NFL 2019-2020 Divisionals Prequel

January 11th, 2020

My birthday: 48 Happy Memories upon turning 48

January 9th, 2020

My birthday: 48 Happy Memories upon turning 48

I entered this world 48 years ago today on January 9, 1972. On my 48th birthday, here are 48 happy memories.

1.) Every moment I ever spent with my grandparents. They are gone now, but I had all four of them when I graduated college and three of them when I turned 30. I am blessed.

2.) January 9, 1977 — The Oakland Raiders won the Super Bowl on my fifth birthday. I saw the logo and became a Raider for life.

3.) August 15, 1980 — Smokey and the Bandit II came out. I saw the original and the sequel and became a lifelong fan of the Bandit and the Snowman.

4.) January 22, 1984 — The Raiders won their third Super Bowl. I still remember telling the kids at school the next day one simple message. “Just win baby!”

5.) January 21, 1985 — I had my Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish passage into manhood. My Orthodox Rabbi grandfather led the ceremony.

6.) July 13, 1990 — I watched Bill Murray in “Quick Change” for the first of over 100 times. This movie is true New York, and Murray remains a national hero.

7.) August 26, 1990 — I flew from New York to Los Angeles for college. I immediately fell in love with this city and never left.

8.) September 26, 1990 — I joined the campus radio station and developed my lifelong love of radio.

9.) May 10, 1992 — I wrote my first song. 70 more would follow.

10.) January 9, 1994 — The Raiders won a playoff game over arch rival Denver on my 22nd birthday. We all had a big party to celebrate afterward at 1950s Cafe Ed Debevic’s.

11.) June 14, 1994 — The New York Rangers won the NHL Stanley Cup and ended the 54 year curse.

12.) September 13, 1994 — I passed the Series 7 stockbroker’s exam. At that moment I was now a professional.

13.) June 1, 1997 — I saw my friend doing something on a computer that seemed different. He was in a chat room. It was my first time using the Internet.

14.) July 4, 1999 — My friends and I crashed an Independence Day party on the beach and escaped moments before police busted up the party.

15.) September 23, 1999 — I finally got my driver’s license. I never needed one before.

16.) December 31, 1999 — Ringing in the Millennium in Las Vegas.

17.) March 1, 2000 — I flew from Los Angeles to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 2000. I still have my Calvin and Hobbes t-shirt, “Life is short. Party naked. Mardi Gras 2000.”

18.) February 13, 2003 — I watched the movie “Old School.” I will forever thank Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell and “The Godfather” Luke Wilson for inspiring me at age 31 to finally start going to Florida for Spring Break. Years of South Beach, Miami revelry ensued at the Clevelander and Ocean’s 10. 

19.) March 14, 2003 — I flew to Singapore and Thailand and got to experience five days of beauty in each country. I met the Jewish communities of both nations.

20.) November 4, 2003 — NFL Network was born. Finally, a television channel worth watching existed. 

21.) November 2, 2004 — Enjoying the 2004 election with my closest friends.

22.) February 12, 2006 — I flew from Los Angeles to Hawaii. I met the Jewish community of Honolulu and attended my first NFL Pro Bowl. I met ESPN’s Chris Berman.

23.) April 28, 2006 — I flew from Los Angeles to New York and went to Radio City Music Hall. For the first time, I got to attend the NFL Draft and meet a bunch of great football heroes. 

24.) August 4, 2006 — I flew from Los Angeles to Ohio and drove to Canton. I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, saw the induction ceremony featuring John Madden, and attended the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

25.) March 11, 2007 — I Started a blog called the Tygrrrr Express. That column somehow turned into five books and a national speaking career.

26.) September 11, 2007 — On the sixth anniversary of the attacks, I flew from Los Angeles to New York and then drove to Great Adventure in New Jersey. I attended Sean Hannity’s Feedom Concert and saw New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani light up the crowd.

27.) October 17, 2007 — I joined Facebook. Between that and Twitter, I have met many good people, increased book sales, and built my business.

28.) February 2, 2008 — I flew from Los Angeles to Phoenix and attended my first Super Bowl. The New York Giants shocked the previously unbeaten New England Patriots.

29.) March 30, 2008 — My friend adopted a child from Guatemala. On this day “the boy” turned one. Being “Unca Eric” is the best job in the world.

30.) May 13, 2008 — I flew from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. I attended the Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership Conference and met Dr. Charles Krauthammer.

31.) August 6, 2008 — I flew from Los Angeles to Israel and spent a week in the Holy Land.

32.) August 30, 2008 — I flew from Los Angeles to Minneapolis for my first Republican Convention. For a week, friends and I slept in a sports bar. It was like being Norm Peterson from “Cheers.”

33.) April 5, 2009 — My first book “Ideological Bigotry” was published.

34.) September 1, 2009 — I left Wall Street after 15 years and began my career as a full-time professional speaker.

35.) November 11, 2009 — I flew from Los Angeles to Galveston and spoke at the Texas Federation of Republican Women Convention. I made TFRW and other lifelong friends in the Lone Star State.

36.) March 11, 2010 — I flew from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to speak at the National Federation of Republican Women Spring Conference. That launched me nationally since the NFRW run the world.

37.) May 1, 2011 — In Aiken, South Carolina, I saw the news that Osama bin Laden was killed. That night I told my very best political joke. “Osama bin Laden is now burning underground with 72 Helen Thomases.” It was the bookend to my very first political joke. “Never rely on a Palestinian GPS tracker. I took one wrong turn, ended up at a cemetery, and a sinister voice said, ‘You have reached your final destination!’ I got so angry I threw the thing out the window, which was good because 5 seconds later it exploded.”

38.) February 9, 2013 — I met Vice President Dick Cheney and spoke in front of him at a dinner.

39.) September 25, 2013 — I spoke to a Tea Party group in Hays, Kansas. At that moment, I had officially spoken in all 50 states.

40.) November 4, 2014 — I spoke at an election night party in New Jersey.

41.) March 20, 2015 — After writing four political comedy books, I finished my first religious comedy book “Jewish Lunacy.” This allowed me to move beyond political speaking into religious speaking.

42.) May 12, 2015 — I met President George W. Bush and shook his hand.

43.) November 8, 2016 — Enjoyed a raucous election night party in Raleigh, North Carolina.

44.) December 31, 2016 — New Year’s Eve with the friends who matter most to me.

45.) Any woman whoever let me play with her yummy bouncies or at least was nice enough to send me pictures of them.

46.) January 9, 2018 — On my 46th birthday, the return of Chucky as Jon Gruden returns to the Black Hole to rejoin the Raiders. Like me, Gruden has unfinished business.

47.) November 9, 2018 — I met Angela Lansbury in Beverly Hills and got my picture taken with her. She remains one of the most talented people in the history of entertainment. 

48.) 2019 was the year I branch out beyond books and into t-shirts. I started with 2 or 3 designs in 2017 and 2018. By the end of 2019 I had 49 mostly original t-shirt designs. My best seller remains “Stop judging women by their tops. #BackSidesMatter!”

I would like to thank my parents for raising me right and Angela Lansbury’s JB Fletcher of “Murder, She Wrote” for catching murderers and making the world safer.

Anything I could possibly wish for has already been granted.

eric @ Tygrrrr Express

NFL 2019-2020 Wildcard Recap

January 5th, 2020

NFL 2019-2020 Wildcard Recap

Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans was the Saturday afternoon game. Both teams rested their starters in the regular season finale and came in with matching 10-6 records. The Texans have lost several playoff games at home. An emotional home crowd saw the return of JJ Watt from injured reserve. Yet the first half of this game belonged to the Buffalo defense. After a touchback on 2nd and 8 from their own 38, Josh Allen had a wide open hole and ran for a 42 yard gain. On 2nd and 6 from the Houston 16, Sean McDermott went to the bag of tricks. A lateral to Brown was followed by him finding a wide open receiver…Allen. Although he got hit at the one, Allen stretched over the pylon for the touchdown. On the 75 yard drive, Allen had 69 of those yards, with 42 rushing, 16 receiving, and 11 passing to give the Bills the 7-0 lead. The second quarter saw Buffalo drive twice near the red zone but settle for a pair of 40 yard Steve Hauschka field goals as the Bills took a 13-0 lead to the locker rooms. The game got bizarre with the second half kickoff. The return man in the back of the end zone caught the ball and flipped it to the referee without taking a knee. The ref jumped out of the way and the Bills fell on the live ball in the end zone. Initially it was ruled a Houston touchdown, but after a lengthy discussion it was reversed to a touchback. A few plays later Deandre Hopkins had the ball punched out anyway, and the Bills recovered at the Houston 38. The key play of the game came with the Bills facing 3rd and 8 at the Houston 12 and on the verge of delivering the knockout blow. Allen went back to pass and got belted by JJ Watt. Steve Hauschka hit a 38 yard field goal to make it 16-0 Bills, but the sack fired up the crowd and momentum changed.

After a touchback, Johnson ran for 10. Deshaun Watson hit Carter for 5 and Hopkins for 14. Carlos Hyde ran for 8, 6 and one. On 3rd and 8 from the Buffalo 30, Watson under heavy pressure just before getting knocked to the ground found Hopkins near the sideline for 10. Watson then took it himself and literally carried everything on his back. At the 5 yard line, he banged it into 2 defenders and dragged both of them just over the plane of the goal. The 20 yard touchdown run was followed by a 2 point conversion try. Watson ruled out and stormed around the end. He stretched the ball and again got just past the pylon as the Texans were within 16-8. Buffalo moved after a touchback to a 3rd and 8 at their own 47 to start the fourth quarter. This time Allen was sacked and fumbled. Martin recovered for the Texans at midfield. Watson hit Kenny stills for 20 yards. On 3rd and 3 from the Buffalo 21, Watson was sacked. Kaimi Fairbairn hit a 41 yard field goal to get the texans within 16-11 with 11 minutes left in regulation. Houston got it back and soon faced 2nd and 5 at their own 31. Watson went deep to Hopkins for a 41 yard gain. On 3rd and 3 from the Buffalo 15, Watson went to Fells for 14 yards down to the one. On the next play a pitchout was fumbled and the Texans were lucky to escape with a  4 yard loss. On the next play Watson rolled out and found a wide open Hyde in the flat for the 5 yard touchdown. With 4 1/2 minutes left the Texans had their first lead of the game. On the 2 point conversion, Sean McDermott sent an all out blitz and Watson fired a laser over the middle to Hopkins to put the Texans up 19-16. 

Momentum shifted again after a touchback. Allen combined with Singletary on a short pass, and Singletary got to the sideline for a 38 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the Houston 28. Allen found a crease and gained 3 yards. On 2nd and 10 from the Houston 25, Frank Gore got bottled up for a 3 yard loss as the clock hit the 2 minute warning. At this point, the tying field goal try would be 49 yards. Hauschka never got the chance. Romeo Crennel’s defense unleashed everybody. Under heavy pressure, Allen threw the ball and hit an offensive lineman. Intentional grounding meant 4th and 27. Sean McDermott opted against a 60 yard field goal try. Now it was up to either a Hail Mary or the hook and laterals. Again Crennel brought the house. This time Allen got buried for a 19 yard loss. The Bills had all 3 timeouts. With 1:21 left, it all came down to the Texans facing 4th and 1 from the Buffalo 30. A first down would end the game. Bill O’Brien decided to go for it rather than try a 48 yard field goal. Watson took the quarterback sneak and ran into a Buffalo brick wall. The Bills were still alive. 

On the next play, Allen ran for a 20 yard gain but then lost his mind. Without a timeout, he tried to lateral the ball backward to nobody in particular. This was unnecessary since an entire minute remained. Allen was lucky that his own offensive lineman batted the ball out of bounds at the last moment. With 34 seconds left on 3rd and 10 from the Houston 39, Allen hit Cole beasley, who dove midair and landed just past the first down marker. Had he been short, it would have been 4th and inches. Because it was 1st and 10, the Bills could spike the ball to stop the clock. They did with 20 seconds left. Allen took two more deep shots that were both incomplete by a mile. With 5 seconds left, Hauschka came in for the 47 yard field goal try to tie the game. It was the exact length as Scott Norwood’s miss heard round the world 29 years ago. Hauschka was good. This thrilling football game was tied 19-19 and going to overtime.

