Photo Credits: ALLYSON KO / AGGIE
Only four remain in pursuit of Lombardi Trophy
The National Football League Playoffs have been nothing short of exhilarating, as many fans have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. Between upsets, comebacks and last second heartbreaks, this year’s playoffs will surely be one to remember.
Starting in the AFC, Wild Card weekend kicked off with Andrew Luck leading the Indianapolis Colts to an upset win over the Houston Texans, 21-7. Although the Texans boasted the league’s second best defense heading into the opening round, they were trampled by Marlon Mack and the rest of the Colts backfield, which compiled 200 total rushing yards. Houston’s offense, led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, had no answer for the Colts’ smothering defense, either, as Indianapolis got out of Texas with its 10th win in its last 11 games.
The red-hot Colts then traveled to Kansas City where they took on the top-seeded Chiefs on Saturday night. The Chiefs went into the game with an extra week of rest and prep, and it was evident, as the Colts were steamrolled 31-13. Indianapolis Head Coach Frank Reich said in his post-game comments that his team was out-coached and outplayed.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was suffocated in the first quarter, failing to complete a single pass. The Chiefs defense, led by pass rusher Dee Ford, stepped up in the biggest game of the year. Their surging defense, complimented by a consistently dynamic offense, makes the Chiefs a force to be reckoned with on championship Sunday.
The other AFC wild card game featuring the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens was completely one-sided throughout almost the entirety of the game. The Chargers dominated both sides of the ball, holding Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson to 17 yards and an interception on two for eight passing in the first half. Chargers kicker Michael Badgley also set a franchise record for field goals made in a postseason game, tallying five on the afternoon. Jackson, however, was able to bounce back and almost amass a massive comeback, throwing two touchdown passed in the second half. But it ultimately proved to be a case of too little too late, as Los Angeles snuck away with a 23-17 victory.
This Chargers victory earned the team a trip to Massachusetts on Sunday, where just like the Colts, they were out-matched by the home team favorite. The Los Angeles offense punted four out of five of its possessions in the first half, while the Patriots offense amassed 35 points. The Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers were able to score three times in the second half, but it was simply not enough, as the Patriots cruised to a 41-28 victory.
In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys hosted the Seattle Seahawks in what many fans expected to be a thriller. The teams certainly did not disappoint, scoring back and forth until the Cowboys were able to score consecutively in the fourth quarter, sealing Seattle’s fate and punching them out of the postseason with a 24-22 win.
With his first playoff victory under his belt, the Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott took on a Jared Goff, a quarterback searching for a first postseason win of his own, on Saturday, when they battled the Los Angeles Rams. Although the Rams were well rested coming off a bye week, they came into the game with a 14-year playoff win drought. In the Wild Card round, the Cowboys held their ground against the league’s leading rush offense in Seattle but were unable to prevent the Rams from running the football. The Rams ran wild for a whopping 273 yards, which was the most yards ever recorded by the Rams in their franchise’s postseason history.
The final game of wild card weekend turned out to be an instant classic and was undeniably the most thrilling. The Philadelphia Eagles traveled to the frigid windy city to take on the Chicago Bears. Even in 38-degree weather, both teams turned away from the ground game and passed over 40 times, resulting in a career day for Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II.
Robinson, who had his best game of the season with 11 catches for 143 yards, scored a touchdown with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter to put the Bears in the lead. But last year’s super bowl MVP, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, was able to respond with a passing touchdown on fourth and a goal to put the Philadelphia in front by one. With less than a minute on the clock, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky engineered a perfectly efficient drive down the field, setting up kicker Cody Parkey with a potentially game-winning field goal.
From 43 yards out, Parkey drilled the ball easily through the uprights on his first practice attempt after Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson called a timeout, right before the play, to try and ice Parkey. After the brief timeout, Parkey lined up, just like his previous attempt, but this time, unbelievably clinked the ball off the upright and then the crossbar, where it ultimately landed in the endzone in front of the field goal posts. This heartbreaking, last-second miss, now named the double-doink, allowed the Eagles to advance, 16-15.
After surviving the wild card round, Philadelphia continued its title defense against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. Nick Foles’ playoff dominance continued into the start of the game, accumulating two touchdowns in the first quarter and putting the Eagles up 14-0. The Saints were able to counter by controlling the ball and possession tim,e as numerous Eagles players went down with injuries.
Down six points on the final drive of the game, Nick Foles began to construct a game winning drive. Well-inside Saints territory, the Eagles threatened to score until wide receiver Alshon Jeffery let a pass from Foles bounce off his hands into the waiting arms of a New Orleans defender, sealing the comeback victory for the Saints.
With New Orleans grabbing the final spot for Championship Sunday, the matchups featured will be the New Orleans Saints hosting the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots traveling to Kansas City to play the Chiefs. The most notable story line heading into the weekend is that for only the seventh time in his career, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick will be the underdog for a playoff game, having a 3-3 record in such past matchups.
Written by: AJ Seymour –– firstname.lastname@example.org