Friday 18 August 2017 / 07:28 AM

Airing it Out: NFL Wild Card Weekend

If Wild Card Weekend were a sandwich, it was prepared with the finest Italian Salami slapped between two slices of the stalest bread in the pantry.

Saturday’s slate of games started off with a dud in Houston and the “u pick ’em” Sunday evening in Washington turned out to be more of a “back in the saddle” party for the Packers than a coming out celebration for the previously red-hot Redskins.

But in the middle? Two instant classics – for very different reasons.

Brian Hoyer not Ready for the Big Stage

In his first ever playoff start, Texans’ quarterback Brian Hoyer was 7/14 for 61 yards and 3 interceptions – at halftime.

He went on to add one more INT and a pair of fumbles (one lost) to complete the type of performance that quite literally could lead to him wearing a new uniform next season. Hoyer may have only thrown 7 picks all regular season (11 games, 9 starts) but this fugly post-season collapse should be proof enough that he’s not “the guy” in Houston.

His job might only be saved by Bill O’Brien’s lack of options in the Lone Star State.

Now, let’s give credit where credit is due. The Kansas City defense had much to do with Hoyer’s historically poor game. After all, turnovers don’t force themselves.

But this one was over pretty much just as soon as Knile Davis ran the opening kickoff back 106 yards for a touchdown. Houston is a playoff team only because they won the shittiest division in the conference – and it showed. Big time.

And with their impressive 30-0 victory over the Texans, the Chiefs have finally won their first playoff game since 1994. That’s quite a drought for the folks at Arrowhead. Unless, you’re a Bengals fan – they’ve been waiting since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

A Game Lacking in Sportsmanship

Marvin Lewis is now (0-7) in the postseason as the Head Coach of the Bengals as Cincinnati lost in the opening round of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

Vontaze Burfict picked off Ben Roethlisberger with less than two minutes to play to all but seal the victory for Cincy – until a combination of blunders by Jeremy Hill, Burfict himself and Pac-Man Jones led to one of the worst game-ending meltdowns in recent history.

Words alone can’t express the ridiculousness, so instead let’s head to the highlight reel:

It amounted to 30 yards worth of personal foul penalties on one play, during the most crucial moments of the game. Hill’s fumble is unfortunate, but losing your cool with the game on the line is inexcusable.

I get it. You’re amped up. But it’s not too hard to figure out where to point the fingers for this one. When you play dirty all game you’re bound to get caught eventually.

With the 18-16 win, Big Ben has now led his team to their fourth game-winning drive in the playoffs since 2004. Only Tom Brady and Eli Manning (5) have more.

Following the game Roethlisberger underwent an MRI and it appears he will be day-to-day with his separated shoulder. The team is hopeful he’ll be good to go next weekend in Denver.

Heartbreaking Loss in Minnesota

There’s so much to talk about from Sunday’s gritty cold weather battle in Minneapolis – but all we’re ever going to hear about is “the miss”.

27 yards. A chip shot. And you’ll eliminate the reigning NFC Champs from the playoffs.

Forget that Blair Walsh built the Vikings a 9-0 lead with 3-for-3 kicking on the third-most frigid day in the history of the league. Forget yourAce Ventura Pet Detective“laces out” references. Forget the Adrian Peterson fumble that set up the Seahawks’ go-ahead score. Forget that Teddy Bridgewater couldn’t once get his team into the endzone.

Forget all that.

Blair Walsh missed the most important kick of his life and all we’re going to remember is wide left. He’ll forever be the Scott Norwood of his generation.

Seattle’s improbable 10-9 victory wound up as the lowest-scoring playoff game since the Steelers beat the Pats 7-6 in the late-1990s. Held in check for most of the game, the Seahawks offense couldn’t get anything going until Russell Wilson found rookie Tyler Lockett wide open for a huge 35-yard gain on a botched play that 31 other NFL quarterbacks would have taken for a sack.

When signals mixed with his center, Wilson saw an early snap fly quickly past his left shoulder deep into the backfield. As everyone in the stadium expected him to fall on the ball, RW3 slid, scooped up the ball, stood up and scrambled before he was touched down.

An alert Lockett settled into a hole in coverage for the easy catch and run. Shortly thereafter Doug Baldwin scored the first and only touchdown of the game on a short slant route at the goal line to cut Minnesota’s lead to two.

Kam Chancellor then forced Adrian Peterson to fumble on the Vikes’ ensuing possession to turn the tide and allow Steven Hauschka to nail the go-ahead field goal.

A Slow Start Leads to Strong Finish

Kirk Cousins (329 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 rushing TD) played well enough to win. He didn’t play well enough to beat Aaron Rodgers.

They say that football games aren’t won in the first quarter. Which is why Green Bay’s poor start wound up being a minor player in the storyline. Rodgers started out 1-of-8 passing and the Packers’ first four drives ended punt, safety, punt, punt while Washington built a quick 11-0 lead.

But from there Green Bay caught fire, rattling off 24 unanswered points en route to eventually blow the home team out 35-18 in front of the Redskins faithful.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Jay Gruden and Company, however. Today may have belonged to Aaron Rodgers but the core of a very good team is forming in Washington.

What Home Field Advantage?

Here’s a fun fact from Wild Card Weekend: in the history of the NFL, never have all four visiting clubs been victorious on the road. The remaining field now features #1 vs #6 and #2 vs #5 in both the AFC and NFC.

Stay tuned for our Divisional Round Preview later this week.

 

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Michael Airhart

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