NFL 2009-2010–Wild Card Recap

My birthday yesterday was spectacular, from inception to its salaciously delicious conclusion.

Enough reminiscing about the past. The NFL playoffs are upon us with four wildcard games.

New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals–Last week the Jets beat the Bengals 37-0 in the Meadowlands. The playoff rematch was in Cincinnati. The Bengals got off to a hot start with a 56 yard kickoff return, but on the third play from scrimmage fumbled the ball away. The Jets punted and the Bengals got the ball back at the New York 45. Cedric Benson picked up 19 yards on the ground, and on 3rd and 6 from the 11, Carson Palmer hit Laverneous Coles for the touchdown to put the Bengals up 7-0. After that the roof caved in.

In the second quarter the Jets took over after  a punt at the Cincinnati 47. Greene ran for a 39 yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7. Palmer was then intercepted, setting the Jets up at their own 43. Mark Sanchez hit Keller for a 45 yard touchdown pass to give the Jets the 14-7 halftime lead.

In the third quarter seven straight running plays set up a 4th and 4 at the Cincy 24. The field goal was good, but holding pushed the Jets back 10 yards. Before they could try the kick again, a false start pushed them out of range and they punted. The Bengals moved from their own 12 to a 4th and 5 at the New York 17. SHane Graham came in for a 35 yard field goal and missed it. Sanchez came in and hit Jerricho Cotchery for 18 yards and Braylon Edwards for 16 more. Thomas Jones ran it in form 9 yards out as the Jets had the lead on the road 21-7.

The Bengals got back in the game when Benson ran for a 47 yard touchdown to get the Bengals within 21-14 with 11 minutes left in regulation. Sanchez hit Keller on a short swing pass that went for 43 yards down to the Cincy 23. Green broke off a 14 yard run and added 5 more, but on 3rd and 2 from the 3, Jones only picked up one yard. With 6 minutes left, facing 4th and 1 at the 2, Rex Ryan opted for the field goal. The chip shot was good as the Jets had a 10 point lead.

From the Cincinnati 37, Palmer quickly led the Bengals down the field, needing 2 scores to tie the game. Helped along by a pair of defensive penalties, the Bengals reached the Jets 11. At that point Gang Green hunkered down, and 3 straight incomplete passes later Marvin Lewis decided to go for the field goal. From 28 yards out, Graham missed again. The Bengals got the ball back one final time but Palmer was leveled on back to back sacks. Marvin Lewis saw his 9-3 Bengals fade down the stretch, while Rex Ryan saw his Jets barely squeak into the playoffs. On this day the Jets got it done on the road. 24-14 Jets

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys–Despite both teams being 11-5, both coaches Andy Reid and Wade Phillips and both quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo were going to be skewered in the media if they lost this game played at the 1.2 billion Jerry Jones Metropolis. Dallas swept the season series, including 24-0 last week. This game was expected to be much more competitive. It was not.

Romo took half of the opening quarter to move the Cowboys from the Dallas 17. A 30 yard screen pass to Felix Jones had the Cowboys with 1st and 10 at the Eagles 14. A pair of penalties and a sack had the Cowboys at 4th and 32 from the 36. Wade Phillips decided against the long field goal, as the Cowboys punted. Dallas got the ball back just shy of midfield, and Jones ran for 20 yards down to the Philly 31. Yet again they went backwards, and on 4th and 13 from the 34, Phillips again opted for the punt rather than a shaky field goal kicker.

Despite a scoreless first quarter, the Eagles went nowhere with awful field position. Dallas took over at their own 45. On 3rd and 8 Romo hit miles Austin for 12 yards. The first big play was a deep bomb that led to defensive pass interference and the ball on the Philly one yard line. Romo hit Phillips for the touchdown as the Cowboys led 7-0. The Eagles came right back. They began at their own 17, and from the 24, it wa Michael Vick at quarterback on the play, not McNabb. The wildcat snap saw Vick throw deep to Jeremy Maclin for a 76 yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

Romo was then intercepted, but the Cowboys challenged the call and on review it was ruled incomplete. Defensive pass interference again hurt the Eagles as the Cowboys moved form their own 15 to their own 42. On 3rd and 9, Romo hit Patrick Crayton for 18 yards to the Philly 39. On 3rd and 7 Romo hit Roy Williams for 17 yards and Jason Witten for 18 more down to the one. Tashard Choice ran it in to complete the 10 play, 85 yard drive and put the Cowboys up 14-7.

