Wild Card Round Reactions: Chargers, WHAT HAPPENEDUH?

I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the Jags vs. Chargers game, so I didn’t really watch much of the 49ers vs. Seahawks game. I saw the first half, the start of the second half, and then we listened to the rest of the game on the way to the stadium in Jacksonville, so I know the 49ers ran away with it. But look: I don’t think the result of that game was too surprising. Brock Purdy definitely had some early playoff jitters, and you could tell he had to get his sea legs under him in that first half.

But afterwards, the 49ers were off to the races. They have way too much talent for a team like Seattle to keep up with. Seattle has some good players, but San Fran just has more.

The turning point in this game was when Geno got strip-sacked in the red zone early in the 3rd quarter. The 49ers got the ball out of halftime and went down the field and scored, retaking the lead 23-17. Geno then took the Seahawks all the way down the field, got them to the San Fran 19, but was strip sacked on 3rd and 14. San Fran got the ball, then went down and scored on their next possession, plus a 2-pointer, to make it 31-17. It was a wrap at that point.

It was unlikely Seattle would’ve scored a go-ahead touchdown on that 3rd and 14 play. I guess they could’ve gotten a first down at the 5, but that was also unlikely. Still, a field goal to make it 23-20 helps. Seattle probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up with San Fran no matter what, but this strip sack play was really the breaking point in the game. Seattle had to play perfect football in order to win, and they couldn’t maintain it much longer than a half.

Big shoutout to Brandon Aiyuk, probably the most underrated player on that star-studded 49ers offense, but definitely a beast in his own right. Everyone focuses on CMC, Deebo and Kittle, but Aiyuk is a really good football player and typically doesn’t get the flowers he deserves.

Have they Named this Game Yet? Jags 31, Chargers 30

The Chargers Collapse? The Legend of Lawrence? I’m sure somebody out there will come up with something clever.

I’ll be honest: when it was 27-0, I was thinking about leaving. At that point, my thoughts shifted to the parking situation, getting out of there before the rush of people, wanting to beat traffic, etc.

The Jags scored that touchdown to make it 27-7 right before halftime, so there was at least a bit of optimism in the building heading into the second quarter. But my mindset was still: “If the Chargers score right out of halftime, or if they don’t score and the Jags have to punt on their first possession, we’re probably going to get out of there and cut our losses.”

Because you figure the Jags will have, what, 4-5 possessions at most in the second half? You pretty much have no margin for error

I’ve never been to a playoff game before. I’ve only been to regular season games. I can tell you that the atmosphere in a playoff game is just different. You can feel it before you even get into the stadium. When you’re driving around looking for a parking spot, when you’re walking up to the stadium, when you’re walking in to the stadium–you can just feel the difference in the air. There’s more excitement, more energy, a little bit of nervousness mixed in there. It’s just different.

I just want to go over a few things that I found remarkable or noteworthy about this game:

