Quick Thoughts On The Rest Of The NFL Weekend That Was
Time is short today, so I’ll give some brief thoughts on the rest of the games we saw in Week 2 of the NFL Playoffs — my take on the Jets win over New England is already posted here.
— The biggest news (for me at least) on Sunday was the Bears’ dominant victory over Seattle. While Pete Carroll’s team certainly quieted some of the outrage over their appearance in the playoffs with their victory over the Saints, they were never a real threat to go any further than they did — and thankfully for the NFL, Chicago sent them home, keeping the league from the embarrassment of seeing a team at .500 playing in the Super Bowl in Dallas.
The tone was set from the outset, first with the tremendous anthem by Jim Cornelison, and then by the wintry weather — making it a perfect football atmosphere for the playoffs. In his first playoff game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler made almost no mistakes (his one gaffe that could have turned the game around — a potential pick-six on the Bears second scoring drive — was dropped), and his touchdown pass to Greg Olson on Chicago’s opening drive gave his team a lead it would never relinquish.
The defense was stellar when it mattered as well. The Bears won the way they have all the second half of the season — with solid defense and a mistake-free offense. Their upcoming match-up against the Packers will be only the second time the two rivals have ever played in the playoffs, and it should be a classic.
— Speaking of the Packers, they won on Saturday with one of the best playoff performances in recent memory by their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers would misfire on only five passes in his thirty-six attempts, throwing for three touchdowns while the Packers torched the Atlanta defense for a franchise playoff record 48 points. Atlanta could never get untracked, as their running game was non-existent (the Falcons ran for only 45 yards, 39 coming from Michael Turner), while their quarterback Matt Ryan has a miserable night, throwing two interceptions and fumbling the ball away for a third turnover.
Now one step away from the Super Bowl, the Packers — who looked like they were dead in the water after Rodgers’ injury during the team’s huge loss to the Lions in Week 14 — are favored going into their clash against the Bears. If Rodgers continues to play at the insanely high level he reached on Saturday night, it’s going top be hard to see any team beating them.
— And finally, the Steelers finished off a remarkable comeback against the Ravens earlier on Saturday, rallying from a two touchdown deficit at the half to beat their bitter rivals yet again in the playoffs. Early on, it looked like it would be the Ravens’ day, but Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would rally the Steelers back and send them to their 4th AFC Championship appearance in the last six seasons.
As I predicted on Friday, neither running game was able to accomplish much (the two teams combined for only 106 yards on the ground, and they averaged a putrid 2.2 yards a carry) — and it would be the performance by the quarterbacks that would be the difference. While Big Ben would make the big plays when the Steelers needed them, his Ravens counterpart Joe Flacco struggled all day, throwing for only 125 yards and turning the ball over twice. With the Jets upset over the Patriots, Pittsburgh now will host the AFC Title Game — and will be favored to advance to their 8th Super Bowl (which would tie them with Dallas for the most of any franchise) while looking for a 7th title.
— With my busy schedule, I likely won’t be back until Friday, when I’ll deliver my predictions for the Conference Championship Games. Until then, have a safe week.