If you look up Linebacker in the dictionary, you get this guy
There were four wild card games this weekend, but only one was wild. Before we get to that one, let's review the other three games:
Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez has had some up and down performances this season. His first playoff game was great in terms of what you want out of your game manager style of QB: 12/15 for 182 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. His shaky regular season merited a QB rating of 63.0 because he threw 12 TDs to 20 INTs and only completed around 54% of his passes for less than 7 yards per attempt. His first playoff game was rated 139.4 which is more than 32 points better than his best regular season outing--a 38-0 shutout of the Raiders. The Jets running game was also rolling with rookie Shonn Greene getting most of the carries. Greene with 135 yards and a TD on 21 attempts also had his best game since that week 7 shutout of the Raiders. For the Bengals, this game was an improvement over their 37-0 drubbing at the hands of the Jets in week 17. First of all, the Bengals scored points in 2 quarters. They had the ball for over 26 minutes. Cedric Benson played and had 169 yards rushing and a TD on 21 carries. QB Carson Palmer played the whole game and crossed the 100 yard passing barrier (he had 0 yards on 11 attempts in week 17). Heck, he even threw a touchdown. WR Chad Ochocinco caught 2 more passes than the 0 he had in week 17. He was unable to celebrate a TD though. The inability of the Bengals to throw and catch the ball was simply amazing. The Bengals franchise is still not ready for the playoffs (they haven't been here often) and haven't won a playoff game since 1990. The Jets won their first playoff game since 2004 and move on to play the team they beat in that game, the San Diego Chargers.
This game turned into a blowout faster than you could have imagined. Nobody scored in the first quarter. By halftime, the game was over. Dallas got a TD on a Tony Romo pass early in the 2nd. The Eagles responded with a laser pass from Mike Vick which turned into a 76 yard TD. Dallas rattled off 20 unanswered points to make it 27-7 at half. Cowboys RB Felix Jones exploded for a 73 yard rushing TD in the 3rd to make it 34-7. Jones finished with 148 yards on only 16 carries. The Eagles had 56 yards rushing...total. Both teams' QBs threw for 200+ yards but Romo was more efficient than Donovan McNabb. McNabb was pressured often and threw 1 INT and lost 1 fumble. The Eagles turned the ball over 4 times compared to the Cowboys' 1 turnover. It is surprising to think that the Cowboys win on Saturday was their first playoff victory since 1996. It was not a shock that the Cowboys won this game. The Eagles had absolutely no way of stopping the Cowboys offense. The Eagles' defense appeared to have never defensed a screen play before. This game was similar to the Jets v. Bengals affair. It was a step forward for the Eagles over getting shutout 24-0 in week 17, but it was an effort which was far from what they needed to win the game. The Eagles finished their season in highly disappointing fashion. They had won 6 in a row until they met the Cowboys in week 17. This game was their 3rd loss to the Cowboys in the 2009 season. The Cowboys broke a two game losing streak in week 15 by upsetting the then undefeated New Orleans Saints. Dallas has been red hot ever since only allowing 31 total points during their 4 game win streak. The Cowboys play Minnesota next.
This wildcard game was over even quicker than the Eagles v. Cowboys. Aided by Tom Brady turnovers, the Ravens put up 24 unanswered points in the first quarter. It got ugly early for the Pats. The first play from scrimmage was a Ray Rice 83 yard TD run. The only Patriots players to put out any effort were RB Kevin Faulk (52 of the Pats 64 rush yards and 37 receiving yards) and WR Julian Edelman (2 TD catches). New England played this game like they were banged up and wanted to end their season. The Ravens came out onto the field jacked up and were more than ready to oblige the lethargic Pats. Ray Rice finished the game with 159 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries. The Ravens didn't need QB Joe Flacco to be good. He was terrible: 4/10 for 34 yards passing with a pick. Despite the lack of passing, the Ravens outgained the Patriots (who couldn't run--64 total rush yards) 268-196. Brady's ribs were bothering him and was clearly off during the game. He threw for only 154 yards 3 INTs and only 2 TDs. He also lost a fumble. Brady's 49.1 QB rating was the lowest of his playoff career. The Patriots were loudly booed in their first playoff home loss since 1978. Ravens LB Ray Lewis (pictured above) was dominant with 13 tackles and a sack. He also had told the CBS crew calling the game that he could pick out what the Patriots were going to run because he had Brady figured out. On certain plays where Lewis slammed into Brady or Faulk or other unfortunate Patriots, it sure seemed like he had the read the Pats playbook. The Patriots will have the offseason to try to regroup. The Ravens move on to play the Colts (a team which should be in the best of health due to basically forfeiting their last 2 games of the regular season). If the Ravens hope to stand a chance, Peyton Manning will have to turn the ball over and Joe Flacco must do something, anything, positive on offense.