  • You may not have realized it (not sure if they highlighted it on the broadcast) but it was pretty cold for that game even though it was in Florida. It was low 40s. Sometimes in the winter, North Florida gets pretty chilly for a few days here and there. It’s usually in the 60s and 70s, but sometimes it can dip into the 40s, maybe even the high 20s every so often.
  • Trevor Lawrence obviously threw four picks in the first half, plus the Jags had an incredibly unlucky muffed punt as well. The muff wasn’t even the returner’s fault. The ball just bounced off the jammer’s head (the jammer is the guy who runs down the field towards his own punt returner to block the gunners). I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. It happened right in front of us, we were in that end zone. At that moment, it just felt like it wasn’t meant to be. Everything that could go wrong, was going wrong.
  • I definitely agree that a few of those interceptions were not T-Law’s fault at all. The first one that got tipped twice, that was just unlucky. Then there were some that probably should’ve been DPI, and I think T-Law thought so as well, but somebody on ESPN brought up a good point: the reffing is different in the playoffs. DBs can get away with more contact. You could tell the Jags offense was not prepared for it. There were several plays where the Jags players were complaining and asking for a flag, and they probably would’ve gotten them in the regular season.
  • I didn’t even realize Asante Samuel Jr. had three of the four picks until somebody texted me about it. That’s insane that he had three picks in not only a game but a half.
  • It started to get a little ugly in the crowd once it was 27-0. Mostly the fans were mad at the refs, but I do specifically recall at one point some guy in our section screaming out, “FUCK YOU, LAWRENCE!” That was an isolated incident, of course, and by no means was the crowd about to turn on him. But one guy did.
  • Perhaps the most amazing thing about this game: the Jags had 5 turnovers and the Chargers had zero. How often does a team win with a turnover margin of -5? How often does a team lose with a turnover margin of +5? With a little research I was able to find that in the 2014 NFC Championship between Seattle and Green Bay, Russell Wilson threw four picks and the Seahawks had 5 turnovers in total, but still won the game. But Green Bay also had 2 turnovers of their own, so the TO margin was only 3. I’m sure somebody has the data, and I’ll update it here when I find it.
  • If you’re going to turn the ball over 5 times in a game, better to do it in the first half, I guess, right? To be down 20 points at halftime after committing 5 turnovers is actually not that bad, all things considered. I mean, if you commit 5 turnovers, and the other team commits none, you should probably expect to be down by 40+, right? The Chargers had 8 possessions in the first half of that game. The Jags only had 4 that didn’t end in turnovers. To only be down 20 points at halftime is a pretty good situation when you think about it this way.
  • The reason I bring this up is because this is how the Jags comeback was even possible: they still kept it relatively close in the first half despite being -5 in the turnover margin. They probably should have been down a lot more than 27-7.
  • So the Jags force a punt on the Chargers’ first possession of the second half, and then go on a 14 play, 89 yard touchdown drive to cut it to 27-14. At that point, I was not leaving the game. You’re only down 13 points despite being -5 in the turnover margin. You are still somehow alive. 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter and it’s a 13 point game. You’re in business.
  • Chargers get held to a field goal on their next drive, making the score 30-14. At this point you can kind of feel the momentum shifting in the stadium. The crowd was starting to come alive and starting to believe. You know at this point if the Jags score you have to go for two, and they did score, but they failed on the 2 point conversion. This happened right in front of us. Lawrence was looking for Zay Jones who couldn’t make the catch. On replay, it looked like the defender grabbed Jones’ facemask which was why he couldn’t make the catch. After the play you could tell the Jags players were really getting frustrated with the refs. Jones was making a passionate plea to the ref after the play, Lawrence joined in.
  • On the Chargers’ next drive, they missed a 40 yard field goal that would’ve made it 33-20 with about 9 minutes to play. That was when I really started to believe the Jags not only could win, but would win. It felt like the Chargers were unraveling.
  • Jags go down and score on their next possession to make it 30-26 with about 5:25 to play. It looked like they were lining up for the PAT, but there was a flag thrown against the Chargers that gave the Jags the ball at the one for a 2 point try. It was happening at the other end of the field so I couldn’t see what caused the flag (I know Bosa got flagged once for unsportsmanlike conduct and I think he might have done something later on in the game?). My main concern here was, “Why is Pederson going for two here?” Because if you don’t get the 2 point try, it’s 30-26 and you can’t kick a game-tying field goal if you get the ball back. But it turns out Pederson wasn’t think about kicking a game-tying field goal, he was thinking about kicking a game winning field goal. Jags ran a QB sneak where T-Law basically just dunked the ball into the endzone. He really put that 6’6″ frame to good use. Just jumped up and reached the ball over the goal line, 30-28.
  • On the Chargers’ next drive, they were pretty much dead on arrival. Crowd was going nuts, defense was fired up, all the momentum was with the Jags. Defense sacked Herbert on the first play for -7 yards and that was pretty much it for the Chargers. They were going nowhere.
  • When the Jags got the ball back, you pretty much knew they were winning the game. They had scored on every possession in the second half, and they were not going to be denied now. The one time it got dicey was when it was 4th and 1, but Pederson dialed up a sweet play to Etienne that not only picked up the first down but got the Jags in field goal range. This guy Benjamin Solak has a nice breakdown of what went into that play call:
  • Basically it was a similar play call to something the Jags did against the Chargers back in week 3: get the running back into a situation where it’s a one-on-one with Asante Samuel Jr. The Jags did a great job blocking on the play to make sure every defender but one was hatted up and accounted for. In this playoff game, it was just a foot race between Etienne and the cornerback to the first down line, and since it was like 4th and half a yard, it was easy money.
  • But this is where I was nervous. Etienne had a nice run on second down that looked like it was good enough for a first, but instead it was 3rd and a short 1. I thought the Jags should’ve just snuck the ball and picked up the first down there, but they threw it and it was incomplete, setting up the 4th and 1. That was the only point in the 4th quarter where I really started to get nervous, but Pederson dialed up the perfect play on 4th down.
  • Then it just came down to the kicker. From where I was, in the other end zone, I could not tell if the kick was good. It looked like it might have missed from the angle I had, but then I saw all the players celebrating, and the fireworks going off. I didn’t even know there was a flag on the play (offsides on the Chargers) until I got home and pulled up the game highlights on YouTube. The celebration began almost immediately. Jags players were doing backflips and back handsprings–it was pretty incredible just how many of them could do that. Absolute pandemonium.

