• Water Cooler: Division Round Recap


    -With every game this weekend being decided by a TD, it wasn’t always pretty, but Divisional weekend lived up to its billing. That was an outstanding weekend of football.

    -This weekend featured Peyton Manning (1st overall pick, 5 league MVPs, 1 Super Bowl, 1 SB MVP), Tom Brady (2 league MVPs, 4 Super Bowls, 3 SB MVPs), Ben Roethlisberger (2 Super Bowls, Rookie of the Year), Alex Smith (1st overall pick), Cam Newton (1st overall pick, Heisman winner, NCAA National Champion, Rookie of the Year, this year’s likely MVP), Carson Palmer (1st overall pick, Heisman winner), Aaron Rodgers (2 league MVPs, 1 Super Bowl, 1 SB MVP), and Russell Wilson (1 Super Bowl). I’ve been doing the research, and that has to be considered by far the best collection of QB talent we’ve ever seen in the divisional round.

    -A full strength Denver team was only a fumble by a practice squad RB better than a Pittsburgh team without its top 2 RBs, their top WR (who happens to be the most dangerous offensive weapon in the league and lit them up a few weeks back), and a QB with a bum throwing shoulder.

    -Ben Roethlisberger was outstanding, by the way.

    -There are many complaints that can be made about Mike Tomlin, but Pittsburgh won games with Michael Vick, Landry Jones, helped 32-year-old DeAngelo Williams look like about 90% of Le’Veon Bell, and had them within a fumble from a practice squad player trying to make a play from taking down the 1-seed and advancing to the AFC Championship despite no Bell, Williams, AB, a weak secondary, and a banged up QB. Next year, Pittsburgh gets a free 2nd round pick when rookie CB Senquez Golson, who didn’t play a down, comes back, and they should spend at least 3-4 picks in this draft on the secondary (slight exaggeration—maybe). But next year, this is a scary team.

    -It ended up having little-to-no impact on the game, but if the NFL is going to go all-out in protecting the QB, they cannot allow plays like the non-sack that Peyton Manning attempted to take early in the 4th quarter. As has been the case for the past few years, when Manning feels the rush from his blindside, he goes down—smartly—to avoid a big hit. He did the same yesterday when Will Allen blew past, but Allen never touched him, Manning got back up, and hit Emmanuel Sanders for 34 yards. The drive ended up doing nothing more than change field position, but considering players are penalized for so much as breathing on the QB, and when a QB goes down, the defense is basically forced to believe he’s down, otherwise risking a penalty. When a QB gives himself up, or even if he doesn’t but still goes to the ground, the play should be ruled dead.

    -I really wanted to see Carolina finish that game in a better fashion, but credit goes to Seattle for their championship heart. Pete Carroll said that at halftime, not a single player thought they’d lose, and they made a statement down 31-0 by scoring in less than 2 minutes at the start of the 2nd half. I think that caused Carolina to tighten up and try to play the clock instead of the game, and it nearly backfired.

    -Arizona is a very lucky team to still be hanging around the playoffs. Other than Larry Fitzgerald, they played that game with both hands wrapped firmly around their neck. Thankfully for them, {the refs were clearly in their corner, missing a blatant pass interference on the Hail Mary that preceded the Hail Mary that set up the Hail Mary, then trying to get away with not actually flipping the coin, among other things…} I’m kidding of course, but an amazing ending was set up by Green Bay missing some glorious opportunities to pick Carson Palmer, who seemed to be short-arming the ball all night. One of those misses turned into a deflected TD that gave Arizona the late 20-13 lead.

    -Aaron Rodgers deserves every bit as much credit as Ben Roethlisberger for nearly willing his team to victory despite a season without Jordy Nelson and losing Randall Cobb early. Patrick Peterson took James “Hoodie” Jones completely out of the game, leaving Rodgers with Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis as his receiving weapons. He didn’t have his best season, but that was an unbelievably impressive gutty effort.

    -Eddie Lacy breaking free from the pack, then looking to get tackled for about 40 yards was my favorite moment from the weekend.

    -Andy Reid explains the Chiefs end-game strategy of intentionally taking their time, and playing for the onside kick so New England wouldn’t get another crack. Ummm... yeah.

    -Carolina-Arizona is the game that we as football fans have deserved all season.

    -On the other side, it’s Manning vs. Brady. Again.

