What We Learned In Wild Card Weekend:
- The Bungles are still the Bungles and still can’t win a playoff game
- Drew Brees is ridiculous
- The Giants defense suffocates Atlanta
- The Steelers allowed themselves to be Tebow’d
Well this is a tough one to write. I’ve said many times before that I have a tendency to throw toddler-like temper tantrums when my Steelers lose. Last night was no exception. In fact it was probably worse. I can’t even remember being this mad last year after the Super Bowl. Nevertheless there was still playoff games played that need to be reviewed, so I must put on my big girl pants and get to work.
The Bungles traveled to Houston on Saturday afternoon for their Wild Card matchup where many picked them to win considering Houston entered the playoffs on a 3-game skid. Houston showed why they were the #2 ranked defense by sacking Andy Dalton 4 times and intercepting him 3 times with one returned for a pick-6. Everybody questioned the effectiveness of TJ Yates at quarterback for the Texans while it seemed underestimating the effectiveness of Arian Foster and the Texans defense. Foster ran for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns while the Texans defense kept the Bungles playoff win drought alive. If anyone is keeping score the last time the Bungles won a playoff game was in 1990 when they beat the Houston Oilers. Weird right?
The Bungles most likely won’t go away quietly, though. With the king’s ransom in draft picks they got for Carson Palmer, they can potentially beef up with a lot more talent. Either that or they’ll go back to their old ways and draft a bunch of guys that already have wrap sheets. Something tells me though; the Bungles will still have to come up with some Buy 1 Get 1 promotions to get butts in the seats next season too.
The Texans will travel to Baltimore to take on the #3 ranked defense in the Divisional Round. Surprisingly, the Ratbirds are 1-3 in the playoffs when meeting a higher ranked defensive opponent. I’d bet the Ratbirds are already looking past the Texans, with their “Ball So Hard University” smack talk. If the Texans can disrupt Flacco like they did with Dalton, the Ratbirds are in some trouble. Don’t sleep on these Texans, no matter how they coasted into the playoffs, they matched their first playoff appearance with a first playoff victory and I don’t think they’ll go down easily.
What is there to say about Drew Brees and that Saints offense that hasn’t already been said? It’s ridiculous. Thanks to the enhanced rules regarding hits on the quarterback and covering WR’s, the Saints offense has broken all kinds of records this year. After destroying Dan Marino’s single season passing record, the Saints posted record-setting offensive numbers against the Lions on Saturday night. The combination of Drew Brees passing for like 1,000 yards a game and tiny Darren Sproles running all over the field without even being noticed has this team poised to turn their last season’s disappointing loss to Seattle in the first round into a definite run for the Super Bowl. They will travel to San Francisco to take on the 49er’s where many have questioned Brees’ abilities in inclement weather. Yeah right, the guy throws for ridiculous numbers all over the place but a little wind is going to take him down. I don’t think so.
Matty Ice and the Falcons took on the Giants in New York searching for his first ever playoff victory. He leaves New York still looking for it. The Giants completely stopped everything Matty and the Falcons offense tried to do on Sunday. Mike Smith in his infinite wisdom on handling 4th and shorts called a quarterback sneak twice and failed twice. Ever heard of using your running back, Mike? The Falcons reached the redzone just once on Sunday and the only points scored was a safety that was a result of an intentional grounding by Eli in the endzone. That’s it. Eli and Big Blue will take on the Packers at Lambeau field. If the Giants can play the same suffocating defense against the Packers, it should be an easy day for Eli. If not, we’re going to see a whole lot of Eli’s “aw shucks” face.
The inevitable time has come to review the Steelers heartbreaking, infuriating, disappointing, shocking, baffling, and all around bad loss to the Denver Tebows. What can I say? I could still spit nails about this game. The first quarter ended with the Steelers dominating in almost every category, only failing to reach the endzone and settling for field goals. Then came the second quarter. The Steelers gave up a record 20 points in the second quarter, the most the Steelers defense has allowed in 1 quarter in the playoffs since 1970. Tebow had throws of 20, 30, 50 yards to wide open receivers in the middle of the field. Before you knew it the score was 20-6 and I could feel the vomit coming up.
If the injury bug hadn’t bitten the Steelers enough throughout this year, he struck again as both Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton went down before the second half. Keisel with a groin injury and Hampton with a knee. Ben appeared to have reinjured his ankle on a play were Max Starks was blocked right into Ben’s ankle, but hobbling around Ben stayed on the field. No doubt Tomlin’s handling of the injuries this season will be the biggest criticism he will have to deal with for the offseason.
Hobbling or not, Ben battled back and brought the Steelers to a tie game at 23-23 with the ball and just over a minute left on the clock. The Steelers were unable to get within range of a field goal to end the game, sending it into overtime and testing everyone’s knowledge of the modified overtime rules for the playoffs. Unfortunately, that knowledge ended up being wasted. The Broncos got the ball and on the very first play of overtime Tebow dropped back and fired to Demaryius Thomas, who stiff armed Ike Taylor and beat both Taylor and Mundy to the endzone ending the game and the Steelers season before anyone knew what had happened. Tebow passed for 10-21, 316 yards and was not sacked or intercepted at all. Tebow also ran the ball 10 times for 50 yards.
The defense never seemed to adjust themselves for the wide open passes Tebow was connecting on for gains of 20+ yards. That still baffles me. Why they never seemed to play man coverage is going to bother me for a while. Unfortunately, Ike Taylor will find himself in a similar position that Mendenhall was in last season. Mendenhall, who hadn’t fumbled the entire regular season, put the ball on the ground in the Super Bowl on what could have been the game-winning drive for the Steelers. Now Taylor, who has had his best statistical season of his career, even caught 2 interceptions, will be known for the one who got beat on the last play allowing Thomas to score and the Tebow-Mania to continue. I won’t be one of them calling for Taylor’s head, I can recognize that he had a great season and his performance was one of the reasons the Steelers had the #1 defense in the league. He just happened to have his worst game of the year at the worst possible time. I think the themes of the season for the Steelers is going to be the injuries and the lack of road victories. There were just too many to overcome. We were fooling ourselves into thinking that a limping quarterback, a makeshift offensive line, a bruised and beat-up defense could have won 3 playoff road games to reach the Super Bowl.
I’m estimating about 207 days or so till the opening of Steelers Training Camp in Latrobe. Plenty of time to debate about draft picks, free agents, which veterans will stay or leave, and what exactly went wrong with the 2011 season. I still can’t believe it ended the way it did, but the best part is that Steelers season never truly ends as long as we can rant about it. Bring on the offseason!
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