Just when it appeared the 2013 Wild Card weekend was going to be saved by an epic showdown between two rookie quarterbacks guiding two out of the three hottest teams in the NFC; a discussion point that will rage on for the next couple of months (and sadly will program First Take for the rest of the week) appeared immediately before our eyes with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Should Mike Shanahan left Robert Griffin III in the game?
It was obvious in the first drive of the game that Griffin was far from even 75%. On one of Kyle Shanahan’s now famous zone reads Griffin kept the handoff and swept to his left, however instead of cutting to the right of a Golden Tate block and gashing the Seahawks for an easy ten yards, Griffin jogged to the sidelines just in front of the first down marker.
Later on in the first (3:21 left) on a first and goal from Seattle’s five, Griffin rolled to his right and would have scored if this game took place before the knee injury, instead he couldn’t beat the defenders to the edge, had to stop, and threw an incomplete pass in the end zone. Griffin struggled to get up after the attempted pass. Amazingly two plays later RG3 fired a four yard dart to Logan Paulsen in the end zone to put the Redskins up 14-0. Griffin would go to a small room behind the Redskins bench after the drive and thus the twitter call for Kurt Cousins began.
Griffin reemerged from the small room, but the Redskins offense remained locked behind that door for the rest of the game. After that second touchdown in the first quarter Griffin’s stat line looked like this: 6-9/68/2-0, when he was helped off of the field in the fourth quarter the line morphed into this: 10-19/84/2-1 with five carries for 21 yards. Kirk Cousins came in relief, but it was too late. The Seahawks defense smelled blood in the water and attacked.
Give credit to Seattle’s secondary for being physical and creating multiple coverage sacks. On the play before Griffin’s knee gave out he loaded up to launch a bomb and then saw the safety come over for help and thought otherwise; Griffin was then sacked by Bruce Irvin.
The next play will be debated till death in the foreseeable future, especially with the USA Today report that came out with Dr. James Andrews stating that he never cleared RG3 to play.
Redskins’ center Will Montgomery had trouble snapping the ball to the quarterback in a shotgun set multiple times during the game, on cue Montgomery snapped a wormburner to the left side of Griffin, as he turned to grab the ball his injured right knee gave out on the kitty litter like turf. Griffin crumbled to the ground and Clinton McDonald recovered the ball for the ‘Hawks.
Immediately numerous twitter doctors popped up stating that Shanahan was (insert synonym for stupid here) for keeping RG3 out there even though Griffin himself said that he was okay to go. Yes athletes need to be protected from themselves sometimes, especially ones that are way too proud to understand just how injured they really are, but for Shanahan to take out the unquestioned leader of this Redskins team in the biggest spot of the team’s biggest game of the season seems like a lot to ask for, doesn’t it? After the injury Griffin wrapped his arm around Shanahan on the sidelines and said something to the effect of “It’s not your fault coach.”
Fingers will be pointed at Shanahan if Griffin’s MRI does indeed reveal some serious damage to the knee, but perhaps those fingers should be pointed at the other Shanahan for going away from Alfred Morris in the second half. The second leading rusher in the regular season accounted for just 20 yards on five carries after halftime (he had 60 yards on 11 carries in the first half).
Much like another Seattle victory this season, the team’s performance will most likely get pushed to the backburner in the mass media and it shouldn’t be. There’s plenty of credit to go around for Seattle’s 24-14 win. Let’s start with the 75th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Early on in the first quarter Russell Wilson was staring at a 14-0 deficit and faced with a 3rd and 12 from his own 30. Anything less than a first down gives the ball back to a Washington offense that was rolling at that point. Wilson found Zach Miller who made a tremendous play to cross the first down marker. Wilson would lead the drive to a Steven Hauschka 32 yard field goal.
Let’s not forget Wilson’s effort to block on Marshawn Lynch’s 27 yard touchdown to give the Seahawks a 19-14 lead in the fourth quarter. The play call was a zone read that Lynch took outside of the tackles and bursted down the field after a pancake block by Zach Miller. As Lynch ran towards the endzone here came Wilson flying by Lynch to seal the final block in order for #Beastmode to reach the end of his rainbow and grab all of the Skittles he could desire. More importantly he made us all forget about his fumble at the WAS 2 yard line, which was forced by the self-proclaimed most underrated player in the league London Fletcher.
Let’s not forget the physicality that Brandon Browner gave out to Pierre Garcon and any other Redskins receiver that came across his path throughout the game. Let’s not forget that this team came back from a two touchdown deficit in the first quarter while being on the road across the country, in a stadium filled with 90,000+ delirious fans that haven’t had a chance to put on their red and gold jerseys and drive to a playoff game at FedEx Field in 13 years.
