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10 THINGS, NFL WILDCARD WEEKEND

In a weekend full of blunders, Blair Walsh’s was the biggest. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

TEN
Blair Walsh did the impossible. Not only did he miss a 27 yard game-winning field goal by a good three to four feet, but he somehow outdid Vontaze Burfict and Jeremy Hill as Wildcard Weekend’s biggest goat.

There’s very little to say when a game ends with a score of 10-9. Neither offense was capable Sunday. The two teams combined for just over 400 yards of total offense and only 27 1st downs. While both defenses were excellent, you have to think the negative temperatures played a greater roll in limiting offense. Russell Wilson had a few deep balls that floated off like punts. I can’t imagine he misses that badly if he could feel his fingers. You may have forgotten Teddy Bridgewater was even playing until he made some nice throws on Minnesota’s final drive. In the end, as many predicted (I was not one of them), the game came down to a handful of plays.

• Russell Wilson picking up a bad snap, scrambling and finding Tyler Lockett downfield finally kick started Seattle’s offense. They scored two players later.
• Adrian Peterson fumbling two plays after Seattle’s touchdown, giving the Seahawks the football only a 1st down from field goal range.
• Kam Chancellor getting called for pass interference and gifting the Vikings 19 yards. Chancellor then aggressively jumped a pass on the very next play only to miss, allowing Kyle Rudolph to scamper all the way down to the Seattle 18.
• Blair Walsh missing a 27 yard field goal.

TEN A
I thought Minnesota blew their chance to win by not converting on their first two drives. On the opening drive the Vikings ate up seven minutes but failed on a 3rd and 1 at Seattle’s 43. Had Adrian Peterson not lost two yards there, the Vikings likely go for it on 4th down. On their next possession, the Vikings got the ball at the Seattle 29 after the punt snafu. After getting inside the 10, Minnesota once again failed to run the ball and ultimately settled for a field goal. I thought coming away from those two early possessions with only 3 points would be Minnesota’s end. I was wrong. The Viking defense was great and the offense mustered two more field goals and put themselves in position for a fourth field goal that would have clinched the win.

TEN B
I laughed at any Seattle player that used lines like “we just kept fighting” or “we never gave up.” Please. You had nothing to do with that kick sailing to the left. The Vikings earned that victory. They just didn’t get it. To be fair, not all Seahawks players were that oblivious. Many admitted to getting lucky and being blessed by God and so on.

NINE
The Cincinnati Bengals collapse was an amazing meltdown. Even before the back-to-back personal foul penalties, the Bengals were doing Bengal things. Allowing an injured Ben Roethlisberger time in the pocket made little sense. It was pretty clear Roethlisberger couldn’t throw the football downfield. In all likelihood, avoiding contact was a primary concern, too. Wouldn’t blitzing in that situation forced Roethlisberger to both get rid of the ball sooner and test his injured shoulder? Look at it this way: The Steelers ran a draw on 3rd and 8 with 32 seconds left while they were 30+ yards OUTSIDE OF FIELD GOAL RANGE. If that doesn’t tell you Roethlisberger had little to offer I’m not sure what else would convince you. Typically, a last minute drive to win or tie a game features several passes of 10+ yards. The Steelers had one play go more than 10 yards. It was a pass for 12 yards to Antonio Brown on 4th and 3. If the Bengals (and the officials) didn’t gift Pittsburgh 30 yards there’s a good chance the Bengals advance.

EIGHT
While the flag on Vontaze Burfict was the right call, the Adam “Pacman” Jones flag was completely unnecessary. Let’s just pretend Joey Porter wasn’t on the field in that situation. When did trash talking become illegal? There’s no video evidence of Jones laying hands on anyone. He wasn’t even talking to the officials. How can you justify flagging someone for simply running their mouth to the opponent? Now let’s add Porter back to the mix. Joey Porter is not the Steelers head coach. He’s not even a coordinator. He’s a has-been that wanted in on the violence, so he wandered onto the field to bathe in the chaos. By NFL rules, that’s a penalty. So not only did the officials throw an unnecessary flag there, but they doubled down on their own stupidity by NOT flagging the Steelers for Porter’s moronic appearance on the field.

I hate reviews as much as anyone else, but would it be too much to have an official in a box watching the game feed and offering assistance just for the playoffs? That official could have told the field officials to pick up the flag on Jones and instead penalize Porter. Both calls would have been correct. The Steelers would’ve ended up back where they started, and the Bengals and Marvin Lewis wouldn’t be crestfallen right now. Then again, getting the calls right and not favoring the Steelers would have made too much sense.

