an end and Ryan found out the Jets were still playing, he made an itinerary for all four playoff games and the victory parade. He said the Jets should be favored to win instead of being considered the long shots Vegas put their odds at. Most football fans laughed at that. No one's laughing now. "And you thought he was out of his mind.", Jets LB Bart Scott told reporters after the Jets stunned the highly favored Chargers. It now sets up a rematch with a Colts team that many feel let the Jets win in week 16, allowing the Jets to just sneak into the playoffs. "If they just gave us that win, this gives us a chance to make it more legitimate," Jets DE Dustin Keller said after the game. "I don't see them pulling starters out of this game."
For the Chargers it was another playoff let down after a stellar regular season. Wasn't that why Marty Schottenheimer was fired a few years ago? Throughout the game the Chargers constantly made costly mistakes. Nate Kaeding, who had hit 29 straight FG's of 40 yards or less, missed all three of his attempts, including 2 of 40 yards or less. Phillip Rivers, who had thrown only 9 interceptions all season, threw 2 in the second half. And the Chargers were also penalized 10 times for 87 yards. "How in the hell did this happen?", a stunned Shawne Merriman asked no one in particular. In the pregame show, everyone agreed the Chargers would win and that it would take a perfect game from the Jets just to have a chance. Obviously they were wrong. All it took for the Jets to win was for the Chargers to play their worst game of the year.
Cardinals 14, Saints 45
The Saints started the season with a perfect 13-0 record before loosing their last 3. So when Cardinals RB Tim Hightower broke through the Saints defense on route to a 70 yard TD run to open the game, you had to wonder if the Cardinals were going to pull off the upset. Right? No. Drew Breese (23/32, 247, 3 TD's) led the Saints right back, and before you knew it they were leading 21-7. The Cards did cut the score down to 21-14 on a 4 yard TD run by Beanie "Baby" Wells, but the Saint scored the last 2 TD's of the half to take a commanding 35-14 lead. "So much for being rusty", Saint coach Sean Peyton said afterwards. Reggie Bush, who led the team onto the field while caring a bat that said, "Bring the wood" (no sexual pun intended), scored 2 TD's for the Saints on a 46 yard run and an 83 yard punt return.
Part of the reason the Cardinals defense looked so bad was because of the loss early on of Safety Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and CB Antrel Rollo. "We played with a depleted secondary today," Ken Whisenhunt said in his post game interview. "That hurt us. The Saints exploited those match-ups. That was pretty obvious." Yes it was. Things really started going the Saints way when Cardinals WR Jerheme Urban, who was filling in for an injured Anquan Boldin, fumbled on the Cardinals second possession. "You can't do that," Whisenhunt said, "Not in this situation against that team, against that offense." Once again, thanks for pointing out the obvious.
Dallas 3, Vikings 34
There's something strangely exhilarating about watching the Cowboys get destroyed in an important playoff game. Especially when so many people, myself included, thought they would win. It was the first time a 40 year old QB started a playoff game, and that QB, Brett Favre, had never beaten the Cowboys in the playoffs. Then again, he'd never thrown 4 TD's in a playoff game before either. I hate to say it, but Favre looked good completing 15 of 24 passes for 234 yards and 4 TD's. Three of those TD passes went to Sidney Rice, who caught 6 passes for 141 yards. Tony Romo, on the other hand, followed up his first career playoff victory by turning the ball over 3 times (1 interception, 2 fumbles), including a fumble on the Cowboys first possession.
In the end, the only thing of any real interest from the game was whether the Vikings ran the score up or not. "I thought it was totally classless and disrespectful," Cowboys Keith Brooking said after the game. "This is the NFL, that's not what this is about. I don't think there's a place for that. I was looking for Childress, I don't think it was right." The Vikings Pat Williams countered by saying, "We don't care what Keith Brooking says." Obviously not. Childress responded to the accusation by saying, "As Lou Holtz used to say, 'It's our job to score points, it's their job to stop us from scoring points.'" Only Holtz said it with more of a lisp.
Ravens 3, Colts 20
Coming into the game, Peyton Manning had been 0-3 in the playoffs when the Colts had a first round bye. That streak is now over. Manning was solid in the game completing 30 of 44 passes for 246 yards and 2 TD's, while his counterpart on the Ravens, Joe Flacco, wasn't nearly as good completing 20 of 35 passes for 189 yards and 2 interceptions. Manning really took over in the second quarter with the score tied at 3-3, when he led the Colts on a 14 play 75 yard TD drive that consumed 8:00 of the clock. After a 3 and out by the Ravens, Manning led a much quicker 8 play 64 yard TD drive in only 1:23 to take a 17-3 halftime lead. The Colts defense continued to dominate and the team cruised through the second half for the victory.
The Ravens must really be wondering what they need to do to win against Manning. In 10 starts against the Ravens, Manning has won 8, including both games this season. Even when he makes a mistake, they turn into positives. Ed Reed intercepted Manning 2 times in the game, but one was stripped by Colts receiver Pierre Garcon and turned into a FG. While the other was called back because of a pass interference penalty on CB Corey Ivy. "I was here for three of them and he beat us in all three," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters. "So obviously he does a great job of finding the receivers. But I thought we did a really good job of making it tough for him for the most part." Emphasis on "for the most part".