This is a photo I took from where I was sitting, and the game-winning field goal happened all the way at the other end of the field. From my angle, it looked like the kick hooked right and missed, but it had already gone through by the time it hooked:

  • I guess the thing Bosa was pissed about was the refs not calling false starts on the Jags, and honestly, he was right. There were a few plays where it looked like the Jags false started but didn’t get flagged. I was waiting for the flag but the play just went on. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of this in the NFL this season, actually: the refs are letting offensive linemen get away with false starts fairly frequently.
  • Other than the 39 yard TD pass to Zay Jones, the Jags weren’t really throwing the ball deep in the second half. They were kind of nickel and diming their way down the field the whole time. I guess the Chargers were giving them that in hopes of avoiding the big play, but damn, at some point Staley has to make some adjustments, no?

So here’s the question: do the Chargers fire Staley after this?

Here’s the stat that’s damning, in my view: the Chargers ran the ball 23 times in the game and the Jags ran it 21 times.

How does that happen?

By my count, and I could be off by one or two, the Chargers only ran the ball 7 times in the second half. That tells me they don’t trust their power run game at all. They don’t trust Ekeler to be the closer–to pick up 3-4 yards at a time, move the chains slowly, and bleed clock.

Ekeler is good in space, he’s great at catching the ball, and he has an all-time nose for the endzone when the Chargers get the ball in scoring range. But I don’t think they trust him to really be that workhorse running back. I don’t think he can handle 25-30 carries in a game. He only had 13 total, while Joshua Kelly had 7 (Herbert had the other 3).

And so that’s a big reason the Chargers couldn’t hold on to that lead. They don’t have much of a power run game. They had 4 drives in the second half and only one of them took more than 3 minutes off the clock:

  • 7 plays, 37 yards, 2:32
  • 7 plays, 45 yards, 2:13
  • 14 plays, 58 yards, 6:57
  • 3 plays, 5 yards, 2:16

That is how you choke away a 20 point lead in the second half.

The Chargers are incapable of running the ball to salt a game away. If they could’ve done it, wouldn’t they have done it?

If they’re capable of doing it yet for whatever reason did not attempt to do it, then that’s even more unforgivable.

I may not be an objective voice here because I’ve been saying Staley should be fired all season. I have never been a believer in him. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing. I think he’s clueless out there, in way over his head.

Giving up a 27-0 lead in the playoffs speaks for itself. Staley has to go.

Especially when Sean Payton is out there. Not a single doubt in my mind that Sean Payton would have won that game if he were the coach of the Chargers. Sean Payton has certainly blown his fair share of playoff games, but he would’ve won that one.

At any rate, the Jags are moving on, Trevor Lawrence already has one iconic playoff game, and regardless of what happens next for this team, the future is certainly very bright in Jacksonville.

Bills 34, Dolphins 31

Buffalo had a 17-3 lead early on, but went into halftime with just a 20-17 lead.

I’ve been saying it for a while now: there is something wrong with the Buffalo Bills. My take on Buffalo for most of this season is that they have an incredible haymaker, but if they can’t knock you out early, they are very beatable.

The Dolphins were down to their third string quarterback here! They probably would’ve won if Jaylen Waddle didn’t drop so many deep passes (although some weren’t his fault).

Buffalo almost lost to Skyler Thompson.

I think I’ve figured out why Buffalo is so off: Josh Allen turns the ball over like crazy.

He had three turnovers in this game: two picks and one fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

On the season, regular and post combined, he’s thrown 16 interceptions and lost 6 fumbles.

22 turnovers in 18 games thus far.

Mahomes, for comparison, has 12 picks thrown and 0 lost fumbles on the season.

Burrow has 12 picks on the year and 3 lost fumbles, but keep in mind he threw 4 picks in the week 1 loss to Pittsburgh. So since week 2, he’s only had 11 turnovers.

Josh Allen stands out among elite quarterbacks as uniquely turnover-prone. He’s turning into this generation’s Brett Favre, it would appear: capable of great feats and some of the most incredible plays you’ve ever seen, but also capable of catastrophic mistakes. Brett Favre could throw 6 touchdown passes, but he could also throw 6 INTs in one game. You never knew what you were going to get with him.

