The story of the NFL Wild Card Weekend was missed opportunities. One or two miscues can really derail the outcome for your team and it proved to the trend this playoff weekend as well.
- Chris Crocker’s missed interception for the Bengals. It looked like it could have been a pick six, but instead went six the other way when Andre Johnson torched Adam “Pac-Man” Jones a play after. That big swing gave the Texans a 14-pt. lead and that proved to be too big of a deficit for Dalton and co. Houston’s JJ Watt had a similar opportunity at the end of the first-half, but unlike Croker, he has able to make the play and return the interception to the house. Crocker’s bad night didn’t just end there; Arian Foster shrugged him off for late touchdown.
- The inadvertent whistle. Detroit should of had a fumble recovery for a touchdown, but the missed call by the referee ruled the play dead. This would have given the Lions a two-score lead in the first-half.
- Missed interceptions by both Lion defensive backs Eric Wright and Aaron Berry. Both players had opportunities to make big plays in the second-half but failed to haul in the interceptions. The result? The Saints ended up scoring on every second-half drive.
- The Falcons getting stopped on 4th and inches twice. Atlanta had chances to put points on the board with field goals, but decided to roll the dice and came up empty. The offense didn’t put up a single point in this game, and those plays were huge. A field goal and early lead could have given this team more confidence. Atlanta just got whooped in short-yardage situations. They were one for four on 3rd and 4th down situations facing 2-yrds or less. The Falcons were just overpowered by the G-men.
- Pittsburgh not respecting Tim Tebow and Denaryius Thomas. The Steelers left man coverage on Thomas too many times and Denver was able to exploit that with the playaction. It seemed as if Pittsburgh underestimated Tebow and caught Ike Taylor out of position a few times. The first play of overtime was huge as the Steelers played the run and a little miscommunication between Taylor and the safety cost them the game.
Moving onto the divisional playoffs, I think we’ve learned a thing or two about the wildcard winners.
- The Saints don’t need a punter. New Orleans didn’t punt the ball a single time against Detroit. Their offense is on fire right now and if you lose out on takeaways, they will burn you.
- Tebowmania continues. I don’t think anyone expected Tebow to pass for over 300 yards against the Steelers (#1 defense) and connect with Thomas for a NFL record longest scoring play in playoff overtime history. New England will definitely be respecting his arm this time around. In a way, this huge win probably just earned him to retain his started gig for next season.
- The Texans will go as far as Arian Foster takes them. His ability to cut through the Bengals’ defense was the big difference in their Wild Card matchup and they will need that against the Ravens. Yates’ ability to become an effective pass also relies on Foster’s effectiveness on the ground.
- All the pieces are falling into place for the Giants. The biggest keys to their Super Bowl run in 2008 were the defensive line and running game, and both seem to be coming alive for the Giants right now. The team has been carried by Eli all season, but the running game has slowly come alive the past couple games. We all know the defensive line has the abilities to make all pro quarterbacks look average. This is a team I wouldn’t want to face right now and I would not be surprised to see them steal a win in Lambeau.