The Texans got the ball first in overtime. On 3rd and 3 from their own 32, Watson under heavy pressure fired to Fells, who just dropped it. The Bills took over and soon faced 3rd and 12 at their own 28. Allen ran around like he was in the circus and found Knox for 14 yards. On 3rd and 9 from his own 43, Allen ran all the way to the sideline and fired over the middle to Singletary for an acrobatic 14 yard gain. On 2rd and 9 from the Houston 42, Allen got around the end and went airborne, gaining 5 yards. A field goal try would have been 55 yards or more. Hauschka again never got the chance. An illegal blindside block on the offense meant a 15 yard penalty against Buffalo. It was also unnecessary since Allen had already escaped. It pushed the Bills out of field goal range. On 3rd and 24, a short pass to a wide open receiver just to gain a few yards was dropped. Houston got it back at their own 17. A sack of Watson had the Texans facing 3rd and 18 at their own 19. With Buffalo playing way back, an underneath throw from Watson to Johnson saw johnson lunge for Just enough for a first down. Watson then ran for 5 and hit Stills for 10. Then came the play of the year for Houston. From the Buffalo 44, Sean Mcdermott again brought pressure. Watson got belted by 2 rushers, one on each side. What should have been a sack for a huge loss somehow Watson shake off the direct hits and stay upright. He then rolled out and found Taiwan Jones for a 34 yard gain. Bill O’Brien immediately brought in Fairbairn on first down to try the 28 yard field goal. The kick was good and the Texans had the brutally hard-fought win. 

I have said many times that every life lesson can be learned from football. The Buffalo Bills lost, but they are not losers. They lost in heartbreaking fashion in a game where the other team made one spectacular play when it mattered most. The Houston Texans showed heart, guts, and an absolute refusal to die.Deshaun Watson got belted by a couple defenders and somehow stayed upright to complete what was effectively the game winning pass. JJ Watt played the entire game with one arm. He made the key sack that turned the game around when it looked like Buffalo was going to win easily. We already know that Watt is a superior human being off the field. Today we were reminded that he is a superior athlete on the field.v20 years after the Music City Miracle, Buffalo lost another gut-wrenching playoff game they thought they had won. For Houston, it was an epic comeback.This is why we watch football. This is the best of football and the best of the human condition. What a fine start to the playoffs on the 100th year of the NFL. 22-19 Texans

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots was the Saturday night game. A snowstorm was expected, but the first half was just played in a thick fog, although nowhere near like the 1988 Fog Bowl. After a touchback to start the game, the Patriots moved to a 3rd and 3 at the Tennessee 18. Tom Brady threw incomplete. Nick Folk hit the 36 yard field goal and the Patriots led 3-0. After another touchback, Ryan Tannehill hit Smith for 9 yards. Derrick Henry gained 8 and 4. Tannehill went to Sharpe for 6 and Henry ran for 10, 9 and 6. On 3rd and 10 from the New England 12, Tannehill went to Firkser for the touchdown as the Titans led 7-3. The Patriots got it back and faced 2nd and 11 at their own 24. Brady hit Mohammed San for 11. Sony Michel gained 25. Brady went to Watson for 11 and Burkhead for 9. On 3rd and 2 from the Tennessee 21, James White gained 14. On the first play of of the second quarter, Julian Edelman took a handoff around the end for a 5 yard touchdown and a 10-7 Patriots lead. 

Tennessee’s defense was resilient. When the Patriots faced 3rd and 1 at their own 47, Roberts got the carry and got stopped. on 4th and 1 Bill Belichick opted to punt. A 23 yard punt return had the Patriots getting it back at the Houston 47. On 3rd and 6 from the Tennessee 32, Brady hit Harry for 7. Michel ran for 12 and Brady hit Burkhead for 12 more to set up 1st and goal at the one. Michel lost a yard and Burkhead got it back to set up 3rd and goal at the one. Michel got the carry and got blasted for a 2 yard loss. Nick Folk hit the 21 yard field goal to make it 13-7 Patriots with 2:16 left in the half. 

After a touchback, Henry bulldozed ahead for gains of 29, 11, 9 and 3. Then Henry caught a pass from Tannehill for a 22 yard gain down to the one. With 35 seconds left in the half, the entire football world knew Henry was getting the ball. It didn’t matter. He got in for the score as the Titans led 14-13.  The Patriots moved after a touchback to a 4th and 2 at their own 48 with 6 seconds left. On the Hail Mary, the Titans rushed nobody…zero defenders. 5 offensive lineman stood there as not one defender rushed. Brady had plenty of time to throw and the ball reached the end zone but was well-defended and incomplete. 

The second half was a slog. After a scoreless third quarter, the Titans in the fourth quarter mounted a 10 play drive that took 8 minutes off the clock. From their own 20, the Titans moved to a 3rd and 3 at the New England 36. Henry had been running over the Patriots. Everyone knew he was getting the ball again, even on a passing down. He never got the chance. Tannehill fumbled the snap out of the shotgun but was lucky enough to fall on it for a loss. Mike Vrabel was not going to try a 54 yard field goal in brutally cold weather. Vrabel played some gamesmanship and deliberately took a delay of game and a false start to take another minute off the clock. The Patriots got it back at their own 11, but on 2nd and 4 from their own 37, Brady threw incomplete twice. Bill Belichick decided to punt and trust his defense. With 3 minutes left the Titans took over at their own 13. 

On 3rd and 8 from their own 15 with 2:54 left, the entire world knows you run the ball and force the Patriots to take their final timeout. Mike Vrabel tabbed his balls of steel and went with a pass. Tannehill hit Firkser for 11 yards. Henry then ran for another 11 yards. On 3rd and 9 from their own 38 with 1:11 left and the Patriots out of timeouts, this time Vrabel went conventional. Henry slammed into the line for 3 yards and the Titans took the clock down to 25 seconds. A perfect punt pinned the Patriots at their own one yard line with 15 seconds left. Rather than throw a bomb or do hook and laterals, Brady tried a short swing pass just to give his offense some room. The pass was deflected in the air and intercepted by Ryan, who coasted 9 yards into the end zone. With 9 seconds left, the only score of the second half had the Titans up by 7. Vrabel went for a 2 point conversion to put the game out of reach. That failed, but Julian Edelman needed to return the ensuing kickoff 87 yards. He only gained 11 yards before a series of laterals and fumbled were recovered by the Titans at the New England 4 yard line. Tannehill finished with only 72 yards passing on 8 completions in 15 attempts. That was because the Titans ran the ball 40 times for 201 yards. Henry gashed the New England defense for 182 yards on 34 categories. In a shocking upset, it is the Titans who are on to Baltimore. The Patriots are done for the year as questions swirl around whether Brady has played his final game. He is almost definitely returning, but then again the Patriots were definitely winning this game before they weren’t. This was a beautiful kind of ugly smash mouth. The Titans just hit the Patriots in the mouth. 20-13 Titans

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints was the Sunday morning game. A decade go in the NFC Title Game, Drew Brees and the Saints won a controversial NFC Title Game over Brett Favre and the Vikings. Two years ago the Vikings shocked the Saints as Case Keenum hit Stephan Diggs for the Minneapolis Miracle. The 13-3 Saints became the first ever division winner not to have a bye week. The Vikings were locked into the wildcard so they treated last week like a bye week and rested everyone. The Saints have been in Super Bowl or bust mode after being denied in shocking fashion the last two years. Yet Mike Zimmer’s defense gave the Saints a street fight. On the third play from scrimmage on 2nd and 1 from their own 39, Kirk Cousins hit Adam Thielen for 3 yards. Janoris Jenkins put a helmet on the ball and Thielen fumbled. The Saints took over at the Minnesota 37. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 4, Brees was sacked. Wil Lutz hit the 29 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Saints. After a touchback, Dalvin Cook ran for 7, 3 and one. On 3rd and 1 from his own 44, Cook gained 7. Mattison added 16. Yet on 1st and 10 from the Saints 28, a trick play saw a lateral to Stefan Diggs followed by an attempt to throw it. Diggs was blown up in the backfield for a 6 yard loss. Dan Bailey hit a 43 yard field goal to make it 3-3.

The second quarter saw Taysom Hill enter the game, which means the Saints were up to something big. Alvin Kamala ran for 5. Then Hill took a wildcat snap and ran for 11. Then Hill took the snap at quarterback and threw a 50 yard bomb to Harris. On the next play Hill was a blocker as Kamara ran for the 4 yard touchdown. The Saints led 10-3. The Vikings after a touchback embarked on a 13 play, 72 yard 6 1/2 minute drive. On 2nd and goal at the one, Kirk Cousins threw incomplete. On 3rd and goal, Cook got blasted for a 2 yard loss. Dan Bailey hit the 21 yard field goal to get the Vikings within 10-6 with 3 minutes left in the half. Three plays later the Saints faced 3rd and 6 at their own 28 with 2:18 left in the half. Brees went deep into double coverage and was intercepted by Harris. Harris got off the ground without being touched and then returned the interception 30 yards to the Saints 45 at the 2 minute warning. Cousins then went to Thielen for 19. On 3rd and 4 from the Saints 18, Cousins hit Thielen for 13. With 23 seconds left in the half, Cook ran for the 5 yard touchdown as the Vikings took the 13-10 lead. The Saints got a break when Cook returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards to the Saints 45. Brees then went to Thomas for 20 yards. With 5 seconds left, Lutz came in for a 43 yard field goal to tie the game. It was no good. 

Midway through the third quarter the Vikings took over at their own 36. Defensive pass interference added 10 more yards. On 3rd and 9 from their own 47, Cousins went deep to Thielen for a 34 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the Saints 10, Cousins went to Diggs for 9 yards. On 2nd and goal at the one, Cook got leveled at the goal line. It appeared that he was short of the goal line but officials ruled he did break the plane. After three quarters, it was the Vikings with the 20-10 lead in front of a very nervous home crowd. Very late in the third quarter, Sean Payton called a fake punt on 4th and 3 from his own 35. Taysom Hill got the first down but a false start negated the play as the Saints punted. The Saints got the ball back to start the fourth quarter at their own 15. Brees hit Cook for 14, Kamara for 5, Cook for 14 again to midfield, and Kamara for 18. Latavius Murray ran for 4 and 8. Brees then went to Hill for a 20 yard touchdown. With 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Saints were within 20-17.

The Saints got it back at their own 29 midway through the fourth quarter. On 3rd and 1 from their own 38, a Wildcat snap to Hill went for 9 yards. Another Wildcat snap to Hill saw him bowl over defenders for a 28 yard gain to the Minnesota 20 with 4 1/2 minutes left. The Saints were easily in tying field goal position but were looking for the lead. Brees had not fumbled all year. The Saints had not had two turnovers in a game all year. At the worst possible time, Brees got hit and fumbled, his second turnover on the day. The Vikings took over at their own 37. On 3rd and 9 from their 38, Cousins hit Thielen, who got the first down by the nose of the football. With 3 1/2 minutes left, a pitchout to Cook saw him get blasted in the backfield by Klein, resulting in a fumble that popped up into the arms of Bell, who raced 38 yards for a defensive touchdown. The “Are you kidding me” moment was all for naught as replay clearly showed that cook’s knee was down before he lost the ball. Nevertheless, the 9 yard loss followed by a sack on 3rd and 19 had the Saints getting the ball back at their own 30 with 1:55 to play. The Saints had one timeout left. Now it was up to the Pinball Wizard. 

