It was a weekend of NFL playoff surprises, some good, some bad, and some shocking.
The Denver Broncos are done, and we can argue what is the bigger surprise, the poor play of legendary QB-Peyton Manning, or the poor play-calling of offensive coordinator Adam Gase, a supposed lead candidate for a head coaching job. When you play in Denver, you usually get schooled by Manning and those people wearing Orange, his (24-2) home field record, a testament to that.
It was the Colts who put on the clinic, on defense. Press coverage, sure tackling, stifling the receivers, forcing Manning to throw outside the numbers, where his completion rate was 30%. When it was over, not only was it a lopsided (24-13) Indy victory, it was convincing. Manning went 11-minutes without a lst down, missed 7-throws in a row, missed on 7-deep sideline passes, had his receivers drop 6-balls, had a QBRating of 75, and went (4-16) on third down conversions.
The Broncos offense hasn’t been right for five weeks. Maybe Manning is really hurting. Maybe defenses have caught up to Gase’s matchups. Maybe the Broncos weren’t all that good.
We know how good the Colts are. Andrew Luck hung tough, spread the field, threw to receivers, tight ends and running backs. He attempted 43-passes and was knocked down just twice. He finished with 2-TDs and let his defense do the rest.
And yes, instant replay hurt Denver when a bang-bang fumbled punt was ruled down, and not a hot football the Broncos appeared to recover.
In Green Bay, a heroic effort by QB-Aaron Rodgers. That was not the surprise, but it was who made plays, that helped the Packers to their win over Dallas. Playing with an injured left calf, Rodgers became a hash mark-to-hash mark quarterback, unable to scramble. He threw off one leg, threw flat footed, and yet was dazzling in the second half.
So were backup WR-Davante Adams and TE-Andrew Quarles, who combined for 11-key catches and 2-TDs in that (26-21) victory over the Cowboys. Of course, heavy duty running back Eddie Lacy got (101R) and Randall Cobb had 8-big catches at wideout.
Tony Romo was sacked four times, and limping on a bad ankle at the end, and despite a yeoman job by RB-DeMarco Murray (129R), Dallas came up short. It might have been different if instant replay had not wiped out a 4th down catch and run by Dez Bryant that put the ball at the 1-yard line and would have put the Boys back in the game.
It was vintage Seattle Seahawks football, as the Legion of Boom defense dropped the hammer on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (31-17). Kam Chancellor’s electric 90-yard TD interception capped off a day of fury from Seattle’s defense, that included 2-picks, 2-forced fumbles, 2-sacks and a dominant final 30-minutes of football.
QB-Russell Wilson and RB-Marshawn Lynch were at their powerful best, but this is a Seattle defense that has allowed just 5-touchdowns in their last 7-games.
In New England, some surprise, in how tough Baltimore played the Patriots, taking the street fight right down to the final minutes. But in typical Tom Brady fashion, he wins at home, especially in the most important time of the year, postseason. And in usual Bill Belichick fashion, something different happened, the flanker-option TD pass where WR-Julian Edleman pulled up and fired a TD bomb after getting a backwards pass from Brady. It broke the Ravens back.
Cool Joe, Ravens QB-Joe Flacco kept throwing, but went just (1-9) on third downs, and that was the difference maker in the (35-31) Pats win, despite 4-Flacco TD passes.
It was a pretty electric weekend, full of big plays, some controversies, and a wheelbarrow full of surprises. The Colts play at New England, and Green Bay heads to Seattle for the AFC-NFC championship weekend. The games should be spectacular and the TV ratings will be too. And you wonder what type of stylish surprises await us next weekend.