This was as impressive a win as you could have on wild card weekend. I CANNOT wait to see Browner and Richard Sherman line up across from Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Props To The Media For The Colts-Ravens Storylines
As a fan of football it pains me to say this, but storylines aside three out of the four wild card games were lackluster games. Swap out the Texans-Bengals with say Jaguars-Bills and keep the same stats and no one would have been able to tell the difference.
Thank goodness the Colts-Ravens matchup had a mouthful of storylines, #chuckstrong, Ray Lewis, Jim Caldwell, the number one overall pick in the draft leading his team into the playoffs for the first time ever, without those we would be talking about what a fumblefest the game was.
In the 16 games of the 2012 regular season Ray Rice carried the ball 257 yards and did not fumble all season. On Sunday Rice carried the ball 15 times and lost two fumbles. Fortunately for Raymell the defense didn’t allow Andrew Luck and the rest of the Colts offense to capitalize off of those mistakes.
Luck was stripped by Paul Kruger (I’ll get to him in a little bit) after the first fumble and Adam Vinateri missed a 40 yarder in the fourth quarter which would have made the game 17-12. Instead Rice avoided being the goat in Ray Lewis’ final home game.
Joe Flacco avoided the potential elite quarterback questions and finally got in rhythm in the second half after only completing six of thirteen passes in the first half for just over 50 yards. Anquan Boldin helped Flacco gain confidence after answering a prayer that he threw up in the beginning of the third quarter. The ball was originally attended for Tandon Doss, but was underthrown to Boldin who happened to be in the same area. Anquan finished the day with five catches for 145 yards and the best touchdown catch of the weekend.
While the game will be remembered as Ray Lewis’ last home game, Paul Kruger deserves a signed game ball from everyone on the team. He found a nice spot, put down his umbrella in the pocket, and enjoyed nice view of a hurried up Andrew Luck all day long. Hell at one point I think Phil Simms got tired of saying his name. Kruger finished the day with 2.5 sacks, the aforementioned forced fumble on Luck, a pass deflection, and a ridiculous five hits on Luck besides the sacks.
In what some will debate as a major obstacle for the Colts on Sunday (like they haven’t had that all season), Clyde Christensen assumed the play calling duties because Bruce Arians was rushed to the hospital on Sunday morning. Arians reportedly became dizzy hours before the game, according to ESPN.com doctors believe he either has a virus or inner ear infection.
The play calling might have been a tilted a tad too much toward the pass, because Vick Ballard was extremely effective today, but vanished in the fourth quarter before the game turned into a hurry up and throw as fast as possible game situation. Also I was surprised to see the Colts stray away from the quick hitting passes that at certain moments of the game, moved the ball down the field efficiently. I wondered why the hurry up offensive package wasn’t busted out earlier on just to change the pace of the game, but we don’t have the headset on, one guy does and it will be questioned this week.
Houston We Have A Problem
In Houston the Arian Foster show was all the Texans needed to beat a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since the first Bush administration. Foster carried the ball 32 times for 140 yards and a touchdown, he also contributed 34 yards receiving on eight catches. Only one other player had more catches than Foster, Owen Daniels (9/91). Andre Johnson appeared on the screen at times, but wasn’t his usual force (4/62).
If you’re a Houston Texans fan you have to be concerned with what you’re seeing out of Matt Schaub right now. He hasn’t looked right since the Monday Night beatdown by the Patriots in week 13. Either he’s nursing a couple of injuries that are more serious than we know, or his confidence is totally shot. Either way he’s going to have to play the best game of his career next week if J.J Watt is going to follow through on the promise that he made on draft night.
Where the offense was lackluster, the defense was stupendous. Johnathan Joesph played his best game of the season, he had a key interception and two pass deflections. Anyone want to take a guess as to who had the other two?
J.J Watt. The man freak also added two tackles in the backfield and one sack. Watt was the catalyst for Dalton’s uncomforting stat line: 14-30/127/0-1. The second year QB out of TCU could have changed the perception about himself if he would have hit AJ Green in stride for what would have been at the time a game changing touchdown. Those extra three yards in the air only darkened the bold of the question mark when Dalton’s potential is talked about.
Here’s a fun Foster stat with thanks to my friend Scott Orazi:
In the four Houston losses this season Foster has accounted for less than 30% of their offensive plays, which equals out to 19 or less total touches and less than 100 yards on the ground. In their 12 wins Foster was featured mostly in the 40% range and 20 or more touches in every win besides the week 13 win over Tennessee. The defense forced six turnovers in that one.
I think it’s safe to say Belichek is working on a game plan to keep number 23 under wraps again. In the week 14 meeting Foster had 15 carries for 46 yards (a 3.1 YPC) and one touchdown.
