Thursday 22 February 2018 / 11:59 AM

Romo clutch for Dallas; Dalton not for Cincy

Depending on who you talk to, the topic of conversation from Sunday’s marquee match-up will either be Tony Romo’s clutch come-from-behind drive or the botched pass-interference call on the Cowboys’ Anthony Hitchens.

Hitchens was covering Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew on a 3rd and 1 in Dallas territory when he was flagged for interference. Originally the yardage was marked off, thereby putting the Lions in field goal range, but before Detroit could run a play the penalty was annulled and the Lions were forced to punt. From there Romo engineered an 11-play, 59-yard drive to give the Cowboys their first lead of the game, 24-20. They would go on to win by this same score.

[READ: Carolina, Baltimore advance to Divisional Round]

In post-game press conferences coaches and team leaders are always quick to point out the fact that football games are not won or lost on a single play – but the mysterious and poorly explained “picked up” flag controversy will certainly haunt Lions fans from now until the next time they win a playoff game, even if Golden Tate explained that the Lions should never have relinquished their two-score lead to begin with.

It could be a while. The last time they claimed victory in January was 1992.

Yesterday my Facebook feed was flowing with comments expressing a sentiment similar to that shared by @TheSportsHernia – and while I personally don’t believe that any WWE-esque shenanigans went on behind the scenes, I do greatly appreciate the Million Dollar Man reference.

Refs make mistakes and it’s far from uncommon that a flag is picked up off the field but the timing of this particular reversal will be good for plenty of water cooler chit-chat on Monday.

Referee Pete Morelli offered up this explanation following the game: “The back judge threw his flag for defensive pass interference. We got other information from another official from a different angle that thought the contact was minimal and didn’t warrant pass interference.”

Whether you believe or don’t believe that Jerry Jones sent a “$$$” What’s App text to Morelli’s Samsung Galaxy S, the result is the same. Dallas has advanced to the divisional round and will travel next weekend to Green Bay to take on the Packers. The win also sends Carolina to the unfriendly confines of CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The Lions offense started the first quarter off playing nearly flawless football. They jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead after Stafford connected with Golden Tate on a 51-yard bomb and Reggie Bush took it in on the ground from 18 yards out. However, they were unable to manage more than a pair of Matt Prater field goals over the final three quarters.

Stafford is now (0-2) in the playoffs despite throwing for 323 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Perhaps 2015 will be the season that Detroit finally gets the monkey off their back?

[READ: Carolina, Baltimore advance to Divisional Round]

Fourth time is not the charm for Andy Dalton

The Colts easily handled the Bengals at home this Sunday, earning Andrew Luck a chance to take out Indy’s “other” quarterback, Peyton Manning, next weekend in Denver. While 26-10 is hardly a blow-out, Cincinnati never threatened the home team.

Andy Dalton now has the dubious distinction of having led his team to the postseason during his first four seasons in the league, only to have lost handsomely in each and every contest. Once again he was barely able to get double-digit points up on the scoreboard.

Some quarterbacks elevate their game during the playoffs. Joe Flacco, for example, has a rating 20 points higher on average during the postseason versus the regular season.

Andy Dalton? His combined playoff rating is 27 points lower than his career average – and while it’s never fair to ask one player to shoulder the blame for any loss, even I (as a Red Rocket supporter) have to admit that the pattern here is disturbing at best.

Dalton was 18 of 35 for 155 yards, not an awful performance, but hardly praise-worthy either.

The last time the Bengals won a playoff game their current quarterback was 3 years old and Boomer Esiason was under center.

It’s hard to imagine there being too much of a shake-up in Ohio as few NFL clubs earn postseason berths in four consecutive seasons (particularly after a decade of irrelevance) but perhaps they could use new uniforms or something?

Who knows?

Andrew Luck, on the other hand, played like a veteran at home.

But Luck is (0-2) on the road in the postseason and taking on a HOF quarterback in Denver won’t be the easiest locale for him to break his losing streak.

He insists that he’ll be playing the entire Broncos team and not just the legend he replaced in Indianapolis, but the marketing wizards at the NFL will most definitely be making this divisional match-up out to be Darth Vader vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi.



[READ: Carolina, Baltimore advance to Divisional Round]

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Michael Airhart

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