The Eagles punted again, and the Cowboys again had great field position at their own 41. Romo hit Austin for 36 yards to the Philly 23. On 3rd and 10 Romo hit WIlliams for 17 yards down to the 6. The Eagles finally clamped down, holding the Cowboys to a field goal and 17-7 lead. Disaster then struck as Vick went from hero to goat, fumbling the ball away as the Cowboys took over at the Eagles 18. Romo hit Austin from 6 yards out to have the Cowboys coasting at 24-7.

Philadelphia continued to self-destruct as another fumble set the Cowboys up at their own 42 with 51 seconds left in the half. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Philadelphia defense allowed a 48 yard field goal attempt, which was good. A scoreless first quarter became a second quarter Dallas avalanche as the Cowboys led 27-7 at the break.

The second half was uneventful. Felix Jones broke off a 73 yard run in the third quarter to have the Cowboys leading 34-7. Dallas beat Philly for the third time this season. Phillips and Romo got the monkeys off their backs with the first Dallas playoff win since 1996. As for Andy Reid, he was 7-0 in opening round playoff games before this loss. Despite almost being the # 2 seed, instead McNabb will be subjected to more criticism than an 11-5 quarterback should. 34-14 Cowboys

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots–This was another game where a mismatch appeared illusory. The Ravens barely made the playoffs with a 9-7 record on the last weekend, while the Patriots coasted to another division title. Despite Wes Welker being injured, the Patriots had the edge at home, where Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady had never lost a playoff game. In a stunning turn of events, this game was practically over by the end of the first quarter.

The Ravens began at their own 17. One play and 17 seconds into the game, Ray Rice had an 83 yard touchdown run and 7-0 Ravens lead in front of a shellshocked Patriots crowd. The Patriots needed 3 plays for Tom Brady to get sacked by Terrell Suggs and fumble the ball, setting up the Ravens at the New England 17. McClain ran it in from one yard out to have the Ravens up 14-0 only 4 1/2 minutes into the game.

After an exchange of punts, Brady was intercepted, again giving the Ravens a short field at the Patriots 25. On 3rd and 1 from the 16, Joe Flacco snuck for just enough. Despite the Ravens running the ball almost all game, Flacco hit Willis McGahee for 13 yards to set up Rice from one yard out to have the Ravens up 21-0. Brady was then intercepted again, this time by Ed Reed. Reed lateraled the ball to Landry, who took it to the Patriot 9. The Patriots finally held on defense, but a field goal had the Ravens up 24-0 after the most hellacious opening quarter in Patriots playoff history.

Needing plenty of miracles, New England got one in the second quarter when a punt bounced off a Ravens lineman. The Patriots recovered at the Baltimore 16. While John Harbaugh saw his team thrashing the opponents, he made a coaching mistake by not challenging the fumble recovery. It appeared the ball was recovered out of bounds, which would have given it back to the Ravens. The non-challenge led to a 6 yard touchdown pass from Brady to Julian Edelman. The Patriots still trailed 24-7, but any game with the evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick on the sidelines requires a stake through the heart.

Flacco barely threw the ball all game, as the Ravens rammed the ball down the Patriots throats all game. Yet a Flacco interception gave New England a chance, until they went 3 and out. The Patriots got another break when the Ravens punted and New England took over at the Baltimore 44. On 3rd and 8 from the 32, Brady hit Kevin Faulk for 17 yards, but offensive pass interference on Randy Moss instead pushed the Patriots back. On 4th and 12 from the 36, Bellichick opted against the field goal as the Patriots punted again and trailed 24-7 at intermission.