    Yippee

    Comments 15 Comments
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Newton-Wilson is probably going to be the Next Manning-Brady.

      Carson Palmer was facing all the ghosts of "never winning a playoff game". Hopefully he excorcised thise demons.

      The Panthers second half cast a pall on what was the most kicking butt fist half we've seen since 2006 Pats Colts.

      Larry Fitzgerald is an awesome man as well as player, sending his best to @mortreport
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      I absolutely wanted Denver to win that game, and I was shouting that Manning gave himself up and should have been down. I'm not sure I want that to be reviewable, but I also don't really get how the refs let that play go, either. Like you said, it didn't amount to much of anything, but still.

      I haven't decided yet if Carson Palmer is completely untrustable in the playoffs, or if I think he'll play much better and looser with a playoff win under his belt.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      I think Palmer will play much better and looser with a playoff win under his belt.
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sullivan View Post
      I think Palmer will play much better and looser with a playoff win under his belt.
      The Panthers absolutely have to get in Palmer's face or our secondary will have a very, very long day. The lackluster 2nd half is troublesome, but it's also been a pattern this season. Of course, it's one thing to play only one half against the Giants, quite another to survive that kind of performance against the Seahawks, or God forbid, try to win that way against Arizona. The Cards looked extremely mortal against Green Bay, but they look mortal most weeks and still manage to win. Let's just say I'm very, very glad this game is here in Charlotte. It may be a small advantage, but I'll take it.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Nancy View Post
      The Panthers absolutely have to get in Palmer's face or our secondary will have a very, very long day. The lackluster 2nd half is troublesome, but it's also been a pattern this season. Of course, it's one thing to play only one half against the Giants, quite another to survive that kind of performance against the Seahawks, or God forbid, try to win that way against Arizona. The Cards looked extremely mortal against Green Bay, but they look mortal most weeks and still manage to win. Let's just say I'm very, very glad this game is here in Charlotte. It may be a small advantage, but I'll take it.
      The Panthers can't keep giving up the intesity in the 2nd half of games.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      I've been focusing on putting together my portion of Blitz Picks over the past few days, but wanted to hit on something that I failed to address above.

      How many of you would have gone for 2 after the (2nd) successful Hail Mary, and would a Green Bay 2-point attempt have been the greatest single moment in the history of the league?
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      I was afraid that they would go for two. I couldn't tell in the moment whether I would have had the balls necessary, but the fact I didn't want them to (as I had pivked Arizona to win) suggests that, had I been in McCarthy's place, I would have.
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      Make that Could Have. I just don't know. Given the players available, and not having a good handle on whether there are three catch it or the season is over guys on the Green Bay roster, I just don't know. The QB makes it an easier thing to consider, but I just don't know. If I had, I would definitely have tried to line up and run my play quicklike, tgough. Probably something from the left hasg with a rolling pocket to the right with two or three receivers in front of Rodgets, floating a guy to the left of case of emergency in the hopes that nobody would cover him. Ideally something to take advantage of Matthieu'so absence and pick on his replacement.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by ScottDCP View Post
      Make that Could Have. I just don't know. Given the players available, and not having a good handle on whether there are three catch it or the season is over guys on the Green Bay roster, I just don't know. The QB makes it an easier thing to consider, but I just don't know. If I had, I would definitely have tried to line up and run my play quicklike, tgough. Probably something from the left hasg with a rolling pocket to the right with two or three receivers in front of Rodgets, floating a guy to the left of case of emergency in the hopes that nobody would cover him. Ideally something to take advantage of Matthieu'so absence and pick on his replacement.
      Until Larry breathed life into them, the Cards were ready to loose.
    1. Amy's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      I've been focusing on putting together my portion of Blitz Picks over the past few days, but wanted to hit on something that I failed to address above.

      How many of you would have gone for 2 after the (2nd) successful Hail Mary, and would a Green Bay 2-point attempt have been the greatest single moment in the history of the league?
      I think I would have. As the 6 seed, on the road, with the defense reeling after two hail mary's in a row. I would have put the season into Rodgers hands and rode with it no matter what.

      However, I do not think a 2 point in the divisional round would beat out Sean Payton's onsides kick to open the second half of the Super Bowl against Denver. I think that is the greatest, pure guts, coaching call ever.
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by iwatt View Post
      Until Larry breathed life into them, the Cards were ready to loose.
      I was definitely watching the game with a bias and I was afraid afraid afraid that they were going to try it, because I was certain they would get it.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar


      Considering the picture above, and that this drive resulted in the game-tying TD, in a way, didn't McCarthy owe it to Rodgers to allow him the opportunity to complete the greatest drive of all-time in walk-off fashion?

