Only one home team won in the opening round of this year's post season, even though there were three warm weather teams traveling to cold areas, and one of the road teams is expected to lose every time they play away from home. Home-field advantage still exists, but to win you still need to play better than the team across from you. At the end of the recap will be a schedule for this week's games.
The wackiest game was the first game of the post season, and that is where this recap will begin...
Kansas City Chiefs 44 - Indianapolis Colts 45
The Colts dominated Kansas City when the two teams met in the regular season, but in the first half the Chiefs were in control. They scored on their first five drives in the game, including four touchdowns, and forced two turnovers in the second quarter. The defense seemed to be up to the challenge, allowing just ten points, but their coverage scheme would come back to bite them. The Chiefs' corner backs were playing off of the Indianapolis receivers to compensate for their speed, but it ultimately gave the Colts room to work. The receivers were able to win on crossing routes, they also had plenty of space to run a quick route in front of the coverage. Instead of allowing Brandon Flowers, Marcus Cooper, and Dunta Robinson to stay with T.Y. Hilton and company, it gave them time to get up to speed and blow past the men in coverage. Would more physical coverage have won the game for Kansas City? There is no guarantee, but physicality in pass coverage can help even the defensive line to get pressure on the quarterback, which Kansas City could have used on Andrew Luck. They did pick Luck off three times, but they only had one sack, and gave up three 80+ yard touchdown drives to end the game.
In the first half, the Chiefs offense appeared to be unstoppable. Kansas City scored on each of their first six drives (including their first drive of the second half), and Alex Smith had what may have been, statistically, the best game of his career. He threw three of his four touchdowns in the first half, while connecting with Dwayne Bowe, eight times for 150 yards and a touchdown. Smith completed 30 of 46 passes for 387 yards and four scores. He hit Bowe on a quick slant for one of the more exciting plays of the game for Kansas City's offense, when Bowe beat Greg Toler off the line, and made LaRon Landry miss, ran through a diving tackle attempt by Toler, and was finally brought down by Antoine Bethea on the two yard line. Smith threw a beautiful deep ball to Donnie Avery early in the second quarter, after Avery ran past Toler (who was, ironically, playing off coverage), and it ended in a 79 yard touchdown. Jamaal Charles was injured six plays into the game, and wouldn't return. Knile Davis took over and ran well for most of the game, scoring one touchdown on 18 carries with 67 yards. Davis also caught seven passes for 33 yards and a second touchdown. Husain Abdullah picked Luck off twice, including a great play diving in front of Donald Brown on the first play of the second half.
T.Y. Hilton had a monster game for the Colts, and he did it right from the beginning of the day. He caught four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown, taking advantage of soft coverage play after play. Hilton caught another touchdown pass, the game-winning pass, and ended the game with 13 receptions for 224 yards. Kansas City was playing zone, and actually pushed Hilton off his route when on the snap, but Hilton sprinted past the safeties (it seemed to be quarters coverage), ran under a perfectly thrown pass by Luck, to score a 64-yard touchdown. Luck threw three interceptions, but his four touchdown passes put Indianapolis in the lead, for good, and he had 45 pass attempts, completing 29 for 443 yards. Luck took advantage of open receivers most of the game, and it fully paid off in the final quarter. Donald Brown scored two touchdowns, one receiving, and caught four passes for 47 yards, rushing 11 times for 55 yards. Brown fumbled on the goal line early in the fourth quarter, but the ball bounced directly into Luck's hands, and he dove into the end zone.
The Colts were beaten up on defense in the first half, but after giving up a touchdown on the Chiefs first drive (which was set up by an interception, and began on Indianapolis' 18 yard line), they gave up only six more points, and forced Kansas City's only turnover of the game, when Robert Mathis forced yet another fumble on a sack. The Colts will go on the road against the New England Patriots for the divisional round of the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints 26 - Philadelphia Eagles 24
The Saints are terrible on the road, according to everyone with a voice this season, but they went on the road for the biggest game of the season, and beat the Eagles in the cold (at least when compared to the weather that they are used to in New Orleans). They weren't perfect in the game, Brees threw two interceptions in the first half, but the defense didn't allow Philadelphia's high-powered offense to get into the end zone until very late in the second quarter (Philly also missed a field goal in the first quarter). Brees' second interception, led to the Eagles scoring drive, but New Orleans drove down the field for a field goal to go in to the half down just 7-6. Brees' first interception came when he badly overthrew rookie Kenny Stills, and Bradley Fletcher ran under it, but his second pick was a terrible decision, and he threw it to Lance Moore on the slant, even though Demeco Ryans was sitting in a zone where Moore's route was going. The offense got back on track in the second half, with a strong performance from Mark Ingram, who rushed for 57 yards on 12 carries, scoring the Saints' second touchdown of the game, on their second drive of the half. Ingram finished with 18 carries for 97 yards, one of the better statistical games of his career. Given the ball on the four yard line, Ingram was hit at the goal line, and turned sideways, but he kept moving his feet until he was helped from a push by Brian de la Puente, and reached the ball over the goal line. Brees completed passes to nine different receivers in the game, including a throw to a wide open Lance Moore, that turned into a 24 yard touchdown when Moore lowered his shoulder to punch into the end zone, for New Orleans' first touchdown.
