Divisional Round Quick Thoughts

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

Baltimore 38, Denver 35 (2OT)
Adjusted Yards per Play: 6.88 – Baltimore, 3.66 – Denver
AY/P Projected Point Totals: Baltimore 36.37, Denver 22.74
Quick Thoughts:
1. Photographed above is the exact moment Ravens-Broncos jumped a level from “Great Playoff Game That Will Probably End Up Being Forgotten in a Few Years” to “All-Time Classic NFL Game” – and it’s all because the spirit of Madieu Williams invaded Rahim Moore’s body at a most inopportune time for Denver. The Broncos defense brain-farted their way through most of the game – Champ Bailey forgot on numerous occasions that Torrey Smith is fast, Elvis Dumervil jumped offsides approximately thirty-seven times, etc. – but no defensive cranial flatulence was more damaging (and ultimately more entertaining) than Moore’s strange insistence on guarding an area of the field twenty-five yards off the line of scrimmage even after Jacoby Jones was flying past him. Even Adam Archuleta was yelling at the screen, “YOU’VE GOT TO GET BACK IN COVERAGE, RAHIM!!” before allowing his mailman to steal his television. So on the one hand: you blew it, Rahim. You really, really blew it. On the other hand, you can’t really have an all-time classic game without one or two crazy plays that should never, EVER happen. So in a way, we should all be thanking Rahim right now for his dedication to providing enthralling endings for NFL audiences. Even you, Broncos fans. Okay, maybe not just yet…
2. It was thrown about thirty miles an hour slower and on two healthy legs instead of one, but other than that, Peyton Manning’s back-breaking interception across his body late in the first overtime was pretty freaking similar to Brett Favre’s back-breaking interception across his body in the 2009-10 NFC Championship Game against the Saints. I consider myself a pretty big Peyton Manning fan, but if this unfortunate turn of events is going to lead to him retiring every March and then groveling to un-retire every August and give emotionally fragile quotes to Peter King over beers at his new summer home in Mississippi…I’m sorry, Peyton, this is where I get off.

3. Outside of a period in the second quarter where he went cold, Joe Flacco was outstanding. The below-zero wind chills clearly affected his arm far less than Peyton’s, who was off on virtually every throw outside the numbers all night. For Joe, on the other hand, it could probably be seventy below zero and he’d still probably be able to chuck it seventy yards. And if he was ever asked about the cold, he would probably just shrug his shoulders and reply with no hint of emotion on his face, “Huh. Yeah, I suppose it is.” He’s a live wire, that Joe Flacco! Played really well on Saturday, though.

Atlanta 30, Seattle 28
Adjusted Yards per Play: 6.34 – Atlanta, 7.21 – Seattle
AY/P Projected Point Totals: Atlanta 27.62, Seattle 33.99
Quick Thoughts:
1. The ending to this game struck a deep nerve within my soul and hit on what I think is the real reason I hate the Atlanta Falcons: I’m still bitter over what they did to the Bears in 2008. That game, you may remember, was the time Kyle Orton hit Rashied Davis with a touchdown pass with eleven seconds remaining to give the Bears the lead. No team can possibly blow a game with eleven seconds left, right? Well, a short kickoff, a twenty-six yard pass to Michael Jenkins, and a 48-yard field goal by Jason Elam later, the Bears proved that, yes, it is indeed possible. I like to think that started the proud and not-annoying-at-all tradition of the Falcons pulling games out of their keesters that they had no business winning – as a Bears fan, I take 100% of the blame for that occurring, fellow NFL fans. What the Falcons were able to do with 31 seconds left yesterday was mere child’s play by comparison.
2. I know it’s a big deal for Tony Gonzalez for finally get a playoff win after all these years in the league. But the rest of the Falcons have no excuse for their Super Bowl-level giddiness after Matt Bryant saved them from what would have been one of the worst collapses of all time – a collapse so bad, they would never have been able to be taken seriously again. Why the hell were Matt Ryan and Arthur Blank fondling each other with looks of pure joy on their faces on the sideline? Do they not know they still have to win two more games or did the fact that they’d lost every playoff game prior to this lead them to believe that there’s only ONE postseason game per team, period? If I escaped with a last-second victory after blowing a twenty-point fourth quarter lead, I would look like I’d just made it out alive after marching fifty miles through the heart of ‘Nam with poop in my pants. The expression we’re going for here, gentlemen, is relief.

3. Russell Wilson is really good. I don’t particularly blame him for the sack at the end of the first half that ruined both the Seahawks’ chance at points and ultimately their shot at victory – Jonathan Babineaux was on him almost instantaneously and if he tries to get rid of the ball after he’s in Babineaux’s grasp, then it’s intentional grounding and a ten-second runoff and the half’s over, anyway. I take more issue with the Seahawks’ fourth-down play call on the prior series – running the fullback up the middle with no sort of deception or misdirection against a defense that has its ears COMPLETELY PINNED BACK against the run up the gut? I ain’t got a good feeling about that, Muddy.

