Wildcard Review: Saturday
It feels like there are some things I say too often. ‘Fantastic’, I say an awful lot. ‘Obviously’, on the Podcast is a word I get into double digits saying and every year I feel like I say ‘This could have been the best night of Play Off football I’ve ever seen’. So OBVIOUSLY this year was no different and we had some FANTASTIC games that made me think, wow, this really could be the best night of Play off Football I’ve ever seen.
Kansas City Chiefs 44 Indianapolis Colts 45
Although this game looked like it would be a cake walk by the Chiefs when they went in at half time, we should have all known better. The Colts tend to not like turning up until the second half, usually when they go behind by a silly amount. I do have a theory about this however, but its a theory that will possibly look like its come from someone who is so in awe of Andrew Luck that it might seem silly. Regardless here it is. Prior to the Colts starting a game they will have examined endless tape on their oppositions and looked for ways to exploit them. In this case they even had a game to go on in week 16 where they beat the Chiefs handily. But what if they were really bad at getting info from tape? What if instead they were very good at utilising a young QB’s natural ability at reading Defences on the field. That would explain the Offence, but as much as I would like to give Luck all the credit, the Defence stepped up in a big way in the second half. For starters the play calling improved. Being backed into a corner, they were forced to take risks and they worked. In the first half they would sit off a little too much and let Alex Smith utilise the area of the field he does the most damage in. Going back to Luck, it is amazing how well he plays when the pressure is on. Ok so there will have been an element of luck (pun definitely intended), in the second to last Touchdown, but after the ball was in his hands, it was all him and he knew exactly what to do. There is no denying that the 4 turnovers are proof that he made some silly mistakes in this one, but would more than make up for it with some insane passes that only the top QB’s in the league could make. From this game, I got one thing above everything else. It is time to stop saying he is knocking on the door of the likes of Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Manning and instead start including him in the same breath as all of these future hall of famers. What Luck can do with a patchy O-line, rough Run game and a group of back up Receivers is by far and away better than the likes of Wilson, Kaepernick and Newton can do. He is the next elite QB. Do the Colts go on and win it? I wouldn’t have thought so, but you never know. There are teams that would take full advantage of 4 turnovers and never let this team back in the game. But one thing is for certain. The future is bright for the Colts.
The future is also bright for the Chiefs, despite the loss of this game. What the Chiefs had achieved, even by the half way mark is an insane step up from last season and now with an off-season of little change, they can concentrate on fine tuning what is already a great squad. But back to this game. Well the first half was text-book and whatever can be said about this game, it can’t be put on Alex Smith, who played an unreal game in this one. Both through the air and on his feet he kept the Colts guessing and all without MVP candidate Jamaal Charles who went down early in the game. I’ve seen a few Chiefs fans putting this loss down to injuries. Before you think that is a viable reason, remember the Colts made the post season and have swapped in a season record of 71 players, mainly due to injuries. But to be fair a number of the no. 1 players went down on this team that has suffered relatively few injuries this season. But this game was lost on a second half collapse across the board. For starters the play calling got pretty conservative for Smith in the second half, probably through fear of concussion thanks to some pretty gutsy runs and dives, never the less they looked almost toothless in the second half as the Chiefs Offence dialled it down and the Colts Defence dialed it up. The Defence weirdly started making silly mistakes in the second half, no less than in the last touch down where the Safeties should have sat back, but instead allowed T Y Hilton to get on the wrong side of them and led to them losing the lead. If you’re Alex Smith you have to feel pretty hard done by. With stats like 378 yards, 4 TD’s and 0 Interceptions, you would almost certainly think that’s got you the lead on its own and that you’ll be the hero when you return to the team facility. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get the win for this team, but it won’t be the last time we see the Chiefs in the play offs in the next few years.
New Orleans Saints 26 Philadelphia Eagles 24
Much like we thought this game came down to Ingram running the ball better than McCoy…WHAT??? Well that’s not the be all and end all of this game and we did say the game would come down to who runs the ball the best, but c’mon…we all thought it would be McCoy right? Anyway for the Saints this is a very important win. No one will be mentioning their away record as an important stat any more and they now have to be considered a legitimate contender for the NFC now. The big difference between the 2 teams in this one was coaching. New Orleans simply out coached the Eagles. Example? Ok well the Saints final drive lasted 4 minutes and ended the game with a field goal. 4 minutes. They didn’t panic, they simply sensibly worked their way down field slowly and methodically and left the exceptionally fast paced Eagles with no time to do anything. Most teams would be concentrating on scoring. If they can eat up the clock, brilliant. But the fact is the Saints knew what they had to do and did it perfectly. The run game was a huge factor in this one and had to be, as Drew Brees had a rare ‘less than elite’, game. Ingram looked like the back they had been promised a couple of years ago and Sproles did just enough to cause the Eagles D problems. On Defence the Saints did a great job of limiting McCoy to 3.2 yrds per carry and took control of the game and the clock, also causing the fast paced Offence of the Eagles to go 3 and out more often than not. This is an incredibly encouraging win for the Saints. Not only did they get the road win, but they did it without Brees’s ‘A’ game. Next challenge. Another away game, this time its at Seattle. Can they win that? I didn’t think they could win this so anything can happen.
Philadelphia Eagles. Give yourselves a pat on the back. OK so you went out of the play offs, but the fact that you made it in season, where you had a complete scheme change and QB change, I think you can feel a little proud. Foles on paper didn’t have a terrible game, but was unable to convert important 3rd downs and was at the mercy of the Saints Defence. McCoy didn’t have the exceptional game we were predicting and the Saints did a pretty good job of taking him out of the game. But whilst Chip Kelly was thinking about gadget plays and wrinkles that could get him the win here, he was losing the coaching chess match with Sean Payton, who knew exactly how to win this game. The Eagles though can feel proud to turn their fortunes around this quickly and its abundantly obvious that they are pretty close. But next year you can almost guarantee that a number of teams catch up and it all becomes a little harder.
So that’s the Saturday games. Sunday games are right around the corner so enjoy!