The seasons over and the playoffs are just around the corner. So what did we learn in the final week of the season? I learned the Saints defense is horrible, Tony Romo still can't get it done, Mark Sanchez is worse than even I thought he was, the Lions should try something new and run the ball, the Texans and Falcons were as overrated as people have been saying, and the Jags and Chiefs are just as bad as everyone has been saying. Here's a look at the games in week 17:
Panthers 44, Saints 38
It's official, the Saints had one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Back in 1981 the Colts set an NFL record by allowing 6,793 total yards. After the Panthers gouged the Saints for 530 total yards on Sunday, the Saints finished the season giving up 7,042 total yards. I don't care how many 5,000 yard passing seasons Drew Brees has (he now has 3) the Saints won't win a whole lot if they can't stop the other team.
Their biggest problem was the Saints defenders forgot they needed to use more than just their arms to make tackles as the Panthers racked up 273 total rushing yards led by DeAngelo Williams who gained 210 yards on just 21 carries (I'll let you do the math for what that ends up being in yards per carry) while also scoring 2 TDs. Both teams finished at 7-9 and afterwards both teams were looking for silver linings in what had been disappointing seasons. "To have gone through what we went through this year and just to hang tough ... it would have been very easy at times to fracture and not have the togetherness that we had," Brees said. Then the fracturing began as an anonymous Saints defender said they all hate defensive coordinator Steve Spagnola, that he's a tool, and screw him and all his dead scummy relatives. I'm paraphrasing of course, but that was the gist of what he said.
Bears 26, Lions 24
For a few brief hours the Bears were able to dream about making it back to the playoffs but that was before Adrian Peterson snowplowed all over them. Hey, if Stewart Scott can say "dump trucked" I can say "snowplowed", it is winter after all. Now Lovie Smith is gone and the reactionary Bears are suddenly thinking to themselves, "Maybe we should have made sure we had a better coach lined up before firing what had been a better than average head coach." Ever wondered what it would feel like to leave your wife because you think you can get with someone better, only to find out no one better actually wants to be with you, so you eventually die old and alone? Well Bears fans may soon find out.
As for the Lions, they finish a very disappointing 4-12 which officially qualifies as Jim Schwartz second worst season ahead of only his first season in Detroit when they won all of 2 games. Even more interesting is that since the infamous "handshake gate" they're only 9-18 counting the playoffs. "The thing I'm most concerned with is getting this team back to where we all want it to be," Schwartz said. "I'm not proud at all of our record." Maybe if you didn't have Matthew Stafford throw the ball an NFL record 727 times and tried to run it at least a little bit, you might have more success. But keep on pounding that square peg into that round hole. You might get it eventually.
Texans 16, Colts 28
Before anyone starts celebrating that the Colts are back I just want to point out one thing, in 2008 the Dolphins went 11-5 and what have they done since? I only make the comparison to point out that just like the 2008 Dolphins, the Colts had the easiest schedule in the NFL. The Colts were also 9-1 in games decided by 7 points or less. They're basically a poor man's version of the Atlanta Falcons only without having stared in a commercial that plays The Go! Team's "The Power Is On".
Of course no one cares how you made the playoffs only what you do once you get there, just ask the NY Giants. So the Colts are streaking into the playoffs motivated by the struggles of their head coach while the Texans are limping in having lost not only the top overall seed but also their first round bye. Arian Foster ran for 96 yards and a TD on just 16 carries and Matt Schuab out gunned Andrew Luck 275-191 yards, but while Luck threw 2 TDs and no interceptions, Schuab threw 2 interceptions and no TDs. "We had a great opportunity the last two weeks, but we won't feel sorry for ourselves," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We'll focus on keeping our confidence up, even if we have to play next week." Well you do have to play this week but luckily it's against the Bengals so things could always be worse.
Eagles 7, Giants 42
The Giants kept their slim playoff hopes alive by completely dismantling an Eagles team who's defense spent more time thinking about where they were going to go on vacation than they did to the Giants offense. However it wasn't enough since in addition to winning they also needed the Bears to lose, the Vikings to lose, and the Cowboys to lose in order to make it. Actually, they didn't need the Cowboys to lose, they just like the look on Tony Romo's face as he tries in vain to explain what happened.
