Sometimes my wife looks at me like I'm insane. Watching me as I laughed maniacally after Demaryius Thomas raced down the sidelines for a game winning 80 yard TD was one of those moments. I'm not a Broncos fan and I'm definitely not a Tim Tebow fan, but I hate the Steelers. I don't mean that as an insult if you're a Steelers fan, you should just realize a lot of people really hate your team.
What made the whole thing even better wasn't that they lost, but it's that they lost to a team that almost everyone thought had no chance. It has to make the loss hurt that much more. No doubt Ben Roethlisberger was thinking after the game, "This must be how she felt."
Now the Broncos get to move on to play a Patriots team that slapped them around silly in Denver a few weeks ago. After that game Tom Brady told Tebow, "Maybe we'll see you again." After this game Tebow said of Brady's comment, "I guess he's a prophet." Come on! You couldn't just say he must be psychic?
Remember in those old Road Runner cartoons when Wile-E-Coyote would run several feet off the edge of a cliff, stop in midair, look down to find out there's nothing below him, and then fall? That was a little bit like the Lions in this game. They led 14-10 at the half and only trailed 24-21 going into the 4th before they realized they weren't supposed to win this game and crashed horribly. After all, they don't have Jesus helping them in the 4th quarter like the Broncos do.
Drew Brees threw for 466 yards and 3 touchdowns while leading the Saints offense to a playoff record 626 yards. The Lions also helped them by dropping 3 interceptions, allowing 92 of the Saints 167 rushing yards to come after first contact, allowed the Saints to convert on 4th down 3 times and 3rd down 7 of 11 times, and the Lions offense ended up punting after both turnovers the defense did force. Matthew Stafford, who threw for 380 yards including 211 to Calvin Johnson, was also picked off twice.
The rest of this game and Wild Card weekend after the jump...
"This game was all about missed opportunities on defense," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said after the game.
So the key to stopping the Saints powerful offense is for the defense to create turnovers, making sure tackles on first contact, and holding them on 3rd and 4th down. Meanwhile the offense will need to capitalize on those turnovers by putting points on the board and protect the ball so as to not give Brees and company any extra opportunities to score. I wonder which team still in the playoffs has the capability to do that?
Like the Lions the Bengals were looking good early on, but things soon turned bad and it was long before the 4th quarter. With the score tied at 10-10 late in the 2nd, Andy Dalton's pass was picked at the line by J.J. Watt who returned it 29 yards for a TD and the lead. The Bengals had a chance to return the favor in the 3rd while they were only trailing 17-10, but Chris Crocker dropped what looked like an easy interception and TD, and the Texans pulled away thanks to 153 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns by Arian Foster.
The Texans now have their first playoff victory in franchise history while the Bengals are still looking for their first playoff win since Bush was the president. No, not the son,this one. The one who came before Clinton who single handedly tore down the Berlin Wall. Or at least Reagan told Gorbachev to do it, Bush was his Vice President, and it eventually happened so it's kind of the same thing.
But while it was another brief stay in the post season for the Bengals, they're still optimistic about what the future has in store for them. "If we can hit (in the draft) like we did this year with the two special guys (Dalton and Green) we got this year, this is going to be a real special football team next year," Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth said. Hold on, did he just use the word "special" twice to describe his team and teammates? Isn't that the word you use when you can't think of anything positive to say about someone? Sure she weighs over 300 pounds and thinks bathing is a monthly chore, but she's got a real special spirit.
How does that saying go? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a QB sneak to work on 4th-and-one? I guess Falcons head coach Mike Smith did try to run Michael Turner on 4th-and-one in their OT loss to the Saints so why not try a QB sneak this time against the Giants? And if it didn't work at the start of the 2nd quarter when you could have kicked a FG in a scoreless game on the road, why not try it again in the 3rd quarter instead of the FG when you're only trailing 10-2?
Matty (I have ice in my veins, or so I've been told even if I'm 0-3 in the playoffs) Ryan was stuffed on both occasions and wasn't a whole lot better with his arm, throwing for only 199 yards despite making 41 pass attempts. While his counterpart on the Giants, Eli Manning, threw for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 32 pass attempts, and the one-two punch of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw pounded the Falcons 6th ranked rush defense, combining for 155 yards on 28 carries.
But while the Giants offense really got things going in the second half the story of the game was their defense shutting out the Falcons offense, and in particular, those two plays on 4th down. "That really inspired everybody, to be honest with you," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Those plays that our defense made really inspired everybody." So if Mike Smith's coaching career ends in Atlanta he can always write a book entitled, "How to make friends and inspire the other team to beat you".
Steelers 23, Broncos 29
When Brett Favre lost to the Saints in OT without even getting a chance to touch the ball, the NFL finally decided maybe giving one team a huge advantage to win over the other simply because they guessed right on a coin toss might not be that fair. At least when one of the teams involved has Brett Favre. If the Vikings starting QB that year had been Tarvaris Jackson, no one would have cared.
Well we didn't get a chance to see the new rules in affect last season, but we finally got to see it this game when the Steelers and Broncos fought for 4 quarters to a 23-23 tie. The Broncos won the coin toss, chose to receive, Tebow threw on 1st down for only the second time all game, and Thomas raced downfield for the game winning TD to end the shortest OT game in the history of the NFL, while Ike Taylor has locked all the sports channels on his TV so he won't have to watch himself getting burned and stiff armed over and over again. Well that definitely was a lot more fair.
The Steelers ultimately lost because they stacked 9 in the box, leaving their CB in single coverage with no help over the top, and basically dared Tebow to throw it. He did, completing passes of 51 and 58 yards to Thomas in addition to his 80 yard TD, and a 30 yard TD to Eddie Royal. And he did it against a defense that had allowed only 6 passing plays of 30 yards or more all season.
"They are the No. 1 defense and we are the No. 1 offense running the ball so I feel like they wanted to make a statement and stop the run," Thomas said. "I don't know if they forgot about the passing game." Since Tebow threw for 316 (John 3:16? Are you kidding me?!) yards on only 10 completions, I'm going to say they did. I think they'll have a harder time forgetting about this game.
The Broncos now have to face their old head coach Josh McDaniels who has just been hired as the Patriots offensive assistant and offensive coordinator for 2012. McDaniels was also the one to draft Thomas instead of Dez Bryant and traded back into the first round to get Tebow. I wonder if part of the reason for hiring McDaniels was because the Patriots were having a hard time getting secret video footage of the Broncos.