Brees went to Kamara for 6, Cook for 8, Kamara for 9, Thomas for 7, and Cook for 14. With 21 seconds left from the Minnesota 26, Brees spiked the ball to stop the clock. The Saints were not set, resulting in a false start. To avoid taking their last timeout, the Saints opted to receive the 10 second runoff penalty. After another incompletion left 7 seconds, Sean Payton decided not to run another play even though he had a timeout. Lutz came in for the 49 yarder to tie it. The kick was a low line drive but it was good. For the third time in a decade, the Saints and Vikings were playing a thriller that would come down to the last play as this one was headed to overtime. The Vikings got the ball first and faced 3rd and 1 at their own 34. Cousins went to Diggs for 10 yards. Cook gained 11 more. Cousins then went deep to Thielen with a perfect bomb for 43 yards down to the Saints 2 yard line. On 2nd and goal from the one, Cook got nailed for a 3 yard loss. Everything came down to 3rd and goal at the 4. A field goal would still give the Saints another shot. A touchdown would end it. Cousins threw a fade route to Kyle Rudolph in the corner of the end zone. Both players hand-checked each other, but Rudolph caught the ball inbounds for the touchdown. The desperate Saints fans prayed for offensive pass interference, but the touchdown stood. For the third straight year, the Saints lost a playoff game in heart-wrenching fashion. It was vindication for Kirk Cousins, who finally won a big game. In a reverse of a decade ago, this time it was the Saints with Brees and Payton who never saw the ball in overtime. Minnesota is on to San Francisco. 26-20 Vikings, OT

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles is the Sunday afternoon game. In November Seattle went into Philadelphia and won a brutal defensive struggle 17-9. This game was just as brutal. In the first quarter, Jason Myers had a 35 yard field goal try for the Seahawks blocked. The Eagles on a routine 3rd and 10 from their own 33 saw Carson Wentz run for 3 yards and then land hard on the ground. He was out for the game with a concussion and backup Josh McCown played the final 3 1/2 quarters. Seattle got it back and moved from their 24 to a 3rd and 2 at the Philly 30. Russell Wilson threw incomplete. This time from 49 yards out, Myers was good and the Seahawks led 3-0. In the second quarter the Eagles took over at their own 8 yard line. On 3rd and 3 from their own 30, Myles Sanders ran for 13. On 3rd and 7 from their own 46, McCown hit Dallas Goedert for 17 yards. The drive died at that point. With 3 minutes left in the half, Jake Elliott hit a 46 yard field goal for a 3-3 tie. 

At the 2 minute warning, Seattle faced 3rd and 4 at their own 24. A short pass from Wilson to DK Metcalf went for 26 yards to midfield. On 3rd and 10 from the Philly 43, another short pass from Wilson to Moore went for 38 yards. On 2nd and goal at the 10, Wilson threw incomplete but roughing the passer meant 1st and goal at the 5. On the next play Marshawn Lynch ran it in as the Seahawks led 10-3. Doug Pederson is a West Coast Offense dink and dunker, but he was not going to force McCown to be a game manager. After a touchback to start the third quarter, McCown on the first play went deep to Zac Ertz for a 32 yard gain. Defensive pass interference on another deep ball meant 20 more yards. Boston Scott ran for 15 to make it 1st and goal at the 5. A false start hurt matters, and on 3rd and goal at the 6, McCown was sacked. Elliott hit the 26 yard field goal to get the Eagles within 10-6. The Seahawks responded quickly. On 3rd and 1 from their own 28, Wilson went to Lynch for 20 yards. Wilson then went deep to Metcalf, who beat the double coverage, made a diving catch around the five yard line, got up without being touched, and stretched over a defender to extend the ball past the plane of the goal. The 53 yard touchdown bomb had the Seahawks up 17-6 midway through the third quarter. After a touchback, the Eagles again moved the ball. An 11 play, 55 yard drive took 6 minutes. Yet again in the red zone the Eagles bogged down. On 3rd and 3 from the Seattle 17, Scott lost 3 yards. Elliott his hit third field goal from 38 to get the Eagles within 8 and the exact score of the initial meeting. 

Both teams then held the ball for 6 minutes and came up empty. On 3rd and 8 from the Philly 41, Wilson was sacked. Then on 4th and 4 from the Seattle 24, Doug Pederson decided to go for it. McCown threw to a wide open Sanders in the flat and Sanders dropped it with 6 1/2 minutes left. Seattle went 3 and out and the Eagles got it back at their own 31 with 5 minutes left. McCown went to Goedert for 17 yards. Then defensive pass interference on a deep ball meant a 39 yard gain.On 1st and 10 from the Seattle 13, McCown was sacked. On 3rd and 13, a West Coast Offense Dink and Dunk pass wasted precious time. The clock hit the 2 minute warning as the Eagles were down to their last gasp. On 4th and 7 from the Seattle 10, McCown was sacked again. With 1:56 left, the Seahawks tried to close out the game. The Eagles had 3 timeouts left and took them on defense. On 3rd and 10 from their own 11 with the Eagles down to their last timeout and 1:37 remaining, the entire world knows you run the ball and force the defense to take their last time out. You absolutely do not throw the ball and risk an incompletion that stops the clock. That is why Pete Carroll is a Super Bowl winning head coach and I’m not. He went high risk, high reward and had Russell Wilson go for a bomb. Metcalf caught it for a 36 yard gain and Seattle then ran out the clock. Seattle’s defense had an outstanding day, and the Seahawks are headed to Green Bay for the Divisional round. Matt Hasselbeck will not be throwing to Al Harris, but it should still be a great game. As for the Eagles, the fans will soon enough wonder if Carson Wentz will ever finish a season healthy. 17-9 Seahawks

The NFL Divisional Playoffs are set.

Saturday, January 11 

4:30 pm: NFC: Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers

8:00 pm: AFC: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens

Sunday January 12

3:00 pm: AFC: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs

6:30 pm: NFC: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

eric

NFL 2019-2020 Wildcard Prequel

January 5th, 2020

2020: We…can…do…this

January 1st, 2020

2020: We…can…do…this

What the heck is that beeping sound?

(Knocks the phone off the hook, keeps banging the snooze alarm)

A voice tells me it’s my pager. My pager is black, so finding it in the dark is the needle in the haystack equivalent. A lucky smack knocks it against the wall, where it may or may not have shattered. The beeping continues. Why does anyone need a pager anymore anyway?

Who the heck is texting me at this ungodly hour of…(either 7 a.m., 1 p.m., or 1 a.m. …it looks blurry)?

Oh, no. It is 5 a.m., and my first radio interview of the New Year is with the morning man of an East Coast station. Time to pretend to sound coherent and go back to sleep. Oh no, wait, that radio interview was several years ago.

Great, happy wishes for the new year and the new decade. Thanks. Whoever you are, it is too early to talk to you.

One year the person on the telephone insisted it was 1 p.m. After explaining to them that they were on the East Coast, and that 1 p.m. EST is 10 a.m. in Los Angeles, they grew impatient. They knew how to tell time, and that it was 4 p.m. EST, hence 1 p.m. my time.

Sure, getting up and writing my column is an option. It’s a new year, and starting the year off with a flurry of brilliance might be helpful. Forget it. This column is recycled from years ago. It’s also hours late. That is what happens when people get no sleep because of stressful December 30 football games followed by New Year’s Eve revelry.

Election 2020? The first person to talk politics gets blistered in my column … tomorrow.

Bowl games? There is DVR. Besides, does anybody care who wins the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl, the Lack of Insight.com Bowl, the Fishbowl, the RU486 Morning After Bowl, The California Metrosexual Pride Bowl, or any other game that may or may not be made up?

Speaking of the morning after, does anybody remember the David Byrne Talking Heads song from the movie “Less than Zero? (which the temperature feels like right now in some parts of the country. No wonder I live in this insane city of LA)” The song is called “Once In A Lifetime.”

“This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife. What have I done? How did I get here?”

It then occurs to me that the beeping sounds are the voices in my head telling me I am too old, even at 47, to stay out this late. Even without alcohol, exhaustion has set in. 

Get out of bed? Work calls in (whenever) hours. Better rest up before my tyrant of a boss complains. Such is the life of the self-employed.

Get up now? Somehow stagger to the shower, get dressed, make it out of my condo to go … where?

The stores are closed. Maybe they are open. Too tired to find out.

My birthday is in just over a week. Time to pace myself.

Work on my website? All that takes is staggering to my couch. Oh, no. My IT guy has not finished it yet. Oh, wait, he did years ago. I clicked on the wrong site.

Go on Jdate and search for women? Not a bad idea, except it is too tiring to check their Adams Apples. This is not the year for a boyfriend, and am not sure that my eyes can tell the difference right now. Besides, Jdate is so 2014. Now it is Tinder, JSwipe and JCrush. No, wait. Those are so 2019.

Shop on Ebay? No. bad idea. Buying stuff when not at full capacity is problematic. Who needs another mountain goat? Dang creature gets his horns in my hide. Not a comfy way to wake up. Calm down boy, you’ll get some straw to graze on upon my waking up.

Work on my record album? Although again, world, just because my hair is long, that does not mean my band exists. The best instrument is the triangle, because that tells me lunch is ready. Oh wait, my hair is not even that long anymore. I could work on that, although I didn’t do much. I sat. It grew.

Ahh, yes, lunch. Get up and eat something. My microwave is slow, and a five minute microwave dinner takes almost 15 minutes. Read the paper? It is cold outside my building where the stand is, and it only takes coins. Reading the paper online is tiring, and my printer is not working. At least the lifestyle section makes a great placemat for eating. Oh, wait. That stand does not exist anymore. Reading the paper online it is. 

Staying in bed for only a couple more hours until (whatever the big and little hands say) would allow me to stay up all night and be totally exhausted for work tomorrow. Again, my boss is a tyrant.

Running errands … not gonna happen.

Every morning, a four word prayer starts my day. My elbows are used to try and leverage them against my bed to prop me up. Placing my alarm clock on the other side of the room failed, since ripping the cord out of the wall solved that problem.

As for the Jewish brunette who stole the covers, her voice was not a problem last night, although if she opens her trap today she will receive a more caustic reception than usual.

Oh wait, she already left. Here is a note. “Tried to wake you, but that was a losing battle. By the way, you have nothing but soda in your fridge. Talk to you soon.” oh, wait, I think that happened over a decade ago. This is 2020, not 2005.

She is a liar. There are potato chips in my fridge as well. Why they are there remains a mystery, but it saves having to remember which cabinet they are in. One-stop shopping  is the way to go.

Besides, combing my hair for her was enough. Not doing it this morning, proud “retrosexual” that is me.

At least having the decency to say some morning prayers would be appropriate.

“Hey God…those people I pray for every night…yeah those people, the same ones…look after them again.”

Back to sleep, despite every attempt to wake up. The home phone is turned off, the cell is off as well, and the pager is still shattered, in addition to being disconnected years ago.

There may have been a car crash outside my building followed by 911 calls and sirens, but telling everybody to “keep it down,” solved that problem. A brief nightmare of me being late for work was averted when I realized my location to me was known if necessary.

Four televisions in the living room, and none in the bedroom. Who thought that up? Oh yeah, a television in the bedroom would promote laziness. Besides, trying to figure out which remote to use would cause me to break them all as if they were my pager.

Ok, here it is. Come on, elbows, do your stuff. Rise, young lad, rise! Awaken thy exhausted tired eyes!

Why is God shouting? Oh wait, that is my over-dramatization of God.

Time to set the alarm now to avoid missing work tomorrow. Where was it thrown? Threw it? Oh, screw it.

Ok, time for my four word prayer. It has gotten me this incredibly terribly far. Time to contemplate getting out of bed.

“We…can…do…this.”

Happy 2020 all. Except for the person who woke me up earlier. Whoever you are, I still can’t stand you, even though you are doing me a favor.

Ten hours and 16 bowl games later, there is only one thing left to do.

Time for a nap. Happy 2020. Happy new decade.

Zzzzz.

eric

NYE 2019 with Lil Jon and Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz

December 31st, 2019

The Top 10 PBWGs of the Decade 2010-2019

December 30th, 2019

The Top 10 Bimbos of the Decade 2010-2019

December 30th, 2019

Hanukkah 2019 Night 8: NFL 2019 Week 17 Recap

December 29th, 2019

NFL 2019 Week 17 Recap

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals — Both teams are eliminated from playoff contention but coaches Freddie Kitchens and Zac Taylor could be Black Monday casualties. The Bengals are guaranteed the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Johnson returned the opening kickoff 47 yards as the Browns started at their own 44. On the third play from scrimmage, Baker Mayfield went bombs away to Ratley for a 46 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Browns. The Bengals took over at their own 21. On 3rd and 7 from their own 35, Red Rifle Andy Dalton hit Tyler Eifert for 9 yards Joe Mixon then ripped off a 41 yard run. Dalton hit Uzomah for a 15 yard touchdown to make it 7-7. The Browns soon faced 3rd and 10 at their own 20. Mayfield was intercepted by Phillips, who returned 28 yards to the Cleveland 3 yard line. On 3rd and goal from the 3, Mixon got in to make it 13-7 Bengals. The extra point was no good. In the second quarter the Bengals faced 3rd and 14 from their own 30. Dalton went to Boyd for 22 and for 9 more. Mixon ran for 17. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Dalton got around the end and got in to make it 20-7 Bengals.