      Not to mention it was statistically the right play. Converting a 2-point conversion is nearly a 50% proposition (I believe the historical number is a little more than 47%). Considering there's now a 5% chance the XP is missed, would have to win the coin flip to gain an advantage in OT (a flip they lost), and the Packers were on the road, going for 2 would have been the winning move.

      No, I didn't think they'd go for two, mainly because I just researched/wrote in the Wild Card Blitz Picks how painfully conservative McCarthy is. Yes, if it were me, I'm almost 100% certain I'd have given my all-world QB a chance for one play to win it, especially considering how the Cardinal defense was reeling.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Again, it is 4th and 20, 54 seconds left, Green Bay has 0 time outs, and in that picture, Rodgers is 5 yards deep into his own end zone with his back turned from the play. Somehow, that drive resulted in a TD, and yet Mike McCarthy decided to then put his team's fate into the hands of a coin flip and give Arizona a full opportunity to respond?

      End the game right there. The game was handed to you, take it. Don't prolong it. That was the coward's way out. Even had GB failed on the 2-point conversion, who would have criticized McCarthy? Frankly, I think his reputation would have grown 10 fold had they gone for it, win or lose. Tom Osborne is revered for his decision to go for 2 against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl even though kicking the XP and ending the game in a tie would have almost certainly secured the National Championship for Nebraska.

    1. hobbes27's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      Again, it is 4th and 20, 54 seconds left, Green Bay has 0 time outs, and in that picture, Rodgers is 5 yards deep into his own end zone with his back turned from the play. Somehow, that drive resulted in a TD, and yet Mike McCarthy decided to then put his team's fate into the hands of a coin flip and give Arizona a full opportunity to respond?

      End the game right there. The game was handed to you, take it. Don't prolong it. That was the coward's way out. Even had GB failed on the 2-point conversion, who would have criticized McCarthy? Frankly, I think his reputation would have grown 10 fold had they gone for it, win or lose. Tom Osborne is revered for his decision to go for 2 against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl even though kicking the XP and ending the game in a tie would have almost certainly secured the National Championship for Nebraska.

      I think most coaches WOULD NOT have gone for two in that situation, because most coaches are inherently conservative and wouldn't want to take a risk at that point in the game. The Green Bay defense had played well up to that point, and nobody showed up on the Arizona offense except Fitzgerald. So the odds of Arizona getting a touchdown if they got the ball first was relatively low based on how the game was playing out. And that would factor in with any coaches decision to kick the extra point.

      Also, what is Green Bay's 2-point conversion rate in 2015? Some teams are better at going for two than others. I would guess that Green Bay is probably not as successful as many teams are when it comes to going for two, so I could be wrong.

      I don't think there is a wrong decision here. Its a matter of how well a coach knows his team. If McCarthy had gone for two and they didn't make it, I would have respected him for trying, providing that they had a reasonable play to try for the two point attempt (which maybe they didn't). He decided to kick the extra point and chance things in overtime. Which wasn't the wrong decision either. Green Bay's defense blew it on the big play to Larry Fitzgerald.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      I have a feeling at least 30 of the 32 coaches would have likely kicked the XP there, but that doesn't mean it was the right decision. Obviously the conventional play is to kick, but I think the right play would have been to go for it.

      There's a chance Belichick would have gone for 2. I'd like to think Tomlin, who's more aggressive than anyone with his 2-point tries would have gone for 2, but he has a tendency to live in his "hopes and dreams" for 3 quarters, then live in his "fears" in the 4th quarter. Rex has the personality to go for 2, but probably would have trusted his defense. Sean Payton may be the most likely coach to go for 2 in that situation, and if not him, it's Pete Carroll, as well as the nothing-to-lose crowd, but considering the circumstances, "nothing-to-lose" doesn't exist. Jeff Fisher would absolutely not have gone for 2, so don't ask him. Andy Reid would have called for a screen pass on 4th and 20, assuming he didn't find a way to bleed the entire clock prior to that point. The two NFC Championship coaches would have given it consideration as well, though I'm not sure either would have pulled the trigger.