2012 NFL Grades, Divisional Round: Matty Ice kills the narrative
We hand out grades for all of the 2012 NFL Divisional Round playoff games.
Finally, mercifully, Matt Ryan has won a playoff game. "Matty Ice" entered Sunday's matcup against Seattle the favorite in Las Vegas only, with most of the world believing the Atlanta Falcons would find a way to choke up in the postseason again.
And they almost did: After paddling Seattle in the first half, Atlanta somehow let rookie Russell Wilson (more on his expectional game here) storm the 'Hawks back and take the lead. It was an insane game, a great game, and just plain wonderful football. But if you hate stupid narratives, it was a scary moment.
Ryan also entered Sunday's game with 15 (!) fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, in combination with 22 game-winning drives, and the Iceman showed up with about 31 seconds left in the game. Atlanta fielded the kick, Jacquizz Rodgers got them 10 extra yards from a touchback and Ryan did the rest, calmly completing two huge passes to get the Dirty Birds in range of Matt Bryant 's leg.
And just like that, a silly narrative dies. Matt Ryan is no longer the questionable quarterback who can't win a playoff game. He's been magically transformed into a guy who could do some damage in the postseason. (If this sounds familiar, it should: it happened to Aaron Rodgers in 2010. Ahem.)
He'll have his work cut out for him at home against the 49ers (already a three-point favorite) next weekend in the NFC Championship Game, but the narrative is dead. Long live Matty Ice.
Ask any Panthers fan about John Fox and they'll happily inform you how conservative he was in Carolina. Broncos fans, after watching Saturday night's divisional-round game, probably agree.
Fox eschewed the opportunity to score points multiple times using his quarterback named Peyton Manning , instead opting to take knees. And it cost the Broncos big time, as they fell to the Ravens in double overtime 38-35 in an absolute stunner in Denver.
With 36 seconds remaining in the first half and Denver sitting on three timeouts, Fox had Manning take a knee and go to halftime. With 31 seconds and two timeouts and the game tied -- the Broncos having just been stunned by LOL chuckle-worthy coverage from Rahim Moore that allowed Jacoby Jones to score -- Fox again had Manning take a knee.
There were other instances that can't directly be tied to Fox: multiple third-down attempts that featured Jacob Hester . Hester is a nice player, but he's a fullback/running back hybrid who's not necessarily the dynamic player you want trying to pick up crucial third downs. He's also not, you know, Peyton Freaking Manning.
Another example of being conservative popped up late, just before Joe Flacco hit Jones deep to tie it up. Facing third-and-7, the Broncos had Ronnie Hillman run the ball. Hillman didn't pick up the first down but the Broncos did get to melt an extra 40 seconds off the clock. I don't hate the decision, but having your quarterback (again, Peyton Freaking Manning) throw the ball there and step on the Ravens' throat is certainly a viable alternative. You either run it and give Flacco the ball with two minutes or so left, throw the ball and don't get it and give Flacco the ball with two minutes or so left, or throw the ball, get the first down and end the game.
All of this is hindsight, of course. But the reality is the Broncos went uber-conservative on Saturday night, and it resulted in them winning one fewer playoff game than they did in 2011.
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