The Jets (and Nate Kaeding) tripped up the Chargers as defenses controlled the second half of the Divisional Playoffs. In the earlier contest, the Vikings mauled Tony Romo and the Cowboys.
Sunday also was the first time in NFL history that an NFL kicker was entered into protective custody immediately following a game… this actually happened twice on Sunday. Once again, it took until the final game of the weekend for some suspense. The NFL playoffs are on the verge of rivaling the MLB playoffs for most overrated and uneventful. Thankfully, the Jets survived. If the 2010 playoffs don’t get interesting, at least we have another week of Rex Ryan’s declarations. They’re always fun.
(3) Cowboys 3 at (2) Vikings 34
Brett Favre and the Inglourious Basterds crushed the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon. If you haven’t seen Quentin Tarantino’s World War II film, here’s a brief synopsis. The film follows a small platoon of U.S. soldiers (called the Inglourious Basterds) that track, kill, and torture members of the Nazi party. Despite their brutal, inhumane tactics, you never once think, “that’s so wrong, I’m appalled,” because the Nazi’s were/are the most despised group in history. The Vikings were the Inglourious Basterds on Sunday. To me, it didn’t matter what they did as long as they won. The whipping they put on the Dallas Cowboys, especially running up the score, was fine by me.
Minnesota’s defense deserves most of the credit for Sunday’s victory. In my picks, I asserted that a spectacular performance by Jared Allen could swing the game. I was right about the impact, wrong about the player. Instead of Allen, it was Ray Edwards who sacked Tony Romo three times and pressured him all afternoon. As a result of Minnesota’s pressure (six sacks), the Cowboys couldn’t get the ball downfield to Miles Austin and company. They were also crippled by three Romo turnovers. Favre was the star today, but Minnesota’s defense won the game.
I’m not the biggest Favre fan, but it’s hard to ignore his legacy. Is there another quarterback with his passion for winning? I love raw emotion in sports. A display of such emotion from a hall of fame quarterback is uncommon. Favre’s energy and leadership keeps Minnesota loose and focused. Watch their sideline after a score. There’s a never-ending line of players and coaches looking to celebrate with Favre. You can’t fake that emotion. His teammates love him.
Favre can still play too. I thought the Vikings would be in trouble without a running game. Without one, Favre would need to win the game and I didn’t think he could. I was wrong. Dallas contained Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota run game. Their game plan was to pressure Favre into mistakes. The pressure was occasionally there, the mistakes never were. Favre made all the plays Tony Romo couldn’t.
As an Eagles’ fan, there were too many things to like about this game. First, the Cowboys were getting shellacked. Second, Wade Phillips will most likely return next season. (Quickly, how hilarious was Phillips’ shocked look after Shaun Suisham’s second missed field goal? Uh, Wade, Suisham missed a 48 yarder earlier, what’d you expect him to do from 49 yards? Classic.) Third, Keith Brooking crying about being disrespected is can’t miss TV. Go cry on Jerry’s shoulder next time baby Brooking. You won’t find any sympathy or respect on Minnesota’s sideline, especially when their footprints are stamped all over your chest. Finally, Romo is still the same old Romo. Hit him early and often, and he’ll hand you the game. How ‘bout them Cowboys!?
(5) Jets 17 at (2) Chargers 14
As soon as the Vikings defeated the Cowboys, I turned to my couch pillow and said, “The Chargers are screwed.” Seriously, I did. You can even ask it. There was no way all four favorites would advance. It just doesn’t happen anymore.
The New York Jets proved me right and are now on their way to the AFC Championship Game. For the second consecutive year, a nine win team has advanced to the NFL’s final four (Cardinals, Eagles last year). And they say parity is dead.
It’s been twenty years since Buddy Ryan’s Gang Green defense tormented NFL offenses. Buddy’s son, Rex, is bringing the family heirloom back to the league. No, Rex isn’t as lovable as his father, but he’s just as cocky and arrogant. His defenses are equally as ferocious too. While I’ve never been a Jets fan, they are quickly becoming one of my favorite teams to watch. New York’s defense has the Jets on the doorstep of the Super Bowl. Now, only Peyton Manning stands in the way.
The Jets needed three things to go their way in order to beat the Chargers. 1. A solid game from rookie QB Mark Sanchez. He wasn’t perfect, but once again, Sanchez made enough plays to keep the Jets competitive, and more importantly, avoided devastating turnovers. 2. An effective running game. The Chargers were surprisingly effective in limiting the Jets’ rushing attack until late in the game. The ability to put points on the board in the 4th quarter while running the football is the greatest advantage an offense can have. Shonn Greene’s 53 yard TD scamper was the decisive blow. 3. Outstanding defensive play. The Jets often surrendered yardage but not points. They forced turnovers, eliminated the Chargers’ running game, and kept Rivers and Co. out of the endzone. I didn’t see the Jets miss one tackle either, not one. Their secondary hits like linebackers. (Please Andy Reid, send your players home with this footage for the offseason. Thank you.) Also, if the Jets allow touchdowns instead of field goals on Sunday, Nate Kaeding never misses three field goals, and New York goes home a loser.
Speaking of Kaeding, how about the Kibosh CBS put on him? Wow. One of the most effective and devastating Kiboshes I have ever witnessed. Was there any doubt Kaeding would miss that first field goal after CBS flashed the following on the screen; “Made 67 straight FG attempts inside 40 yards.” If you asked me to leverage my house to win $200 on whether he missed there, I would’ve taken the bet. (Just kidding, babe. [Seriously, I would have.])There was no doubt; he was missing that field goal. Poor Kaeding never regained his confidence and ultimately ruined San Diego’s season. Rex Ryan should make sure that CBS receives a game ball for today’s performance. They were undoubtedly the Jets MVP.
While it didn’t produce the fireworks of Packers/Cardinals, this was a great game nonetheless. It was highly competitive, exciting, and suspenseful. Additionally, Norv Turner reminded us why he doesn’t have a Super Bowl title by mismanaging the closing minutes (too early for onside kick), and LaDainian Tomlinson performed admirably as the NFL’s Most Valuable Pouter. Maybe stand up and support your teammates instead of mopping on the bench? Just an idea. Good riddance to a great, great back that deteriorated into a selfish prima donna.
Finally, was I missing something or was anyone else confused by the Chargers’ midfield emblem? It had a big “50” with the years “1960” and “2009” below. That’s only 49 years, right?