Chops316 Monday Morning Quarterback: 2019 Wild Card Weekend
The first round of the NFL playoffs is now in the books so here are the different thoughts and opinions I have on various things I witnessed this past weekend.Whoo what a Wild Card weekend! Two overtime contests, a shocking upset, a not-so-shocking upset and one dud of a game. Oh well they can't all be winners. The good news is we will finally be able to enjoy a Patriots-free Super Bowl. I might actually enjoy the game this year!
Just remember I am a Dallas Cowboys fan and I'm extremely biased. Feel free to agree or disagree about anything mentioned here. All comments are welcome.
Texans 22 Bills 19
Wild Card weekend kicked off with a bang (eventually) as the Texans topped the Bills 22-19 in an overtime thriller. The Texans will advance to the Divisional round for the first time since 2016 while the Bills are still looking for their first playoff win since 1995.
I picked the Texans to win this game yet by halftime I thought I had made a mistake. The Bills had a 13-0 lead at the half and Houston’s offense was non-existent. 81 total yards on offense for Houston in the first half. They struggled to run, they struggled to pass and they couldn’t pass protect QB Deshaun Watson, who was being sacked regularly. 2019 All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins had zero catches.
The Bills on the other hand started the game off hot. They took the opening kickoff and required only six plays to drive 75 yards down the field for a TD. Buffalo QB Josh Allen ripped off a 42 yard run on a designed QB keeper and then caught a 16 yard TD pass from WR John Brown on a trick play. Week after week I see defenses hoodwinked by these trick plays that involve a QB running down the field to make the catch. Hasn’t any of these defensive coordinators ever seen The Waterboy?
Buffalo doesn’t exactly have an explosive offense, but they added two field goals before the half ended. They added another field to take a 16-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Houston still hadn’t done squat on offense and it was looking bad for the home team.
Then Deshaun Watson came alive. It was like somebody flipped a switch. He started hitting receivers, especially DeAndre Hopkins, and drove the Texans down the field. He capped off the drive with a 20 yard TD run and followed it up by running the rock in for a two-point conversion. All of a sudden we had a 16-8 score with little time left in the third quarter.
Houston kept their foot on the gas in the fourth quarter. LB Whitney Mercilus sacked Josh Allen and forced a fumble that was recovered by Houston and converted into a field goal. Then after a three and out by the Bills, Watson once again drove the Texans down the field for a TD and made a two-point conversion by tossing a pass to Hopkins.
With 5 minutes left in the game, the Bills once dominant 16-0 lead had evaporated into a 19-16 deficit. The Bills moved close to field goal range in their next possession, but an intentional grounding penalty and a sack on fourth down handed the ball back to the Texans. One first down was all Houston needed to run out the clock, but they failed and the Bills got one last chance. They took advantage as Allen made a few nice plays (after nearly losing a fumble on an ill-fated lateral attempt) and Buffalo kicked a field goal as time expired. Overtime baby!
The Texans received the opening kickoff in overtime and did nothing with the ball. Buffalo received the punt from Houston and also couldn’t do anything. So Houston got a second crack and Deshaun Watson stepped up again. With the ball on the Buffalo 44 yard line, he dropped back to pass and shook off two Buffalo defenders who had wide open shots to sack him before he threw a 34 yard pass to set up the game winning field goal.
After his incredibly slow start, Watson rebounded to have a nice game in the air (20/25, 247 yards, 1 TD) and on the ground (14 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD). After being shut out in the first half DeAndre Hopkins ended up with 6 receptions for 90 yards.
Bills QB Josh Allen also made plays both in the air (24/46, 264 yards, 1 16 yard TD reception) and on the ground (9 carries, 92 yards). Yet in the end he couldn’t make as many big plays as Watson. That led to the Bills settling for field goals instead of TDs.
Houston’s reward for the big win is a trip to Kansas City next week to face the Chiefs. Meanwhile the Bills playoff losing streak has now extended to six games. Still it was a good season for Buffalo and they have something to build on for next year.
Titans 20 Patriots 13
The Patriots aren’t used to playing a game on Wild Card weekend, but their choke job loss to the Dolphins in Week 17 sent them there. They also aren’t used to going one and done in the playoffs, but the Titans made a nation of football fans dream come true as they eliminated New England with a 20-13 victory. I might actually enjoy the Super Bowl this year!
The Patriots accepted the opening kickoff, moving the ball into Tennessee territory before the drive stalled and the Pats kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. The Titans answered right back with a 75 yard drive capped off by a 12 yard TD pass from QB Ryan Tannehill to TE Anthony Firsker. The first quarter ended with the Titans leading 7-3.
In the second quarter the Patriots responded with a TD drive of their own as WR Julian Edelman took a toss 5 yards into the endzone, giving the Pats a 10-7 lead. The Titans had to punt on their next possession and the Patriots marched right down the field again.
This was the turning point of the game. The Patriots had a first and goal on the Tennessee one yard line. A TD would give them a 10 point lead, but the Titans defense became a brick wall and New England was forced to settle for another field goal.
The impressive stand by the defense seemed to inspire the Titans offense as they drove the ball down the field 75 yards again for another TD. That gave the Titans a 14-13 lead at the half.
At that point you could have went to bed because each team’s defense took over and the offenses spent the entire second half trading punts. I fell asleep in my comfy recliner, you know because I’m old, at halftime and didn’t wake up until halfway through the fourth quarter. I didn’t miss a thing.
The Patriots last chance came with 9 seconds left on the clock and the ball on their own one yard line. With no timeouts left it would take the miracle of miracles for Brady to get the Pats into field goal range. As if we needed more proof the magic is now gone in New England, Brady threw a pick six to LB Logan Ryan and the Titans ending up winning 20-13.
In my prediction post I said I thought the Patriots would load the box and force Tannehill to beat them. Well I couldn’t have been any more wrong. New England clamped down on the passing game as Tannehill had his worst showing of the season: 8/15, 72 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. Yet while the Titans passing game struggled, the running attack thrived. RB Derrick Henry, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, ran all over the Pats all night long: 34 carries, 182 yards, 1 TD. Damn, Happy Birthday Derrick! It was one of the most dominating running performances I have ever seen in the playoffs. Henry also had 1 catch for 22 yards, all told he accounted for 204 of the Titans 272 yards of total offense. Hmm, maybe the Patriots focused on the wrong guy.
The New England offense has been poor in the second half of the season and it was no different in this game. They don’t have playmakers and the getting-older-every-day QB Tom Brady can’t pull the same magic out of his ass anymore. Brady had a game to forget: 20/37, 209 yards, 1 INT.
The Titans will face a much stiffer opponent next week when they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens. They’ll need to find more offense if they want to shock the world with an upset.
The Patriots on the other hand can sit around and try to figure out if the dynasty is really over. They started the season 8-0, but finished 4-5.
Vikings 26 Saints 20
Just like the first game on Saturday, our first game on Sunday went to overtime as the Minnesota Vikings shocked the New Orleans Saints 26-20. Las Vegas (and myself to be honest) crapped the bed big time in this one as the Saints were 7.5 point favorites. D’oh.
The game started off slowly with each team kicking a field goal in the first quarter. The Saints broke through with the game’s first TD as super utility player Taysom Hill threw a 50 yard pass that set up RB Alvin Kamara’s 4 yard rushing TD. The Vikings responded with another field goal to make the score 10-6.
The Saints were done in by many things on Sunday but one of them was questionable clock management, which reared its ugly head before the half. With the clock ticking down to the two minute warning, the Saints faced a 3rd and seven at midfield. With timeouts still left in their pocket, the wise thing to do would be to let the clock run down to the two minute warning. That way they would leave less time for Minnesota if they failed to convert and they still would have had plenty of time to try to score if they did convert the down.
Instead the Saints ran a play and failed to convert. The incomplete pass stopped the clock and the Vikings received the punt before the two minute warning. Whoops. The Vikings took advantage by driving down the field to score a go ahead TD. If the Saints would have waited for the warning, Minnesota probably wouldn’t had enough time to get the TD.
