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Win Or Go Home: NFL Wild Card Weekend Storylines

Posted on January 08, 2013 by Andy Larmand

There were only four football games on TV this weekend – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. But, thats okay. It’s the playoffs! Someone really should have told Andy Dalton, though as some unfortunate quarterback play stole the spotlight on Saturday.

PLAYOFFS?! Jim Mora, made famous for his rant at a press conference in 2001, is getting gained on by Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis as the coaches the two with the most playoff losses without any wins (Mora: 0-6, Lewis: 0-4).

The Bengals and Texans kicked off Wild Card Weekend for the second straight year on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game and the first playoff game of  Matt Schaub‘s career (was injured last season). Houston won last year’s game and they won this one too, though it was ugly, 19-13. The game was the fourth rematch in the Wild Card round from the previous year in history and all four times the team that had won the first one has won the second one. In an ugly first half, the only touchdown that was scored was a Leon Hall interception return for Cincinnati, but they trailed 9-7 at the end of two thanks to some very sloppy play. The Bengals were the first team with negative passing yards in the first half of a playoff game since 2006. Dalton had -6 yards through the air in the half. It was the fourth consecutive game with a defensive TD for the Bengals and their first interception return for a touchdown in the postseason since 1973. A.J. Green had no catches or targets in the first two quarters of the game. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since 1990 and also fell to 0-6 on the road all-time in the postseason. Dalton finished with just 127 yards on 14-of-30 passing.

Both Owen Daniels and Arian Foster were huge for the Texans, who have now won a playoff game in consecutive seasons. Daniels finished the game with nine receptions for 91 yards and Foster finished with 140 yards and the team’s only touchdown as he became the first running back to ever rush for 100 yards in each of his first three career playoff games. His 425 rushing yards in those games are also good for the most by a player in his first three career postseason appearances. Shayne Graham made all four of his field goal attempts in the game. Houston still has a chance to become only the second team to win the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season 1-3 or worse. Schaub nearly doubled Dalton’s passer rating (83.4 to 44.7) as the veteran came out on top in this one. Jermaine Gresham caught just two passes for seven yards and had two drops bounce off his hands. The Texans will head to New England to take on the Patriots in a rematch of their Week 14 game on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Houston lost the contest 42-14.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati's season is done.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati’s season is done.

A couple hours before kickoff, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder determined his injured elbow was not going to allow him to play in the game against the Packers. Joe Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass this season, got the start and became the first quarterback in NFL history to start a postseason game after not attempting a pass in the regular season. He was the first QB to start a playoff game with only one career win on his resume since Kelly Holcomb in 2003. With all that going against them, it was never really close after the Packers scored 24 unanswered points to win, 24-10, and earn a rematch with the 49ers next week. Dalton may have felt a little better as Webb threw for just six yards in the first half of this game. Adrian Peterson ran for just 99 yards in the game on 22 carries and failed to become just the second 2,000-yard rusher to win a playoff game in the same season. No rushing champion has run for 100 yards in a playoff game since Edgerrin James did in 2000.

For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed a pass to 10 different receivers as Green Bay avenged their loss to the Vikings in last week’s regular season finale. Green Bay set an NFL playoff record with the 10 different players  having a catch. With all the strong receivers the team has, little-known running backs John Kuhn and DuJuan Harris each ran for a touchdown and Kuhn caught one as well. The defense held A.P. to 99 yards after allowing 199 to him less than a week before. Peterson had rushed for 409 in his previous two games against the Pack. Charles Woodson returned for Green Bay after missing nine games with a broken collarbone and made six tackles, including one for a loss. Minnesota fell to 0-6 in games played outdoors this season. Rodgers won his first career playoff game at Lambeau Field in his eight-year career and became the first Packers’ quarterback other than Brett Favre to win there in the playoffs since 1982. Green Bay will travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in the Divisional Round game Saturday at 8 p.m.

Packers running back John Kuhn came up huge on Saturday, scoring two touchdowns in Green Bay's 24-10 win over Minnesota.

Packers running back John Kuhn came up huge on Saturday, scoring two touchdowns in Green Bay’s 24-10 win over Minnesota.