The Browns tried to make a game of it. On 2nd and 3 from their own 21, Mayfield went deep to Jarvis Landry for 26 and to O’Dell Beckham for 36 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Cincy 14, Mayfield was sacked. Austin Siebert hit the 42 yard field goal to get the Browns within 20-10. The Browns got it back and faced 3rd and 5 at their own 24. Mayfield hit Karim Hunt for 10. Mayfield then went bombs away to Landry for a 56 yard touchdown. The extra point failed but the Browns were within 20-16. In the third quarter the Bengals moved from their 25 to a 3rd and 8 at the Cleveland 44. Dalton hit Eifert for 25 yards. A pair of sacks killed the drive. Andy Bullock hit from 47 to make it 23-16 Bengals. The teams traded interceptions. The Bengals got it back and faced 3rd and 1 at their own 35. Dalton gained 2 yards. On 3rd and 4 from their own 43, Dalton threw incomplete but defensive pass interference added 8 yards. Dalton then hit John Ross for gains of 14 and 28. Mixon ran for 5 and then the 2 yard touchdown as the Bengals led 30-16 less than one minute into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter after a touchback, Mayfield hit Beckham for 25 to midfield. Nick Chubb gained 8 and 7 sandwiched around a 9 yard Mayfield scramble. On 3rd and 4 from the Cincy 27, Mayfield hit Hunt for 11. On 3rd and 10 from the Cincy 16, Mayfield gained 11. On 4th and goal at the 20 after a pair of sacks, the Browns were down to their last gasp. Mayfield went to Beckham for the touchdown. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Browns were within 30-23. The bengals soon faced 3rd and 2 at their own 25. Dalton hit Erickson for 16. Mixon ran for gains of 6 and 28. With 1:55 left, Bullock hit the 46 yard field goal to lock up the win. Mayfield threw in another interception for good measure. The Browns did not wait until Black Monday. Freddie Kitchens was fired Sunday after the game. 33-23 Bengals

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings — The 10-5 Vikings are locked into the six seed Wildcard so Mike Zimmer rested his starters against the eliminated Bears. On the first play fro scrimmage, Boone ran for a 59 yard gain to have the Vikings at the Chicago 16. On the second play, the backup quarterback Mannion fumbled and the Bears recovered. The Bears went on a 12 play, 69 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive. On 3rd and 7 from the Minnesota 13, a completion only gained 5 yards. Matt Nagy decided not to gamble on 4th and 2 from the 8. Eddie Pineiro hit the 26 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Bears. 3 plays later Mannion was intercepted to set up the Bears at the Minnesota 39. On 3rd and goal from the 9, Trubisky was sacked. Pineiro hit the 33 yarder to make it 6-0 Bears. The Vikings in the second quarter moved 56 yards in 14 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. Yet on 2nd and goal from the 19, Mannion threw incomplete. Dan Bailey hit the 37 yard field goal to get the Vikings on the board. A Chicago punt pinned the Vikings at their own one yard line. Boone got the carry and got swarmed in the end zone for a safety as the Bears led 8-3. Chicago took the free kick and marched from their own 33 to a 2nd and 2 at the Minnesota 14. A short pass lost 2 yards and then Trubisky threw incomplete on 3rd and 3. Pieneiro hit his third field goal from 34 as the Bears led 11-3 with 1:51 left in the half. 

After a touchback, Boone ran for 5 and then broke off a 41 yard run. With 30 seconds left in the half the Vikings had 3rd and 3 at the Chicago 22. A short pass gained only 2 yards. Mike Zimmer decided not to gamble on 4th and 1. Bailey hit from 38 as the Vikings trailed 11-6 at halftime. After a touchback to start the third quarter, Matt Nagy kept it on the ground. Montgomery blasted off runs of 14, 10, 6, 6, and 7. Montgomery finished the drive with a 14 yard touchdown run. The game’s first touchdown had the Bears up 18-6 after three quarters. The Bears On 3rd and 6 from their own 28, Trubisky hit Robinson for 8. After the play, unsportsmanlike conduct on Robinson moved Chicago back 15 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Chicago 21, Trubisky hit Cohen for 12. On 3rd and 1 from the Chicago 42, Montgomery got stopped. With 3 minutes left in the third quarter, Matt Nagy gambled on 4th and 1 from his own 42. Trubisky got stopped. 

Minnesota capitalized. Mannion hit Johnson for 12, Boone for 5 and Johnson for 8. Abdullah gained 11 on the ground. The fourth quarter began with the Vikings facing 1st and goal at the 7. Boone ran for 2, 4, and on 3rd and goal at the one, got in as the Vikings trailed 18-13. Minnesota got it back one minute later at their own 20. Boone ran for 9 and one. On 3rd and 2 from their own 38, Mannion threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant 14 more yards. On 2nd and 10 from the Chicago 13, a run gained 7 yards but unnecessary roughness on the offense moved Minnesota back 15 yards. The Vikings settled for a 39 yard Bailey field goal to get within 18016 with 9 minutes left. The Bears soon faced 3rd and 16 at their own 29 after a sack of Trubisky. He was sacked again and fumbled. The Vikings took over at the Chicago 23. On 3rd and 3 from the 16 with 5 minutes left, Mannion threw incomplete. Bailey hit again from 34 to make it 19-18 Vikings. 

After a touchback, Trubisky hit Cohen, Wims and Cohen again for 3 straight 6 yard gains. With 2 1/2 minutes left in the game, the Bears faced 4th and 9 just shy of midfield. Matt Nagy decided to gamble the entire game by going for it. One stop would give the Vikings a short field. Instead Trubisky went for it all and found Ridley for a 32 yard gain at the 2 minute warning. The Vikings took their timeouts on defense. On 3rd and 2 at the Minnesota 11, Trubisky hit Robinson for 3 yards. That allowed the Bears to take the clock almost all the way down. With 10 seconds left on 4th and goal at the 4, Pineiro came in for the 22 yarder to win it. The kick was good, and Mannion’s Hail Mary was way short and intercepted. 21-19 Bears  

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs. The Falcons started 1-7 but have gone 5-2 down the stretch as Dan Quinn tries to avoid becoming a Black Monday casualty. Jameis Winston continues to throw for a ton of touchdowns, yards, and interceptions. After a touchback, runs and short passes had the Falcons at the Tampa Bay 35 Ryan went over the middle to a wide open Sambrailo on a tackle eligible. Big Man with Football lumbered into the end zone for a 7-0 Falcons lead. On the next play from scrimmage the Buccaneers fumbled and the Falcons recovered at the Tampa Bay 29. On 3rd and 6 from the Tampa 13, a completion only gained 4 yards. Koo hit the 27 yard field goal to make it 10-0 Falcons. The Buccaneers missed a chance to get on the board when Matt Gay missed a 49 yard field goal. A shanked 30 yard punt had the Falcons taking over at the Tampa 41. They went for it on 4th and 1 at the Tampa 32. Smith got the carry and lost a yard. 

In the second quarter from their own 33, the Buccaneers finally got going. Winston hit Brad Perriman for 18 and Pierre Barber for 14. On 1st and 20 from the Atlanta 42, Winston hit Barber for 11 and Winston for 24 more. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Winston threw incomplete. Bruce Arians with nothing to lose went for it, and because he is Bruce Arians. Th gamble paid off as Winston hit Cameron Brate for the touchdown to get the Buccaneers within 10-7. After a touchback, a sack of Matt Ryan had the Falcons facing 2nd and 17 from their own 30. Ryan hit Zaccheus for 11. On 3rd and 6, Ryan threw incomplete but roughing the passer kept the drive going. On 1st and 10 at the Tampa 11, Ryan threw incomplete 3 straight times. Koo hit from 33 to make it 13-7 Falcons. After a touchback, Winston was quickly intercepted to give the Falcons 1st and 10 at the Bucs 19. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 10, Ryan was hit by Jason Pierre-Paul and fumbled. White picked it up and raced 91 yards for a defensive touchdown. Dan Quinn challenged the call, insisting it was an incomplete pass. No whistle was blown. Replay showed that Ryab’s arm was going forward only after he was hit. The arm was knocked forward. A fumble was the correct call and the officials got it right by letting it stand as the Buccaneers led 14-13 with 3 minutes left in the half.  

On 3rd and 9 from their own 26, Ryan went to Julio Jones for 29 yards at the 2 minute warning. Despite 1st and 10 at the Bucs 20, Ryan threw incomplete twice and then was sacked. With one minute left in the half, Koo hit from 45 to put the Falcons up 16-14. On 2nd and 6 from their own 28 with 35 seconds left, Winston went to Watson for 17 and Perriman for 31 more. With 11 seconds left, the Atlanta 24, Winston went to Perriman for the touchdown. Winston ran the 2 point try himself as a 22 point second quarter had the Buccaneers up 22-16 at halftime. A wild first half became a slog in the second half. Gay missed field goals of 44 and 34 to go with his earlier miss as the Buccaneers failed to extend the lead. A 13 play, 57 yard, 7 minute drive from the Atlanta 24 led to 4th and 1 at the Tampa 19. Dan Quinn went for it and Ryan threw incomplete. Atlanta got it back and moved from their own 38 to a 1st and 10 at the Tampa 25. Ryan threw 3 straight incompletions but Koo hit from 43 with 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation to get the Falcons within 22-19. The Falcons got it back at their own 20 with 3 minutes left. With 1:19 left on 4th and 4 from their own 37, Ryan hit Gage for 6 yards. With 46 seconds left on 3rd and 12 from their own 41, Ryan hit Hardy for 21. With 30 seconds left the Falcons faced 1st and 10 at the Bucs 15. Ryan threw 3 straight incompletions. Koo hit the 33 yard field goal to send the game into overtime 22-22. The Buccaneers got the ball first in overtime after a touchback and Winston needed only one play to end it. He became the 8th quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season. He also set the NFL record for most interceptions for touchdowns. Deion Jones returned the interception  27 yards for a defensive touchdown to end it. Jameis, Jameis, Jameis, you shame us, shame us, shame us. 28-22 Falcons, OT

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers — The 12-3 Saints came in knowing a win over eliminated Carolina and help could get them the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs. They could also fall as low as the three seed and have to host a wildcard playoff game. After a touchback, Latavius Murray ran for 13. Pinball Wizard Drew Brees hit Hill for 12 and Michael Thomas for 14 more. Alvin Kamala ran for a 15 yard touchdown as the Saints took the 7-0 lead. The Saints got it back at their own 19. On 3rd and 9 from their own 45, Brees hit Thomas for 10 and Kamara for 15. An incomplete pass was challenged by Sean Payton and reversed to a 24 yard defensive pass interference call that put the ball on the Carolina one. Kamara got in to make it 14-0 Saints. In the second quarter the Saints put the game away. Klein returned an interception of Will Grier 14 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-0 Saints. The Saints got it back at their own 35. Brees hit Smith for 7, Ortiz for 8, Jared Cook for 23, and eventually Smith for a one yard touchdown to make it 28-0 Saints. The Saints got it back and faced 2nd and 5 at their own 31. Brees hit Smith for 32, Hill for 16, and Cook for a 21 yard touchdown. The 2 minute warning had not even hit yet and the Saints had a 35-0 lead. League rules required that the second half not be canceled. The Panthers got a field goal before the half. In the third quarter On 3rd and 7 from the Carolina 45, Brees went to Taysom Hill for the touchdown to make it 42-3 Saints. Christian McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving, but it didn’t alter the outcome. Due to other teams winning, the Saints became the first 13-3 team in NFL history not to get a first round bye. 42-10 Saints