Brett Favre played in 24 career playoff games. In only 9 of those games, he threw zero INTs. Favre even had a 6 INT playoff game in 2002 (Green Bay lost to St. Louis 45-17). Favre had a 4 pick playoff game as well, in 2005. Then he had 7 playoff games where he threw 2 INTs. So Brett Favre, with 9 career multi-INT postseason games, was equally as likely to throw multiple interceptions in a playoff game as he was to throw zero INTs.

Favre threw so many interceptions because he was risky bordering on careless with the ball. He would not hesitate to take gambles, and oftentimes, he’d lose on those gambles. The reason he was so quick to take risks was because he trusted his arm so much, maybe even too much.

Brett Favre won multiple MVPs in his career, and he won a Super Bowl. But he also lost a Super Bowl in 1997, when the Packers had a chance to repeat, in large part because Brett Favre had two turnovers in the game. Green Bay lost that game to Denver 31-24. Favre’s turnovers may have cost Green Bay that Super Bowl.

He cost the Vikings a trip to the Super Bowl in 2009 because he threw a bone-headed INT late in the game. He had 2 picks against the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship game, which Green Bay ultimately lost 23-20 in OT. One of Favre’s pick–the most costly of the two–was in overtime after Green Bay won the toss.Who knows how many Super Bowls Brett Favre would’ve played in if he had just taken better care of the ball?

That’s what I think is going on with Josh Allen: he has too much faith in his arm. He thinks he can make any and every throw. And as it pertains to the fumbles, I think he believes he’s so big and strong that nobody can really tackle him, or that he will find a way to get out of whatever situation he finds himself in. Where most other QBs realize they’re beat, tuck the ball and go down, Josh Allen always thinks he can make something happen.

He’s got to take better care of the ball. He just has to, or else he might cost this Bills team a chance at the Super Bowl.

He was out there taking risks playing against Skyler Thompson. He did not need to take as many risks as he did in that game. The only way the Dolphins had a chance to win that game was if Josh Allen turned the ball over several times, which he did.

Josh Allen has got to have another gear. He’s got to know that sometimes, it’s more important to just take care of the ball and not take any risks than it is to take deep shots and try to make spectacular plays. Buffalo needs the spectacular plays when they play against Cincy and Kansas City, but not the Skyler Thompson Dolphins. Allen has got to read the room, so to speak. He’s got realize that in some games, in some moments, there’s more downside than upside to trying to make the big play.

They almost lost to the Skyler Thompson Dolphins at home.

Giants 31, Vikings 24

You knew this game would be a banger. This one and the Jags game were the two this weekend that were virtually guaranteed to be off the chain.

But honestly, the Giants felt like the better team the whole game.

Major props to Danny Dimes, a guy I’ve doubted throughout his whole career, for playing essentially a perfect game. He wasn’t making Mahomes throws out there but he did everything that was asked of him, picked up big first downs with his legs and his arm, and more or less executed the game plan about as well as you could possibly execute.

Just goes to show you how big a difference coaching makes in football. This Giants team, in terms of personnel, is pretty much the same as it was last year when Joe Judge was the coach. But now they’re in the divisional round and have a playoff win.

Brian Daboll is a winner, man. He has turned the Giants into winners.

They went up there into Minnesota, a very tough place to play, and didn’t bat an eye.

Huge shoutout to Mike Kafka, the Giants OC. Dude is next level with the play calls. It was like almost every play call worked. Other than Saquon Barkley, the Giants really don’t have elite personnel on offense, and yet they were constantly finding ways to scheme guys open.

In fairness, the Vikings defense ain’t exactly the ’85 Bears, but still. Very impressive what NYG was able to do.

One last thing about the Giants: Dexter Lawrence at nose tackle is an absolute monster. Next time the Giants play, just watch him, he’s #97, right in the middle of the defensive line; the tip of the spear. Dude is constantly blowing up the pocket, dominating centers and guards–he’s just awesome. They can’t handle him.

The only negative for the Giants that really stood out to me was that they just could not cover TJ Hockenson at all. He was wide open on almost every play, it felt like. I’m sure that was by design for the Giants, however, as they were probably more concerned with Justin Jefferson, who they held to just 7 catches for 47 yards, with a long of only 10 yards. So I guess it’s not a real negative.

As for the Vikings, their luck just ran out. They were 11-0 in one-possession games, now 11-1.

People are killing Kirk Cousins for throwing that pass to Hockenson short of the first down line on 4th and 8 at the end of the game, but there was a lot of pressure in his face. He didn’t have time to set and throw it down field. Hockenson was the only guy he could’ve thrown it to. Kirk did the best he could, there wasn’t much else he could do there.