If you liked the Ravens' smothering defensive performance in the early game, this latter contest (the highest scoring game in NFL playoff history) probably drove you nuts. This game started out much like the Ravens v. Patriots however. The Cardinals built a quick 17-0 lead by the end of the 1st quarter aided by Packer turnovers. Green Bay got their own offense going with a great defensive play by DB Charles Woodson. Arizona was threatening to score another TD in the 2nd quarter when Kurt Warner dumped the ball off over the middle to WR Larry Fitzgerald, Woodson used his fist like a sledgehammer and smashed the ball out of Fitzgerald's arms and Green Bay recovered the fumble. Warner was screeching at WR Early Doucet about something that had happened besides the fumble on the play. It was the only mistake Doucet made in a game where he caught his first 2 playoff TDs and set up a game winning FG chance. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had his first pass of the game intercepted. His second pass was complete and then fumbled away. Somehow Rodgers had caught fire in the second quarter after the Arizona turnover. By halftime the Packers were only down 24-10 in a game that could have easily gotten away from them. The Cardinals scored on their opening possession of the second half and were up 31-10. The Cardinals defense then turned into swiss cheese. Rodgers threw 2 TD passes to cut the lead down to 7 points. Warner responded with a TD near the end of the 3rd quarter to extend the lead to 38-24. By the 10:57 mark of the 4th quarter, Rodgers had thrown another TD pass and set up a rushing TD and game was tied at 38. Warner threw his 5th TD pass of the game about 6 minutes later. Rodgers responded with his 4th TD pass to tie the game up at 45 with 1:52 remaining. Warner, armed with 3 timeouts, quickly hurried the Cardinals down the field and hit Doucet on a 16 yard pass down to the Packers 16 yard line. The Cards used their last timeout with 14 seconds left and sent veteran kicker Neil Rackers out onto the field for a 34 yard FG to win the game. Rackers choked and pushed the ball wide left. The game was going to overtime. The Packers won the toss and of course took the ball. Arizona's offense had to be nothing short of livid that their defense had seemingly blown the game by letting the Packers get back into it. What they were thinking about Rackers probably contained too much profanity to type. However, in overtime, the Cardinals defense finally got back to the way they were playing at the beginning of the game and ended it. Here's the play, you decide what should have happened, if anything.
The defense for most of the game was so awful on both sides that there were 62 total first downs, 1024 total yards, 9 passing TDs, 3 rushing TDs and Arizona RB Beanie Wells looked good. It would normally take a stretch of the imagination to think that Wells was fast enough to play in the NFL (I'm not saying he couldn't be good in short yardage situations). Today was not one of those days. On one play, the Packers defense checked out completely and allowed Wells to get his career long run of 42 yards. Since he finished with 91 yards, that one play severely inflated his yards per carry average to 6.5. Wells hadn't looked this good since his 110 yard performance against the Detroit Lions. To be fair, those guys are so pathetic on run defense, they can make anybody's running back look great.
This was the only game of the three wild card matchups which were played on week 17 to turn out differently. In the last week of the season the Packers demolished the Cardinals 33-7. That wasn't really a fair measure of performance as the Cards rested players while the Packers did not. The Packers won't take any consolation of sending this game to overtime into the offseason. The Cardinals have the Saints next. I would really like to see New Orleans in top form (which they haven't been anywhere close to since that Cowboys loss) to get a game which will rival this wild card game in excitement.
Gameball for the former LSU Tiger in the NFL on Wild Card Weekend: Early Doucet, WR Arizona: 6 catches, 77 yards, 2 TDs and set up Neil Rackers for an easy kick to win the game even though Rackers didn't come through.
And then there were two: of the 8 playoffs teams remaining only the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings don't have a former LSU Tiger on the roster. There has been at least one former Tiger on every Super Bowl champion since 2001.