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills — The 10-5 Bills were locked into the five seed Wildcard. Although Josh Allen started, he only played two series as Sean McDermott rested his starters. The Jets moved from their own 8 to a 3rd and 2 at the Buffalo 33. A wildcat snap to LeVeon Bell gained nothing. Sam Ficken’s 51 yard field goal try was no good. In the second quarter the Jets moved from their 17 to a 1st and 10 at the Buffalo 12. The drive died there but Ficken hit from 30 to make it 3-0 Jets. On the last play of the half, from 34 yards out, Ficken was again no good. In the third quarter it was the Bills moving from their 12 to a 1st and 10 at the Jets 11. The drive died but Stephen Hauschka hit a 28 yard field goal for a 3-3 game after three quarters. After a touchback, Sam Darnold hit Berrios for 11, Crowder for 21, and Brown for 6. On 3rd and 4 from the Buffalo 37, Darnold hit Smith for 16 and 20 down to the one. 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, Darnold went to Crowder for the game’s only touchdown and a 10-3 Jets lead. With 5 minutes left in regulation, Matt Barkley was intercepted to set up the Jets at the Buffalo 42. Ficken hit from 47 to put the jets up 13-3 with 2:05 left. Needing 2 scores, Hauschka hit a 29 yard field goal with 47 seconds left. The onsides kick failed. The Jets start 1-7 but when Darnold came back from illness they went 6-2 down the stretch. 13-6 Jets

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots — The 12-3 Patriots with a win over the eliminated Dolphins could clinch a first round bye but the top seed was out of reach. Tom Brady has had some of his worst games in December against the Dolphins, but those games were all in Miami. This year early in the season the Patriots beat the Dolphins 43-0 in Miami. In New England, the Dolphins marched 80 yards in 12 plays and 7 minutes. Despite 1st and 10 from the New England 11, the drive died there. Sanders hit the 27 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Dolphins. In the second quarter, Brady completed a pass to Rowe, who plays defense for Miami. Rowe jumped the route and coasted 35 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 10-0 Dolphins lead in front of a stunned home crowd. 

The Patriots after a touchback moved to a 1st and goal at the 7. A run went nowhere and Brady threw incomplete twice. Nick Folk hit a 25 yard field goal to get the Patriots on the board. New England got it back and soon faced 2nd and 8 at their own 20. Harry gained 9 and unnecessary roughness added 15. Brady then went deep to Philip Dorsett for a 50 yard gain. From the 6, Sony Michel gained 2 and then ran for the 4 yard touchdown as the teams went to the locker rooms deadlocked 10-10. 

In the third quarter the dolphins kept fighting. From their own 17, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s magic beard hit Parker for 10. On 3rd and 2 from their own 35, Fitzpatrick went to Wilson for 24 and Laird for 20. On 2nd and 5 from the New England 26, Fitzpatrick ran for 10 and on 3rd and 5 hit Matt Gesicki for 14. Fitzpatrick ran for the final 2 yards as the Dolphins led 17-10 midway through the third quarter. After a touchback, Brady hit James White for 12. On 3rd and 6 from their own 41, Brady hit Mohammed San for 10. Michel ran for 8 and 3. Brady went to Seth Roberts for a 38 yard touchdown. The teams were tied 17-17 after three quarters. In the fourth quarter the Dolphins moved from their own 37 to a 3rd and 5 at the Patriots 14 yard line. Fitzpatrick threw incomplete but Sanders hit the 32 yard field goal. With 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation the Dolphins led 20-17 and were smelling upset. 

A 38 yard kickoff return had the Patriots taking over at their own 40. Brady hit White for 8 and Burkhead ran for 14. On 3rd and 4 from the Miami 32, Brady hit Sanu for 22. On 3rd and goal at the 13, Brady went to White for the touchdown. The Dolphins were game, but the Patriots led 24-20 with 4 minutes left. Barring a defensive meltdown, the Patriots would have a first round bye for a 10th consecutive season. After a touchback, Fitzpatrick went to Wilson for 10 and Gesicki for 9. On 3rd and 1 from their own 44, Fitzpatrick found Ford for 5. At the 2 minute warning on 2nd and 12 from their own 47, Fitzpatrick hit Parker for 24 yards and again for 5 more. On 3rd and 5 from the New England 24, Fitzpatrick hit Wilson for 7 and Parker for 8. The Dolphins took their second timeout with 30 seconds left on 1st and goal at the 5. Fitzpatrick fired over the middle to Gesicki for the touchdown. In front of a shellshocked home crowd, the Dolphins led by a field goal with 24 seconds left. After a touchback, it came down to one play from the New England 37 with 2 seconds left. The hook and laterals failed. For the first time in 10 years, the New England Patriots will not have a first round bye. They will host a playoff game on Wildcard weekend against either Pittsburgh, Tennessee or Oakland. Fitzmagic has done it again. Brian Flores got a win against his former boss Bill Belichick. If ever there was a game for ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman to say it, this was it. “THAT’s why they PLAY the games!” 27-24 Dolphins

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions — The 12-3 Packers with a win would be guaranteed a first round bye and even have a shot at the top seed. A loss could drop them down to the three seed where they would have to host a playoff game on Wildcard weekend. Matt Patricia was told that he would be back to coach the Lions in 2020 despite their miserable season. The Lions began facing 3rd and 8 at their own 29. Blough went to Kenny Golladay for 17 yards. On 1st and 20 from their own 36, Scarbrough gained 15 and Blough hit Golladay for 13 more. Johnson ran for 14. Matt Patricia with nothing to lose went into his bag of tricks. Blough lateraled to Danny Amendola, who threw a touchdown pass to a wide open Blough in the end zone. The quarterback caught the 19 yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0 Lions. In the second quarter the Lions took over at their own 20. Blough hit James for 7 and then went deep to Golladay for 42 yards. On 2nd and 20 from the Green Bay 41, Blough went to Thomas for 15 and on 3rd and 5 hit Lacy for 7. On 4th and goal at the one, Matt Patricia again with nothing to lose went for it. Johnson banged in to make it 14-0 Lions. The Packers reached 2nd and 4 at the Detroit 6 with 30 seconds left in the half but Aaron Rodgers threw incomplete twice. Mason Crosby hit the 32 yard field goal. After a touchback, Johnson ripped off a 40 yard run. Matt Prater hit a 42 yard field goal to end the half with the Lions holding a shocking 17-3 lead in front of an elated home crowd.

The Packers struggled all game. In the third quarter Mason Crosby missed a 51 yard field goal. The Packers got it back at their own 5 yard line. Rodgers went to Lazard for 10, Lewis for 12 and 18, Kumerow and Graham for 7 each, Devontae Adams for 6, and Ervin for 5. On 3rd and 10 from the Detroit 20 after several deep ball misses throughout the game, Rodgers went to Adams in the end zone for the touchdown. The Packers had gotten to within 17-10 after the 12 play, 95 yard, 6 minute drive. The Packers got it back and moved from their 27 to a 1st and 10 at the Detroit 22. Rodgers then threw 3 straight incompletions. With 12 minutes left in regulation, Crosby hit the 40 yard field goal to get the Packers within 17-13. After a touchback, a defensive pass interference call had the Lions at the Green Bay 45. On 3rd and 7 from the Green Bay 42, A deep ball to the end zone was nullified because the defense entered the neutral zone. Normally that would be a free play but it was blown dead as unabated to the quarterback. Prater leveled a 56 yard field goal to make it 20-13 Lions with 11 minutes left in regulation. 

The Lions had the momentum and they got it back and moved from their 44 to a 1st and 10 at the Green Bay 44. A sack of Blough set up 2nd and 17 just shy of midfield. On the next play under heavy pressure, Blough threw a deep ball to nobody that was intercepted. Martinez returned it 22 yards to the Green Bay 45. Unnecessary roughness on the return had the Packers taking over at the Detroit 40. On 4th and 1 from the Detroit 31, Matt LaFleur decided to go for it. Rodgers hit Adams for 3 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Detroit 28, Rodgers found Lazard, for the touchdown. With 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the game was tied 20-20. With 1:49 to playing the Packers facing 3rd and 20 from their own 30, Rodgers threw a deep ball that was intercepted by Oruwariye at the Detroit 26. Yet the Lions could not capitalize. With 1:20 left the Packers took over at their own 17. Rodgers scrambled for 2 yards but a very questionable defensive unnecessary roughness penalty added 15 more.Rodgers then hit Valdes-Scantling for 11. The next play was the backbreaker as a short completion from Rodgers to Jones followed by bad tackling went for 31 yards. With 3 seconds left Crosby came in for a 33 yard field goal to win it. Earlier this season the Packers fell behind 13-0 but beat the Lions on a Crosby field goal on the final play for a 23-22 win. Crosby did it again. There would not be overtime. The Packers got their first round bye but did not get the top seed and home field throughout. 23-20 Packers

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs — The 11-4 Chiefs needed a win and a New England loss to get a first round bye. A loss would put them at risk of falling from the three seed to the four seed. The Chiefs from their own 16 mounted a 15 play, 62 yard drive that took over 8 minutes. Yet on 3rd and 5 from the Chargers 23, a completion netted only one yard. Harrison Butker hit a 40 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Chiefs. The Chargers began the second quarter facing 3rd and 7 at their own 29. Philip Rivers went to Mike Williams for 16 yards. Austin Ekeler ran for 6 and 4. Rivers went to Williams for 22. Jackson ran for 11. On 3rd and 10 from the Chiefs 12, Rivers went to Keenan Allen for the touchdown as the Chargers led 7-3. With 3 minutes left in the half, the Chiefs faced 3rd and 7 at their own 46. Patrick Mahomes went to Hardman for 30 yards and then to Demarcus Robinson for a 24 yard touchdown to make it 10-7 Chiefs. After a touchback, the Chargers moved to a 2nd and 3 at the Chiefs 26 with 35 seconds left in the half. In tying field goal range, Rivers went to the end zone and was intercepted for a touchback. Immediately after a touchback to start the third quarter, Mahomes was intercepted by Davis, who returned it 15 yards to the Chiefs 21. Melvin Gordon ran for 1, 20, and then the 5 yard touchdown to make it 14-10 Chargers.

Then came the play of the game as the Chiefs had the lead again 16 seconds later. Mecole Hardman took the ensuing kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-14 Chiefs. The Chargers held the ball for 10 plays and 6 1/2 minutes yet somehow managed only 23 yards. Anthony Lynn even gambled on 4th and 1 from his own 23 and Gordon gained 3. Yet the Chargers would punt, and this time it took the Chiefs only 15 seconds to score. Williams returned the punt 84 yards for a touchdown. 2 special teams touchdowns put the Chiefs up 24-14. The Chargers from their own 23 went on a 10 play, 72 yard, 6 minute drive. Yet on 4th and 1 from the Chiefs 5, Anthony Lynn went for it and Gordon got stuffed. With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Chargers again had to go for it on 4th and 1 from their own 23. On 3rd and 12 from their own 32, Rivers hit Allen for just enough. On 3rd and 9 from their own 45, Rivers went to Gordon for 15 and then 23 more and to Badgley for the 8 yard touchdown. With 5 1/2 minutes left the Chargers were within 24-21 after the 14 play, 86 yard, 7 minute drive. With 4 1/2 minutes left the Chiefs faced 3rd and 7 at their own 26. Mahomes went deep to Tyreek Hill for 47 yards. On 3rd and 3 from the Chargers 20, Williams did the rest. He gained 5, 3, and then the 7 yard touchdown to put the game away. In what may be his final game ever, Rivers’s final pass came with one minute left. He was intercepted. The Chiefs got their first round bye, making Andy Reid a most happy Walrus Lite indeed. 31-21 Chiefs 

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys — The 7-8 Cowboys needed a win over the inept Redskins and a Philadelphia loss to win the NFC Least and make the playoffs. Otherwise, Jerry Jones was most likely going to fire everyone except himself. On the third play of the game, Case Keenum was intercepted. Despite taking over at the Washington 36, The Cowboys settled for a 28 yard Kai Forbath field goal to lead 3-0. Two plays later Adrian Peterson fumbled and the Cowboys recovered again. Despite taking over at the Washington 21, the Cowboys went backward. Forbath hit again from 47 to make it 6-0 Cowboys. The Redskins then turned the ball over on downs but the Cowboys fumbled it back. Despite taking over at the Dallas 16, Washington managed only 3 yards. Dustin Hopkins hit from 31 to get the Redskins within 6-3 early in the second quarter. The Cowboys after a touchback soon faced 3rd and 9 at their own 36. Dak Prescott went deep to Amari Cooper for a 48 yard gain. Prescott then went to Elliott for a 13 yard touchdown to make it 13-3 Cowboys. The Redskins then went for it on 4th and 5 at the Dallas 39. Keenum threw incomplete. On 1st and 17 from their own 43, Prescott hit Randall Cobb for 18 and Cooper for 6. Ezekiel Elliott ran for a 30 yard touchdown to make it 20-3 Cowboys with 4 minutes left in the half.

