We've got you covered with everything you need to know from Wild Card Weekend as we recap all the crazy NFL action from the playoff games this past Saturday and Sunday.
Chiefs @ Colts Recap
What a comeback! The Colts looked like they didn't have a chance even in the third quarter, but Andrew Luck and company bounced back, winning a close game 45-44. The Chiefs tough defense didn't seem so tough on this day, as Luck burned them all throughout the second half en route to one of the most miraculous comebacks in NFL playoff history.
Injuries marred the offense in a game that they just let slip away from them. Jamaal Charles, also known as the entire Chiefs offense, was knocked out on the first possession with a concussion and was replaced by Knile Davis. It could have been a devastating blow, as Charles alone was the reason the offense was somewhat effective this year. Charles seemed to have it going against the Colts early on, but Davis did his best to impersonate him. While he wasn’t as effective, he still rushed for 67 yards on 18 carries, including a touchdown. He also caught seven passes for 33 yards and another touchdown. Davis also was forced from the game with a leg injury in the 4th, but proved in this game that he is going to be an NFL starter somewhere at some point in his career.
Alex Smith, meanwhile, had the best game of his career. He threw for 378 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Dwayne Bowe caught 150 of those yards, and had his best game of the season. Bowe was a forgotten man most of the year in Kansas City because of Smith’s weak arm, but a short pass was all he needed to go 63 yards on a huge play that really got the Chiefs rolling. He broke a few tackles and showed that he still has something left in the tank. Bowe almost made an enormous catch that would have given the Chiefs a chance to win, but he couldn't get his second foot down. In the second quarter, Smith hit Avery for a 79 yard touchdown on a deep ball. Avery was wide open, using his speed to burn an ineffective Greg Toler. That was his only catch, however, as he remains more of a decoy than anything. Dexter McCluster caught seven passes, but didn't do too much with them. While Alex Smith was ultimately effective, this offense could really use a quarterback with a big arm to stretch the defense, giving more room to Charles.
Andrew Luck and the Colts were absolutely abysmal in the first half, but somehow turned it around. Luck just couldn’t find any of his receivers as the Chiefs had a gameplan to stop the deep ball, a specialty of TY Hilton and company. Luck’s throws looked weak and his spiral just wasn’t there. However, after his 3rd interception, he really got things going. He threw for 443 yards and 4 touchdowns to his 3 interceptions. 224 of those went to Hilton, who was just dismantling the Chiefs secondary in the second half after Brandon Flowers went out. Hilton saw 18 targets and is clearly a favorite of Luck. Da’Rick Rogers was pretty ineffective, catching just 1 pass. His big game seems more of a fluke, but the talent is there, and he could become a factor as early as the second half of next year. The Colts do have a lot of nice weapons for Luck, but it would be in their best interest to get a possession receiver to play outside, and leave Hilton in the slot.
Trent Richardson was supposed to give this Colts offense a running back who would strike fear into the hearts of opponents, however the only carry he got today, he fumbled away. Trent was probably the most ineffective running back in the NFL this year, a truly scary thought considering the Colts traded a 1st round pick for him. Donald Brown, however, was effective, rushing for 55 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, while also picking up 47 yards and a touchdown receiving. He almost had a costly fumble, but Andrew Luck scooped it up for one of the most awesome, lucky touchdowns you’ll ever see.
Saints @ Eagles Recap
This was probably the most anticipated game of wildcard weekend. Two of the most explosive offenses faced off in Philadelphia on Saturday night, and while the going was slow throughout most of the game, the excitement was definitely there at the end. Nick Foles led a touchdown drive to put the Eagles up 24-23, but left 4 minutes of clock time for Brees $ Co., more than enough for the Saints to get into field goal range and for Shayne Graham to hit the game-winner.
The offense started off with a clear plan, to use Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles either by way of the run or pass, and to take advantage of the weak Philadephia defense. Ingram was a man on a mission, and he really came out of nowhere on this one, rushing 18 times for 97 yards including a big touchdown. Sproles didn’t stuff the stat sheet, but he was still effective, making defenders miss on multiple occasions. However, the biggest news for the Saints was Khiry Robinson. Robinson converted multiple third-down conversions and also was able to pick up multiple gains of 6-8 yards on an Eagles defense that just couldn’t find him when he went between the tackles. For an undrafted rookie, Sean Payton showed a ton of trust in Robinson, and he was rewarded in a big way.
