Some say that Divisional round weekend is the best one of the NFL season and despite the omnipresence of the referees and the convoluted rulebook, this go-around did not disappoint. There’s plenty to process as we start to get closer to the two league championship games this Sunday so let’s play another round of Fact or Fiction to set the mood.
FICTION: The Cowboys got screwed
Whether or not you agree with the call on Dez Bryant that ultimately cost the Dallas Cowboys their game against the Green Bay Packers, the bottom line is that a) the stupid rule invoked to take a clear catch away from him was interpreted correctly (which doesn’t make it any less stupid), and b) the Cowboys never should have allowed it to get to that point in the first place.
The biggest play of the game other than that fourth-and-2 came in the third quarter when DeMarco Murray, Dallas’s tremendous running back, failed to put the ball away properly on a perfectly executed off-tackle play, allowing Packers defensive end Julius Peppers to swipe it out of his arm from behind and turn what would have been an easy 59-yard TD into a turnover. Dallas led 14-10 at the time and the Packers would get a field goal out of the Murray fumble, making the play a 10-point swing.
The wide shot with 40 yards of open field really twisted the knife on that fumble. Thanks Fox.— Andrew Sharp (@andrewsharp) January 11, 2015
It didn’t help that the Cowboys could barely contain a one-legged Aaron Rodgers either. Or that they completely botched the clock and their field position at the end of the second quarter. Dallas deserves credit for overcoming so many demons (as well as owner Jerry Jones’s meddling) to get this far, especially given the fact that their quarterback has played half the season with a broken back. But they set themselves up to get hosed in this game.
FACT: Russell Wilson is a superstar
This has been a fact for some time now but for some reason, you’ll still see or hear the occassional dummy say that the Seahawks are all about their defense and slap Wilson with the dreaded “game manager’’ tag, but that’s just code telling you that person has no clue.
Wilson threw three touchdown passes in Seattle’s 31-17 win over Carolina on Saturday night but more impressively, he was 8-for-8 for 199 yards on third down. All three of his TD passes came on third down. His passer rating was 158.3 on third down. That’s perfect.
This is a guy who already puts up a rating near 100 in the regular season, becoming an even bigger threat through the air. When you have a quarterback who is as dangerous and potent a ground threat who can also complete nearly 65 percent of his passes, you’re more than a game manager. Oh, and he also has as many Super Bowl wins as Peyton Manning.
There’s nothing wrong with continuing to identify the Seahawks with their defense. But Wilson deserves to be in the conversation with the best QBs in the league.
Of course, when the receivers make catches like this one, it’s tough to look too bad.
FICTION: The Broncos’ loss was 100 percent on Peyton Manning
Plenty of blame for Denver’s messy second half of the season and one-and-done in the playoffs hangs on everyone’s favorite wobbly-armed TV commercial star. But what about some of the Broncos’ star acquisitons on defense? What about the mighty, one-two pass rushing punch of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller? Did either of those guys even play against the Colts on Sunday?
Former Pats’ cornerback Aqib Talib got his lunch eaten by Indy receiver T.Y. Hilton on multiple occasions, though give him some credit for managing to not get hurt. And Gronk-killer T.J. Ward was mostly a non-factor too, breaking up one pass and making two measly tackles from his strong safety spot and getting burned by Colts tight end Coby Fleener on a huge, downfield play.
Of course, these major issues on defense may have been mitigated if Manning could still play at even a competitive level (see that stat about him going 6-for-21 on passes of more than five yards? Five yards!!!). And now that John Fox is out as head coach and reports have surfaced that John Elway alienated everyone when it started to look like his plan to win a title through building a fantasy team might not work, maybe it’s not entirely fair to brand Pey-Pey a coach killer.
What is fair is pointing a finger at all of the big names on defense in addition to Manning. They couldn’t pick him up at all.
FACT: The Packers winning was the worst possible outcome for Pats fans
Let’s get a little bit ahead of ourselves here. Say the Pats beat the Colts on Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl. Who would you rather see them play?