Unbelievably it got even worse for the Saints before halftime. KR Deonte Harris returned the kickoff for over 50 yards and Drew Brees hit a pass at the Vikings 21 yard line to set up a first down. The Saints had a timeout left but decided to save it by spiking the ball. That was a smart move. Yet it backfired when they were called for a false start. Not only did they lose five yards, there was a mandatory 10 second runoff for the penalty unless they called timeout. Surprisingly, instead of saving the precious seconds by calling timeout, head coach Sean Payton decided to take the 10 second runoff. That was a dumb move.
With only ten seconds left in the half, Brees attempted one more pass but it fell incomplete. To make matter worse, usually reliable K Will Lutz came in and missed the FG attempt. The Saints still had that timeout in their pocket when the half ended.
The last two and half minutes of the first half were a total disaster for the Saints and you can say they lost the game right there. With proper clock management they should have held at the very least a small lead at the half, possibly a lead of more than a TD. Instead they botched it, letting the Vikings score a TD and then missing a kick that would have tied the game.
The Vikings scored a TD in the third quarter to take a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter. The Saints offense looked awful but Taysom Hill came through again with a few big runs and a 20 yard TD catch to cut the lead to 20-17 with ten minutes left to play.
The Vikings didn’t score on their next possession and punted the ball back to the Saints. The Saints drove the ball into field goal range and looked like they were on their way to a TD when Drew Brees fumbled the ball after being sacked. It was Brees’s first fumble of the season and it couldn’t have come at a worst time.
The Vikings had a chance to run out the clock but couldn’t make a first down and punted the ball back to the Saints. Brees atoned for his fumble by quickly driving the Saints down for a 49 yard FG that tied the game at 20-20 and sent it into overtime.
The Vikings won the toss and it was all she wrote for New Orleans. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, who is much maligned for his inability to come through in the clutch, made several great throws. He converted a third down by hitting WR Stefon Diggs with a nice slant pass and a two plays later nailed a 43 yard bomb to WR Adam Thielen to set the Vikings up on the New Orleans two yard line. On third and goal Cousins tossed up a high pass that TE Kyle Rudolph hauled in for the game-winning TD. The Saints offense didn’t even get a chance to touch the ball in overtime.
There is a lot of pissing and moaning going around that Rudolph should have been called for offensive pass interference on the final play. Bullshit. Did Rudolph make contact with the defender? Yes he did. A little. If you listen to the media they act like Rudolph shoved the defender to the ground. He didn't. I’ve seen a lot worse not get called and this one didn’t deserve a flag either. You have to let the guys play a little bit for Christ’s sake. Sorry Saints fans, the refs actually got this right so quit your bitching and accept the fact that your guys blew it.
The Vikings defense deserves a ton of credit for slowing down the high powered Saints offense. The Vikings offense wasn’t great (at least not until their excellent overtime drive), but they made enough plays to get the job done. QB Kirk Cousins outplayed Drew Brees (19/31, 242 yards, 1 TD) and RB Dalvin Cook kept the chains moving on the ground (28 carries, 94 yards, 2 TDs). WR Adam Thielen had a costly fumble, but made a number of big catches: 7 catches, 129 yards.
The Saints offense simply had a poor game all around. Drew Brees struggled to gain significant yards in the passing game (26/33, 208 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and record-setting WR Michael Thomas had a very quiet game by his lofty standards (7 catches, 70 yards). RB Alvin Kamara's day was a dud (7 carries, 21 yards, 1 TD) and his backfield partner RB Latavius Murray wasn’t any better (5 carries, 21 yards).
The main reason the Saints were able to hang around was because of the all-around play of Taysom Hill. Hill did it all, including a 50 yard pass, gaining 50 rushing yards on four carries and catching two balls for 25 yards (one of them being a TD reception). He also made several nice blocks, including one that set up Kamara’s TD. If the rest of the Saints played half as well as Hill they would have won in a blowout.
The Vikings move on to the Divisional round and will travel to Santa Clara next week to play the 49ers. The Saints will suffer through another offseason of What Ifs? They can’t blame this one on the officiating. The Saints were outplayed on all sides of the ball and were lucky to even make it to overtime.
Seahawks 17 Eagles 9
Wild Card weekend ended with a thud as the beat-up Seattle Seahawks defeated the even-more-beat-up Philadelphia Eagles 17-9. This game stunk, the Seahawks took a 17-6 lead in the third quarter and just farted around until the game was over. They knew the Eagles collection of practice squad players pretending to be their regular offense wouldn’t be able to comeback. Of course the Seahawks farted around so much they nearly let the Eagles back into the game.
