The NFL playoffs. You better be a ‘hot team’ and you better not be ‘a hurt team’.
And so, the first weekend of the NFL postseason are over, and the two tenants of postseason play were never so true.
The Dallas Cowboys remain hot, and they are moving on to play Green Bay. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Arizona all were hurt, and they will be staying home.
There’s nothing as final as getting knocked out of the playoffs, especially a week after you experienced something so exciting as finally getting to the postseason. Sunday night was sudden and cruel for those whose season ended badly.
Tony Romo’s team has had an exceptionally explosive season, surviving traumatic injuries at the start of the season, but finding players to not just fill-in, but to stand out. That coupled with the fact the Cowboys quarterback, heavy duty running back, DeMarco Murray, and superstar receiver, Dez Bryant, stayed on the field all year. The big three in Big D-took care of the Detroit Lions in a cliff-hanger of a game.
Pittsburgh was indeed on a roll, winning critical games down the stretch, but the loss of star young running back Le’Veon Bell, to a hyper-extended knee, in the season finale win over the Bengals, doomed them. Unable to play on Saturday, Baltimore teed off on QB-Ben Roethlisberger, didn’t have to defend the run, did a strong job taking away the pass, and ended the Steelers season. The one star quarterback could not do the job himself, despite a heroic (334Y) passing day. Sacks and turnovers doomed the Steelers.
Cincinnati, which has not done well in the post season, did not do well this weekend either, not when you lose your top wide receiver, your top tight end, and then 2-starting linebackers. In this case, QB-Andy Dalton had no one left around him, and could not rally the Bengals, not with star WR-AJ Green deemed out with a concussion, and TE-Jermaine Gresham out with a leg injury. Then Cincinnati, which had already lost Vontaze Burfect, their star linebacker a month ago, lost two more defensive starters during the game, Ray Maualuga and CB-Dre Kirkpatrick. End of the season Bengals, in Indianapolis, the Colts move on..
Arizona never had a chance, setting an all time NFL record of just 78-yards in offense, with 3rd string QB-Ryan Lindley taking a pounding at the hands of the Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals broke a record for ineptness set in 1958 by the Cleveland Browns, and the poor play by Lindley, complicated by the loss of his top running back late in the season, and the loss of two top defensive players for the entire season, was the end of the Arizona hopes of playing in the Super Bowl in front of their home town fans.
Take nothing away from how hard Detroit played, or how close they came to beating the Romo-led Cowboys. Understand, Carolina’s defense beat up lots of teams, just not Lindley and Arizona. Know that Baltimore got better the second half of the season and Joe Flacco is always Cool Joe in postseason, where he has 7-road playoff victories.
But if there had not been the big injury to the Steelers, the loss the firepower guys in Cincinnati, and the demise of everything in Arizona, maybe the outcomes would have been different.
You’ve got to be hot heading into postseason. But you have to be healthy, especially on wildcard weekend.