San Francisco 45, Green Bay 31
Adjusted Yards per Play: 8.72 – San Francisco, 6.55 – Green Bay
AY/P Projected Point Totals: San Francisco 46.71, Green Bay 26.20
Quick Thoughts:
1. Before we go any further, we must acknowledge that, yes, HOLY CRAP COLIN KAEPERNICK. However, we must also acknowledge that HOLY CRAP COLIN KAEPERNICK doesn’t happen if Dom Capers remotely trains his players against the possibility of the quarterback running. Now Dom’s a very good defensive coordinator, he has been for decades, he’s led the Packers to an above-average defense 3 out of the 4 years he’s been there – firing him over one game probably is an overreaction. But the fact that it’s even a question? Oh, man. It’s like the Packers just re-watched the game film from their Week 1 game against the Niners, got their blitzes all dialed in for Alex Smith, and tossed out the play at the end of the first half where Kaepernick gained 17 yards on a designed quarterback keeper. “Who? Kaeperdinck? Don’t think they’re gonna run that surprise play again, let’s just delete that play off the hard drive.”
2. Sorry, this needs two whole paragraphs. Even in the fourth quarter, even after Kaepernick had already run for over 150 yards and set the NFL record for most single-game rushing yards by a QB – even after all that, Erik Walden and Clay Matthews were STILL completely baffled whenever Kaepernick pulled the ball back from Frank Gore or LaMichael James or whoever and just ran around the end. CLAY MATTHEWS, one of the three or four best outside linebackers on the planet, got turned around THREE TIMES on one Kaepernick read option. And it’s not like they were even slowing down the 49er running backs – take away Kaepernick’s carries and the 49ers still ran for over five yards per carry. All in all, this has to be one of the most poorly gameplanned defensive showings in playoff history. …*thinking*…Actually, on second thought, maybe Dom does deserve to be fired.

3. We heard a lot last week about this being Aaron Rodgers’ first trip to Candlestick Park and how he was going to throw out an “EFF YOU” performance to the hometown team that snubbed him first overall all those years ago. Taking nothing away from Rodgers – he’s likely going to end up as one of the top twenty quarterbacks of all time, minimum – I just don’t think it’s that simple in football for one player, even the most important player, to completely take over a game. Simmons in particular gets this idea stuck in his head based on what he’s seen out of Jordan and Bird in basketball and tries to transplant that idea to other sports when, the reality is, there have only been a handful of guys in basketball that have been able to completely enforce their will over a game. And that’s in the easiest sport possible for one player to control play. In football, even the most important player (the quarterback, for those of you unclear on who I’m talking about) is only going to meaningfully touch the ball about 35-40 times a game – and even then, there are 21 other players on the field who realistically can alter the whims of that alpha dog dramatically (somewhere, Peyton Manning is shaking his head sadly). I swear I’m not trying to slight you, Aaron, I’m really not. Although I must say, I always thought you’d be taller in real life…

New England 41, Houston 28
Adjusted Yards per Play: 8.57 – New England, 5.87 – Houston
AY/P Projected Point Totals: New England 39.79, Houston 31.45
Quick Thoughts: 
1. This was by far the most boring and uneventful game of the weekend, so my thoughts on this won’t run as long as the others. I must say, however, that for some reason I just don’t find myself that impressed with the Patriots offense anymore. And I know that’s crazy talk because look at how many points they’ve scored this year (598 in 17 games) and how efficient they were yesterday (8.57 Adjusted Yards per Play = PRETTY GOOD), but still. It feels like Brady’s missing more throws and Welker’s dropping more passes these days, even if that isn’t actually the case. Have I simply become immune to the continued excellence of the Patriots organization and take their historically good offensive prowess for granted? Perhaps. All in all, though, the 2007 and 2010 Patriots offenses scared the poo out of me and this year’s edition seems eminently beatable. We’ll see if the Harbaugh brothers agree.
2. If there ees anyone out there who ees not excited for two more geemes of Pheel Seemms announceeng, I weell find heem, I weell talk to heem and I weell explain hees merits to heem. Because when you can get points on the board by challenging a play, you should probably do eet.

3. GRONK FOUR ARM SMASH! OH NO! GRONK FORGET FOUR ARM STILL WRAPPED IN ARM CONDOM. STILL BRING MUCH PAIN WHEN NOT ON FOOTBALL FIELD AND TRYING TO TALK TO PRETTY LADIES. NOW GRONK CANNOT CATCH PASS FROM GISELE HUSBAND OR WRESTLE WITH J.J.! GRONK FOUR ARM HURT.

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