Wild-Card Round Quick Thoughts

Scattered stats and thoughts regarding the 2012-13 NFL Wild Card Playoffs…

Seattle 24, Washington 14
Adjusted Yards per Play: 5.44 – Seattle, 2.74 – Washington
AY/P Projected Point Totals: Seattle 26.42, Washington 10.57
Quick Thoughts:
1. Frankly, given the circumstances, the Washington Redskins’ season just ended at the perfect time. With Seattle halting their phenomenal win streak in absolute must-have games at seven, now Mike Shanahan no longer has the temptation to send Robert Griffin III out on the field when he should clearly be watching from the sidelines and frustrated that he isn’t allowed to play. We can all admire RGIII’s competitive desire to get back on the field so quickly after sustaining the sprained MCL against the Ravens four weeks ago, but over the past three games against the Eagles, Cowboys and now the Seahawks, we all watched a player who wavered between 30 and 60% of his normal efficacy. Against the Eagles and Cowboys, 30-60% of RGIII was enough to keep Washington’s well-oiled offensive machine humming. And it looked like it would be enough in the first quarter against the Seahawks, as the Redskins continued to run the ball at will and RGIII overcame some uncharacteristically sloppy throws to slip a couple touchdowns into tight coverage. But as Seattle fixed the leaks in its front seven and once again began to resemble the top-five defense they’ve been for the entire season, so then did RGIII begin to slip further and further from even the shell of himself he was last week and into a guy who was unable to get the ball anywhere near wide-open receivers. I winced every time I saw the replay of his knee buckling. Let’s all hope and pray there’s no serious injury.
2. After that disastrous first quarter, the Seahawks began dominating play in the second and were the far superior team from then on. But until midway through the fourth quarter, this felt like the one playoff game a weekend we usually get where one team completely controls play and yet somehow winds up losing anyway. Toss Marshawn Lynch’s fumble inside the five with two short field goals, combine that with poor third down efficiency for the lion’s share of the game and then throw in Steven Hauschka’s rolled ankle on top of all of it and it seemed to all the world like this game was destined to end with the Seahawks losing by one because Hauschka didn’t have good enough ankles to kick a forty-one yard field goal. Tip your hat one last time to the Redskins’ defense this year. They’re not very good but battled and scrapped and kept it close as long as they could. The better team won today and that would have been true even if RGIII had played at 100%. It would have been a whole lot more exciting to watch if he was himself, however.

3. On a somewhat unrelated note, I love the name “Breno Giacomini.” I love it to an almost unhealthy level. I found myself spending large swaths of the second and third quarter just watching the Seahawks offensive lineman work and yell “YOU JUST GOT BRENOED” at the TV screen whenever his back was featured prominently in a close-up of Marshawn Lynch. Just a phenomenal moniker. I bet Breno enjoys himself some good Italian pasta.

Green Bay 24, Minnesota 10
Adjusted Yards per Play: 5.76 – Green Bay, 4.02 – Minnesota
AY/P Projected Point Totals: Green Bay 27.57, Minnesota 17.80
Quick Thoughts:
1. Once it became clear that Christian Ponder wasn’t very good (and for me, I’d like to think it became clear about mid-October), I became obsessed with the idea that Joe Webb should be starting for the Vikings. I had no idea whether he would turn them into a 12-4 team or a 4-12 team, but I knew it would be one or the other and that it would be wildly entertaining either way. And Joe’s emergency start against the Packers on Saturday was everything I could have hoped for. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, he may not be the type of guy you want to sidle up to two-and-a-half hours before a playoff game and say, “Hi there, Joe. We know you haven’t any practice reps this week – or this entire season, if we’re being honest – but we’re going to need to you to come in and play some quarterback for us this Saturday. Mmmmkay?” He’s exciting as crap when he’s running the ball, but holy balls was he a disaster whenever he tried to throw it (outside of the last five minutes of the game, anyway). My personal favorite was when he was wrapped up in the first quarter for a probable sack and on the way down threw the ball STRAIGHT UP into the air five yards down the field. The Packers’ defensive linemen will be kicking themselves for the rest of their lives for not picking that crap off. I’m still rooting for you, Joe, but you probably didn’t do yourself too many favors the other night.

3. The Vikings-Packers game is the last real game Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will get to announce this year – they’ve still got the Pro Bowl left to go, but we all know that doesn’t count – and that’s a real travesty. Faith Hill may stretching the truth quite a bit in some of the verses to “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night,” but the one lyric she tells the impeachable truth on is without a doubt “Al and Cris are the best on TV.” No other announcing duo remotely combines the insight, appropriate tone for the situation, and entertainment those two bring on a weekly basis. I’ve listed my fair share of favorite Al moments this year, but Cris is a hoot-and-a-half as well, particularly when he knows a team’s committed a brain-dead penalty (like the Vikings 12 Men on the Field penalty on the Packers’ field goal attempt in the third quarter) and he says “Uh-oh…UH-OH…” like a bemused bystander watching a husband tell his wife she looks fat. Man, I’m going to miss those guys. WHY DOES FOOTBALL SEASON LEAVE US SO QUICKLY?