The real issue for the Vikings is that defense. They’ve got tons of weapons on offense, but they just can’t stop anybody. They will need to upgrade the defense if they’re ever going to truly contend.

But at the end of the day, when you are walking on the tightrope like the Vikings have been all season, and relying on winning these games at the end, putting together game-winning drives, it’s eventually going to turn against you. You can’t win them all.

This really was a close game that could’ve gone either way. I don’t have many bad things to say about the Vikings that weren’t already true before this game even kicked off: their defense is lackluster, and with Adam Thielen getting up there in age, they probably are going to need to find another legit receiver so teams can’t just focus all their attention on Justin Jefferson.

Minnesota is going to be drafting probably in the 24 spot in the first round, and some of the mock drafts I’ve seen have them taking either offisive line or defense, but mock drafts also have Jaxon Smith-Njigba falling down to the late first round. Not sure why, and I seriously doubt it’ll happen, but if he does, then the Vikings should seriously consider taking him. Justin Jefferson and JSN would be almost unstoppable.

However, they really need defense, so I’d probably go defense in the first round. I would only take JSN if he somehow falls that far, which I don’t expect to happen. The value would just be too great. Otherwise, they should go defense for sure.

Bengals 24, Ravens 17

I have to say, the Ravens really made this a game. They were a lot more competitive than I thought they’d be.

But then again, it was a division rivalry, lot of emotion involved, and they do have a very strong defense. Also, JK Dobbins is a total stud. He’s such a good running back despite the bad injury he suffered last year (So of course Baltimore hardly uses him).

Plus, Cincy’s offensive line is in shambles (what else is new).

Tyler Huntley played about as well as you could ask him to play, it just wasn’t quite enough. He had that really bad mistake that ultimately was the difference in the game, where he tried to reach the ball over the goal line and ended up having it knocked out of his hands, then picked up and returned 99 yards for the game deciding TD by Sam Hubbard.

That was one of the wildest plays in recent NFL history, by the way. But Huntley has to know that you can’t try to reach that ball over the goal line when there are defenders right there. You only do that when there’s nobody with direct access to the ball. He was a yard shy of the goal line, and even the reach didn’t get the ball over the goal line. In fact it wasn’t even close.

That play was a 14 point swing for Cincinnati, or at the very least 10 points if Baltimore was forced to kick a field goal (which they probably would’ve if it came to 4th down, given that the game was tied and it was low-scoring).

This game doesn’t concern me as much as Buffalo’s close shave with Miami. Baltimore is a better team than Miami is. Buffalo gave up 24 points to Skylar Thompson, man. And it could’ve been more if Jaylen Waddle could make a catch.

But I want to talk about Baltimore here, because there’s a chance that team looks very different come next season.

I was reading this blog post on Barstool by a guy named Banks, who is apparently their Ravens guy, and he was talking about how the situation with Lamar is a total mess. He pulled some quotes from a Washington Post article where Sammy Watkins (now back on the Ravens in case you were unaware) seemed to confirm, implicitly, that Lamar is healthy enough to play and that the reason he’s not is contract-related, not injury-related:

Washington Post via Adam Kilgore — “In this league, everybody is pretty much banged up, hurt,” veteran wideout Sammy Watkins said Wednesday in a quiet corner of Baltimore’s locker room. “I don’t want to speak for him and his situation and whatever he’s going through with the contracts. I don’t know what world he’s in. But for me, you got a chance to do something special. We all know with Lamar Jackson out there, this team is really freaking good, and special things can happen. He can will this team to a Super Bowl. I don’t think he’s thinking about it that way. …

“But he’s got an opportunity to win a Super Bowl. I hope he hobbles back out there. … Put him out for the pass plays, and don’t run him at all. But you never know. That could be wrong. I’m being very selfish right now, just to want him to be out on the field. But, man, what a great thing it would be to see [No.] 8 touch the field this Sunday, and we go out there and blow them out. But that’s for Lamar and everybody else to figure out. Hope miraculously something happens, somebody reach out to him, whether it’s a coach or somebody, and he decides to play. But that’s a question if he’s healthy or he’s not. I don’t know. I haven’t been watching him.”

“I think the world is ready to see Lamar back on the field, doing what he do best, and get all the stipulations and contract stuff behind him,” Watkins said. “I pray somebody talks to him like, ‘Man, just sign the deal.’ You know what I mean? And he get out there and hopefully, if … he’s healthy, he can just come play this Sunday. We all know that’s up to Lamar and whatever goes on. Hopefully, they get something done. The world wants to see Lamar be a Baltimore Raven for the rest of his life.” 