In the third quarter, trying to make something happen, Brady tried to party like it was 2007. A deep ball was intercepted by Landry, who returned it 42 yards to the New England 22. With Flacco throwing no passes. 4th and 3 at the 4 led to a field goal and a 27-7 Ravens lead. A strong kickoff return had the Patriots at their own 47, where they finally got going. A 10 play drive culminated with a 1 yard toss from Brady to Edelman as the Patriots only trailed 27-14.

They got no closer as the Ravens had a long kickoff return of their own to start at their own 48. Flacco then led a 12 play, 6 minute drive that stretched into the fourth quarter. On 3rd and 2 from the New England 44, Flacco hit Derrick Mason for 8 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the 13 Flacco hit Clayton for 17 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the 13 Flacco scrambled around the end, stretching the ball just beyond the first down marker. New England had no answers on 3rd down, and on 3rd and goal from the 3, McGahee ran it in to ice the scoring. New England desperately tried to rally, but the final deflating blow came when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 44 yard field goal.

From the opening run, the Ravens took New England and belted them in the mouth. Flacco threw only 10 passes all game, and completed 4 of them for 34 yards. Most of that came on the last scoring drive. Yet the epitome of a game manager is to not lose the game, and with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on defense and a punishing running game, Flacco did his job as New England suffered its very first home playoff loss. 33-14 Ravens

Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardibnals–Last week these teams met in Arizona, with the Packers having clinched a wildcard and the Cardinals again clinching their division. Yet the Packers played their starters most of the game and the Cardinals rested theirs early on. Kurt Warner gave way to Matt Leinart, who gave way because he is not a good quarterback. The Packers raced to a 33-0 lead and won 33-7. The rematch in the wildcard was again in Arizona, but this time the Cardinals were not playing their backups. The results showed early and often.

Aaron Rodgers was intercepted on the opening play from scrimmage, setting up the Cardinals at the Green Bay 40. On 3rd and 8 Warner hit Urban for 13 yards. Wells ran for 14 and Warner hit Steve Breaston for 11 more. Tim Hightower banged it in from one yard out to put the Cardinals up 7-0. Donald Driver then fumbled, and the Cardinals took over at the Green Bay 22. Warner hit Doucet for the 15 yard touchdown as the Cardinals led 14-0. Arizona got the ball back again at their own 41, and Warner continued slicing and dicing the Packers defense. The drive stalled at the Green Bay 5, but Neil Rackers made the field goal to have the Cardinals up 17-0.

In the second quarter the Packers showed signs of life, and Mike McCarthy decided to have Mason Crosby attempt a 54 yard field goal to get the Packers on the board. The kick was no good. The Cardinals went down the field again, but a chance to turn out the light early on ended when Larry Fitzgerald fumbled at the Green Bay 16 and Matthews returned it to the Green Bay 48. Ryan Grant ran for 10 yards, and a horse collar penalty on the next run added 15 more. Grant ran for another 20 to set up 1st and goal at the 7. On 3rd and goal from the 11, and incomplete pass was for naught as defensive pass interference instead gave the Packers 1st and goal at the 1. Aaron Rodgers took it in to make it a 17-7 game.

Yet the Green Bay defense had no answer to Warner. From the Arizona 21, the Cardinals marched 79 yards with relative ease. A 25 yard run by Larod Stephens-Howling followed by a defensive facemask foul  had the Cardinals in the red zone. From the 15, Warner hit Doucet, who bounced off a couple tacklers, lost his helmet, and spun into the end zone to have the Cardinals up 24-7 with just over 2 minutes left in the half. That was enough time for Rodgers to complete a 44 yard bomb to the red zone. The Packers got inside the 5 yard line, but could not punch it in, settling for a 20 yard field goal as the Cardinals led 24-10 at halftime.

The Arizona onslaught continued in the second half. Warner hit Fitzgerald for a 33 yard touchdown pass to have the Cardinals up 31-10. Yet Rodgers brought the Packers back from the 20. An 18 yard pass to Finley on 3rd and 10  moved the chains. On 3rd and 8 from the Green Bay 40, a incomplete pass was offset by defensive pass interference. Rodgers then hit Jennings for 35 yards to set up a 6 yard touchdown pass to Jennings to get the Packers within 31-17.