SEVEN
Firing Marvin Lewis was a legitimate discussion for 18 hours following Cincinnati’s meltdown. I found this funny. Sometimes talent comes with a cost. Randy Moss was a handful for both opposing defenses and his own coaching staff. Terrell Owens was a diva. Critics blaming Lewis for Bufrict’s illegal hit lack self-awareness. If your defense needed one more stop to clinch a playoff victory, would you walk over to your top linebacker and tell him to sit because you were afraid he’d get flagged for unnecessary roughness? Of course not. Burfict is a significant reason Cincy’s defense is as good as it is. Burfict’s greatness unfortunately comes with the risk that he made try to decapitate someone. That happened. Unless you want Chip Kelly choirboys finishing 7-9, coaches have to take chances on talent. Lewis lost Saturday night. Losing his job should have never been a discussion.

SIX
I’m not sure what the Steelers were doing Saturday night but I thought their offensive approach was laughably bad. Everyone in the AFC fears the Steelers because of their fearlessness in chucking the ball downfield over and over again. Pittsburgh abandoned that strategy almost completely against the Bengals. Was it because Roethlisberger’s two worst games this season came against Cincinnati, or perhaps because Reggie Nelson has terrorized Roethlisberger of late? Whatever the reason, it was a poor decision. I couldn’t believe the Steelers continually refused to throw downfield even after Nelson left the game with an injury. Soon after he left, starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick left too, and still the Steelers didn’t take shots deep. Why abandon the one thing defenses fear most about your offense when the stakes are the biggest? Mike Tomlin continues to amaze.

FIVE
Oh, hello Green Bay Packers! I’m not sure what the Washington Redskins did, but they woke up Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense. From the start of the 2nd quarter to the beginning of the 4th, Green Bay exploded for 326 yards and 32 points, flipping a 0-11 deficit into a 32-18 lead. The Packers scored on five straight possessions over that span. Perhaps most shocking of all, Davante Adams made some pretty huge plays for the Packers. With Green Bay still trailing by a point near the close of the 1st half, they faced a crucial 3rd down at the Redskins’ 30. Rodgers lofted a pass down the left sideline where Adams made a difficult over-the-shoulder grab with a defender draped all over him. It was a pass Adams failed to convert all season long. Two players later, Adams caught the go-ahead touchdown. I’ve been arguing all season that Rodgers’ throws were on point. Receivers just weren’t making plays. On Sunday those receivers made plays.

FIVE A
If the Packers could ever figure out their running game, they’d be capable of making a run at the Super Bowl. When Eddie Lacy and James Starks are chewing up yards like they were in that 3rd quarter, the Packers are almost unbeatable. Of course, that running game has come and gone so many times throughout the year that even Rodgers is legitimately surprised when the offense can run the ball down the defense’s throat as they did Sunday.

FIVE B

FOUR
I expected the Chiefs to win handedly Saturday, but that level of domination was impressive. I know it’s only the Texans, but getting a shutout and winning by 30 in the postseason is quite the feat. For a while there it felt like one of those games where Kansas City would ultimately suffer for not having a bigger lead in the 1st half. Despite four turnovers, the Chiefs were only two Houston touchdowns from losing their lead. Alex Smith and the offense could only muster 134 yards and two field goals in the 1st half. Andy Reid even had a classic Reid meltdown at the close of the half as he reverted to conservative play-calling after crossing midfield with over a minute left on the clock. I thought the Chiefs missed a dagger opportunity there. Obviously, I was wrong because the Chiefs’ offense stormed into the 2nd half by scoring two touchdowns and racking up 165 yards on their first two drives, all but sealing the victory before the 3rd quarter ended.

THREE
The Houston Texans embodied the age-old truth of the NFL; If you have more than one starting quarterback, you have none. Brian Hoyer’s performance was as bad a quarterback performance as you’ll see in the NFL Playoffs. Jake Delhomme at least threw a TD and cracked 200 yards to go along with his 6 turnovers. Hoyer was shutout and passed for only 136 yards.

TWO
The Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs were the weekend’s biggest losers outside of, you know, the four teams that actually lost. Carolina was primed to welcome the winner of Green Bay/Washington to Charlotte next weekend instead of the reigning NFC champions. Then Blair Walsh’s leg malfunctioned. Now the Panthers must go through a proven playoff team granted second life. The Chiefs, meanwhile, thought they were heading back to Denver where they dominated the Broncos in Week 10. Then the Bengals lost the football and eventually their minds, sending Kansas City to play the well-rested and almost healthy Patriots.

TWO A
DeSean Jackson’s blunder was not a surprise to anyone who has watched Jackson throughout his career. That guy will do anything to avoid contact. Also, it didn’t make sense to me why Washington never tried to take the top off the defense. Even if you don’t convert, the downside to taking a shot 4o yards downfield is small. Worst case scenario the ball gets intercepted. Assuming you tackle well, it’s a punt. On the flip side, you can convert for a huge play or earn a penalty. Those attempts also stick in the defense’s mind. That would have allowed even more room in the middle of the field for Jordan Reed to operate.

TWO B
Can you believe Denzel Washington is 61? That makes me feel old. And sad.

ONE
MVP: Blair Walsh, Jeremy Hill, Brian Hoyer…. for the opposing teams.
Runner Up: Vontaze Burfict.
Not on the ballot: Landry Jones.

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