Eli Manning threw for 208 yards and 5 TDs, including a Giants record 3 in just the 1st quarter, and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 107 yards and a TD on only 16 carries, as the Giants surged out to a 21-0 lead and a 35-7 halftime lead before coasting in the rest of the way for the win. It wasn't much of a way to send out longtime head coach Andy Reid who could be seen making a checklist of teams he'd like to interview for on the sidelines. "He's a great man and I love him to death," Vick said. "I wish I could've done more. A lot of players wish they could've done more. Coaches can't play the games." Although it would be funny to see them out there trying. As for wanting to do more, in your case Vick you need to learn less is more, as in less turnovers would mean more to your team.
Buccaneers 22, Falcons 17
Every year fans and pundits discuss the merits of resting players and if that leads to rust. A few years back the Colts rested their players instead of going for the perfect season and they lost in the Super Bowl, with many fans pointing to the rest as the reason why. Last year the Packers rested their players for the last game and they looked rusty and out of sync in their Divisional round loss to the Giants. So Falcons coach Mike Smith, who is 0-3 in the playoffs, decided to keep his starters in for the whole game. They then proceeded to not only lose the game but to lose two of their top defenders to injury, John Abraham and Dunta Robinson. Homer Simpson says, "D'oh!"
Rookie RB Doug Martin led the way for the Bucs gaining 142 yards and a TD and the league's worst pass defense was able to stifle Matt Ryan most of the game and held him late when the Falcons had the ball with a chance to take the lead. "You've got to give them a lot of credit, playing their guys all the way through," Ronde Barber said. "They've got a bye week, obviously, but they gave us their best. We knew they were trying to win." The problem is anyone they play in the playoffs will also know they were trying their best to win at home against a team that came into the game with a 6-9 record and couldn't win. Not a real morale booster for a team that hasn't won a playoff game this century.
Going into the locker room at the half, the Jets led the Bills in total yards (204-132), first downs (13-4), and time of possession (23:15-6:45), so it really shouldn't surprise anyone that they were trailing 14-9. This is the Mark Sanchez/Rex Ryan led Jets after all. In a game with nothing to play for but pride the Jets clearly showed they didn't have any as Sanchez turned the ball over 2 times, including one that was returned 20 yards for a TD by Bryon Scott, and the Bills somehow managed to cobble together two 4th quarter TDs to pull away for the win.
Now the carnage comes as head coaches (Chan Gaily), GMs (Mike Tannenbaum) assistant coaches (Tony Sparano), and QBs (Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick) all have or will be unceremoniously tossed out the door. At least you hope they will be but you never can tell with these two organizations. "I know I'm better than this," said Sanchez. "I'm contracted to be here. And I want to be here." Daily affirmation Sanchez, just keep telling yourself, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!" Except in NY where many want to cause you physical bodily harm.
Ravens 17, Bengals 23
If you ever wondered what a preseason game played in week 17 would look like, just go watch film of this game. Both teams had locked in their playoff spot and both teams couldn't improve their standing by winning so both teams began with starters and transitioned to backups half way through. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned here "cough" Atlanta "cough". Begin the game with starters so they see some game time and remain fresh but change to backups halfway through to limit the risk to injury. Wow! What a novel idea! Why didn't anyone else think of that? Oh wait, that's what they do every preseason when they play games that don't really matter all that much.
The Ravens had a 14-13 lead in the 4th quarter but the Bengals put up a quick 10 points for a 9 point lead the Ravens backups couldn't overcome. "I'm glad that's over," coach Marvin Lewis said. "That's a difficult situation to be in. I thought our guys handled it about as well as you can handle it." Which means what exactly? The played in a meaningless game and did their job? I guess that's better than playing in a meaningless game and treating it like you'd rather be anywhere but where you are at the moment, like the entire Chiefs team did on Sunday. Speaking of which...
Chiefs 3, Broncos 38
This game was so boring for the Broncos they decided to make it more interesting by seeing how many one handed TD catches they could make (the answer is 2). "They claim they can do that all the time," said cornerback Champ Bailey. "They say they practice that. I don't see it. But as long as they do it on Sunday, I'm all for it. Those are some great, hardworking boys and I expect nothing less." Peyton Manning finished with 304 passing yards and 3 TDs, or about 6 times as many passing yards as Brady "Can I just go home now" Quinn, and the Broncos clinched the #1 seed in the AFC.