The Saints allowed Philadelphia to score on their final three drives, but after the Eagles' last touchdown (and last drive), Darren Sproles returned the kick 37 yards, but an extra 15 was tacked on for a horse collar penalty. The Saints started their game-winning drive on Philadelphia's 48 yard line, and drove the clock down so Shayne Graham could hit his fourth field goal of the game, with a 32 yard kick to push New Orleans to the divisional round of the playoffs. The biggest key to the game, may have been in the defense holding Philadelphia's top ranked rushing offense, to just 80 total yards and one touchdown. Cameron Jordan also sacked Nick Foles 1.5 times.
The Eagles have been hotly debated all season because of Chip Kelly's supposedly ultra-different offense, and they made the playoffs on a hot streak, winning six of their final seven games. Foles' performance dominated headlines, while LeSean McCoy ran wild over most defenses with a ridiculous level of quickness and speed, and Philadelphia's defense seemed to be catching up to the offense. Foles played well, statistically, in his first playoff game, completing 23 of 33 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. This wasn't enough to overcome the ineffectiveness of McCoy, who rushed for a touchdown, but only had 77 yards on 21 carries.
Two plays that stood out, which contributed largely to the Eagles failing to win this game, were Alex Henery's missed 48 yard field goal, after Bradley Fletcher's interception, and a dropped pass by Riley Cooper. Cooper had plenty of green field ahead of him, and the catch would have, at least, guaranteed a first down on a big third and four midway through the third quarter, with a possibility for a huge gain and maybe even a touchdown. These two plays may have ultimately been overcome by the Saints, but it would have put Philadelphia in a position of more control, rather than playing catch up most of the second half. The Eagles were also a benefactor of a horrid pass interference call, which led to the go ahead touchdown pass to Zach Ertz. After two interceptions in the first half, the Eagles had difficulty stopping New Orleans the rest of the game. In the second half, only one Saints drive ended without points. Philadelphia has a lot to build on for next season, and if they can improve this offense, they will be scary in 2014.
San Diego Chargers 27 - Cincinnati Bengals 10
San Diego literally fumbled the game away when the two teams met in the regular season, but they managed to slide into the playoffs in the final week of the season on a four game winning streak, including a Thursday night victory over the Denver Broncos (whom they will face this coming weekend). Neither team was very successful on offense in the first half, the Chargers only scored seven points, which came on a six-minute, 86 yard drive, and ended with a Danny Woodhead touchdown run from the five yard line. On San Diego's four other first half drives, they totaled only 28 yards, and were unable to turn a red zone fumble into points.
In the second half, they dominated Cincinnati. They picked Andy Dalton off twice, and forced him to fumble the ball midway through the third quarter. That fumble was the first of three straight turnovers by Dalton, and led to six points for San Diego. The Chargers had three total sacks, taking full advantage of having Melvin Ingram and Larry English back in the line-up, and didn't allow the Bengals to score in the second half. Philip Rivers only attempted 16 passes, but he completed 12 of them for 128 yards and a touchdown to Ladarius Green over Chris Crocker. Ronnie Brown led San Diego in rushing, with 58 of his 77 yards coming on a touchdown run on their final possession. Danny Woodhead rushed 15 times for 54 yards and a touchdown. Rivers completed passes to seven different receivers, but nobody had more than 34 yards, and Green scored the only touchdown. They will meet the Broncos on Sunday for the third time this season.
The Bengals have a defense that is good enough to beat just about anybody in the NFL, and it has the ability to win them a Super Bowl. They lost to San Diego, but the defense, outside of a couple of pitiful plays (such as the touchdown they allowed to Ronnie Brown in garbage time), played a great game. They did give up 196 yards on the ground, but barring Brown's touchdown, they only allowed 3.5 yards per carry. Rivers didn't have a great game, even though the Bengals only recorded one sack, they did pressure Rivers most of the game. They only allowed two of the four turnovers to turn into points, and both times it was only a field goal while defending a short field. They did, however, give up two 80 yard touchdown drives. Once they get Geno Atkins back next season, it should launch the defense to another level, providing that they can keep Mike Zimmer as coördinator and re-sign Michael Johnson.