The passing offense for the Saints was out of sync for a lot of the game. While Brees did finish with a 66% completion percentage for 250 yards, he also finished with two ugly interceptions. The first was an overthrow to Kenny Stills, and the second was a pass where he flat-out just did not see DeMeco Ryans in the middle. The Saints couldn’t really get the ball downfield, and it seemed like that was part of the Eagles defensive game plan. Jimmy Graham didn’t have a huge impact, catching just three passes for 44 yards. He was close to a touchdown, but Nate Allen made a good play to break up the play. When the Saints decided to stick to short passes once again in the second half, the offense settled down and really got the ball moving. The Eagles just couldn’t stop them from getting first downs. However, after this game, it is becoming more clear that the Saints need another big-time receiver to complement Graham. Marques Colston is not as effective as he once was, and Lance Moore is an afterthought.
The Eagles offense did not look good on Saturday. Nick Foles made some good passes, but there were too many occasions where no one was open and Foles either had to take a sack or just throw it away. He once again threw no picks, but there were no big plays as DeSean Jackson was completely shut down by Keenan Lewis. Lewis, however, suffered a concussion in the 3rd quarter, and DeSean took advantage immediately by catching 2 consecutive passes. He also drew a crucial pass interference during the Eagles late 4th quarter touchdown drive. Riley Cooper had some big grabs including a touchdown, and Zach Ertz also got some open looks in the intermediate range, but didn’t do much. He doesn’t have the complete trust of Chip Kelly yet, but that should change next year. Jason Avant was a part of the game plan as well for the first time in a while, but a majority of his catches were for short 5 to 6 yard gains. His presence was mostly irrelevant. It was clear that the Eagles really need a #2 wide receiver on the other side of DeSean Jackson. Riley Cooper had a decent season, but could never really separate from corners, and a few of his big games came from missed coverages. Jeremy Maclin should definitely be resigned next year, or a rookie should be brought in.
LeSean McCoy was held in check by the Saints. He had no room to bounce outside and couldn’t make his famous Barry Sanders-esque cuts because the Saints made it a point to completely collapse the offensive line and limit the amount of room Shady had in open space. All he could do the majority of the time was run forward for short gains. The Eagles tried their best to get him open, motioning him outside and trying some read option, but it never really worked. He did pick up a couple big gains late in the second half and looked just as quick doing it as he did in the beginning of the year, further proof that Chip Kelly and the Eagles are in the best shape of any team in the league. McCoy can have an even better season next year with another year under his belt in this offense.
Chargers @ Bengals
This was not one of the most exciting games to watch. Neither team could really separate from the other in the first half, but when Andy Dalton broke down, the entire Bengals team followed suit. Mike McCoy and the Chargers took advantage of an average Bengals defense, marred by injuries, and ran through them on the way to a 27-10 victory.
Philip Rivers was never really given a chance to get it going in this game, but it wasn't needed. He finished with 128 yards going to seven different receivers. Ladarius Green was the leading receiver, catching three passes for 34 yards and an awesome touchdown in the red zone. Green has such a bright future, as he is a freakishly athletic tight end that can make huge plays. Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen were held in check, managing just 26 total yards. Allen, a rookie of the year candidate, just didn’t have a chance to make a big play, and actually didn’t make a catch until the third quarter. Allen is going to be a huge weapon for Rivers next year, as his size and burst make him the perfect weapon for Rivers. He and Green are going to complement each other nicely. Vincent Brown didn’t have a catch, continuing his disappointing season. The one-time favorite sleeper of many experts is falling into irrelevance.
San Diego's rushing attack surprisingly led the Chargers to a playoff spot, and while it was not as effective on this day, it still helped guide the team to victory. Ryan Mathews was clearly hobbled by his ankle injury. He reaggravated it early in the game and was not nearly as effective as he has been during his hot streak. He sat for the majority of the second half, managing 52 yards. Danny Woodhead proved once more to be an awesome pick-up for the Chargers, as his underrated power and vision helped him get some big gains and a touchdown. Woodhead is poised for another big season next year. Ronnie Brown also contributed, leading the team with 77 yards, 58 of them coming from a big touchdown that put an end to the game for good. It was likely a going out party for Brown, as it is probably the last time we will see him getting big touches, as long as Mathews re-injury isn’t severe.
The Bengals just couldn’t get anything going on offense all game. The Chargers game plan was to shut down AJ Green, and shut him down they did. He was limited to just 34 yards, and he never had an impact on the game. Andy Dalton was completely ineffective, and couldn’t get the ball to Green (or anyone else for that matter) on too many plays. Dalton is just an ineffective starter in the playoffs, and it is fair to wonder if next year will be the final straw for him and Marvin Lewis. Dalton threw two ugly interceptions and a costly fumble that really finished the Bengals. The lone bright spot was Marvin Jones, who had 130 receiving yards, including a 49 yard bomb from Dalton where he made a beautiful diving catch. Jones is very athletic, and is a perfect compliment to AJ Green. The Bengals are a better team when he is on the field, and when he most likely gets his chance next year, the offense could become formidable. Jermaine Gresham had a big game, but a majority of his catches were just checkdowns. Eifert didn’t record a catch, thus ending a disappointing season. He still has a promising career ahead of him however, but it’s hard to rely on him.
