NFL Playoff Grades, Wild Card Weekend: Wilson sparks Seattle
After the Packers made easy work of the Vikings and the Texans survived a scare from the Bengals in Saturday's wild-card action, the Ravens ended the Colts' season in the early game Sunday.
|Michael Robinson and the Seahawks silenced Redskins fans. (US Presswire)|
You have to wonder how this game would have turned out if Robert Griffin III hadn’t tweaked his knee in the first quarter and erased any chance he had of being effective under center. Or if Redskins coach Mike Shanahan had turned the offense over to Kirk Cousins, who has shown in the past that he can win games (as a backup and as a starter). Instead, Griffin might have hurt himself even worse in the fourth quarter on a botched snap, and Cousins had little chance to overcome a 10-point deficit.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, meanwhile, was a wonder.
He threw the ball effectively, he ran the ball with success and he blocked defenders with aplomb. With Wilson’s performance and running back Marshawn Lynch’s 131-yard, one-touchdown day, the Seahawks continued their late-season hot streak.
The Seahawks defense, one of the best in the NFL, played well after allowing two early Redskins touchdowns (an injured RG3 might have had something to do with this). Washington gave only 16 carries to Alfred Morris, and without Griffin, the offense became much less three-dimensional.
Now, the Seahawks will prepare to travel to play the Falcons, and though two cross-country trips in two weeks won’t be easy, Seattle is an NFC title contender.
|Indy's luck ran out on Sunday. (US Presswire)|
There's a lot to say about the final game for Ray Lewis in Baltimore, as well as the way guys like Anquan Boldin stepped up in a big way to help seal the Ravens' victory. But let's take a minute to remember the 2012 Colts, just a short time removed from the end of their season.
No, they won't get a great grade below, and they don't deserve one. But this was a team that made the playoffs less than a year removed from shedding the greatest player in franchise history (Peyton Manning) and using the No. 1 pick in the draft to grab Andrew Luck to try and rebuild off a painful-to-watch, two-win season in 2011.
And they just went out and won 11 games and made the playoffs as a wild card. NBD, y'all.
A lot of what the Colts did was a mirage: They had a negative point differential in the regular season and a negative turnover differential as well. They started a rookie quarterback the whole season (Luck, natch), started a rookie running back for the much of the season (Vick Ballard), had two rookies at tight end (Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener) and frequently utilized a rookie wideout (T.Y. Hilton).
They didn't block for Luck. They didn't play much defense. And, again, they won 11 games.
We saw their issues up close against the Ravens, and betting on a little regression in Indy next season would be a pretty smart move. But, still, what an unbelievable season for the Colts -- it's the start of something special, even if it couldn't realistically continue past the first round.
|John Kuhn, who had one touchdown all season, had two against the Vikings. (US Presswire)|
It's easy to say, hours after Joe Webb set the passing game back 100 years, that Christian Ponder's job is safe in Minnesota. But before the Vikings met the Packers in the NFC wild-card game, there were plenty of folks who felt Webb deserved a chance to start.
Well, he got it and we have no idea how he could've performed worse. The Vikings lost in convincing fashion and, consequently, their season is over.
This isn't all on the third-year quarterback who hadn't taken a snap all season, however. He finished the evening with 180 yards on 11 of 30 passing. But after three tries, the Packers finally figured out how to slow down Adrian Peterson, who ran for 409 yards on 55 carries in the previous two meetings -- including 199 yards six days earlier. And the defense didn't have an answer for Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 274 and completed 70 percent of his throws.
Green Bay now heads to San Francisco in a rematch from Week 1, a game that the 49ers won, 30-22. The Packers are healthy -- on both sides of the ball -- for the first time in a long time, and they're a completely different team from the one that faced San Francisco 18 weeks ago. Whether that's enough to win in San Francisco is another matter entirely. Colin Kaepernick ain't exactly Joe Webb, and that 49ers' defense can take over games.
This ain't the same Texans team that started the season 11-1. It's better than the group that stumbled to a 1-3 mark over the last four games of the regular season but clearly not the dominating bunch that cruised through the first three months of the schedule.
|Arian Foster ran for 140 yards on Saturday. (US Presswire)|
But against the Bengals on Saturday, they didn't need to be. The Texans escaped Reliant Stadium with a 19-13 win and are now headed to Foxboro to face the Patriots, who beat up on them in Week 14, 42-14. The biggest question facing the Texans: Can they get back to playing the football that helped them win 11 of their first 12 games?
Running back Arian Foster thinks Saturday's win was a good sign.
"All it takes is one week to turn things around in the NFL, and we did that," said Foster, who rushed for 140 yards in the win. "We like to run the ball, we like to play good defense. ... We're happy, but we've been here before so we know what to expect."
Meanwhile, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis remains winless in the postseason. He'll spend the offseason trying to figure out how to make his offense more consistent. Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton has been serviceable. But if Cincy wants to be a legitimate playoff team every season, he'll need to get better.
|Seahawks 24, Redskins 14|
|A-||The Seahawks continue to be the hottest team in the NFL, and they showed why vs. Washington. Their offense, defense and special teams played well, just as Seattle has done for the past five weeks. The Seahawks will be trouble for the Falcons.|
|C||For the first quarter, the Redskins looked like they would run away with this game, but after RG3 was hurt, the offense couldn't do anything else. The defense, though, kept Seattle in check for three quarters -- which was almost enough.|
|Packers 24, Vikings 10|
|D||Christian Ponder's injury was a surprise, as was Joe Webb's performance given that he wasn't bad late in the 2010 season (two starts, 37 for 58, 340 passing yards, 66 rushing yards, 0 TDs, 1 INTs). But the Vikings were going to need a miracle to beat the Packers in Green Bay, and this just wasn't their night.|
|A||The Packers were healthy for the first time in a long time, and they played like it. Now they'll get to face the 49ers in San Francisco in the NFC Divisional round.|
|Texans 19,Bengals 13|
If not for Leon Hall's pick-six, the Bengals might be looking at an F. Quarterback Andy Dalton continues to look uncomfortable in the pocket. He tossed an interception (and should have had another) and misfired on several deep balls that could have changed field position at worse and been touchdowns at best.
|C+||The Texans' offense warmed up slightly after settling for field goals early but not enough to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. They're going to have to play better on the road next week to avoid consecutive one-and-done playoff appearances. The defense looked like the tenacious unit that we saw in September and October. J.J. Watt was a handful for Cincy's offensive line, and the secondary forced Dalton into critical mistakes.|
|Ravens 24, Colts 9|
|D+||The Colts lived a fairy-tale season for much of the year, but the offensive line -- which is a major, major problem for them -- was absolutely exposed against Baltimore. Indianapolis receivers did a horrible job of holding onto balls. The defense did a nice job in the first half but never capitalized on the Ravens' early mistakes and ultimately failed to even score a touchdown.|
|C+||The final score says "blowout," but it's not like the Ravens really took care of business all day long or anything. The defense let Vick Ballard run well and got seriously bailed out by Indy's receivers not holding onto the rock. Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin both had a monster second half, and some critical stops late helped seal what amounted to an easy victory in Ray Lewis' final home game.|
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