Defense wins championships.
536 offensive yards for wins insane wild card shootouts.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts)
“I like to call it a one-two punch. Me and Andrew [Luck], we’ve been around each other for quite a while now leading up from the Heisman to the draft and training and stuff. Andrew’s a good guy, just meeting him and his family, just knowing what type of person he is and just knowing that we’re going to grow together, how young we are, we going to be here for a while. We’re not planning on going nowhere. We plan to be here, we plan to grow and we plan to win a lot of games.”
The Indianapolis Colts have taken Defensive End Bjoern Werner 24th in this 2013 Draft.
Smart move for the Colts. Their offense is fairly sound, so beefing up their defense would be welcome in making them a bit more meaner and dangerous.
Mike Caldwell, or, Jim Tyson
Have you always wondered how Jim Caldwell could entirely revamp his bland persona? And have you spent many hours wondering about it like me? I think I figured it out: just give him Mike Tyson’s tattoo.
Anyone else have other suggestions?
Winners and Losers: Wild Card Round edition
So, that wasn’t the most memorable weekend of football, was it? Still, we’ve got several interesting match-ups set up for next week, and who will ever forget Ray Lewis’s final pre-game dance in Baltimore?
Onto the winners and losers of the wild card round:
The Green Bay Packers as contenders: The defense figured out a way to bottle up Adrian Peterson in their third game against the superhuman running back in the last six week and Aaron Rodgers was efficient in spreading the ball around (completions to 10 different receivers). Experience counts in the playoffs, and even though it was against an inferior opponent, the Packers reminded everyone why even with an uneven regular season, they’re still going to be a tough out in these playoffs. I can’t wait for Green Bay-San Francisco next week.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady: Anything can happen in the playoffs, but I imagine the two quarterbacks were texting each other throughout the weekend marveling at the level of competition that the AFC teams displayed. We’re still on track for an AFC Championship Game showdown between these two in Denver.
Arian Foster: Most rushing yards by a running back in his first three career playoff games in NFL history. By the way: undrafted.
Christian Ponder: Nothing like a bad performance from your back-up QB to enhance your own value by default. Although I think the Vikings would be wise to explore the free agent and trade market for a quarterback this off-season.
Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks in general: The numbers weren’t spectacular for Wilson, and there was no 50 point performance from the offense this time around. But down 14-0 on the road in the first quarter, all the questions came back: were these Seahawks just a great team at home? Is this team capable of playing from behind? Wilson answered that with two key drives in the first half to get the game back to a manageable 14-10 deficit. Also, even though he had a key fumble, Lynch was spectacular on the day (137 yards, and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter). The Seahawks defense also tightened up after the early deficit. That was an impressive win, by Seattle. They struggled early in a hostile environment, made mistakes throughout, and still walked out with a double digit win. It’s the type of win that will have people debating all week long whether they might just be able to go into Atlanta and give themselves a great chance at the upset.
Ray Lewis: A great final home game send-off for the future Hall-Of-Famer. Oh, and he got a shoutout from Kobe Bryant’s brand new Twitter account.
The Cincinnati Bengals franchise playoff drought: Saddest stat I read all week was that the Bengals had not won a playoff game since 1990, and since that time, every team in the league has won a post-season game (Browns? Yes. Jaguars? Yes, shouts to Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. And the list goes on). Marvin Lewis is now winless in four playoff games and, Andy Dalton, what exactly is his ceiling? Joe Flacco? Matt Schaub? I suppose that’s not entirely bad, since both those guys are still playing next week.
Joe Webb: If you follow the Vikings, or just football in general, you’ve heard whispers about Joe Webb and his freakish athletic ability, pretty best summed up by this video of him jumping over 7 dummies at the NFL combine. But on Sunday, pressed into action, he showed that there’s still a lot to go for him to be a competent quarterback.
The end of great regular season narratives: Time to tuck away #CHUCKSTRONG, and wonderful seasons from Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Adrian Peterson. But they’ll be remembered.
Football fans with Jets fatigue: Just when we thoughts Jets drama was behind us for at least a few weeks, we had to read all about Rex Ryan’s curious tattoo this week. The Jets aren’t just insufferable, they’re inescapable.
The Redskins: So, Washington fans, this is precisely why the Nationals took so much precaution with Stephen Strasburg by leaving him off the post-season roster, right? It was painful seeing Robert Griffin III out there on one leg, I mean, your knee isn’t suppose to bend this way, is it? With much chatter about whether Dr. James Andrews actually allowed Griffin to return to a game in December when he suffered his initial knee injury, coach Shanahan went ahead and risked further damage to his franchise, the investment that made the Redskins a topic of conversation again in football this year. We’re crossing sports for comparisons, but this reminds me of when the Blazers allowed Brandon Roy to return, and while that alone might not have cause the injuries that eventually forced him to retire (he’s since returned, but is on the injured list again), it does show what the long-term repercussions are when you don’t safeguard your best assets. Let’s just hope that we’ll see the same RG3 again next year. Also, Dan Snyder, let’s improve the field conditions just a little bit can we?
Who were your winners and losers?
