Reggie Bush and the New Orleans Saints kicked off the day by steamrolling the Arizona Cardinals and Kurt Warner. In the nightcap, the Colts and Ravens teamed up to beat the Ravens. No, that’s not a misprint. All in all, the first half of the Divisional Round was similar to Wildcard Weekend; disappointing.
(Just a quick public service announcement. Next time you act to crucify Donovan McNabb for missing a deep throw, re-watch today’s games. All, I repeat, ALL of today’s quarterbacks missed at least one deep ball, and most missed several. For record keeping purposes, those quarterbacks were Warner, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Joe Flacco. Brees eventually connected on a deep flea-flicker later in the half, even though he threw it to the wrong shoulder and forced his receiver to adjust. It was a better play by the receiver than it was from Brees. Anyway, the deep ball is a tough pass. Every quarterback misses. Unfortunately, McNabb’s the only one that has to enter the Witness Protection Program afterward.)
Moving on… I’m rapidly losing hope in the 2010 playoffs. After six games, we have yet to see a complete 60 minutes of competitive football. There’ve been three blowouts, two outright victories, and only one suspenseful finish. If that isn’t enough to sour the playoff platter, we’ve only seen two outdoor games and will have only one more remaining. That game will be played tomorrow in southern California, so unless it’s raining, it barely counts as outdoors. Worst. Playoffs. Ever. (I know. Too early to declare this, but I’m hoping to jinx my declaration so that the games will miraculously improve over the next eight days. Thank me later.) When’s March Madness?…
(4) Cardinals 14 at (1) Saints 45
I think someone forgot to explain the concept of the playoffs to the Arizona defense. Advancing means you play additional games after the end of the regular season. Unless they had money on the over in both games, there’s no other explanation for their play. Surrendering 35 points and 300+ total yards in consecutive halves doesn’t qualify as “elevating your play” either. You can relax now, Cardinal defenders. You get to enjoy the offseason knowing you set multiple playoff records. Congratulations. Speaking of overs, what’s the over/under on hours of sleep Arizona Defensive Coordinator, Bill Davis gets until he receives job assurance? My guess is 13. I will gladly take the under.
How about Reggie Bush today? His comeback was as impressive as Michael Myers’ appearance in Halloween 738. Just when we thought he was finished, BOOM! There he is. I’ve already prepared myself for all the “changed his style” and “finally playing with passion” articles we’ll see this week. The truth is Bush knows he might be out of a job in New Orleans next year. He’s one of the most expensive underachievers in the league. Until I see that kind of play from him for a significant portion of a season, I’m convinced his playoff performance today was all about the dollar bill$. You can’t convince me otherwise.
In all honestly, I started watch Paul Blart, Mall Cop halfway through the second half. Turning on that movie can only mean one thing; whatever was previously on must have been awful. Give the Saints credit though. They were as impressive on offense as we’ve seen all year. Of course, now we’ll hear about how the Super Bowl goes through New Orleans again, but oh well. I only wish the Cardinals would have thrown a little more support my way in defending my “the Saints D isn’t as good everyone thinks” argument.
I also have to acknowledge Larry Fitzgerald. I’ve never been more impressed with a wide receiver. Down 31 points late in the second half, Fitzgerald was still hustling. He’d make a catch, work for extra yardage, and then immediately get up and run to the line of scrimmage for the hurry-up offense. Remember, this is a wide receiver. If you paid attention to Randy Moss and DeSean Jackson last week, you’re well aware that receivers are normally the first to play the “this one’s over, not cool to hustle” card.
(6) Ravens 3 at (1) Colts 20
Manning made enough plays for the Colts to get a lead and the Ravens blew enough plays to make sure Indianapolis wouldn’t lose it. While the game never got out of hand like the afternoon contest, the outcome was never in doubt. The Colts were executing well enough to control the game and the Ravens couldn’t get out of their own way.
Manning was near perfect in the first half. Baltimore’s coverage was outstanding as Indianapolis’ receivers were blanketed on nearly every play. Yet, somehow, Manning was able to deliver the ball to his receivers in stride. Of his first half completions, 70% could have threaded a needle. If you watched closely, there were even a few times when the Raven defenders looked shocked that their coverage assignment received the ball. There were also several occasions when Manning moved Ray Lewis out of the middle of the field via his eyes or pump fakes. Immediately after Lewis moved, Manning hit his man in the location Lewis abandoned. Manning is a nightmare for a defense; even one has talented as Baltimore’s. (Seriously though, do we have to hail him a genius for conceding a sack? It’s ok to call him a big baby, I promise. He’s the best QB in football AND a big baby. See, it’s not so hard.)
It wasn’t all roses for Manning though. In fact, he managed to unofficially throw two interceptions on the same drive, to the same player nonetheless. The first interception came back to the Colts after a tremendous hustle play by WR Pierre Garcon, who forced Ed Reed to fumble after a 38 yard return. Five plays later, Reed picked off Manning again. This time, Reed raced 54 yards with the interception until the play was overturned due to a pass interference penalty. Two things were definitely confirmed on this drive. First, if you don’t tackle Ed Reed in the first five yards after an interception, you’re screwed. Second, the Ravens were having one of those nights. Despite how hard they tried, nothing was going to work out right. A fumble by Ray Rice and two interceptions by Flacco (all three occurred inside Colts’ territory) sealed Baltimore’s fate.
What will be lost in the outcome is how well the Ravens defense played, especially in the second half. In that second half, Baltimore’s pass rush finally put some heat on Manning. As a result, the Colts offense sustained only one drive over ten yards. If Flacco and the offense could have mustered a few plays instead of three costly turnovers, the Ravens may have had a chance. As my dad always said; Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda.