Stewing Over the Divisional Playoffs

Well guys, one pants shittingly fantastic game and three mediocre ones, this years playoffs have been a bit of a mixed bag. All I know for sure is you don’t sleep on the NFC West.

New Orleans/San Francisco

Burner: Wow. Just… wow. Easily the Game of the Year. But before we get into it, let’s start with a quote.

“I think San Fran is gonna get rocked next week. The Saints offense has been clicking for weeks now. Winners of eight in a row, four of the last six scoring over 40 points. They’ll get ahead by a few scores and San Fran will have to beat them with the pass – not one of their strengths (almost last in the league).” (Kevin)

Alex Smith went 24/42, throwing for 299 yards and 3 touch downs, plus another touchdown on a 28 yard scramble. Meanwhile, the 49ers only rushed the ball 22 times.

Now even though he said that in response to my Three Reasons the 49ers Could Beat the Saints, it’s a little unfair to throw it back in Kevin’s face. After all he was only saying what everyone else was saying, that the Saints can score at will, and that Alex “Small Hands” Smith simply wouldn’t be able to hang, especially if the Saints could take away Frank Gore. What this bit of analysis failed to take into account though, is the fact that the 49ers play top notch defense (lead the league in takeaways) and special teams (both punter and kicker in the ProBowl). Those two units combined the for five turnovers on the day. On special teams you had two muffed kick returns. On offense Brees threw two interceptions and Pierre Thomas had a fumble after a 49er defender turned his brain to jello and knocked him out of the game.

Even after turning the ball over five times, the Saints stayed in it until the end, bringing us the craziest non-Tebow fourth quarter of the whole season. After the 49ers had jumped out to an early lead the Saints clawed their way back and took the lead with four minutes left. At that moment it looked for all the world like the Saints would be the first playoff team ever to win the game after turning the ball over five times. I mean, it’s Alex Smith, you just don’t expect him to drive down the field and score on a short clock. But that’s exactly what he did, taking his team on an 80 yard, one minute fifty-one second drive, that he capped off with a 28 yard touchdown scramble. Immediately though, the doubts sets in again. 2:11 left on the Clock and Breesus with the ball, too much time. Sure enough Brees drove the Saints 88 yards to score and take the lead. It only took 34 seconds though. Could Alex Smith do it again? Could he go 85 yards to win the biggest game of his career? Yes he could. Leaning heavily on Vernon Davis, who had a beast of day wracking 180 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, Smith drove the Niners down the field and threw a touchdown to Davis with just 9 seconds left. Game over, 49ers win. They’re already calling Davis’s defender trampling catch “The Grab,” but after Vernon Davis’s confrontations with Mike Singletary and Alex Smith’s half decade in the wilderness, I think “The Redemption” has a nice ring to it.

Kevin: Yeah, so clearly my prediction was completely wrong – I guess I can now be considered an expert! Really this game came down to those costly, costly turnovers. Yes, give Smith credit for showing that he was somewhat worthy of the #1 draft pick (in fairness, the guy has been through about 5 offensive coordinators at this point, many with different schemes/styles), and give credit to the 49ers defense for playing tough and getting a couple of turnovers. But, like the Packers game, these were more Saints errors than 49er’s takeaways. The muffed punts were sort of a fluke, the Pierre Thomas tackle was brutal (and how was that not helmet-to-helmet?), and Brees made a couple of bad decisions he normally doesn’t make.

As you say, despite all of this, the Saints still were in the position to win with a minute or two left in the game. I think if these teams played 10 times in San Fran the Saints would win 6-7 of them. The stars just happened to align on Saturday.

Pats/Broncos

Burner: Yerg. This one was so lopsided I almost don’t want to write about it. Let’s start with some stats.

Halftime QB lines
Tebow 3/10, 28yds
Brady 18/25, 246yds, 5TDs

Then, early in the third quarter CBS put up one of the most brutal graphics ever Tim Tebow Completions: 3, Tom Brady TDs: 6. Oof.

Final QB lines
Tebow 9/26, 136yds
Brady 26/34, 363yds, 6 TDs (tying a playoff record), 1INT

The Broncos had 15 plays go for negative yardage.

Regular readers would expect that I would be rejoicing in such an epic bed-shitting by Tebowwwwww, but this thing was so brutally lopsided that I actually began to feel sorry for Tebow and the rest of the Broncos. Until that Focus on the Family commercial arguing against a woman’s right to choose came on, then I just felt bad for the rest of the Broncos. I fully expected Bellicheck to get in an F-U to the Broncos by pulling Brady midway through the third quarter, but instead he saved it until late in the game when he had Brady execute a quick kick punt. That move sparked about the only sign of life from the Broncos all night, as Von Miller cheap shotted a Patriot in the back, and a huge scrum broke out.

With a playoff win under his belt Tebow will likely start training camp as the Broncos’ number one quarterback, but after this game I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Broncos draft a QB this year either. More than anything the Patriots proved that, just like the wild cat, once a defense cues in on the option it doesn’t really work at the NFL level. Once they were down, the Broncos simply had no ability to come back, unless Tebow can become a more traditional passer this off season I don’t see how he remains a viable option as a starter.

The media can now return to talking about the Colts, Andrew Luck, and Peyton to Washington rumors.

Kevin: Instead of watching this shit show, I watched a shit movie, Last American Virgin. Quick summary: a guy desperately wants to have sex with a particular virgin he fancies, but his best friend gets to her first and gets her pregnant. So what does he do? Only what any other guy would do – he pays for her abortion and then brings her a bag of oranges and a Christmas tree as a get-well gift (no explanation provided). And what does the chick do to thank him? Continue dating the best friend. This movie was hilarious.)

During the 10-15 minutes of this game I watched it was pretty clear that the Tebows had no chance and Brady was on a mission. However, what I did observe was Fox continuing to muddle the playbook and refusing to pass the ball to give the Broncos any shot at coming back. They were down 14-7 and totally in the game despite being embarrassed in the first quarter. So what does Fox do? Two straight three and out possessions where not a single pass was attempted (could have been more, I dunno, that’s when we turned it off). I get that Tebow isn’t the greatest passer, but he’s shown enough that (1) he’s normally smart enough to take the incompletion over the turnover and (2) can make some good throws on occasion. And did I mention that the Patriots had one of the worst secondary’s in the entire league this year? How do you not attack that all game? The Broncos weren’t in the same class as the Pats, that much is clear, but the play calling didn’t help.

Also, that TD catch by Gronk was not a catch. I can’t believe they let that stand. Apparently you can trap the ball into the ground and so long as you make it look like you have two hands on it it’ll be a touchdown. But if you make a clear catch in the endzone, do a roll, and then lose the ball on the ground out of bounds (ala Calvin Johnson), it’s not a touchdown. The NFL needs to rework these awful catch/TD rules.

As for Tebow’s future, I agree that they need to draft a QB. At the very least take a flyer on someone and let Tebow play another year and see what happens. If he doesn’t develop then you have someone waiting in the wings (since Quinn isn’t going to be your future). I suspect that much like defeating the odds of being aborted, Tebow will overcome this temporary setback and come back next year with a more accurate delivery. Are they a Superbowl contender next year? No. But I don’t see why they couldn’t compete for the division and a wildcard spot again.

Burner: I love Kevin the Tebow apologist.  Couple things to keep in mind though.  A) Jon Fox is a defensive guy, the offensive coordinator is Mike McCoy.  McCoy you’ll remember is the guy who was being hailed as a genius for molding the offense around Tebow and putting them in a position to win.  That lasted exactly as long as it took teams to key in on the option, (See: City, Kansas & England, New) now they’re ready to run him out of town.  B) Tebow threw the ball only eight fewer times than Tom Brady so it’s not as if they abandonded the pass.  And Brady was still throwing the ball in the 4th quarter so his numbers weren’t dramatically held down by their huge lead either.  You may be interested to know that the news out of Dove Valley is that they plan to double down on “Timmy.”   Apparently the Broncos’ staff was watching a different game than everyone else on Saturday night, that would explain the score, if nothing else.

Texans/Ravens

Burner: This game was as dull as the defensive nature of the two teams would indicate. There was some early scoring, then the defenses tightened up, and three TJ Yates’ interceptions later the game was over. I don’t know what it is, but I am utterly incapable of getting into a game that features the Texans. Is it their lack of history? Their dull red, white, and blue uniforms? The fact that they represent the city of Houston? I’d blame it on Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, who both suck out loud, but the most amazing thing about his game was Dierdorf’s ability to simultaneously call a football game and vigorously fellate Ray Lewis. At any rate, the Ravens head to Foxboro next week to take on the Patriots in what should be an interesting game. A record setting offense against a bruising, take-away hungry defense. The real question will be the other match up, was that the real New England defense we saw against Denver, or was that the result of Total Tebow Collapse? Joe Flacco and company couldn’t get much done against the Texans, if they can against New England, the Ravens will have a chance, if not, all the talk will return to “Are the Patriots a Dynasty?” and I will have to listen to nothing but NPR for two weeks.

Kevin: I watched this game up until the guy for the Texans made the single dumbest play of the year when he tried to grab a rolling kickoff with a defender 6 inches in front of him. Not surprisingly he muffed the kick (a common theme this year in the playoffs) and the Ravens were gifted a TD and a quick 10-0 lead. Total snooze fest.

Giants/Packers

Burner: This game really makes you question the wisdom of resting your starters. Green Bay just seemed off all game long, sure you’re used to their defense not being very good but the offense was totally out of rhythm for the whole game. Green Bay had huge ball control issues in this one with numerous dropped passes and turnovers. The Giants meanwhile looked unstoppable on offense out side of the redzone. They repeatedly picked apart the Packers secondary in the first half culminating in an insane hail-mary touchdown pass to end the first half. The Packers fared little better in the second half, showing little to no life until, down by 17, the scored a touchdown to close the gap to ten. It was too little too late at that point though, a failed on-side kick, followed by an inability to stop Eli Manning lead to another Giant’s score, and eventually the game ending interception from Aaron Rodgers. The Packer finished the game with 8 dropped passes, 3 fumbles lost, and a garbage time interception by Aaron Rodgers. The worst thing about the Giants winning is that we now have to endure yet another week of comparisons to the ’07 team and a possible rematch with the Patriots. The media just can’t help but fall all over itself to talk about New York and Boston. We are all 49ers fans now.

Kevin: I was geeked for this game to start, but after about 10 minutes I was bored. Green Bay didn’t look sharp, and I despise the Giants and specifically Eli Manning. For me this game was like having to choose between losing an arm or a leg. I’ll take neither thank you.

Is anyone else really tired of Joe Buck’s schtick? I used to really like his announcing style, especially for baseball. He’s been doing the big sporting events for so long now that you hear his voice and your mindset is changed to “this is an important event I need to watch.” But Christ has he become intolerable. He speaks in monotone. He rarely has anything insightful to say. He repeats himself constantly. And Aikman is one of the better football analysts out there, but he’s getting old too. Like term-limits, I think we need a different announcing crew ever 4-5 years. I’ll take Kenny, Moose and Goose over Buck/Aikman.

Burner: Joe Buck the Sports Robot is terrible.  The best call of his career came this season when the Cardinals won that insane game six of the World Series.   This is Joe Bucks home town team, the team he literally grew up around, the team that made his dad famous and enabled Joe to have a career.   And at the end of that crazy night, the best he could muster was a flat recycling of one of his dad’s lines.   Kenny, Moose, and Goose may be an aural abortion, but at least they sound interested in the game.   Oh, and Troy Aikman is a moron, he’s barely coherent at the best of times, I once heard he and Buck have a totally earnest discussion as to which cleat length was longer 3/8 or 1/4, neither one of them had any idea.

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