Colts at Ravens: The Intangibles Bowl
The main storyline was clear heading into the divisional round match-up between the Colts and Ravens: #CHUCKSTRONG.
It went from a hashtag, to a movement, to a full blown playoff rally cry for the Indianapolis Colts, who really did win 11 games this season. Curtis Painter, we barely remember you.
But by mid-week, with news that Ray Lewis will be retiring after the season, the whole intangibles meter swung a bit back to the home team. Here stands their leader, win or lose this week, likely playing in his final game in Baltimore.
Despite the inconsistency of the Ravens all year, and a defense that is more reputation than performance at this point, you have to figure that Lewis’ swan song and the home field advantage will matter.
Everyone’s excited for this one, except for Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who continues to just stare at something in the far distance, we’re just not sure what.
Speaking of legacies, welcome back to the spotlight Joe Flacco. He is elite, in a fleeting, once in a while type of way. He can amaze. He has amazed. But he’s incredibly frustrating as well. Which kind of describes the last decade of Ravens football. A few solid regular seasons, a couple of divisional titles (back to back AFC North champions), but whether it be the Steelers, their own kicker, or the Steelers again, that second Super Bowl appearance has eluded Lewis and crew.
But under John Harbaugh, they have yet to go one-and-done in the post-season.
The Colts have been a wonderful story, but they’re also faced one of (the?) easiest schedule of the season and been incredible in close games. I’m starting to sound like Bill Barnwell.
But it feels like this is what happens: Joe Flacco shows glimpses of being great again, the defense rises one more time, the rookie quarterback gets an important road playoff lesson for the future, and yes, Jim Caldwell will even crack a smile at the end of the game.
Ravens win 34-10.
I spent all week convincing a friend that the Cowboys were the right bet for tonight’s game against the Redskins, for no reason other than the fact that sports rarely provides the happy endings that we want.
Excuse the pessimism, but especially in a year where the negative side of things reared its ugly head in sports, I was expecting the final week of football of 2012 to deliver much of the same. It feels alright being wrong too.
In Indianapolis, the #Chuckstrong story of coach Pagano and the upstart Colts got one more chapter to their brilliant season, upending the previously top seeded Texans at home, and gave us the victory dance of the year. No matter if this team is confronted with a new reality when the playoffs start next week, the entire turnaround coupled with Pagano’s return has more than made up for the forgettable season in 2011. Oh, and by the way, Andrew Luck is your quarterback for the next decade and some. Not too bad at all.
In Minnesota, the Vikings and Packers went 12 rounds, before Adrian Peterson decided to finish things off at the end. He came just shy of breaking the all-time rushing yards record, but after the performance that he just put on, are we suppose to doubt that he will challenge for it again next season? We need more nicknames for All Day. I suggest New God Flow, because he’s the God of everything else.
And tonight, in Washington, the Skins capped off Robert Griffin III’s rookie season with a win over the Cowboys for the divisional title, and a home playoff game next week. A season that started with a road win in New Orleans, stalled with a 3-6 record, ultimately ended with a seven game winning streak, and hope that things are changing for the franchise. For now. For later.
So if you’re in Detroit, Cleveland, Jacksonville, New York (both, but more so the Jets), Buffalo, or any other city where there doesn’t seem be much hope on the other end. Just remember today. No one could’ve foretold the stories above when the season started.
Sometimes sports is really the most fun when we get reminded of how little we know, then when it reaffirms what we think we know.
Next time, I might be a little less skeptical, and just let the stories play out to their happy endings.
That’s how Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians described his rookie quarterback after yesterday’s comeback win against the Green Bay Packers — made all the more special against the backdrop of Chuck Pagano’s leukemia diagnosis.
Sometimes, being good doesn’t mean being exciting.
Since a few months before the draft, all of the attention has gone towards Robert Griffin III, who emerged as a great story during college football season, overshadowing the consensus first overall pick in Luck, for which everything that could be said was already so before his last season in the collegiate ranks.
In many ways, the mobile quarterback who can not only throw from the pocket but also improvise and move the chains with his feet when his comfort zone breaks down has become the preferred quarterbacking style; it’s become like the slam dunk in basketball or the home run in baseball, it’s the more exciting highlight.
But if yesterday proved anything, it’s that there still is — and always will be — room in the game for the cerebral quarterback who does all his work from the pocket.
That was Luck’s first signature win, a poised second half with credit to the defense for shutting down Green Bay after an uneven first two quarters.
And at night, another quarterback whose famous by his arm only — Drew Brees — threw four touchdown passes on his way to passing Johnny Unitas for the all time record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
Meanwhile, Michael Vick — whom ESPN devoted an entire issue to just a year ago — can’t seem to stop giving the ball back to the other team, and may be just a few more bad games away from giving way to Nick Foles. Cam Newton is single-handedly bringing back the whole belief in sophomore slump, and Robert Griffin III’s running exploits hit its first roadblock against Atlanta.
This is not to say that this is an “either or” proposition. There’s only good or bad when it comes to quarterbacks, regardless of style.
But for one day, gunslinging was the method of choice to success. And good quarterbacks only get their moniker when they’re getting wins.
You can’t scramble your way out of that truth.