I’m not going to dive too deep into this crapfest, all you need to know is Eagles QB Carson Wentz (1/4, 3 yards) got knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion. The Eagles had to bring in backup QB Josh McCown. McCown played well enough for a guy who had zero WRs to throw the ball to (18/24, 174 yards) but he doesn’t have the ability to make magic from nothing.
The Seahawks took 10-3 lead in the second quarter and knowing the Eagles would struggle mightily to score simply tried to bleed the clock by running the ball. The problem was their top 3 RBs are on injured reserve and their replacements were less than spectacular. That’s putting it mildly, they were downright brutally unspectacular to the tune of 12 yards on 11 carries for Travis Homer and 7 yards on six carries for Marshawn Lynch. Woof. Lynch did manage an old fashioned beast mode 5 yard TD run.
QB Russell Wilson had to be a one man gang for Seattle. He was the team’s leading rusher (9 carries, 45 yards) and made a few big passes (18/30, 325 yards, 1 TD). WR D.K. Metcalf was the biggest receiving threat: 7 catches, 160 yards, 1 TD.
Seattle failed to take a commanding lead and let the Eagles hang around. To their credit Philly made a few drives into Seattle territory to threaten to score late in the game, but their offense is so decimated they couldn’t close the deal.
Like they have all season, Seattle managed to win a close game that they should have won big time. The Seahawks are like a lazy kid who does the bare minimum amount of work around the house or in school to avoid being grounded. It’s not pretty, but they do advance to the Divisional round, where they will travel to Green Bay to face the Packers.
The Eagles should just be happy they made the playoffs. Let’s be honest, if they didn’t play in the worst division in football (NFC East) they wouldn’t have made it at all. They had a chance to win until Wentz went down. He was the only guy holding the offense together. I can already hear the Philly sports talk radio now, where the Eagles fans will be calling in and moaning that they could have won the Super Bowl this year if they wouldn’t have let QB Nick Foles leave the team.
New Head Coach in Dallas
Haha, you thought we'd finally get a MMQB post without a Dallas headline. Well Jerry Jones decided that wasn't right so he hired former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to replace the red-head-who-won't-be-missed Jason Garrett.
Let me start off by saying the media is so stupid. Last week all I heard from them is that Jerry still didn't fire Jason Garrett. He didn't have to you morons, his contract expired! NBC actually claimed they had "late breaking news" during halftime of the Seattle/Philly game that Jason Garrett would no longer be the head coach. Uh, he was no longer the head coach since the clock hit zero in the Cowboys last game.
I didn't expect the Cowboys to go in this direction, but I am sure glad they did. This team is ready to win now. I don't need to see some college coach who doesn't understand the NFL take over. Yes I know Jimmy Johnson was a godsend for Dallas, but most college coaches fall flat on their face in the NFL. It's a completely different situation. If a total rebuild was required then maybe you take a chance on a college guy. Not now.
I like this hire. I know the Packers were tired of McCarthy and felt he got stale. Well he was there a long time and that happens to a lot of coaches. I'm crossing my fingers a brand new opportunity re-lights his fire.
I also hear a lot moaning that he only managed to win one Super Bowl despite always having Favre and Rodgers at QB. Uh, a QB, no matter how great he is, can't win a Super Bowl on his own. Ask Dan Marino and Don Shula. The Packers were tight on the budget and were more than content to let their QB try to do it on his own. Say what you will about Jerry Jones, I definitely do, but he is willing to spend money. In fact he already has. McCarthy will inherit a better RB, offensive line and group of receivers than he ever had in Green Bay.
Damn this was a long post. If you made it this far I thank you for taking the time to read. We've got four big games coming up for the Divisional round this weekend and I'll make a prediction post later in the week. Since the team I picked to win it all (the god damn New Orleans Saints) are already out, I won't be offended if you ignore my ramblings.
Let me know your thoughts on Wild Card weekend. Don't be afraid to let me know what you think about Dallas hiring Mike McCarthy either.