Apologies for the lag time. Work + life + inability to visit an NFL page without reading about how great Warner was against Green Bay = Holly took some time off from football.
After watching the weekend’s games, however, I’m left with a few lingering thoughts:
1. The Cowboys-Vikings game reminded me at points of each of the Packers-Vikings games. In each game against Minnesota, the Packers were down significantly at the start of the 4th quarter (28-14, 31-20 – 24-3 in 3d!), but managed to tighten the score in the face of serious pressure from Minnesota’s front four. On Sunday, Dallas was still theoretically “in the game” going into the 4th quarter. Yes, they were down 17-3, yes, Flozell Adams had left the game before halftime, and yes, Romo was getting his butt kicked. But 14 points wasn’t so much that Dallas’s offense couldn’t make something happen. The Vikings were letting them stick around.
Here’s what I noticed, though. Romo has nothing on Rodgers when it comes to 3d downs. In the second half of the first Packers-Vikings game, Rodgers converted 3/6 3d downs, resulting in a FG and a sack-safety. In the rematch, Rodgers improved to 5/8 for 3 TDs, 1 FG, and 1 missed FG. Romo’s 2d half looked like this on 3d down: sack (missed FG), incompletion (punt), interception, sack (punt), incompletion (downs), incompletion (downs). Ouch. You can put some of the blame on Dallas’s inability to get yards on the ground, but it was clear that Romo wasn’t comfortable in the pocket. He was responsible for at least 2 of his 6 sacks, and his inability to make a play on 3d down doomed his team. Rodgers made plays despite a porous O-line. Romo couldn’t, and that’s a big reason why Dallas didn’t move on to the NFC Championship.
2. Obviously, I’m not a coach, I have no affiliation with the team, and I have no inside information. Still, I have to wonder why San Diego stuck with LaDainian Tomlinson and his 2ypc (12 carries) and 3 catches for 0 yds. When he had them, Darren Sproles made the most of his opportunities – 3 rushes for 33 yds, 3 catches for 30 yds. We can’t know what would have happened had the Chargers given Sproles more chances, but I watched the second half in disbelief as Tomlinson continued to get the ball and continued to run straight into the teeth of a very stout Jets defense. I mean, yes, Nate Kaeding had what is probably the worst day of his professional career thus far, but Tomlinson was nowhere near “productive.”
3. As I tweeted during the game, it seemed as though Rex Ryan responded to CB Darrelle Revis not winning DPOY by having him do his best Charles Woodson impression. During the first half of the Jets-Chargers game, Revis was lined up all over the field in a defense that showed a lot of zone looks — sometimes on Malcolm Floyd, sometimes on Antonio Gates, sometimes on Vincent Jackson. And yes, he made plays when the ball was thrown in his direction, including a very lucky INT. But Rivers just went to whoever he wasn’t covering: Jackson for 13 and 26, Gates for 11 and 23, Floyd for 19. In the second half, Revis went back to his island for the most part, and didn’t give up a reception. Adam Schefter tweeted again about how DPOY should be decided after the playoffs, but I thought it was interesting how, after defending his decision to keep Revis on his island, Rex Ryan pulled an about-face and moved Revis all around the field.
4. I was seriously impressed with how the Colts defense walled off Ray Rice from Joe Flacco on Saturday. It was surprising to see how skittish and uncomfortable Flacco looked when he couldn’t get the ball to his safety valve. As many on Twitter have commented, it’s abundantly clear that the Ravens have to address their lack of depth at WR and TE this offseason, because Rice can’t do it alone.
5. In the dark recesses of my mind, I knew that whoever came out of the Packers-Cardinals game would have an extremely rough go of it against the Saints. No matter who won the game, both teams would have a beat-up secondary going against a rested Drew Brees and his extraordinary arsenal of weapons – during the regular season, Brees threw TDs to 10 different receivers, and 6 more ran in for a score. With the Cardinals banged up (esp. S Antrel Rolle), I didn’t expect them to have much of a chance on defense. I did expect Warner to have more success on offense, but, well, the Saints came ready to play. That said, I’m a big fan of Brees, and I like the fact that the Saints signed all-time leading rusher Deuce McAllister for the playoffs – if they win the title, he’s definitely deserving of a ring.
6. For the Vikings to win on Sunday, I think that Adrian Peterson has to have a big game. The Saints are crap against the run (122 ypg), and if Favre can stomach handing off the ball and letting Peterson do his thing, I think the Saints could be in for a long day. What I’m counting on, though, is that Favre will check out of runs at the line and sling it all over the field. And if that’s the case, I’m going to be rooting for ex-Packer and ex-Viking Darren Sharper to have the game of his life. Sharper intercepted Favre once before, on Dec. 21, 2006, and I figure he’s due for a bit more payback.
7. Karma is likely to play a role in both games this weekend. The Vikings may have their comeuppance for running up the score against Dallas, and the Colts may get their just desserts by being beaten by the team that they let into the playoffs when they rested their starters in W16. In the latter game, I’ll be interested to see how Sanchez handles the Colts the second time around. In the first match-up, he was 12/19 for 106 yds, letting Brad Smith and Thomas Jones find the end zone. Sanchez looked awfully comfortable in the second half of each playoff game so far, though, and that bodes well for this Sunday. If Sanchez can find his footing early, I would not be at all surprised to see the Jets make it to Miami.
Given all of the attention these last four teams will get this week, I’ll see if I can’t come up with something semi-original to talk about in the next few days. In the meantime, those are my thoughts. Agree? Disagree?