Sunday, January 8, 2017

Wild Card NFL Notes

After an overtime loss to the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship game following one of Brett Favre’s many heartbreaking interceptions, and the 15-1 team’s blowout loss to the Giants in the 2011 Divisional round, the Packers were obviously looking for a bit of redemption in their third playoff matchup in the Mike McCarthy era. It didn’t start out promisingly, with Aaron Rodgers reverting to early season “form” and Jordy Nelson out with an injured rib. But the Packer defense only allowed two field goals before Rodgers decided to stop looking for Nelson and seek out the returning Randall Cobb, a just as dependable target in the past. After the Packers took advantage of a short field to take the lead on a Davante Adams touchdown grab, with 12 seconds left in the first half on a fourth-and-2, Cobb caught a 42-yard Hail Mary from Rodgers to go into halftime with a 14-6. Although the Giants scored again to make it a one-point game, Cobb caught two more touchdown passes and the Packers never looked back, this time embarrassing the Giants 38-13.

After a slow start, Rodgers had his best game since the 2009 Wild Card game against the Cardinals, when he threw for more than 400 yards. Rodgers, who finished the game with 362 yards and four touchdowns, completed 15 of his last 19 passes for 249 yards. Somewhat disturbing is taking five sacks, but give that the Giants were the second best scoring defense in the NFL in temperatures in the single digits, the Packers’ impressive performance was certainly a positive indicator of how they can perform against the Cowboys next week, who lost to the Giants twice this season. If Nelson returns, things could get “ugly” for “America’s Team.”

Other Wild Card scores, none of them competitive, and none of them as unexpected as the Packer win:

Steelers 30 Dolphins 12 Matt Moore wasn’t bad in this game, but Jay Ajayi was, running for just 33 yards on 16 carries. Moore’s counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, was hurt and threw two interceptions, but with LeVeon Bell rushing for 167 yards the Steelers were able to grind out a win as they took advantage of Dolphin mistakes, including a fumble inside the Steeler 10, and an interception that led to a short-field score.

Seahawks 26 Lions 6 The Lions continued their swan dive, losing their fourth game in a row, coinciding with Matthew Stafford’s injured finger. Thomas Rawls had a “breakout” game, rushing for 161 yards for the Seahawks previously listless running game. Still, it was only a 10-6 game entering the fourth quarter when Stafford’s comeback efforts to force a decision were obviously more a liability. Matt Ryan will not enter next week’s game injured. 

Texans 27 Raiders 14 The Texans took a 20-7 lead into halftime as Brock Osweiler had one of his better starts, and it was fortunate that he manage to give them that, because he did nothing in the second half, and not for lack of trying. The 12-4 Raiders were forced to play their third-stringer, Connor Cook, and in a playoff environment, the result was just barely predictable.

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