Baltimore 24, Indianapolis 9
Adjusted Yards per Play: 7.16 – Baltimore, 3.72 – Indianapolis
AY/P Projected Point Totals: Baltimore 28.64, Indianapolis 23.12
Quick Thoughts:
1. Noted homer and Chicago White Sox annuoncer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson is, for some reason, fond of saying “You couldn’t pull a greased tee out of my behind with a pair of pliers” whenever the White Sox win by the skin of their teeth. What that statement is actually supposed to mean is open to debate, but amongst me and my friends the shortened term “greased teeing” has become an important part of our everyday lexicon. And this season I think we can all agree that no team greased teed things more than the Indianapolis Colts. Football Outsiders mentioned a stat in their Wild-Card preview last week that FINALLY made the Colts’ incredible run make some sort of sense: according to their DVOA numbers, the Colts were the best team in the league in third-and-long situations. A BEAUTIFUL METAPHOR FOR THEIR SEASON, Bob Costas likely shouted somewhere when he first read that sentence. And even though the Ravens were moving the ball at will against them yesterday, it always seemed like the Colts were going to pull one out again. Ray Rice was fumbling, Andrew Luck was hitting receivers five yards short of the marker but the receivers would run around like chickens with their heads cut off until they got the first down – it had all the hallmarks of a classic Colts win, really. I’m still shocked Baltimore won, I really am.
2. Is Ray Lewis the best middle linebacker of all-time? According to Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value statistic, he is. Old-timers may champion Dick Butkus or Joe Schmidt or Mike Singletary instead. That’s fine. The point is, Lewis is in the discussion. Is Ray going to be a phenomenal studio analyst on ESPN after the Ravens get killed by Denver on Saturday? Maybe. He’s either going to be Charles Barkley or Shaq and there’s no in-between. Jared Allen gets my vote for Current NFL Player Who’s Most Likely To Be A Great Announcer.

3. In between the Colts-Ravens and Seahawks-Redskins games yesterday, I was exposed for the first time to the comedic stylings of the show entitled Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! It was brought to my attention to the internet that this program hasn’t been on the air for two years, thus continuing my run of not watching comedy programs (i.e. Arrested Development, Party Down) until they’re already off the air. So I’m well aware I’m behind the times here and that most of you have already made up your minds on this show, but holy freaking crap was the episode I saw an abortion. Just horrendous. It made According to Jim look like the freaking Simpsons by comparison.

Houston 19, Cincinnati 13
Adjusted Yards per Play: 5.13 – Houston, 3.19 – Cincinnati
AY/P Projected Point Totals: Houston 28.22, Cincinnati 10.94
Quick Thoughts:
1. Houston controlled this thing from the opening play and still has to feel relatively sick to their stomach about their performance. Matt Schaub looked like he was going to poo his pants out there. His last throw of the game (the game-clinching completion to Garrett Graham), he lobbed that sucker in there so softly, it was like he was trying to transport himself to a time and place where he was gleefully playing catch with his grandma. BUT GARRETT GRAHAM IS NOT YOUR GRANDMA, MATT. Graham saved his bacon by snagging the high and soft pass, then got concussed by a couple of Bengals. It was the polar opposite of the old Peyton Manning-Austin Collie concussion combination from 2010, where Peyton would throw a bullet pass in between four defenders in such a way that the only way Austin would be able to catch it is if he dove at full speed straight into a safety’s knees. Man, I miss those days. Austin probably doesn’t.
2. Andy Dalton’s day, everyone: 14-of-30, 127 yards and a pick. He alternated between not throwing the ball to A.J. Green at all (first half) and throwing every single pass A.J.’s direction (second half). Of course, he wasn’t particularly accurate when he was trying to throw it to A.J.: that missed end zone shot to Green that Shawshank overthrew by seven yards probably won’t sit well with all seven Bengals fans this offseason. Compared to Dalton, Matt Schaub looked like Kurt Warner.
3. Starting with the next TV contract in 2014, NBC will be getting rid of their Wild-Card Doubleheader and exchanging that for one Wild-Card game and one Divisional Round game, thus allowing Al and Cris to pick up one more paycheck for the season (Lord knows they deserve it). Hence, there will finally be a time when NBC doesn’t have to awkwardly trot out a play-by-play announcer who hasn’t called an NFL game all season (a real NFL game, anyway – Dan Hicks did call a Sunday Night preseason game this year) to go along with the mighty lisp of Mike Mayock for only one of the eleven most important games of the year. I look forward to that day, my friends. I look forward to that day.

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