The Seahawks with their defense and elusive quarterback? The Packers and their explosive offense that’s beaten the Pats once already this year?
The Cowboys are a far tougher matchup for Seattle than Green Bay, which they proved when they won at Century Link Field back in Week 6. And whether or not that also applies to the Patriots, who wouldn’t want a Super Bowl matchup between Dallas and New England?
Think about what the lead up to that game would be like. Tom Brady vs. Tony Romo? Bill Belichick vs. Jason Garrett? Robert Kraft vs. Jerry Jones???
The entertainment factor during Super Bowl week alone was enough reason to be pulling for that matchup. And given their penchant for bursting into flames in such public, embarassing ways, it would have been such a treat to potentially witness something catastrophic happen to the Cowboys on the biggest stage of them all while the Pats just stood by quietly and chuckled under their breath.
It would have been the tightest ship in the league against the circus. It would have been awesome.
FACT: Rex Ryan totally blew it by taking the Bills’ job so fast
This one makes zero sense despite what those who carry Rex Ryan’s water for him might have you believe. Rex’s career went into the toilet (at least temporarily) because he can’t coach offense for all the footsy videos on the internet. So naturally, he moves on to another team that has a defense in place and absolutely zero on the other side of the ball.
I’m not sure who looks more stupid here, Rex or the Bills. And now that Denver needs a coach barely a full day after Rex signed on the dotted line in Buffalo, he comes off even more short-sighted.
Clearly, plenty of organizations felt comfortable giving Rex the keys to the car despite his Jets’ teams getting progressively worse since his first two terrific seasons. Why he would choose the one closest to the mess with which he just got done flaming out is a mystery.
FICTION: The Colts have no chance against the Patriots
A week after having to deal with the worst possible scenario, the Pats will get arguably the best possible one for the AFC Championship game. Well, other than if the Bengals had somehow reached this point.
The Pats own this incarnation of the Colts as we all know. Even though you’ve probably already read or heard this 6,000 times since Sunday night, the combined score of the last three games between these two teams is 144-66 in favor of the Pats. But don’t get overconfident, Pats’ fans.
As was pointed out in The Boston Globe by Alex Speier last week, the Pats are just 8-7 in the playoffs against teams they’ve already played in the regular season under Belichick. And the Colts got smoked in Denver back in Week 1 yet that didn’t stop them from going back there and winning on Sunday.
The Pats had real problems on defense against Baltimore and while Andrew Luck is nowhere near as polished a postseason quarterback as Joe Flacco yet, he’s definitely talented enough. On the other side of the ball, the Colts can’t be as porous as they were when Jonas Gray stampeded over and through them during his one-hit wonder game in Week 11, can they?
The answer is probably. And even though he’s taken another big step, it’s still probably a little too early for Luck. The Patriots should beat the Colts but it’s probably not going to be as easy as it seems.
FACT: John Harbaugh is a fool
The Ravens coach looked bad enough when he was whining about deception and things no one has ever done on a football field after the Patriots got past his team on Saturday. Now a couple days later, as one example of a similar formation to the one the Pats used to make him cry no fair after another comes out and the league categorically states that there was nothing close to untoward about what the Pats did, he looks even worse.
But really, are we surprised? It’s not like he’s the public face of an organization known for its accountability. So let’s give Harbaugh the next several months to stew in his foolishness and let Twitter take us home.
John Harbaugh would be MISERABLE coaching against Oregon. "Slow down! What are you running? Etc."— Rich Keefe (@Keefe21) January 13, 2015
John Harbaugh objects to everything about that #Oregon drive.— Tim Whelan Jr. (@thattimwhelan) January 13, 2015
Is John Harbaugh OK with a QB pump fake? That's "clearly deception" as well, right?— Eric Wilbur (@GlobeEricWilbur) January 11, 2015
Asked Bill Belichick if he had a reaction to John Harbaugh's claims of deceptive substitution. He kept his answer short. "No."— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 12, 2015