Wildcard weekend was indeed wild. Dramatically wild. Saturday saw a defensive struggle between two of the worse defenses in the league. Then Saturday night saw a game decided by a botched field goal hold. Sunday wasn’t as dramatic, though it saw the departure of both New York teams. And again I say, what do the Giants have to do to get a win? Adieu Tiki Barber, us fantasy owners will miss you.
Let’s get into the games…
at Indianapolis 23, Kansas City 8
A funny thing happened on the way to the Chiefs “running wild” in this one, the Colts defense didn’t read that story! And yes, this game was won by the Indianapolis defense. They limited Kansas City’s vaunted rushing attack to a mere 46 yards on the day, and only allowed a total of 126 yards overall. The Chief’s defense was keeping pace as they forced Peyton Manning (268 yards, 1 TD, 3 int) into throw 3 interceptions on the day. The Colts were unable to crack the endzone in the opening 30 minutes, but Adam Vinatieri (3 FG, 2 PAT) knocked home three kicks to give the Colts the 9-nil lead at the break. Indianapolis would open up the second half getting their offense going, and a nice drive was capped off with a Joseph Addai (122 yards, TD) 6 yard run to paydirt. The Chiefs did respond, finally scoring some points, Tony Gonzalez scoring on a 6 yard pass play. Trent Green would find Kris Wilson for the 2 point conversion, and the lead was cut in half. Alas, that would be as close as the visitors would get on this day, Reggie Wayne scored on a 5 yard pass play early on in the fourth quarter and Kansas City never threatened from there. Colts advance to play the Ravens.
at Seattle 21, Dallas 20
I thought long and hard about how to describe this game, to a Dallas fan, this was as tough as a loss can be. As a Seattle fan, they have to be happy to live for another day. For the rest of us, an exciting game came to one of the most dramatic finishes that you can have in an NFL game. The game began innocently enough, both teams feeling each other out, both kickers connecting in the first quarter. Seattle would tack on another field goal, then Dallas was able to crack the endzone, Tony Romo (189 yards, TD) finding Patrick Crayton for a 13 yard score. Seatle would come out and give the home fans something to cheer about, Jerramy Stevens (77 yards, 2 TD) scoring on a 15 yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck (240 yards, 2 TD, 2 int). But the momentum would not last, as Dallas’ Miles Austin took the ensuing kickoff 93 yards to put the Cowboys back in the lead. Martin Grammatica would extend the Dallas lead to 20-13 early in the fourth quarter, then things got interesting.
Seattle’s offense started to click on their ensuing possession, and they were marching down the field looking for the game tying score. With just over eight minutes to play, Seattle had moved to the Dallas one yard line for a first and goal opportunity. But the Dallas defense would stiffen, Shaun Alexander dropped for an eight yard loss on first down. Hasselbeck threw incomplete on a bad looking second down play, and on third down Stevens got the home team down to the two yard line. Mike Holmgren did not hesitate, keeping his offense on the field, but they’d misfire on fourth down, turning the ball over with just under seven minutes to play.
Just when the decision to go for it on fourth down looked foolish, Seattle’s defense forced Terry Glenn to fumble on first down, the ball precariously rolled into the endzone where the Seahawks eventually would recover for the touchdown. Now it was Bill Parcell’s turn not to hesitate, he challenged the play, and replay showed that Lofa Tatupu had a foot barely on the out of bounds line when he touched the ball. The play was reversed to a safety. With momentum on their side, Hasselbeck quickly brought Seattle down the field, three plays, 50 yards, Jerramy Stevens in the end zone from 37 yards out. The two point conversion failed miserably, so Seattle was holding the slim 1 point lead with just over four minutes to play.
