Afterword: Shanahan and RG3
Reading a lot about the reaction to Mike Shanahan and the Redskins coaching and medical staff’s decision to leave RG3 in the game despite the obvious risks of further injury (which in this case, happened).
Interesting to note that in this Shanahan profile by Stefan Fatsis, Shanahan himself suffered his own career-ending injury while playing quarterback at Eastern Illinois. From the article:
"Shanahan grew up in suburban Chicago in the 1960s, the son of an electrician and a housewife. He nearly died when he was speared by a linebacker while playing quarterback at Eastern Illinois, the only college that offered him a football scholarship. A priest was summoned to read last rites. Shanahan lost a kidney, recovered, petitioned unsuccessfully to rejoin the football team and began his coaching career upon graduation."
Which both baffles me as to why he wouldn’t take more precaution with his own quarterback and makes me wonder if his own experience desensitized him to injuries. Or, quite simply, he was a coach who thought leaving his quarterback in gave him the best shot at winning a playoff game?
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?
Seahawks at Redskins: Fresh Faces
Best game on the board this week, right? I suppose by the time we get to this one on Sunday afternoon, we’ll know if they have to live up to the crazy expectations of the match-ups preceding them.
In a first round where both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are playing, who knew that the most important rookies might just turn out to be Russell Wilson and Alfred Morris.
And does Matt Flynn text Alex Smith, or is it the other way around. Either way, those exchanges must be a downer.
For Washington, they punched a ticket to the post-season with a victory over the Cowboys last week. Or to put it more aptly, Morris did the punching with over 200 yards and three touchdowns. Griffin hasn’t looked his usual dynamic self since coming back from injury, and it does take a bit away from their offense, but if his rookie mate in the back field can put up the same performance against a stout Seattle defense, it may not matter.
As for the Seahawks. They come into the playoffs with a lot of acclaim and buzz. That tends to happen when you start beating teams by scores of 58-0 (granted, it was Arizona), 50-17 (in Toronto against Buffalo, not exactly a frightening proposition) and 42-13 (at home against San Francisco, who were coming off a short week and a tough battle against New England; actually, never mind, this one was impressive, not going to sell them short).
I will say this: if you told me the Seahawks had a bye and would need to win two playoff games at home to make the Super Bowl, I’m not sure if I’d pick anyone else in the NFC. But on the road? Consider me still a skeptic.
This team’s been a wonderful story. Frankly, both teams have been. It’s always nice to see fresh faces in the tournament. One stays. One goes.
The more complete team, and the better defense should make the difference. I just hope this one lives up to the billing.
I just picked every favorite this week.
What does everybody else think?
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.
If this wasn’t the year of the rookie QB, we’d be talking about Alfred Morris as part of the ROY derby.
302 carries, 1,413 yards, 4.7 avg, 10 touchdowns and one great touchdown celebration.
The NFC East, or, Your Annual Sideshow
It’s becoming an annual tradition, if traditions can be painful, comical, entertaining all at once. The NFC East might not always provide the most asthetic brand of football, but for sheer drama it’s hard to find a division that’s provided quantity over quality for more than a decade.
Division winners in order since 2004: Philadelphia, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York.
Parity. Chaos. Always entertaining.
Last year, the Giants and Cowboys squared off in a season ending game for the division. It was suppose to be a meaningless game in the grand scheme of things, the mediocre cream rising to the top, and somehow, the Giants won it all.
That makes about as much sense as this season, where the Giants look likely to be out of the playoffs, even though they’re the owners of signature wins over San Francisco and Green Bay. In Philadelphia, the dream team curse continues and Mike Vick has gone from the subject of an entire ESPN magazine to the inventor of the fumblebrag.
And so, come Sunday, it’s the previously 3-6 Washington Redskins against the perpetually lingering Cowboys team in a winner take all.
The Cowboys — America’s Team by no one’s definition — always flash the potential of a 12-4 team, and yet there’s always a handful of inexplicable, close losses that prevent them from being anything but average (this year: Week 6 at Baltimore, Week 8 vs. Giants, last week vs. Saints). And somehow, Romo’s having another “maybe he can sustain this level of play” stretch and Dez Bryant might be the best wideout in the league, and so, here they are again with a shot at the post-season.
But consider this: Under Romo, the Cowboys have had as many playoff victories as Tim Tebow does. Mark Sanchez has four playoff wins to Romo’s one. Sure, it’s not always on the quarterback, but the franchise has underachieved and made questionable personnel decisions (Roy Williams trade, anyone). In another division, in another league, that means you relegate yourself to irrelevance. Here in the NFC East, you get your shot at redemption every Week 17.
For the Redskins, their coach said it was time to look ahead to next season a month and a half ago, and no one in the fanbase particularly disagreed. But no team has a brighter outlook than Washington, not when RG3 is the man leading the way.
And come Sunday, Griffin III looks to join fellow rookies Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson as playoff qualifiers. It would be a wonderful story, and for that very fact, no one will be surprised if the Cowboys prevent that happy ending from happening.
This is the NFC East, no need for rational arguments here.
Forget about winners and losers from Week 4. There’s just one big winner today. Billy Cundiff, who was one field goal miss away from being out of the league forever.
Pretty much not kidding.
When last we left Cortland Finnegan in Tennessee, he was mixing it up with Andre Johnson. Now that he’s in St. Louis, he still hasn’t learned his lesson and it’s paying dividends.
Finnegan not only snagged the honors of being responsible for RGIII's first NFL interception, but he riled Redskins receiver, Josh Morgan, up so much that he basically cost Washington the game, thus being responsible for RGIII’s first NFL loss as well.
With the Redskins trailing 31-28, Morgan caught a third-down pass and was short of the first down at the Rams’ 29-yard line, but the 7 yards Morgan picked up should have helped Billy Cundiff’s chance at a game-tying field goal. Then Morgan had a brain lock for the ages.
Cortland Finnegan, Rams cornerback and professional agitator, gave Morgan a little shove at the end of the play. Morgan inexplicably threw the ball at Finnegan in retaliation. There are certain things an official can let slide in the heat of the moment, especially when he knows a penalty will decide the game, but there’s no way an official is going to ignore a player chucking a ball at an opponent after the play.
The flag was worth 15 yards and suddenly the Redskins faced fourth-and-16. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan - whose doghouse door opened up the moment Morgan wound up and fired at Finnegan - decided to let Cundiff try a 62-yard field goal rather than go for it with 1:18 left. It was well short and wide right, and the Rams killed the clock with a couple plays out of victory formation.
- via Yahoo!
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)