The running game started out strong. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was running over the Chargers line on the first possession, but that soon ended. He got all of 8 carries, however, even though they went for 42 yards. Green-Ellis has had some great games this year, rushing for tough yards, but in others he has been completely ineffective. It’s fair to wonder if he will be the starter next year over their talented young back. Giovani Bernard rushed for 45 yards and had 73 receiving yards, but had a costly fumble that kept Cincinatti out of the end zone in the second half.
49ers @ Packers
The most exciting game of Wild Card Weekend ended with a bang. Phil Dawson hit the game-ending field goal in a contest that went back and forth throughout the night. You could just sense the cold by looking at the players down on the field. Multiple punts went for just 25 to 30 yards, and players frequently left the field to warm up.
At times, the 49ers offense doesn’t look pretty, but it is still effective. Colin Kaepernick still has a lot of issues to work out when throwing more than 10 yards, but he ended up having a great game, leading his team downfield for the game-winning drive. Kaepernick finished with 227 passing yards, 98 rushing yards, and an interception that he floated under pressure. He almost threw a few more picks, and his decision making and timing was a little off at time, as they were all year. However, his running more than made up for it, as he showed elite speed and scrambled at the right times. Colin looked for Michael Crabtree early and often, including a few end zone looks. There were a few questionable non-calls against Crabtree, who looked completely healthy, burning Davon House multiple times for 125 yards. Crabtree ultimately notched his third 100-yard postseason game. Vernon Davis finished with 37 yards and a big touchdown on which he burned Green Bay linebackers up the middle and snuck right into the end zone. As their primary target inside the 20, he also got a few red zone looks, but failed to convert. Davis still has all of his speed and continues to be a matchup nightmare. He got open deep on another occasion but Colin threw the ball over his head. Anquan Boldin looked slower, but still used his strength and route running skills to get open. However, with Crabtree back and healthy, he becomes the 3rd option in the passing attack. With Quinton Patton improving, there is a chance we see less of Boldin next year, if at all.
Frank Gore continues to impress at the age of 30. He rushed for just 66 yards on 20 carries, but contributed a touchdown as well. Gore found the hole on multiple short yardage plays and always seemed to get yards when there were none. While he is not as effective as he once was, he still is the best option the 49ers have, and the offense flows through him in most games. Marcus Lattimore is waiting in the wing, but no one knows his status for next year just yet. It was strange to see the fact that the 49ers rarely called run plays in the red zone, instead trying to pass the ball a majority of the time, failing nearly every time. LaMichael James didn’t receive an offensive touch, and Kendall Hunter got just two.
The Packers were being completely dismantled by the Smiths and Ahmad Brooks in the first half. The offensive line seemed to just be letting the San Francisco pass rush get to Rodgers, as he had no time or any open players to make plays for him. Rodgers was sacked four times, and there were multiple occasions where he was hit or had to throw the ball away. The Packers severely need an upgrade on their offensive line. Rodgers threw for just 177 yards, but the 49ers defense is more to blame for that than is the Packers passing offense. When Justin Smith went out with cramps and Aldon Smith seemed to get hurt, Rodgers and company turned the switch on, and really started to make some plays. Jordy Nelson got open a few times over the middle for 62 yards and a touchdown. Nelson looked explosive and is poised for a huge year next year with Rodgers fully healthy. Randall Cobb was the Packers second leading receiver, but he did not receive that much time on offense. He is still recovering from his broken leg, but he was still effective when he had the ball. The game would have probably ended up differently had Cobb been healthy enough to play every snap. Rodgers had a huge play that kept the Packers alive when he escaped pressure and threw a touch pass to Cobb which almost went for a touchdown. Jarrett Boykin continued to play a lot of snaps, but didn’t catch anything. Boykin really had a big second half of the year, but it’s fair to wonder if he will be an effective player next year. James Jones caught 2 passes in possibly his last game in a Packers uniform.
Eddie Lacy started off slow, clearly hobbled by his ankle injury, but really turned it on at the end of the game. Defenses get worn down throughout the game, but Lacy doesn't seem to. He was bouncing off 49ers all throughout the second half en route to some big gains. He finished with 81 yards, and he was the reason, not Aaron Rodgers, that the team was still alive late in the game. As long as Lacy stays in shape, he is due for a big year next year as a bruiser volume back. James Starks was also effective, rushing for 29 yards on five carries. Starks has good speed and is great at finding room on the outside and picking up big chunks of the yards. He is one of the best backup running backs in the league, and should find a place to get some carries next year, although most likely not as a feature back due to his injury history.