What We Learned On Wild Card Weekend
1.) The Packers cleared their plate of appetizers and are now ready for the main course. Once Christian Ponder was ruled inactive the Vikings chances of an upset went from highly unlikely to… I’m not sure there’s a word that’s been created yet to describe Joe Webb’s chances of guiding stumbling the Vikings to a victory in Lambeau. Their first drive was a nice blend of Webb and Peterson, but you knew it was only a matter of time before Aaron Rodgers got rolling.
2.) Shannon Sharpe doesn’t understand the meaning behind the term “coach killer”. On The NFL Today Sharpe stated that Jay Cutler was, well I’ll let the quote speak for itself: “Jay Culter, I do not believe he is a leader of men, he’s a quarterback, not a leader. And there’s a difference.” Bill Cower looked over at him and said “So you’re saying he’s a coach killer?” Sharpe nodded.
A couple weeks ago Matt Forte was asked what the identity of the offense was and Forte replied “I don’t know.” THAT will get a head coach, who hasn’t made the playoffs in five out of the last six seasons fired.
3.) Vick Ballard has made Donald Brown irrelevant. Ballard should receive 20-25 touches every game next season.
3A.) Imagine what Andrew Luck will be like when he has a competent offensive line in front of him.
3B.) T.Y Hilton is going to be a playmaker for years to come. He reminded me of a young Greg Jennings on that big 3rd and long conversion in the fourth quarter. It’s a shame that Reggie Wayne isn’t three years younger because that would be a formidable receiving duo.
4.) Troy Aikman has trouble pronouncing Russell Okung’s name. Apparently Russell Olcoon whiffed on a block that lead to an early sack of Russell Wilson.
5.) Richard Sherman and Trent Williams there is no place for that on the field after the game. It was a chippy battle, but what happens during those 60 minutes, should stay on the field after they happen, there’s no reason to have to be separated after the game.
6.) Next weekend could very well be the best divisional round of games in recent memory. Houston @ New England, Baltimore @ Denver, Green Bay @ San Francisco, Seattle @ Atlanta. If you could only watch one, which one would it be?
Tweet Of The Weekend 1
“When you rip Shanahan/Skins for leaving RG3 in late… did you think they should pull him BEFORE the knee injury happened? Easy call after.”
-@PaulPabst, Paul Pabst from The Dan Patrick Show
A lot of people added twitter doctors to their resume on Sunday.
Tweet Of The Weekend 2
“Redskins’ field is in such bad shape if the midfield logo was a penis, Fox would still be able to show it because it’d be totally blurred.”
-@Clubtrillion, Mark Titus from clubtrillion.com and Grantland
Hard to disagree with him, at least we now know why players didn’t have trouble sliding near midfield.
It’s Time To Go No Huddle!
- First Adrian Peterson then Robert Griffin goes down with a knee injury late in the season at FedEx Field.
- Dan Snyder must have tapped into his new turf fund when he signed Albert Haynesworth in 2009.
- It now looks like Chip Kelly gave the Browns AND the Eagles a stiff arm.
- He’s the Brett Favre of coaching candidates.
- What a catch by Sidney Rice on the sidelines.
- On the first Ravens drive today Joe Flacco looked for Tandon Doss in the end zone twice during an and goal situation.
- Um Ray Rice was waving saying “Hello, I’d like the ball please.”
- What if Donovan McNabb signs with the Chiefs next season?
- Will Campbell’s Soup create an old man’s chunky soup?
- Hey remember when there was a 95% chance Andy Reid would be the new head coach of the Cardinals?
- Jason La Canfora doesn’t.
- I wonder how Rob Parker feels about Mike Shanahan’s decision to leave in Robert Griffin III.
- It’s a shame we won’t get to hear Parker call Shanahan a cornball.
- For once the Packers’ running game wasn’t window dressing in the first half.
- DuJuan Harris: 47 yards on 17 carries for a 2.8 YPC in the game.
- When was the last time John Kuhn was stoned on the goal line twice on the same drive?
- I should have known I put a jynx on Ray Rice when I picked him in the first round of my fantasy playoff league.
- For some reason I think that if the Falcons can avoid the Packers in the NFC championship game they’ll make it to New Orleans. I’ll expand that in a column later on in the week.
- Why can’t I follow Bill Barnwell on twitter?
- If Seattle makes the Super Bowl, Bill Simmons deserves to present Russell Wilson with the Lombardi trophy, or at least have him on the BS Report.
- Why can’t we just fast forward to Patriots-Broncos already?
- If you had to bet a paycheck on a team from the NFC to make the Super Bowl right now, who would you pick?
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