It’s like Watkins is basically saying Lamar could play if he wanted. Then at the end of the second paragraph, Watkins adds in the “that’s a question if he’s healthy or not,” but that seems more like him trying to cover his own ass for maybe getting a little too honest. The sentence before he says, “and he decides to play,” which is an indicator that this is not a medical staff thing, it’s a Lamar thing. If it’s Lamar’s decision on whether or not to play, then that means the medical staff has cleared him, right?

In the last paragraph, he makes it seem like it’s all about the contract. If Lamar were to sign the contract then he’d be on the field, simple as that. Watkins keeps adding in the “if he’s healthy” part as sort of a fig leaf to make it seem like he’s not actually telling us that this is more about Lamar’s contract than his knee.

I think we all suspect this to be the case after the initial diagnosis on Lamar’s knee in early December said 1-3 weeks, but now we know there are players in the Ravens locker room (Watkins definitely isn’t the only one) who feel like Lamar isn’t playing because of his contract situation.

Banks in the Barstool blog says that the Ravens players and coaching staff have largely been left in the dark here in regards to Lamar’s health, and that Lamar doesn’t even go to the team facility to rehab his knee.

Then Banks drops a quote from a Baltimore Sun reporter named Mike Preston:

“It’s no secret to any of the coaches or top members of the front office that Jackson is a slacker and needs to have more due diligence in getting adequate rest, eating a healthy diet, being alert in meetings and workouts, and getting proper rehabilitation instructions.”

That’s quite a charge. It goes way beyond just how Lamar is dealing with his knee, and is an indictment of his whole character. And it seems like it came from within the team.

Banks then goes on to say he’s done sitting on all the rumors and leaks that are fed to him from his trusted sources in the Ravens organization, because he only sat on that stuff to protect Lamar. And he has no interest in doing that anymore:

The past two years have been so damn exhausting and I’m sick and tired of holding up this façade that the relationship between the team and Lamar is rosy. It’s not. Their relationship may not be contentious, but there’s absolutely a disconnect and a distrust. The disconnect has been clear every time John Harbaugh has stepped up to the podium the past month and been clueless as to how to even speak on the situation. Hint: that’s because he has been clueless! And the distrust is evident in the fact that the front office hasn’t given him the contract that I think most would agree that he has rightfully earned.

We’re approaching a real crossroads here, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. And I’m not sure they do either.

During the game last night, Lamar was not present. He wasn’t on the sideline, he wasn’t up in a booth–he didn’t even make the trip with the team to Cincinnati.

To me, that says it all: he’s given up on that team. He wasn’t even there to support his guys. If it was truly just about the health of his knee, don’t you think he would’ve been there at the game? Don’t you think he would’ve been cheering his guys on? I do.

So I think the fact that he wasn’t there shows that he’s done with Baltimore.

And the Ravens could franchise him if they can’t come to an agreement with him, but why would they want to keep him after what he’s done the past month or so? He quit on the team before the playoffs! Has any player ever done that? It’s pretty unprecedented.

It was also really stupid, too, because if there was any chance of him getting a fully guaranteed contract (which the Ravens won’t do because the league as a whole wants to avoid making that the norm), then it would be if he went out and led Baltimore to a Super Bowl title, or at least a deep playoff run.

Part of the hesitation on Baltimore’s part on not giving him the contract he wants is that he’s been the starting QB there for four years now and they’ve only won one playoff game. They’ve got doubts on whether he can actually lead them to a Super Bowl.

But if he went out there and got them to the AFC Championship game this year? Well then that changes the perception. He’s no longer a guy who can’t get it done in the playoffs.

Now he’s still got the label of a guy who can’t get it done in the playoffs and he’s viewed as a guy who quit on his team. Why would Baltimore ever want to back up the Brinks truck for him now?

In my view, Baltimore will try to trade him. I think they can franchise him and then trade him. Baltimore would do this just so they don’t lose him for nothing.

But they may just let him walk. Who knows?

I don’t know how he can ever regain his credibility with the coaching staff, the front office or the locker room in Baltimore. He quit on the team when they were in the playoffs. I could never respect a guy who does that. I know you’re never supposed to interject on a man’s contract situation, but playing in the playoffs would’ve been to his own benefit in negotiations.

Now we’ve got the vehemently Pro-Lamar sports media–the media defends his every move no matter what, and talks him up like no other quarterback–out here acting like he’s truly too hurt to play football. Even though his own teammates are basically telling us that his not playing is about the contract, not his knee.

I think we’ve seen the end of Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. I just don’t see how you can come back from this.

