Wednesday, January 17, 2007

NFL Playoffs - the weekend that was.

Recap of the past weekend:

Bal-Ind: Battle of field goals. The Ravens has a strange game plan. They hardly blitzed at all which is very different from their regular season defensive strategy. They may have been trying to emulate Pittsburg from last year who were a blitzing team in the regular season, then surprised Indy by playing a straight defense in the playoffs and coming out of the RCA Dome with an upset victory on the way to the Superbowl. However, Baltimore should have recognized that Indy wasn't confused or surprised by the regular defense this year and they should have adjusted their strategy to try something different. On offense, nothing seemed to work for Baltimore. This could be the result of coaching ego in that head coach Brian Billick fired his offensive coordinator mid-season and took over play calling duties. Maybe he should fire himself after that 6 point outing against a supposedly sup-par defense.

NO-Phi: An entertaining game that was much closer than I expected. I loved the NO running game and still like their chances to win it all. At the close of the game, NO was running the ball well and running the clock down when they executed a 'flip' (sort of a handoff but tossing the ball to a moving RB - in this case Reggie Bush). Unfortunately Bush bobbled it and it resulted in Philly recovering the fumble around mid field with 2 minutes remaining and 2 timeouts down by 3 points. NO managed to force a 4th and 10 and Philly converted with a 18 yard passing play (long passes seemed to work really well all day for Philly) - but there was an offensive penalty on the play resulting in 4th and 15. Then Philly sent out the punting unit?!??!?!?!?! I couldn't believe it. It was like they were giving up? What were they thinking. They have two timeouts left and less than two minutes to go they just went for it and made a long pass. A couple of years ago they completed a 25 yard play on 4th and 24 against the Packers. Why'd they give up?

Chi-Sea: Much closer than expected. I only watched the OT. What a clutch play by the Chicago kicker to win with a long field goal outside. Rex Grossman will kill the Bears next week against New Orleans.

SD-NE: Again Marty Shottenheimer crapped his pants in the playoffs and Brady/Belicheck proved completely unflappable. A couple of the low-lights from a San Diego point of view:

  • Stupid head butt penalty on NE fourth down resulted in a new set of downs and eventually three points for New England.
  • After New England tied the game with less than five minutes left with a two point conversion, SD apparently forgot they could run the ball. Their RB is the League MVP, to this point they had been gaining about 5 yards per rushing attempt. However, they decided to put the game in the hands of first year starter Philip Rivers which resulted in a couple of incompletions (which stopped the clock allowing New England to engineer a drive resulting in a field goal)
  • SD challenged a play resulting in a fumble that was obviously a fumble. This wasted a second half timeout. What would have happened if they still had this timeout when they reached the NE 36 with 24 seconds left? Not a 54 yard field goal, I'm guessing.
So I ended up going 3-1 for the weekend, 7-1 so far in the playoffs.

Because of the SD loss, I'll have to revisit my predictions for the conference finals.

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