Washington took over at their own 26. On 3rd and 9 from their 39, Keenum was sacked for a 12 yard loss. Yet a defensive facemask penalty meant 15 yards and a new set of downs. On 3rd and 9 from the Dallas 20, Keenum threw incomplete with 45 seconds left in the half. Yet on further booth review, it was reversed to a completion to Steven Sims for just enough. Keenum then went to Harmon for 5 and back to Sims for the 6 yard touchdown. The Redskins were only down 20-10 at halftime. The Redskins began the third quarter at their own 18. Peterson ran for 32 to midfield and Keenum hit Hentges for 24. Yet on 3rd and 8 from the Dallas 24, Keenum threw incomplete. Hopkins hit the 42 yard field goal as the Redskins were now within 20-13. They would get no closer. 

After a touchback, Prescott went to Cooper for 21. On 3rd and 2 from the Washington 46, Prescott got around the end for 23. Prescott went to Randall Cobb for 17 and then to Gallup for a 4 yard touchdown to make it 27-13 Cowboys. After a touchback, Keenum went to Sims for a 65 yard gain. On 1st and goal at the 10, Keenum threw 3 straight incompletions. Hopkins hit from 28 to get the Redskins within 27-16. After that the Cowboys blew the game open. Kai Forbath hit a 48 yard field goal to make it 30-16 Cowboys. Dallas got it back at their own 47. Elliott gained 13. On 3rd and 2 from the Washington 32, Prescott went to Gallup to make it 37-16 Cowboys after three quarters. In the fourth quarter the Redskins turned it over on downs as the Cowboys took over just past midfield. On 3rd and 6 Prescott went to Gallup for a 45 yard touchdown to make it 44-16 Cowboys. Dallas capped their day with a 15 play, 72 yard, 8 1/2 minute drive that added one more field goal. Despite the carpet-bombing, the Cowboys at 8-8 missed the playoffs. Jason Garrett and everyone else at not-so-Happy Valley awaited the wrath of Jerrah. 47-16 Cowboys

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams — Both teams were out of the playoffs, but a win would at least give the rams a winning season. The Rams began facing 3rd and 8 at their own 27. Jared Goff hit Cooper Kupp for 9. On 3rd and 13 from their own 33, Goff went to Cooks for 14. On 3rd and 10 from the Arizona 29, Goff threw incomplete. Greg “the Leg” Zuerlein hit from 47 to make it 3-0 Rams. Later in the opening quarter Sean McVay tried a fake punt on 4th and 7 at their own 17. No coach with a shot at the playoffs even considers that. The direct snap to Scott only gained 6 yards, one yard short. Kyler Murray went straight to Dan Arnold for a 23 yard touchdown to make it 7-3 Cardinals. A field position game had the Rams beginning the second quarter at midfield. Goff went to Tyler Higbee and Todd Gurley for a pair of 14 yard gains. Gurley ran for one, 8, and on 3rd and 1 from the Arizona 20, 6. On 3rd and goal from the 6, Goff threw incomplete but defensive holding meant a new set of downs. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Malcolm Brown got in to make it 10-7 Rams. The Cardinals took over at their own 16 and disaster struck immediately. Murray fumbled and the Rams recovered at the Arizona 8 yard line. On 3rd and goal from the 6, Goff went to Kupp for the touchdown. With 3:49 left in the half, the Rams led 17-7.

The Cardinals fumbled again, but with one minute left in the half Zuerlein missed from 47. The Cardinals took over at their own 37. On 1st and 20 from that same spot, Murray went to Larry Fitzgerald for 12 and then to Byrd for 33 yards. With 21 seconds left in the half, the Cardinals had 1st and 10 at the Rams 13. Murray threw 3 straight incompletions. Zane Gonzalez hit the 31 yard field goal as the Cardinals were within 17-10 at the break. In the third quarter Murray was intercepted, but the Rams did not capitalize. The Cardinals got it back at their own 12. Murray hit Arnold for 12 and Kirk for 15 and 6. On 3rd and  6 from midfield, Murray threw incomplete but illegal contact kept the drive going. Lowering the head to initiate contact on the next play meant another 15 yards. Murray went to Williams for 23 yards. On 3rd and goal from the 3, Murray went to Dennis Byrd for the touchdown. With 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, the game was tied 17-17. 

The Rams soon faced 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Goff hit Kupp for 24 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the Arizona 38, Goff hit Cooks for just enough. On 3rd and 4 from the Arizona 14, the Cardinals jumped into the neutral zone. On 3rd and goal from the 4, Goff hit Higbee for the touchdown. 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Rams were back in front 24-17. The Cardinals quickly moved from their own 22 to a 3rd and 4 at the Rams 37. After a costly delay penalty meant 3rd and 9, Murray went deep and was intercepted by Rapp. The Rams took over at their own 29. On 3rd and 2 from their own 37, Goff went to Woods for 37 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the Arizona 20, Goff hit Kupp for 9 and Robert Woods for the 11 yard touchdown. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Rams led 31-17. After a touchback, Murray hit Byrd for 9. Kenyon Drake ran for 13. Murray hit Byrd for 12. Roughing the passer on the next play added 15 but Murray exited from the hit and backup Brett Hundley came in. Drake ran for 12, Hundley added 6, and Drake got the last yard. The Cardinals were within 7 with 4 minutes left. The Cardinals got it back at their own 20 with one minute left and Murray back in the game, but an offensive holding penalty killed them. With 2 seconds left from their own 46, they were well within Hail Mary range. Instead they tried the hook and laterals and fumbled the ball away. 31-24 Rams 

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants — The 8-7 Eagles needed a win to clinch the NFC Least and make the playoffs as the four seed. A loss coupled with a Dallas win would knock the Eagles out altogether. The Giants were just playing out the string in what may be Eli Manning’s final game. The Eagles moved from their own 7 to a 4th and 7 at the Giants 38. In a snowstorm, Doug Pederson was not trying a 56 yard field goal. They went for it and Carson Wentz threw incomplete. The Eagles got it back at their own 18 and Wentz hit Dallas Goedert for 14. Sanders ran for 21. On 3rd and 7 from the Giants 44, Wentz hit Goedert for 28. On 3rd and 8 from the Giants 14, a completion only gained one yard. Jake Elliott hit the 31 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Eagles. Midway through the second quarter, the Giants took over at their own 14. Saquon Barkley gained 6. Daniel Jones went to Smith for 25 with roughing the passer adding 15 more. Jones then went to Golden Tate for 20. On 3rd and 9 from the Philly 19, Jones threw incomplete. Aldrick Rosas hit the 37 yard field goal. With 5 minutes left in the half it was a 3-3 slugfest.

After a touchback, Wentz hit Goedert for 9, Boston Scott for 29, and Burnet for 7. With 2:41 left in the half, Doug Pederson decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Giants 26. Wentz gained 2 and on the next play hit Josh Perkins for a 24 yard touchdown. It was ugly but the Eagles led 10-3. In the third quarter the Giants took over at their own 24 Barkley ran for 6 and Jones hit Smith for 11. On 3rd and 10 from their own 42, the defense jumped offsides. On 3rd and 5, Jones went to Shepard for 7. On 4th and 1 from the Philly 37, a 55 yard field goal try in snow was not an option. Pat Shurmur went for it. Jones ran for 17 and then threw a 20 yard touchdown pass to Tate for a 10-10 ballgame. The Giants got it back again at their own 19 and moved to a 2nd and 1 at the Philly 35. A run lost 3 yards and Jones threw incomplete. Shurmur went for it on 4th and Jones threw incomplete. On 2nd and 2 from their own 43, Wentz hit Ward for 5 and 11. On 3rd and 8 from the Giants 36, Wentz hit Goedert for 14 Scott ran for 15 and then for the 7 yard touchdown to make it 17-10 Eagles late in the third quarter. 16 seconds later the game was tied again as Barkley ran for a 68 yard touchdown. After three quarters the game was tied 17-17. The Eagles were fighting for their playoff lives.

The Eagles soon faced 3rd and 6 at their own 29. Wentz hit Ward for 8. On the first play of the fourth quarter with the Eagles facing 1st and 20 from their 37, Wentz went deep to Burnett for a 41 yard gain. Yet on 1st and 10 from the Giants 32, Wentz threw incomplete 3 times. One minute into the fourth quarter, Elliott buried the 50 yard field goal to put the Eagles up 20-17. Then came the play of the game. Jones cannot hold onto the ball. He has fumblitis. On 2nd and 8 from his own 27, Jones fumbled again after being hit by Malcolm Jenkins. Fletcher Cox recovered it for the Eagles all the way at the Giants 2 yard line. One play later scott got in as the Eagles led 27-17. With 8 minutes left the Giants went for it on 4th and 2 at their own 39 Barkley got stopped cold. On 3rd and 13 from the Giants 41, Wentz and Scott connected on a 39 yard gain down to the 2. Scott got in on the next play to make it a blowout. The Giants actually had the ball 2 more times. On 1st an 10 from the Philly 29, Jones went deep and was intercepted. With 14 seconds left on 4th and 7 at the Philly 13, Jones threw incomplete. The Eagles were 5-7 and went 4-0 down the stretch. They are no longer the defending champions, but they are still very resilient. Pat Shurmur awaited Black Monday. Despite not playing, the fans gave Eli Manning an emotional sendoff in the loss. 34-17 Eagles 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens — The 13-2 Ravens had already clinched home field throughout the playoffs. John Harbaugh gave Lamar Jackson and other starters the day off to relax. Robert Griffin III got the start. The 8-7 Steelers needed a win and a Tennessee loss to get in the playoffs as the six seed. With Mason Rudolph injured, Mike Tomlin had to go to third string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges. James Conner was also out. In a rainstorm, the Pittsburgh starters had to go on the road and beat the Baltimore backups. Twice in the first quarter RGIII led the Ravens down the field only to come up short. Justin Tucker hit field goals of 45 and 22 for a 6-0 Ravens lead. The Steelers soon faced 3rd and 2 their own 33. Hodges hit Johnson for 11. On 3rd and 7 from their own 47, Hodges went to Johnson for 21. From the Baltimore 32 to start the second quarter, Benny Snell did the rest. He ran for 7, 2, and on 3rd and 1 from the Baltimore 23, 19. Snell then ran for the 4 yard touchdown as the Steelers had the 7-6 lead. 

The Ravens took over at their own 20 and RGIII showed flashes of his rookie year with a 16 yard run. On 3rd and 12 from the Pittsburgh 47, RGIII hit Hurst for 20 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Pittsburgh 24, Griffin threw incomplete. Tucker hit from 42 to put the Ravens up 9-7 with only 1:10 left in the half. Pittsburgh took over at their own 29. From their 45, Hodges was sacked and fumbled. Pierce recovered for Baltimore at the Pittsburgh 23 with 54 seconds left. On 3rd and 5, Griffin hit Justice Hill for 10. Hill then ran for an 8 yard touchdown. Pittsburgh’s defense was stout the entire first half but one mistake had the Ravens up 16-7 at the intermission. In the third quarter the Steelers recovered a Baltimore fumble at the Baltimore 34. Snell ran for 15, 4, and 2. On 3rd and 4 from the Baltimore 13, Hodges threw incomplete but defensive holding kept the drive going. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 8, Hodges threw incomplete again. Chris Boswell hit a 26 yard field goal. With a full 25 minutes to play, the Steelers were only down 16-10.