This would prove to be plenty of time for young Romo to lead his team down the field. A couple of short passes then a 35 yard Julius Jones run had Dallas on the Seattle 11 yard line at the two minute warning. The chess match was on. Dallas did their best to deplete Seattle of their timeouts, while trying to keep the ball and score. On third and seven from the eight yard line, Jason Witten’s 7 yard reception was originally ruled enough for a first down, but replay review re-spotted the ball, this time short of the first down. With 1:19 remaining, all Dallas needed was essentially an extra point to take the lead. The snap was good, but poor Romo could not transfer the ball to the ground!! He quickly tried to get up and run for it, and for a brief moment it looked like he might score or at least get the first down, but the Seahawks closed in to take over the ball.
Yet Dallas had their full complement of time outs, so the game was not quite over. Alexander gained 20 yards on first down, giving the Seahawks some much needed breathing room. From there, they were unable to move, and were forced to punt with seven ticks of the clock left. The punt went out of bounds at midfield, so with two ticks to go, Dallas would have one last hail mary. The pass was deep enough, but it fell harmlessly to the ground, and Seattle escapes to play for another day.
at New England 37, New York Jets 16
Hard pressed to live up to the previous night’s dramatics, the Patriots and Jets got together for their third meeting of the year. New England got it going early, Corey Dillon scoring from 11 yards out to put New England on top three minutes into the game. But from there, the Jets would stiffen, and New York would score the next 10 points, Jerricho Cotchery scoring on a 77 yard bomb to put the visitors in the lead. The Patriots would respond, Stephen Gostkowski (3 FG, 3 PAT) tying the game, then Daniel Graham scoring on a one yard play from Tom Brady (212 yards, 2 TD) one tick before the halftime gun. Both defenses kept the opposing offense in check in the third quarter, neither team finding the end zone, but New England would extend their lead to 23-13 entering the final frame. The Jets would draw within a touchdown, Mike Nugent (3 FG, PAT) connecting from 37 yards out, but after that, the dream of the upset would slip away. Kevin Faulk scored on a 7 yard pass play, then Asante Samuel would finish off the Jets with a 36 yard interception return for a touchdown. All that was left was to see how the coaches would exchange pleasantries at midfield, and this time, Bill Belichick angrily tossed a camera man out of his way in order to give a hug to his memesis, and New England will now ready itself to travel to San Diego next week.
at Philadelphia 23, New York Giants 20
I’ve written it many times this year, too many times I’m sure for Giant fans likings, but the Giants always seem to play *just* well enough to lose. This week was unfortunately no different. The Giants and Eagles got together for their third meeting of the season, the previous two matches going to the visiting team. New York got out quickly, Plaxico Burress (89 yards, 2 TD) scoring on a 17 yard pass from Eli Manning (161 yards, 2 TD, 1 int). The teams would play the field position game for the remainder of the first quarter before Brian Westbrook (141 yards, TD) broke free for a 49 yard score early in the second quarter. David Akers (3 FG, 2 PAT) would put the Eagles on top, connecting from 19 yards after the Giants defense kept Philadelphia out of the end zone. The Giants would counter with a field goal of their own to tie the game back up, but Jeff Garcia (153 yards, TD) connected with Donte Stallworth for a 28 yard score just before the half.
Tiki Barber (137 yards) would keep the Giants offense going, but both teams were unable to find the endzone in a hard fought third quarter. Akers, however, was able to score, his 50 yard boot extending the Philadelphia lead to 10 points. New York would respond, another field goal from Jay Feely drawing the visitors within seven. The Giant defense would then do their part, forcing the Eagles to punt, so it was up to Manning and company to get into the endzone. Manning was brilliant on the drive, especially when New York backed themselves into a first and 30 thanks to penalties. Manning would complete a 14 yard pass on 3rd and 12 to keep the drive going, then connected again with Burress for a 11 yard score to tie the game.
With the rain falling harder by the minute, it was the Eagles turn to drive to glory. Westbrook did most of the work on the drive, and Philadelphia quickly moved into field goal range. The Giants were forced to use their timeouts, but Philadelphia was just too close. They manuevered themselves to the Giant 20 yard line and ran the clock down to three seconds…and out came David Akers, and his kick from 38 yards out was true, handing the Giants their walking papers from the playoffs despite a valiant effort.