The Chiefs meanwhile are just wondering how they could go from playoff team, to mediocre team, to laughing stock of the NFL so fast. "I told him it's been a long one," Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith said about his postgame conversation with the now fired Romeo Crennel. "Sorry it didn't turn out the way (we wanted). I have faith in you and that's all that matters." I think Friedrich Nietzsche put it best when he said, "A casual stroll through the insane asylum shows faith does not prove anything."
After scoring 150 points over their last three games, the Seahawks managed only 3 points in the first half against the Rams. And for anyone who thought this was going to be an easy win for the Seahawks all they had to do was notice how the Rams hadn't lost a game to an NFC West team all season. No, that's not a typo. Coming into this game the Rams had gone 4-0-1 in the NFC West. It was just everyone else they had problem with managing only a 3-7 record out of the conference.
With the game tied 13-13 late in the 4th quarter Russell Wilson, who earlier tied Peyton Manning's rookie record for TD passes, ran it in from one yard out to give the Seahawks the lead. The Rams did have one last chance but on 4th-and-10 from the Seahawk 29-yard line and 40 seconds remaining, Sam Bradford's forced pass was intercepted. "To go into the playoffs with a game like that when it comes down to the fourth quarter, the last drive of the game and finish like that, that's great," Wilson said. "I wouldn't call it a wakeup call, I think we were ready to play, but I think it was great for us going into the playoffs." It might be great for anyone who plays you as well since they'll now be able to look at the film and see what worked against you.
Spanning the 2nd and 3rd quarters the Titans scored 28 unanswered points without taking a single offensive snap (2 pick-6s and 2 punt returns for TDs) and the Titans turned a 14-7 deficit into a 35-14 lead. "We got a glimpse of what we should be capable of doing more regularly on Sundays," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. No doubt, now you just need to play the Jaguars every game and you could really do something special.
Packers 34, Vikings 37
Here's a scary thought. Just how good would the Vikings be if they had someone who could do more than just check down playing QB? Christian Ponder looked decent and even threw 3 TDs but he also has the best RB in the game today playing with him and he's having one of the greatest seasons ever for a RB, and all Ponder can do is manage 6.1 yards per pass attempt. Play action to Peterson has to cause defenders to hesitate or step forward and Ponder still can't find people deep?
Once again Peterson put the Vikings on his shoulders rushing for 199 yards and a TD but came up just 9 yards short of the single season rushing record. "It wasn't meant to happen, or it would've happened. Not to say it doesn't hurt, because it does," Peterson said of Dickerson's 28-year-old record. "But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs." With all due respect to Peterson but what exactly does, "It wasn't meant to happen, or it would've happened" mean? We don't have any control over what happens? Of course in hindsight whatever happened can't be changed but does that mean we have no control of our future? Other sayings that need to be banned:
It is what it is.
Yah, but what are you going to do?
That's what I'm talking about.
The Chargers finished the season strong winning 3 of their last 4 games while the Raiders went out with a whimper losing 8 of their last 9, and the NFL world said a collective, "meh". Good job Carson Palmer on getting out of Cincinnati.
Cowboys 18, Redskins 28
Everyone has been hailing RG3 as the savior of the Redskins but maybe they should look at the goofy pudgy guy they drafted several rounds later to play RB. Sixth round draft pick Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and 3 TDs and finished the year with 1,613 total rushing yards and 13 TDs. When you throw in fellow rookie QB Kirk Cousins it's easy to see how on draft can change the fortunes of a franchise so quickly.
Of course a lot of the focus will be on Tony Romo who once again had a chance to be the hero and couldn't get it done. With just over 3 minutes to go and the Cowboys only trailing by 3 points, Romo took over at their own 15-yard line. This is the time when players like Brady, Manning, Montana, and Elway step up and drive their team down the field for the game winning TD. What did Romo do? He threw an interception and the Redskins turned it into the game sealing TD. "Your legacy will be written when you're done playing the game," Romo said. "And when it's over with, you'll look back. ... It's disappointing not being able to get over that hump." Disappointing for you maybe, it's hysterical for the rest of us.