Dalton made mistakes, but he was also asked to throw 51 passes in a game that they were winning going into halftime, and were within a touchdown of for the majority of the game. That, my friends, is a ridiculous game plan. People are blasting Dalton, but when a quarterback is throwing the ball over and over, and not getting much blocking to do it, he's going to make mistakes. I still love the offensive line with Anthony Collins at left tackle and Andrew Whitworth at left guard, but they need to get things together for next season. Dalton completed 29 of his passes, for 334 yards, a crazy touchdown to Jermaine Gresham and two awful interceptions. Marvin Jones was the man in the passing game in this one, catching eight passes for 130 yards, including two awesome catches on the sideline.
Giovani Bernard caught seven passes for 73 yards, but he fumbled one of those catches on the two yard line, when Cincinnati could have been set up for a second touchdown in the first half. Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis totaled only 20 carries in the game, although they rushed for a combined 4.35 yards per carry. A.J. Green was mostly shut out, whether that was a product of great defense or terrible play calling is up for debate, but he only caught the ball three times for 34 yards. Green has had some untimely, and inexcusable, drops this season, and midway through the fourth quarter he dropped a perfectly thrown deep pass, which would have set the Bengals up on about the five yard line.
San Francisco 49ers 23 - Green Bay Packers 20
San Fran came into this game with one of the top four defenses in the NFL, and with many doubters because of the sub-zero temperatures in Green Bay. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks had 3.5 of the 49ers' four sacks, and even though San Francisco couldn't force any turnovers, they only gave up two touchdowns in the game. Five of Green Bay's nine drives ended in punts, and they gained a total of one yard on those five drives.
Colin Kaepernick is being given the majority of credit for the win (surprise, surprise), and he completed just 16 of his 30 passes for 227 yards, one touchdown, and an interception, which was the only turnover by either team. Kaepernick also rushed seven times for 98 yards, including a 48 yard run when he scrambled to get away from pressure, ran through the middle of the line and cut outside around Tramon Williams, before getting tripped up by Morgan Burnett. Michael Crabtree caught eight passes for 125 yards, but Vernon Davis had the only receiving touchdown for San Fran. Davis caught a 28 yard pass, that was thrown slightly behind him, in double coverage for the score. Frank Gore scored a touchdown and gained 66 yards, but it took 20 carries to get those yards. Out of the pistol formation, Kaepernick handed the ball off to Gore, who took it up the middle, and after a quick cut back inside, ran over M.D. Jennings for a ten yard touchdown in the second quarter. The 49ers will be playing the Carolina Panthers in the second round, whom they have already lost to this season.
Green Bay activated Aaron Rodgers last week for the win over Chicago, which put them in a position to play the 49ers. Against San Fran, Rodgers only attempted two passes in the first quarter, while being sacked on two of four dropbacks. He completed his first pass, in the second quarter, on his third attempt of the game, and finished with 17 of 26 for 177 yards and one touchdown. San Francisco's four sacks could have been much more, if not for Rodgers' ability to move around in the pocket and escape the pass rush. On at least two separate drives, he avoided what looked to be a sure sack, to complete passes downfield to Randall Cobb. Cobb only caught those two passes, ironically, for 51 yards in the game. Jordy Nelson led the Packers with seven receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Nelson had one of the best seasons of his career, and he scored on a pass from a scrambling Rodgers, which was thrown into a small window on Nelson's outside shoulder, in the end zone for a five yard touchdown. Eddie Lacy had more success than expected against the 49ers defense, rushing 21 times for 81 yards in his first playoff action, but John Kuhn scored the touchdown with a one yard rush, and a failed Lambeau Leap.
The Packers were without Clay Matthews, again, which could have had a huge impact on the outcome of the game, but they didn't play badly against San Fran. Tramon Williams made a great play, early in the second quarter, leaping over Davis on the sideline and intercepting Kaepernick's pass. Green Bay sacked Kaepernick twice, and other than allowing him to gain 98 yards rushing, did a good job of defending the 49ers offense.
Divisional Round schedule:
Kicking off Saturday at 4:35 PM EST on Fox,
Seattle Seahawks vs. New Orleans Saints.
The night game will be on CBS at 8:15 PM EST,
New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts.
Sunday's action will begin at 1:05 PM EST on Fox,
Carolina Panthers vs. San Francisco 49ers.
The final game of the second round will be on CBS at 4:40 PM EST,
Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers.
Already so much excitement in the playoffs, and we've only seen four games. The Divisional round should be more of the same, with great defenses matching up with each other, and a battle between one of the best defenses and one of the best offenses. Thank you for reading, and don't forget to register, comment, and share!!