Sunday, January 8, 2012

NFL Round 1 Rewind -- YOUR SOUL IS MINE!

#3 Houston Texans 31  #6 Cincinnati Bengals 10    

December 29, 1991, the last time the NFL franchise in Houston won a playoff game, the fans cheered for the “Oilers”. On Saturday afternoon, that all changed, for the 1st time since becoming a new franchise in Houston (2002), the “Texans” defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 31 to 10. The Play of the Game went to Rookie DE and former pizza delivery guy J.J. Watt, with the score tied at 10 all, Bengals Rookie QB Andy Dalton attempted a pass that was batted down and held onto by Watt. He dashed the other way and into the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Texans a 17-10 lead at halftime. After that play, it seemed like the entire “MO” of the game went to the Texans. With two unanswered TD’s in the 2nd half (Texans had 24 unanswered points, after trailing 10-7), the Texans, with some great running by RB Arian Foster (153 rushing yards, 2 TD’s) and some timely passing from 3rd string starting Rookie QB T.J. Yates (11-20, 159 yards, 1 TD) rode the home crowd to victory. The young Bengals looked to not be ready for the big stage and were unable to handle the hostile environment of Reliant Stadium (in which the roof was closed). The Bengals Rookie QB Andy Dalton, who threw 3 INT’s in the game, looked like a rookie QB, and at times struggled hearing the play-call in his helmet due to the crowd noise. The Texans, now travel to Baltimore next weekend to face the #2 seed Ravens in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. It will be a rematch from the regular season, in which the Ravens beat the Texans in Baltimore, 29-14 (Week 6). **Stay tune for my Divisional Round preview, later in the week.**

#3 New Orleans Saints 45  #6 Detroit Lions 28         

Again, like all season long, QB Drew Brees showed Saturday night that he is one heck of a NFL QB. Throwing for 466 years, 2nd most in a NFL Playoff game (33/43) and 3 TD’s the Brees-led Saints raced past the Detroit Lions in the 2nd half to win, 45 to 28. Down 14 to 10, at halftime, the Saints came out in the 2nd half and put together 5 touchdown drives and the Lions were unable to keep pace (five 2nd half possessions, Punt, TD, INT, TD, INT). The Play of the Game went to Devery Henderson, with his 41 yard TD catch, that would put the Saints up for good just two minutes into the 2nd half. The Lions, which scored on the opening drive of the game, looked prime to pull the upset in the 1st half with QB Matthew Stafford (380 passing yards, 3 TD’s 2 INT’s) and WR Calvin Johnson (211 receiving yards, 2 TD’s). However, unable to put any points up on the board with the Saints turning it over twice (2 fumbles) in the 1st half, the Lions let the Saints hang around, until Brees and the Saints offense came alive and torched the Lions defense in the 2nd half (35-14). The Saints now turn their attention to next weekends match-up against the #2-seed 49ers out in San Francisco. **Stay tune for my Divisional Round preview, later in the week.**

#4 New York Giants 24  #5 Atlanta Falcons 2

That’s no misprint, the Atlanta Falcons only had two points against the NY Giants in the third game of the NFL Wild Card weekend. Not many teams win NFL football games scoring only TWO points! After the Falcons scored first (Eli Manning penalty in the end zone), the Giants put up 24 unanswered points in route to a 24 to 2 victory. The Giants are starting to look a lot like the team from the 07-08 season, in which won three straight road games, then beat the unbeaten (18-0) New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Eli Manning threw for 277 passing yards and 3 TD’s, and got some help from the running game (Brandon Jacobs 14 carries, 92 yards and Ahmad Bradshaw 14 carries, 63 yards). The Play of the Game goes to, Hakeem Nicks (6 catches, 115 receiving yards and 2 TD’s) in which his 72 yard catch (most of it he used his legs to race past the Falcons defense), put the Giants up 17 to 2, and it would be all she wrote for the Falcons (which failed to convert a 4th and 1 from the Giants 20, just 3 plays before Nicks’ big play). The Falcons offense led by QB Matt Ryan (24/41, 199 passing yards) could not generate any scoring against the Giants defense and were ineffective on 3rd (4-14) and 4th (0-3) down. It would not be third times a charm for Falcons QB Matt Ryan as he fails to win in the playoffs for the third time (0-3). The Giants now turn their attention to next week’s Divisional Round match-up (another rematch), when they head up to Green Bay and face the Packers (15-1). The Packers won the first meeting in Week 13, 38 to 35 on the road at the Meadowlands. **Stay tune for my Divisional Round preview, later in the week.**

#4 Denver Broncos 29  #5 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 F/OT

As I watched, Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas catch the ball across the middle and head down the sideline, eventually into the end zone for the Broncos 1st playoff win since the 2005 Divisional Round, I could only think of one thing, “Who’s going to play Tim Tebow, in the untitled Tebow movie?” It’s been that sort of run for Tim Tebow and the Broncos this season. After blowing a 14-point halftime lead, the Tebow-led Broncos on the first play in OT (the 1st played under the new Playoff OT rules) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 29 to 23, on Thomas’ Play of the Game (80 yard TD reception). The Broncos jumped out to a 20 to 6 halftime lead, looking nothing like the Broncos team that came into the game on a three-game losing streak. With the Broncos unable to run against the Steelers defense (which played basically the whole game without two starting D-Linemen, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel) looked to Tebow to move the offense though the air. Tebow, who threw for 316 passing yards (career high) and 2 TD’s again, did the unthinkable and found a way to win another ballgame (#TebowTime). He also used his legs running for 50 yards and another score. The Broncos, scoring all 20 of their 1st half points in the 2nd quarter (their worst quarter statistically all season) played great on both sides of the ball to take the lead into halftime after a slow start to the game (8 TOTAL yards in the 1st quarter, zero 1st downs). It’s still unbelievable the way Tebow has found ways since taking over the starting QB job, to win games. The Steelers, who were plagued by injuries, proved even the best of teams can’t overcome multiple injuries. It would have been interesting to see what factor DB Ryan Clark would have had for the Steelers defense, who sat out this game, due to a health issue. “Big Ben” (289 passing yards 1 TD, 1 INT), who never fully-recovered from an ankle injury, suffered back on December 8th vs. the Browns, was ineffective for most of the game, against the gamed Broncos defense and did not make the plays we are all accustom of him making this time of year. It’s a big win for the Broncos, who now take their “Tebow Magic” on the road next week in the Divisional Round vs. the New England Patriots. Again, this is another regular season rematch, in which the Patriots won in “Mile High”, 41 to 23 (Week 15). **Stay tune for my Divisional Round preview later in the week.**

My Wild Card predictions: Well, after a 1 for 4 weekend on my picks, none of my “Road” Warriors were able to steal one, as all four Wild Card host won their match-ups (1st time since the 2006-07 Wild Card).