Yet the rest of the game belonged to the Baltimore defense. On 3rd and 9 from their own 38, the Steelers entered the neutral zone. On 3rd and 4, RGIII gained 8 yards. Hill ran for 13. Justin Tucker hit his fourth field goal from 47 yards out 90 seconds into the fourth quarter for a 19-10 Ravens lead. 3 straight incompletions had the Steelers facing 4th and 10 at their own 19. Needing 2 scores with 4 1/2 minutes left, Mike Tomlin had to go for it. Hodges was hit in the end zone and fumbled. Jordan Richards recovered for the defense to make it 26-10 Ravens. The ensuing kickoff pinned the Steelers at their own 6 yard line. 2 plays later the Baltimore defense added a safety for the final score. The 14-2 Ravens knocked their hated rivals out of the playoffs and now had another week to rest and get healthy. 28-10 Ravens

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans — The 10-5 Texans clinched the AFC South and were the four seed when the day began. Bill O’Brien spent the entire week being coy on whether he’d rest his starters. A Houston win plus a Kansas City loss would move Houston up to to the three seed. However, Kansas City won before the Texans game started. Locked into the four seed, Deshaun Watson was given a clipboard as AJ McCarron got the start. The 8-7 Titans had a simple situation. Win and they were the six seed Wildcard. Lose and they would probably be out of the playoffs. Derrick Henry returned from a one game injury. He was the difference. The Texans looked good early on. On 2nd and 8 from their own 27, McCarron hit Akins for 8. Carlos Hyde gained 4 and 7. On 3rd and 10 from the Houston 46, McCarron hit Mitchell for 21. On 3rd and 2 from the Titans 25, McCarron hit Johnson for 14 and Carter for 6. On 3rd and 1 from the 2, McCarron threw incomplete. Bill O’Brien decided to go for it. Howell got the yard. On the next play Duke Johnson got the other yard. The 15 play, 75 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive had the Texans up 7-0. However, in a game between the Tennessee starters and the Houston backups, Tennessee took over.

After a touchback, Ryan Tannehill ran for 19. On 3rd and 5 just shy of midfield, Tannehill went to AJ Brown for a 51 yard touchdown and a 7-7 game. The Titans got it back and faced 3rd and 9 from their own 11. Tannehill hit Davis for 12. On 3rd and 8 from their own 25, Tannehill hit Sharpe for 13 and to Blasingame for 7 as the second quarter began. Tannehill came out for a play and Marcus Mariota came in. From midfield, Mariota’s only pass was a 24 yard completion to Brown. Henry ran for 6 and 8. Tannehill threw a one yard touchdown pass to Mycole Pruitt for a 14-7 Titans lead. The Titans began the third quarter at their own 22. Mike Vrabel went pure smashmouth. Henry ran for 15, 5, 3, and 8. Smith ran for 7 and Henry added 5. Lewis gained 7 and Henry then ran for 7 and the 3 yard touchdown to cap the 10 play, 75 yard, 5 minute drive and make it 21-7 Titans. 

The Texans tried to make a game of it after a touchback. Jones ran for 9 and 2, caught a pass for 9, and ran for 5. On 4th and 2 from the Tennessee 42, Bill O’Brien decided to go for it. McCaron hit Johnson for 3 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Tennessee 39, McCarron hit Mitchell for 16. McCarron ran for a one yard touchdown. The staggering 16 play, 75 yard, 9 minute drive had the Texans within 21-14. Tennessee quickly closed the door. After a touchback, Tannehill hit Pruitt for 12. Henry ran for 8 and 7. Tannehill went deep to Brown for a 47 yard gain down to the one. Henry ran around the end, appeared stopped at the goal line, and bulldozed the ball past the pylon. One minute into the fourth quarter, the Titans led 28-14. With 5 minutes left the Texans actually began a drive at the Titans 47. Yet on 4th and 7 from the Titans 30, McCarron was intercepted at the 15. Henry did the rest himself on 4 carries. He ran for 5, 23, 4, and finally a 53 yard touchdown to put the game on ice. Henry ran for 215 yards. The Titans and Texans both play on Wildcard weekend, but not against each other. 35-14 Titans

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars — Both teams were eliminated from playoff contention, but other teams were looking at the results of this game in case of tie-breaking scenarios that turned out to be unnecessary. Early on the Colts faced 2nd and 20 at their own 15. Jacoby Brissett hit Nahim Hines for 9 and on 3rd and 11 found TY Hilton for 18. Brissett then went to Alie-Cox for 15. Marlon Mack ran for 20. Brissett hit Johnson for 16. On 3rd and goal at the one, Mack lost a yard. Frank Reich opted for the field goal. Chase McLaughlin hit from 20 to make it 3-0 Colts. Cole returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards to the Indy 44. Despite 2nd and goal at the 2, Gardner Minshew threw incomplete twice. Doug Marrone was not in a gambling move either. Josh Lambo hit the 20 yarder for a 3-3 game. 

The Colts soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 24. The Jaguars entered the neutral zone. On 3rd and 2, Brissett went to Hilton for a 33 yard gain. On 3rd and 6 from the Jags 34, Mack gained 8. On 3rd and 13 from the Jags 29, Brissett hit Inman for 6 yards. Yet defensive unnecessary roughness added 12 more. On 3rd and 4 from the Jacksonville and the Jacksonville defense smelling pass, Mack ran it in as the Colts led 10-3. The Jaguars began the second quarter facing 3rd and 3 at their own 32. Minshew hit Westbrook for 11 and DJ Chark for 19. Lambo drilled a 53 yard field goal to get the Jaguars within 10-6. Jacksonville got it back at their own 10. Minshew hit Armstead fo 11. Ozigbo and Armstead ran for a pair of 9 yard gains. On 3rd and 8 at their own 41, Minshew found Cole for 45 yards. On the next play Minshew hit Kelan Cole for the 1 yard touchdown. With 5 1/2 minutes let in the half the Jaguars led 13-10. 

Dullin returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards to the Colts 45. Mack was a mack truck, running for 16 and 9. Hines ran for 7 and 15. Mack ran for an 8 yard touchdown. With 2:11 left in the half the Colts led 17-13. An interception of Minshew set up the Colts at the Jags 37. On 3rd and 9, a completion gained only 4 yards. McLaughlin nailed a 50 yard field goal. With only 39 seconds left in the half, the Colts led 20-13.

Then came the onslaught. On 3rd and 3 from their own 34 with 23 seconds left, Minshew hit Conley for 17 and Cole for 8. Lambo drilled a 56 yard field goal to end the half with the Jaguars only down 20-16. In the third quarter the Jaguars took over at their own 20. Minshew hit Chark for 8. Ryquell Armstead caught a pass for 8 and ran for 7. Minshew hit Westbrook for a pair of 11 yard gains. On 3rd and 6 from the Indy 29, Minshew threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant a 20 yard gain. Minshew hit Conley for 6 and Armstead for the 3 yard touchdown. Minshew hit Westbrook for the 2 point conversion to make it 24-20 Jaguars. In the fourth quarter the Colts self-destructed. On 3rd and 12 from their own 3, a fumble was recovered by Calais Campbell, who returned it 8 yards for a defensive touchdown to make it 31-20 Jaguars. Midway through the fourth quarter, a sack of Brissett resulted in another fumble that the Jaguars recovered at the Indy 34. On 3r and 3 from the Indy 27, Minshew ran for 7. On 3rd and 8 from the Indy 18, Minshew went to Westbrook for the clinching touchdown. 25 unanswered points gave the Jaguars a positive end to a negative season. 2 weeks ago owner Shad Khan fired Tom Coughlin. Now Doug Marrone and General Manager Dave Caldwell awaited Black Monday. 38-20 Jaguars

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos — The 7-8 Raiders had to beat the eliminated Broncos and get plenty of help to make the playoffs. Just like their game against Jacksonville 2 weeks ago, this game showed why the Raiders have a long way to go. They dominated the entire first half and found a way to be losing anyway. Their self-destruction was helped along by 5… yes, 5…horrendous calls by the officials. It is not a conspiracy when it’s true. For whatever their reasons, the Raiders had to fight the Broncos and the refs. The final game ever in Oakland 2 weeks ago was a gut punch. The final game ever as the Oakland Raiders was a doublers gut-punch. 

Early on the Raiders moved with ease, going 55 yards in 11 plays and taking up 6 1/2 minutes. From their own 25, Derek Carr hit Hunter Renfrow for 6 and Darren Waller for 18. Everything was clicking as the Raiders faced 3rd and 1 at the Denver 20. On a play-action pass, Carr had a wide open Renfrow. Carr overthrew him and the ball landed just off of Renfrow’s outstretched fingers. That was blown opportunity number one. Jon Gruden decided not to go for it. Daniel Carlson came in for a 39 yard field goal. The goat who cost the Raiders the game 2 weeks ago missed this kick. That was blown opportunity number two as the game remained scoreless. The Raiders got it back and faced 3rd and 9 at their own 8. A swing pass to Waller went for a 75 yard gain. The second quarter began with the Raiders facing 3rd and 4 at the Denver 5. Carr threw incomplete. That was blown opportunity number 3. This time Carlson hit the 23 yard field goal. Yet 2 red zone trips only had the Raiders up 3-0. 

After a touchback, Drew Lock hit Cortland Sutton for 19. On 3rd and 4 from the Oakland 37, Lock hit Sutton for 11. Brandon McManus hit a 43 yard field goal for a 3-3 game. The Raiders soon faced 3rd and 10 at their own 25. Car hit Jalen Richard for 33 yards and Renfrow for 22 more. Carr went to Deandre Washington for 10. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Carr fired over to Renfrow at the goal line for the touchdown. The Raiders celebrated the 10-3 lead. Then came the officials war on the Raiders. The touchdown was reversed as the officials ruled Renfrow down inches short of the goal line. He was clearly across. This was the first blown officials call against the Raiders. Jon Gruden went for it on 4th and goal. Ingold got the carry. Initially he was stopped, but a second effort appeared to get the ball over the plane of the goal. Again the referees did their Helen Keller impersonation and ruled Ingold short. This was the second blown call against the Raiders and the fourth blown opportunity for them. With 1:11 left in the half, the Raiders faced 3rd and 5 at their own 33. Carr went to Marcel Ateman for a 20 yard gain. Even though Ateman was down before the ball was ripped out, officials ruled it was a fumble. This was the third blown officials call against the Raiders. From the Oakland 41, Lock ran for 12. With 45 seconds left on 3rd and 6 at the Oakland 25, Lock went to Hamilton for 11 yards. Lock then threw incomplete to the end zone. The ball was actually thrown out of the end zone. Making matters worse, a horrendous defensive pass interference penalty on Trayvon Mullin put the ball on the one. The replay showed offensive pass interference. This was the fourth blown officials call against the Raiders. Lock hit Andrew Beck for the touchdown. Despite being totally outplayed, the Broncos led 10-3 at halftime. 4 blown calls and 4 blown opportunities killed the Raiders.

In the third quarter after a touchback, Washington ran for a 36 yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. Despite 1st and 10 from the Denver 39 and only needing a few yards for long field goal range, a fumbled snap lost 2 yards. A completion then gained nothing. On 3rd and 12 Carr threw incomplete. It was the 5th blown opportunity as the Raiders punted. The Broncos moved from their own 11 to a 2nd and 12 just shy of midfield. Lock threw incomplete to Sutton and Sutton got blasted blasted by Harris. Harris was called for unnecessary roughness even though he clearly led with his shoulder. This was the 5th blown call against the Raiders. It was enough for McManus to nail a 49 yard field goal. The Raiders went 3 and out and Denver got it back at their own 41. Lock hit That was enough for Lock to hit Hamilton for 15 and Patrick for 14. McManus hit again from 51 on the first play of the fourth quarter as the Broncos led 16-3. 5 blown calls and 5 missed opportunities, and yet somehow the Raiders still were not completely dead. 