Mike McCarthy called a surprise onsides kick that worked perfectly as the Packers took over at their own 43. On 4th and 1 from the Arizona 48, McCarthy decided to go for it, and Ahman Green picked it up. Rodgers then hit Finley down to the Arizona 21. From the 10, Rodgers hit Nelson for the touchdown to get the Packers to within 31-24. Yet the Green Bay defense still had no answers.

From the Arizona 27, Warner hit Doucet for 15 yards, and Wells ran for 42 yards to the Green Bay 16. Warner hit Fitzgerald for an 11 yard touchdown as the Cardinals led 38-24 after three quarters.

Less than one minute into the fourth quarter the Packers were on the board again. Facing 4th and 5 from the Arizona 30, Rodgers hit Driver, who shook a tackle and took it to the end zone as the Packers were back within 38-31.

Ken Whisenhunt got conservative on the next series, and running plays led to the first Arizona punt of the game. Rodgers then hit Finley for 38 yards and Driver for 28 more down to the one. Kuhn ran it in to tie the game 38-38 with 11 minutes in regulaton.

On the next series Whisenhunt had Warner continue his passing clinic. On 3rd and 4 from the 26, Warner hit Hightower for 7 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Green Bay 47, Wells picked up just enough. Warner then hit Breaston for 26 yards, and went back to Breaston for a 17 yard touchdown to put the Cardinals in front again 45-38 with 5 minutes to play. The only downside was that the Packers had the ball again.

The Packers began at their own 29, and a defensive holding penalty moved things to the 40. Rodgers ran for 13 yards to the Arizona 47, and then hit Jennings for 22 yards down to the 25.  On 3rd and 5 from the 20, Rodgers hit Finley for 9 yards down to the 11 at the 2 minute warning. Rodgers hit Hadner for the touchdown to tie this pinball machine game 45-45 with 1:53 left.

The Cardinals took over at their own 21, and on 2nd and 5 from the 26, Warner hit Breaston for 24 yards to midfield and Fitzgerald for 15 more to the Green Bay 35 with 22 seconds remaining. From the 32, Warner hit Doucet,  who broke tackles and got down to the 16 as the Cardinals called timeout with 14 seconds remaining. Rackers came in for the 34 yard kick to win it. He hooked it way wide, no good. The teams went to overtime.

The Packers won the toss, and a pair of offenses that put up 90 points were not going to end on defense. Or maybe in a game that had seen everything, they would. The Packers took over at their own 20, and on 3rd and 6 from the 24, Rodgers got hit by Mike Adams. The ball bounced off of Rodgers’s helmet, and then bounced off of Rodgers’ foot straight into the arms of Karlos Dansby, who took it 17 yards for an interception return touchdown to end one of the all time playoff thrillers and the highest scoring game in NFL Playoff history.

A crushed Aaron Rodgers finished 28 of 42 with 4 touchdown passes, including rallying from 31-10 in the second half. Yet interceptions on the very first and last plays of the game were the difference. As for Kurt Warner, he was a ridiculous 29 of 33 for 379 yards passing and 5 touchdown passes. The teams combined for 1000 offensive yards. The big winner in this game was the NFL itself. 51-45 Cardinals, OT

From a competitive standpoint, most of the wildcard games were not that good, despite the last one being one of the greatest games of all time. Let’s hope the divisional games offer better fare. The divisional games are now set.

Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts

New York Jets @ San Diego Chargers

Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints


One Response to “NFL 2009-2010–Wild Card Recap”

  1. One thing we saw this week was the rise of the young QBs. It’s a Junior v. Senior touranment this year – literally. There’s Romo, Rodgers, Sanchez and Flacco, three of whom remain. Favre waits in the bye, while Warner remains, two future hall of famers around MY age! There’s Brees, not a noob anymore, by any stretch, but still with a lot left in him. Then there’s Manning, McNabb and Brady, only one them remains. So far it’s been a pretty even split. But I think we’re seeing the stars of future in action this playoff season. We’ll be seeing a lot of Flacco, Sanchez, Rodgers, Brees and Romo for a long time to come. Long live the new kings!


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