The New York Jets flew into Cincinnati with the Super Bowl on their mind. Cincinnati tried to get back to their winning ways after the death of Chris Henry. Many pundits and fans thought the Jets were given a free pass into the playoffs when the Colts decided not to go for perfection and the Bengals chose to save their energy for the playoffs. The Jets obviously took exception to the thought they didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs and pummeled the Bengals 24-14. Mark Sanchez played ok in his first playoff game, becoming one of a handful of rookie QB’s to win in the playoffs.
Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens showed the previously formidable Brady bunch that the Patriots won’t make another Super Bowl run anytime soon. Ray Rice’s first play from scrimmage, an 83 yard run, showed Belichick that neither the Tuck Rule nor secret tapes of the Ravens plays would help his team defeat one of the most dominate defenses of the past decade. Advantage Ravens. Final score: Ravens 33, Patriots 14.
The Dallas Cowboys finally win a playoff game! How annoying was it to constantly hear that the last time America’s Team won a playoff game was in 1996, when Barry Switzer was the coach! With this win, Wade Phillips will keep his job for one more year. Tony Romo actually performed like a premiere NFL quarterback. Dallas’ defense dominated Philly to the point they are now hailed as “Doomsday II.” If you remember the original Doomsday Defense, then you know that the current defense is truly a force to be reckoned with. Prior to the game, Eagles WR DeSean Jackson tried to talk the talk, but when it counted, his team could not walk the walk. Donovan McNabb danced around and tried scare Dallas fans as he entered Cowboys Stadium. Seemingly, he was the one who was scared. This game was a straight-up beat-down. Philly had absolutely no chance. Dallas prevails 34-14.
The most entertaining game of the weekend took place in the desert. Green Bay crushed Arizona last week and was poised to repeat the whuppin’. Arizona had other ideas, starting from the first play of the game when Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was intercepted. With that, Kurt Warner and the explosive Cardinal offense went to work. Arizona was up 24-10 at halftime. I was tempted to turn off the game, but, something told me the final chapter had not yet been written. Whatever Mike McCarthy said to his team during the break worked. Rodgers settled down in the third quarter and actually played very well in his first playoff game. Green Bay began picking apart the weak Cards defense, and, before you knew it, the Pack was back in the game. Warner had an amazing game and started matching scoring drives with Rodgers. Late in the third quarter it was obvious that neither defense was defending much of anything. Green Bay eventually tied the score in the fourth quarter at 38 and then at 45. Normally accurate kicker Neil Rackers missed Arizona’s game winning field goal attempt with four seconds remaining in regulation. The game went into overtime.
Green Bay won the coin-toss (tails never fails – so it seems) in overtime and elected to receive the ball. Rodgers missed a wide-open Greg Jennings for what would have been the winning touchdown. Had Rodgers connected, the world would have been robbed of a fantastic game-ending play. On the next play, DB Michael Adams forced a Rodgers fumble, seemingly while grabbing Rodgers’ facemask. During the play, Rodgers kicked the ball in an attempt to get it away from Arizona, but, Karlos Dansby caught the ball in mid-air and raced 8 yards for the game-winning touchdown. It was a remarkable, but controversial, play. I actually missed seeing Adams grab Rodgers’ facemask in real time. Some commentators believed Green Bay should have retained possession because the facemask infraction by Adams negated the fumble. Others maintain that Arizona minimally should have received possession of the ball at the spot of recovery, with a 15 yard facemask penalty marked off from the spot of recovery, all in Green Bay territory. The play was not reviewed and history was made. If you like watching replays, this game is one to watch. Final score: Cardinals 51, Packers 45.
Next week’s Divisional match-ups feature Baltimore vs. Indianapolis (old Colts vs. new Colts) and Arizona vs. New Orleans on Saturday; New York Jets vs. San Diego and Dallas vs. Minnesota (can anyone say “Hail Mary”) on Sunday. These match-ups should be high-scoring and highly entertaining. My predictions…Indy, Arizona, San Diego and Dallas will move on to their respective conference championships. We’ll see!