After a touchback, Carr went to Washington for 12, Jones for 16, Rico Gafford for 17, and Richard for 6. On 3rd and 1 from the Denver 20, this time Washington gained 7 yards. A sack of Carr had the Raiders facing 3rd and 16 at the Denver 19. For some bizarre reason, Carr went with a check down pass that gained 4 yards. This was the 6th missed opportunity for the Raiders. Although the Raiders needed 2 touchdowns, Jon Gruden was not going to go for it on 4th and 12 given that 9 minutes still remained. Carlson hit the 33 yard field goal as the Raiders trailed 16-6. Denver moved from their own 24 to their own 42 and looked to try and put the game away. In a game where every single break went against the Raiders, they finally got one. Lock fumbled and the Raiders recovered at the Oakland 41. On 3rd and 15 from the Oakland 36, Carr went deep to Renfrow for a 39 yard gain. Just before going down, Renfrow lateraled to Ateman for 9 more yards. Yet despite 1st and 10 at the Denver 16, on the next play Carr was called for intentional grounding and a 10 yard loss. On 3rd and 14 from the Denver 20, Carr hit Washington for 10. On 4th and 4 from the Denver 10, Jon Gruden did not even try to go for it. Carr was not even given a chance to draw the Broncos offsides. The Raiders settled for a third Carlson field goal from 28 yards out. With 4 minutes left the Raiders were within 16-9. 

The Raiders held on defense and got the ball back at their own 21 with 2:45 to play. On 2nd and 4, Carr fired over the middle to Ateman. He dropped it. On 3rd and 4 Carr hit Waller right in the bread basket. Waller dropped it. With 2:13 left, Gruden had to go for it. On 4th and 4, Carr found Waller open deep. Again it was right in the numbers. Again Waller dropped it. 3 straight dropped passes had the Raiders in full meltdown mode. Yet the Raiders still had one timeout left and the 2 minute warning. From the Oakland 27, all Denver needed to do was run the ball, kick a field goal, and go home. A safe run lost one yard and the clock hit the 2 minute warning. Then it was the Broncos who self-destructed. A false start meant 2nd and 16. Lindsay gained 8 as the Raiders took their final timeout with 1:55 left. On 3rd and 8 from the Oakland 25, a first down would end the game. So would a field goal. Lindsay only gained one yard, but 42 yards was well in McManus’s range. However, a mindless unnecessary roughness penalty on Denver after the play was over moved the Broncos back 15 yards. McManus begged Vic Fangio to let him try a 57 yard field goal. A couple weeks ago McManus threw his helmet in disgust when Fangio wouldn’t let him try from 65. This time Fangio relented. The kick was long enough and just barely wide. The Raiders were actually alive. 

The Raiders took over at their own 47 with 1:41 left. Neither team had a timeout. With 42 seconds left, the Raiders appeared down to their last gasp with 4th and 2 at the Denver 45. Carr found Ateman at the sideline for an 11 yard gain. The officials almost made another horrendous call. They were about to rule that Ateman was going backward when he went out fo bounds, meaning the clock would keep running. Twice this year officials’ inability to know the out of bounds rules cost the Raiders games. This time the refs after a long delay finally figured out that since Ateman was not touched by a defender, it did not matter whether he was going forward to backward. The clock was stopped at 36 seconds. Then things got even crazier before another play could be run. A fan ran on the field and was taken down by a security guard. The security guard was actually injured making the tackle. A stretcher had to be brought out. Fans gave the Denver security guard cheers as he pumped his fist while being carted off. This game had truly seen everything. After a very long delay, it was time for the final 36 seconds.

Carr went deep to Renfrow for a 28 yard gain. Renfrow came down inbounds. Carr raced to the line to stop the clock. When the Broncos tried to delay the play from happening, Denver was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Instead of 2nd down, it was 1st and goal at the 3 with 14 seconds left. Carr fired to the end zone, but another pass was dropped. 11 seconds remained. Carr fired to the end zone again and Renfrow caught it. The officials failed to disallow it. Despite 6 missed opportunities and 5 blown officials calls against the Raiders, they were only down by one point. An extra point would tie the game. Yet Jon Gruden decided to risk it all and go for the 2 point conversion and the win. Had the Raiders been alive for a playoff spot, the only sane decision would be kicking the extra point and going to overtime. However, by this time the entire sideline knew that Tennessee had won their game. The Raiders fought to the final week, but they were eliminated from the playoffs. There was no point in going to overtime and risking injuries in a now meaningless game. This 2 point try was going to be the final play in the history of the Oakland Raiders. Next year they would be the Las Vegas Raiders. A win would make the Raiders 8-8. They were 2 yards away. Carr fired over the middle and his pass was knocked down incomplete. The Broncos had survived. 

Both teams finished 7-9. Both teams are improved from last year and should be better next year. However, the Raiders started 6-4 and went 1-5 down the stretch. The Broncos began 3-8 and went 4-1 down the stretch. Carr finished 29 of 46 for 391 yards and one touchdown without an interception. Yet too many screwups cost the Raiders 2 games in the final 3 weeks. The difference between winning and losing is so small, and the Raiders kept ending up on the losing side. They are 3 games better than they were in 2018, and 2020 will be Gruden’s third year. The last time he was coach the Raiders were 12-4 in his third year. Expectations will be high but Mike Mayock must draft defensive backs who can fix the awful secondary. A top receiver will also be of vital importance. The Raiders played three of the last four games without Josh Jacobs. They are a totally different team with him, and keeping him healthy must be a top priority. They fell apart without him. For the second and final time, the football world says goodbye to Oakland. This time it seems permanent. The Raider Nation will play in their new 2 billion dollar stadium in Las Vegas. They still have fans in Los Angeles. However, they will always be the Oakland Raiders. They were one play and 2 yards from a fantastic finish that would have closed out Oakland football the right way. 16-15 Broncos

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks was the season ending Sunday night game. This was the major showdown of the day and perhaps the year. The 12-3 49ers were at the 11-4 Seahawks. Earlier in the year, Seattle went on the road and shocked the 8-0 49ers in overtime 27-24. The stakes were sky high. The 49ers with a win would be the top seed with home field throughout the playoffs. A 49ers loss would send them all the way down to the five seed. They would have to play all road playoff games. Due to action earlier in the day, a first round bye was out fo reach for the Seahawks.  With a win they would be the three seed but would still have to host a Wildcard playoff game. A loss would drop them to the five seed and all road playoff games. Two weeks ago Seattle was one of four 11-3 teams. The other 3 teams got to 12-3, but Seattle stumbled at home in a stunning loss to lowly Arizona. Ending the season with 2 home losses was unthinkable. The 12th man was fired up as Brian Bosworth got them riled up. Marshawn Lynch was back in a football uniform for the first time in over a year. Yet when the game kicked off, the first half was all 49ers.

The 49ers began facing 3rd and 12 at their own 19. Then the Seahawks entered the neutral zone. On 3rd and 7, Jimmy Garoppolo found Greg Kittle for 11 and Emanuel sanders for 8 and 12. Mostert ran for 17. A sack of Garoppolo killed the drive, but Robbie Gould hit a 47 yard field goal to make it 3-0 49ers. The 49ers got it back at their own 6 yard line. On 3rd and 5 from their 11, Garoppolo hit Sanders for just enough. On 2nd and 7 from their 19, Garoppolo went to Deebo Samuel for 30 and Kittle for 15. Mostert ran for 6 and Samuel ran for a 30 yard touchdown and a 10-0 49ers lead. In the second quarter the 49ers moved from their 17 to a 1st and 10 at the Seattle 15. After a pair of incompletions, on 3rd and 10 Garoppolo hit Samuel for 8 yards. On 4th and 2 from the 7, the 49ers took a delay of game penalty. Gould hit the 30 yard field goal as the 49ers led 13-0. The Seahawks after a touchback moved to a 4th and 1 at the Frisco 31 with 49 seconds left in the half. Seahawks fans are still tormented that Lynch was not give the ball at the one yard line in the Super bowl 5 years ago. This time he got the carry and did not get the yard. 

The second half was a totally different game. However, every time the Seahawks struck, the 49ers countered. On 3rd and 4 from their own 44 in the third quarter, Wilson gained 5 and then another 5. Lynch gained 8 and 15. On 1st and 20 from the Frisco 38 after a touchdown was called back, Homer ran for 11. On 3rd and 5 from the Frisco 23, Wilson went to Homer for 8. On 3rd and 9 from the Frisco 14, Wilson found Tyler Lockett for the touchdown. The 11 play, 62 yard, 7 minute drive had the Seahawks within 13-7. Yet the 49ers answered quickly after a touchback. Garoppolo went deep to Kyle Juszczyk for a 49 yard gain and Samuel for 24 more. Moster ran for the 2 yard touchdown. Kyle Shanahan opted for the 2 point conversion. Garoppolo hit Kevin Bourne at the goal line, but Bourne was tackled just short of the plane of the goal. The 49ers led 19-7.

After a touchback, Homer gained 11. On 3rd and 7 from their own 39, Wilson hit Hollister for 7. On 3rd and 5 just past midfield, Wilson hit Lockett for 8 and Moore for 17. On 3rd and 3 from the Frisco 17, Wilson hit Lockett for 6 yards and DK Metcalf for 8 more down to the one. This time Lynch did get the carry and he did get in. He went over the top and punished a defender before landing well past the plane of the goal. With 10 minutes left in regulation the 14 play, 75 yard, 8 1/2 minute drive had the Seahawks within 19-14. Yet again after a touchback, the 49ers responded. Kittle ran for 7 and Mostert added 13. Garoppolo hit Kittle for 16. Matt Breida gained 6. On 3rd and 5 from the Seattle 34, Garoppolo went deep to Samuel for 21. Mostert ran for the 13 yard touchdown. With 6 minutes left, the 49ers had a comfortable 26-14 lead. They would not be comfortable for long. 

The ensuing kickoff was kicked out of bounds, setting up the Seahawks at their own 40. Wilson hit Moore and Homer for a pair of 13 yard gains. On 3rd and 6 from the Frisco 30, Wilson threw incomplete. However, defensive pass interference meant a 14 yard gain. Wilson went to Metcalf for a 14 yard touchdown. With 3 1/2 minutes left the Seahawks were within 5. They needed a stop. A sack of Garoppolo meant 3rd and 17 for the 49ers at their own 14. A dumpoff pass to Mostert almost killed the Seahawks, but the 16 yard gain came up one yard short. The Seahawks took their first timeout with 2 1/2 minutes left. On 4th and 1 from his own 30, Kyle Shanahan did not even consider going for it. The Seahawks took over at their own 27. Wilson hit Homer for 5, Metcalf for 10, Homer for 11, Metcalf for 24 and Lockett for 11. With 55 seconds left the Seahawks had 1st and 10 at the Frisco 12. Wilson threw 3 straight incompletions. With 42 seconds left on 4th and 10 from the 12, Wilson found Ursua for 11 yards down to the one. The Seahawks had the first down but not the touchdown. Wilson spiked the ball to stop the clock with 23 seconds left. On 2nd and goal at the one and the Seahawks out of timeouts, there was still enough time to hand Lynch the d@mn ball. Yet the Seahawks inexplicably lost track of time and suffered a delay of game penalty. Lynch came out as the ball was moved back to the 5 yard line. Wilson threw incomplete twice. 

12 seconds remained. The entire NFC playoff picture came down to one play. Wilson fired to Hollister. at the goal line. Hollister was met by 2 defenders at the goal line. As he came down and rolled over, the ball was over the plane of the goal. The Seahawks celebrated, thinking they had won. The ball came out after the play. No whistle had blown. A 49ers defender picked it up and raced over 100 yards the other way. Each side thought they had a touchdown. Each side thought they had won. Yet the officials did not make a call on the field. Everyone waited as utter confusion reigned. Last week the 49ers lost a heartbreaker at the goal line when the Atlanta receiver got the ball just across the plane. It looked like Hollister had done the same. Before anyone could wear the Seattle Seahawks 2019 NFC West Champions t-shirts, officials ruled that Hollister was stopped just short of the goal. This one will be talked about forever. The 49ers have home field throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks are the Wildcard. Each team won on the other’s home field. If the Seahawks win their first playoff game and New Orleans wins their home playoff game, the Seahawks would in the divisional round travel to play…who else? The 49ers. If you thought their 2013 NFC Title Game was epic, just wait for a third game this year. Richard Sherman has switched sides, but he and the rest of us would be amped up. This game was a thrilling conclusion to the 2019 NFL regular season and the final NFL game this decade. 26-21 49ers 

Hanukkah Night 7: NFL 2019 Week 17 Prequel

December 29th, 2019