Wild card weekend got the NFL playoffs rolling and as has been the case in the NFL all season, most of the games were decidedly one sided affairs. The Cowboys got their first playoff win since 1996. The Bengals are still looking for their first playoff win since 1990. The Patriots found out this is a new decade and that they're no longer the team to beat. And the Packers and Cardinals took turns demonstrating who's defense could look more inept. So let's start things off with the game that has everyone talking.
Packers 45, Cardinals 51
If you're a fan of high powered offenses, non-existent defenses, and horrible officiating, than this was the game for you. The Packers and Cardinals combined to have the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history and the Packers came up just short of having the 3rd biggest come from behind victory in playoff history after they managed to overcome a 31-10 3rd quarter deficit to tie it up at 45-45 and send the game to overtime. Kurt Warner tore apart the Packers secondary, completing 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards and 5 TD's. In fact, Warner was so good that he had more TD's (5) then incompletions (4). Aaron Rodgers, starting his first playoff game, was almost as good completing 28 of 42 passes for 422 yards and 4 TD's. But it was his interception on the first play of the game and his fumble on the last play of the game, that did in the Packers. But that last Packers possession wasn't without controversy. Two plays before the fumble, their was an obvious helmet to helmet collision to Rodgers. The only reason I can guess as to why the official missed it was because he was too busy pulling out his flag on a holding penalty. Then on the fumble, their was an obvious face mask penalty as Michael Adams grabbed Rodgers face mask while forcing the fumble. Since Rodgers was already losing the ball when Adams grabbed the facemask, the Cardinals would still have gotten the turnover. They just would have gotten it at their own 32 instead of the game ending on the play. Considering Neil Rackers missed a 34 yard FG at the end of regulation, getting the ball at the 32 was no guarantee of a victory. Not that I really care. I hate the Packers and love to see them lose. It's just that I haven't seen officiating affect the outcome of a game this much since the Seahawks lost to the Steelers in the Super Bowl.
Jets 24, Bengals 14
The Bengals felt they were going to win this game because of some advantages they held over the Jets in key areas. They felt Carson Palmer would outplay Mark Sanchez who was playing in his first playoff game and finished second in the NFL with 20 interceptions. They felt they had an advantage in the kicking game with Shayne Graham, who was their franchised player this season, having hit 12 straight FG's and 16 of his last 17. And they felt they had an advantage in coaching with Marvin Lewis having coached a playoff game before, while Rex Ryan was a rookie head coach. But in an ironic twist, all three of those areas were the reasons they lost. The Jets stuck to their strategy of limiting the amount of times Sanchez throws, and thereby can hurt them, by running the ball 41 times while throwing it only 15. But in those 15 throws Sanchez was almost perfect, completing 12 for 182 yards and 1 TD. While fellow USC alum, Carson Palmer, only completed half of his 36 passes for 146 yards, with 1 TD and 1 costly interception. Jay Feely took over punting duties for the Jets because of an injury to punter Steve Weatherford, and averaged a decent 31.4 yards while also pinning the Bengals inside the 20 three times and hitting his one FG attempt to put the Jets up by 10 with only 5:47 to play. Shayne Graham, on the other hand, horribly missed both his FG attempts of 28 and 42 yards, including one with 3:49 to play that all but ended the game. And Marvin Lewis made two bad coaching challanges in the first quarter that left the Bengals with only 1 timeout for the half, and no more challenges for the game. An enthused Ryan told reporters after the game of Sanchez's performance, "He had the eye of the tiger today and he was ready to go out there and throw it around." Please tell me he didn't just make a "Rocky" reference.
Eagles 14, Cowboys 34
The Cowboys had lost 6 straight playoff games, and a 7th would have been an NFL record. Wade Phillips had gone 0-4 as a head coach in playoff games, including stints in Denver and Buffalo. Tony Romo was 0-2 as a starter in playoff games including his infamous bobble of a chip shot FG at the end of a 21-20 loss to the Seahawks. Meanwhile, the Eagles were the exact opposite. Andy Reid was 7-0 as a head coach in first round playoff games with Donovav McNabb being the starter for six of them. So the Eagles should have been a lock to win. To bad the game's not about what should have been. The Cowboys defense was the immovable object, giving up only a 73 yard TD pass by Michael Vick through the first 3 quarters, while the Cowboys offense was the unstoppable force. After the Eagles tied it up 7-7, the Cowboys scored on 5 straight drives in the second quarter, and only once in the game did they have a 3 and out. "They were the better team all the way around," Reid said in his post game press conference. "When you get your tail kicked, it's not a great feeling. No one expected it." Certainly not DeSean Jackson who tweeted during the week, "We gonna sting [them]." Then again, considering the 24-0 smack down the Cowboys put on the Eagles just last week, maybe we should have expected it. Now I get to look forward to a meeting between two teams I hope both lose (Cowboys @ Vikings). I guess the silver lining is that between Favre and the Cowboys, I won't have to hear about the greatness of at least one of them by this time next week. Then again, knowing the media, they'll find a way to work it in.
Ravens 33, Patriots 14
On the first play from scrimmage, Ray Rice set the precedent for the game by running the ball 83 yards for a TD. A few minutes later, Le'Ron McClain was punching it in from 1 yard out. Less than 5 minutes after the start of the game, the Patriots found themselves trailing by 14. By the end of the first quarter they were down 24-0. For fans that haven't seen their team lose at home all season, and have never seen them lose a playoff game at Gillette Stadium, it was too much to take. Boos started raining down on a team that no longer looks like the king of the hill. "I'd have been booing us, too, the way we played." Tom Brady said afterwards. It was easily the worst playoff performance in Brady's career as he completed 23 of 42 passes for only 154 yards as well as throwing 3 interceptions. Not that Joe Flacco was any better. Flacco was only 4 for 10 for 34 yards and 1 interception. But considering how the Ravens were able to plow through the Patriots defense for 234 yards on the ground, Flacco didn't need to be that good. It was a tough loss for a Patriots team that had such high expectations. Co-captain Jarod Mayo refused to answer questions by simply saying in a soft voice, "It's just so hard right now." Randy Moss also ducked out without saying anything, not that it should surprise anyone. You have to wonder how much the loss of Wes Welker hurt them, although I doubt he could have done much to prevent them from being down 24-0 so early. Chris Carr, who intercepted a pass to set up a TD said, "Everyone expected to win. The more we watched film, we would tell each other during the week that we felt we were better than this team." I imagine a lot of teams are thinking the same thing right now.