Sadly, the St. Louis Rams were not playing this weekend, but at least there were some good games on to occupy a thirsty football fan’s needs. Oh wait, no there weren’t… Aside from the first ugly, ugly game of the weekend between the Texans and Bengals, every matchup this weekend was won by at least 10 points, and none of them were “close.” Still, the Sunday night game may have made up for it, at least for Rams Nation, as two of our “rivals” battled for a chance to travel to Atlanta and play to #1 seed in the NFC. Although the games were pretty grotesque, there were some eventful things that happened. With that, here are Ramblin’ Fans’ quick thought on the weekend…
1. If you did not tear up during the defensive introduction of the Baltimore Ravens game, you either hate football or you have no heart… or both. Watching the pure passion of Ray Lewis, his teammates, and the crowd is what the game of football is all about, boys and girls. There will never be another player like Ray Lewis, and it is sad to be watching the final games of a true legend. Hopefully, Lewis watched how well Brett Favre handled retirement, and will continue to battle against hanging up the cleats for another couple of seasons.
2. When Clay Matthews jokingly mentioned holding Adrian Peterson under 200 yards, some questioned whether even that was possible. Well it was, helped by the fact that Christian Ponder’s elbow forced Joe Webb into the lineup. So, you work hard in the trenched, struggling week in and week out for the last five or six game to claim the final spot in the NFC? You are playing the team you beat, just one week earlier? Oh, your starting quarterback only played 3 total snaps this entire season, none of which were passing attempts? Nice! Looks like holding Peterson to 99 yards on the ground was more than enough push the Pack into the second round. Still not disappointed in missing breaking Dickerson’s record, AP?
3. Andy, Andy, Andy! The Bengals offense looked more stagnant than the St. Louis Rams in mid-season of ’11. A.J. Green was a complete non-factor until the very end of the game, being outplayed by the only other “Green” on the field, Benjarvus Green-Ellis. The Bengals finished the day converting 0% of their nine 3rd down attempts. In fact, the offense put no points on the board, relying on ex-Rams’ kicker, Josh Brown, and an interception return by Leon Hall to tally their 13 losing points. Maybe that is too harsh, but this is the playoffs, and Cincinnati looked out of their element in this game.
4. On the flip side, Houston looked to be firing no all cylinders on Saturday, both offensively and defensively. Foster got going on the ground, taking 32 carries for 140 yards, which opened up the skies for Schaub in the passing game. He took full advantage, completing 76.3% of his 38 attempts for 262 yards. Cincinnati played well in the red zone, but allowed the Texans to drive deep enough for four Shayne Graham field goals. The Texans look much more like the team that started off a red-hot 11-1, and no where near the team that finished 1-3 this season.
5. Andrew Luck looked very much like a rookie in this post season debute against the Baltimore Ravens. The high emotion and ear blistering roar of the Baltimore crowd seemed to effect the young signal caller, not helped by the fact that Bruce Arians was not on the sideline calling the plays. Vick Ballard played well out of the backfield, but outside of his 91 yard performance, there was little for the Colts to hang their hats on offensively. Donnie Avery looked, well like Donnie Avery, dropping a number of Luck’s passes and essentially disappearing from the game after the opening reverse. The defense was worse, making Joe Flacco look nearly competent, as an upper tier quarterback in the NFL.
6. The Ravens, looked good on both sides of the football, but more so on the offense. The controversial firing of their offensive coordinator looked brilliant in this game, as Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce dominated on the ground, racking up 173 yards on 28 carries. Flacco averaged over 12 yards per attempt, including some beautifully thrown deep balls to Anquan Boldin. Torrey Smith, who only caught two passes in the game, played his heart out blocking on the outside, leading to some huge plays in the game, including the 47 yard catch-and-run by Ray Rice early on. If Rice can hold onto the football, the Ravens may have jumped back into relevancy in the AFC playoff picture…
7. Now to the only respectable game of the weekend, the battle of the rookie quarterbacks. For anyone that follows me on Twitter at @nkearns12, you know that I have never been on the Robert Griffin III bandwagon, and have been pushing for Andrew Luck for Offensive Rookie of the Year since the Colts locked in a playoff spot. As poor as Luck was yesterday, Griffin was worse on the field, capped off by, what looked to be, a severe re-injuring of his right knee. Granted his play on the field was drastically effected by the injury, but, as Trent Dilfer, Ron Jaworski, and numerous other quarterback-lovers pointed out, if you are on the field you need to produce for your team. The ‘Skins did look unstoppable in their opening two drives, but after that, nothing! They converted under 50% of 3rd down tries, none of their 4th downs, and ended with barely over 200 yards of total offense on the day.
8. Even in my distain for the Washington rookie, no one ever wants to see an NFL player get injured on the field, especially one as young and talented at Griffin. We all understand that in this league, the name of the game is winning, but at the same time, as a head coach, the best interest of the player should be kept in mind. Griffin should not have been in the game once it was clearly obvious he was not able to accelerate on runs, move around in the pocket, or plant to throw the football. Cousins has shown to be more than capable of running that offense, and should have been given the reins. As a result, the franchise player for the organization, one that they have bet on with their first rounders in the next two drafts, has, what appears to be, a severe knee injury. Luckily, it is the end of the season, so it will have plenty of time to heal. At the same time, Griffin has a history of knee issues, tearing his ACL in 2009 when he was still at Baylor. Knees are tricky, and can be a lingering issue, especially if they continue to get beaten on throughout a season. All the best to him and his recovery.
9. Finally, we can talk about the Seahawks, and the player that should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year, at least over RG3. Again, I am much more impressed by Luck taking a 1-15 team to 10+ wins in the AFC, but at the same time, Russell Wilson has been nothing short of phenomenal since throwing three interception against the St. Louis Rams earlier in the season. Aside from taking a surprising number or sacks in the last two games, the offense has ran very smoothly with Wilson manning the head. He is the only rookie left in the playoffs, and is the offensive leader on, what appears to be, the hottest team heading into the second round. On that note, all of Rams Nation thanks you for knocking off the Washington Redskins, but we hope that you get knocked out of the playoffs very, very soon.