Cowboys 31, Bucs 14

NFC East? More like NFC Beast!

But seriously, it became clear very early on in this game that Tampa was just a broken team. When it was 24-0 Dallas, the only thought going through my head was, “Get this Tampa team the hell out of the playoffs ASAP–they are garbage.”

I wasn’t thinking about how it might be the end of Tom Brady’s career. I was just thinking about how much better it would’ve been if the Lions were in the playoffs instead of the Bucs.

I know the Lions and Bucs weren’t even competing for a spot, because the only way Tampa was getting in was by winning their mediocre division, but Detroit was 9-8 and Tampa was 8-9. I don’t think the league should do away with divisions, because those rivalries should be preserved, but at least think about a rule against sub-.500 division winners getting into the playoffs.

How about this: you are only guaranteed a playoff spot for winning your division if you have a winning record. Now that we have a 17 game season, no team will finish with a perfectly .500 record (unless something insane happens and a game is canceled, like with the Damar Hamlin situation). You are either going to be 8-9 or 9-8.

So my proposal is that if you finish 8-9 or worse, but win your division, you are not guaranteed a playoff spot. Winning your division will get you the tiebreaker over a team with the same record that didn’t win their division, but if we have a situation like this year, where the Lions went 9-8 but didn’t win their division, and the Bucs went 8-9 and did win their division, the Lions would get the playoff spot. If the Lions also finished 8-9, then the Bucs would get the playoff spot; Tampa would have the tiebreaker over Detroit because of the division title.

The summary of my preferred rule is that you only get an automatic playoff berth for winning your division if you have a winning record. If you don’t have a winning record, your spot in the playoffs is not guaranteed. We should really be trying to prevent sub-.500 teams from getting into the playoffs.

Tampa showed us who they were all season long. They’re a mediocre football team. I picked Dallas to win this game because Dallas is just a better football team. They were better all season long. People who picked Tampa to win were banking on more than just GOAT magic–they were banking on Tampa to turn into a completely different team than they’ve been all season long.

The Dallas Cowboys may be playoff chokers, but they were a much better football team than the Buccaneers this year. Tampa was so bad that it’s almost impossible for a good team to choke to them.

Tampa has beaten two teams with winning records all season long: Dallas in week 1, and the Seahawks in a game that took place in Munich, Germany. I’m not saying those games don’t count, but clearly Dallas is a much-improved team, and in the Munich game, well, you know how those European games are. Total crapshoots.

Every other team Tampa beat: the crappy Saints twice, mediocre Atlanta once, the crappy Rams, the absolute dumpster fire Cardinals (post-Kyler ACL tear), and then the Panthers.

Tampa was horrible this year. It was not hard to see that. If you thought Tampa would win this playoff game, you were basically saying you thought the whole regular season was a fluke.

Of Tampa’s 8 wins this year, only 2 were by more than one possession, and they came in weeks 1 and 2. Tampa beat Dallas 19-3 to open the season, then beat New Orleans 20-10 in week 2, and then from there on out, every Tampa win was by one possession.

Tampa’s scoring output in their 18 games this year:

  1. vs. Dallas in the playoffs: 14 points
  2. vs. Atlanta: 17 points
  3. vs. Carolina: 30 points
  4. vs. Arizona: 19 points
  5. vs. Cincinnati: 23 points
  6. vs. San Fran: 7 points
  7. vs. New Orleans: 17 points
  8. vs. Cleveland: 17 points (OT)
  9. vs. Seattle: 21 points
  10. vs. LA Rams: 16 points
  11. vs. Baltimore: 22 points
  12. vs. Carolina: 3 points
  13. vs. Pittsburgh: 18 points
  14. vs. Atlanta: 21 points
  15. vs. Kansas City: 31 points (most points were garbage time)
  16. vs. Green Bay: 12 points
  17. vs. New Orleans: 20 points
  18. vs. Dallas: 19 points

Twice they scored 30 or more points this year.

In fact, they only scored 20 or more points 7 times out of 18 games. That’s pitiful. 11 of 18 games under 20 points.

But even this doesn’t really tell the full story. Tampa is a garbage time team. Of the 327 total points they scored this year, 126 were in the fourth quarter, their highest scoring quarter. This indicates that they were either furiously coming back in games or tallying a ton of garbage points to make the scores look more respectable.

Their next highest scoring quarter was the second quarter at 96 total points, and I’m sure this is a product of their two minute offense, where just about any team can score–you know, putting up points in a frantic drive before halftime.