Sunday was a bit better of a watching experience for fans as Andrew Luck became the first rookie quarterback drafted No. 1 overall to ever start a playoff game in his first season. The Colts took on the AFC North champion Ravens in the early game on Sunday as Ray Lewis played his final game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and Chuck Pagano faced his former team for the first time since leaving them after last season. Lewis made 13 tackles – one shy of his career-high – and was on the field as the deep back for the last kneel-down of the day. His 112 career postseason tackles (and counting) are by far the most in Ravens history (Terrell Suggs has 38). Joe Flacco became the second quarterback to start a postseason game in each of his first five seasons and that streak is also the longest active for consecutive years of one team making the playoffs. He has won at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons. Flacco completed just 12 passes on the day, but his 23.5-yard average gave him 282 yards for the game. Only Tim Tebow in last year’s game against the Steelers had a higher average per completion in a playoff game than Flacco on Sunday (31.6 yards). Ravens fullback Vonta Leach scored the first Baltimore touchdown in three playoff games against Indy. It was also the first touchdown in two postseason meetings between these two at M&T Bank Stadium. The 2006 meeting was a 15-6 final. It was Leach’s first rushing touchdown since Week 2 of this season. Baltimore became the sixth franchise in league history to win a playoff game in five straight seasons. They improved to 6-1 in Wild Card games despite two lost fumbles from Ray Rice on the day. He had only fumbled once in the regular season and it was not lost. Backup Bernard Pierce had 33 more yards on the day. Anquan Boldin caught five balls for a Baltimore playoff-record 145 yards and became the only Raven with two career 100-plus yard receiving games in the postseason (Todd Heap). He had no catches in the first half of the game.

Adam Vinatieri was 2-for-2 in the first half, including a career postseason-long of 52 yards as the second quarter ended. He is now 22-for-24 in his playoff career as a Colt after a second-half miss. The miss was his first in the postseason since the Super Bowl XLI win over the Bears. After three games without one, Luck’s two turnovers on the day hurt the Colts. He did, however, set a record for the most pass attempts by a rookie in a postseason game with 54 in his first go-around. Reggie Wayne now trails only Jerry Rice for the most receptions in the postseason as his nine on Sunday gave him 92 for his career. Indy has lost three straight playoff games when they entered as the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Paul Kruger had 2.5 sacks for the Ravens on the day. Baltimore will play Denver in the Divisional Round on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Ray Lewis performs his patented pre-game dance for the final time in his NFL career.

Ray Lewis, the “Original Raven,” performs his signature pre-game dance for the final time in his NFL career.

Someone would get their first career playoff win in the final game of the weekend as rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson faced off in the nation’s capitol. In just the second playoff game played between two starting rookie quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era, Washington opened strong, but it was Seattle who would get the last laugh with a 24-14 win. RG3 started off his playoff career with touchdown passes on his first two drives – not too bad. He would have to leave the game in the fourth quarter, though, after re-aggrivating his knee injury. Evan Royster caught the first one for the first TD catch of his career. Neither him nor Logan Paulsen, who caught the second one, had been targeted in the red zone all season long before then. In their previous two playoff games – both losses to the Seahawks, the Redskins went scoreless in the first quarter. Washington out-gained Seattle 129-9 in the first quarter. Seattle would score the next 24, however, with three field goals from their gimpy place kicker Steven Hauschka. This was the first playoff game in which both teams entered on five-game winning streaks. Seattle has now outscored its opponents 187-74 in its last six games while only allowing 12.3 points per game in that span.

Washington scored 14 first-quarter points for the fifth time in their playoff history. Unfortunately, they did not score any points for the rest of the game. They had won each of the previous four times they accomplished that. Griffin became just the fifth quarterback to ever throw two touchdown passes in the first quarter of his postseason debut. He only passed for 16 yards in the final three quarters, however. Seattle won its first road playoff game since 1983 when they beat the Dolphins. Nine straight road playoff losses would have equaled the longest streak ever. Their 224 rushing yards were the most the Redskins have given up in a playoff game since Super Bowl XVIII in 1984. Seattle became just the third team to win a playoff game in which they trailed by 14 or more at the end of the first quarter. Marshawn Lynch tied Shaun Alexander‘s franchise record for the most rushing yards in a postseason game with 132 in the win. His 27-yard run was the second-longest in team playoff history to his 67-yarder in 2010 against the Saints. Griffin’s 33.9 total QBR was his second-lowest in any game this season. The Seahawks will take on the top-seeded Falcons on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Robert Griffin III re-injured his knee a couple of times in Sunday's Wild Card loss to the Seahawks.

Robert Griffin III re-injured his knee a couple of times in Sunday’s Wild Card loss to the Seahawks.

Just a note: young quarterbacks Dalton and Webb combined to go 25-for-60 (41.6%) for 307 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions on Saturday.

That’s it for week No. 1 of the NFL playoffs. It’ll only get better from here.

 

Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

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