Tampa scored 51 points in first quarters and 51 points in third quarters, so they were basically not doing jack in those quarters. 51 divided by 18 games comes out to 2.83. So Tampa was averaging less than a field goal in the first quarter, as well as in the third.

This Tampa team barely had a pulse all season long. In this game against Dallas, they only started moving the ball once the game was out of hand and Dallas moved to more of a prevent defense, giving Tampa all the underneath stuff. Once the Bucs offense moved to a more checkdown-heavy and underneath focus, they were able to move the ball.

But they were only able to do that because Dallas was letting them. Once Dallas went up 24-0, and then 31-6, they just went into prevent mode.

Tampa is just a bad football team. That’s about all I can say about them. I wish the Lions got their playoff spot. Detroit may not have won this game, but they would have at least made it interesting.

I think Todd Bowles is a great defensive coordinator but maybe not the best head coach. He’s clearly no Bruce Arians. I think people have to put some respect on BA’s name here, because this team is significantly worse without him.

The Tampa offensive line was just terrible, as it was most of the season. Ryan Jensen the center came back and played in this game just 5 months removed from an ACL tear, which is incredible, but he still wasn’t enough to make that offensive line good. When Brady doesn’t have great protection, he struggles mightily. I think the offensive line woes were really the source of Tampa’s mediocrity this season. People criticize Byron Leftwich’s playcalling, but I don’t remember anybody criticizing him during the Super Bowl run and last year when Tampa was a top-3 offense. There’s only so much a playcaller can do when the offensive line is constantly getting blown up, the quarterback can’t handle pressure, and the receiving corps is banged up most of the season.

Thank you to the Dallas Cowboys for putting this Tampa team out of its misery. The speculation over what Brady will do next can wait for the offseason.

As for Dallas, about the only thing that wasn’t working for them last night was their kicker. Brett Maher missed 4 extra points.

After he missed the second one and it was 12-0 instead of 14-0, I thought it would surely come back to bite them in the ass. You could just see the classic Cowboys meltdown coming together: they go up 12-0 but should be up 14-0, then Tampa beats them 21-20 or something.

But no. Brady threw a pick in the endzone (which the announcers just had to foreshadow–they were going on and on about how Brady never does that until he did it, almost on cue) and Dallas went down and scored again. Maher missed a THIRD extra point and it was only 18-0 instead of 21-0, and at that point I really started to feel bad for Maher. He was clearly deep in his own head, absolutely spiraling mentally. Dude had the yips. When he missed the 4th extra point, it was just sad.

And yet, because of all the missed points, at 24-0 it was still just a three-possession game. You still didn’t want to count the Bucs out at that point.

I counted the Bucs out once they scored to make it 24-6, but then failed to get the 2-point conversion. At that point, it’s the start of the 4th quarter and Tampa is down 24-6, ballgame. They’re not coming back from that.

Oh–the Cowboys scored a 5th touchdown to make it 30-0, and Maher actually hit the extra point, but ESPN didn’t even show it! What a clown show! Were they trying to spare him the embarrassment of missing a 5th straight extra point? I’m just pissed we didn’t even get to see the one he actually made.

I don’t really know how much we can pull from this game as it pertains to Dallas and their Super Bowl hopes, but I can say that Dak Prescott had a great game–no longer is he Dak Midscott, at least for another week. We’ll see how he fares against a defense like San Fran’s.

Dallas’ defense looked great, but the Bucs’ offense is just pitiful. You know Tampa only had 12 total rushing attempts in the game? They just didn’t even try to run the ball. San Fran will probably have 12 rushing attempts in the first quarter.

So it’ll be a whole different beast for Dallas on the road against San Fran.

And speaking of on the road, Troy Aikman said before the game that Dallas hasn’t won a road playoff game since 1992. I know Dallas has struggled in the playoffs since the glory days of the 90s, but not one single road playoff win since 1992? That was a bit of a shock to hear. But it’s true: Dallas prior to this game was 0-8 in road playoff games since 1992.

And guess who their last road playoff win was prior to this game? The San Francisco 49ers, interestingly enough. They went to San Fran and won the NFC Championship 30-20.

I guess we will all have to wait at least another week for the annual Cowboys playoff meltdown. It’s becoming my favorite playoff tradition: seeing all the videos of Cowboys fans breaking stuff after their team loses in the playoffs. Last year some Cowboys fan actually pulled out a gun and shot his TV.

History would say the Cowboys are going to lose this game at San Fran. They have not won a Divisional Round game since the 1995-96 season, and they are 0-6 since then.

But since Dallas is in the streak-breaking mood, who’s to say they can’t break another one?

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