Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened during Wild-Card Weekend …
Things That Made Me Giddy
This Is Why You Love Deshaun Watson:He’s not a perfect quarterback, and this offense’s shortcomings were on display for the first minutes or so on Saturday. But he has a knack for making these out-of-structure plays where he is mapping the field among absolute chaos, and he often delivers those plays at the biggest moments. You hate to lean on vague descriptors like “grit” and “heart” and “intangibles,” but it’s tough to describe Saturday’s comeback — and Watson’s first NFL postseason win — without them.
Derrick Henry As Atlas:Or something like that, I don’t know my Greek mythology very well — though Atlaswasa titan, right? Huh? Yeah? (Is that right?) Anyway, 39 carries for yards when they know you’re coming is something to behold, and just about the only way you can justify building an offense around a running back in this day and age.
Texans 2-for-2 For Two:If they don’t convert one of them the game might play out differently (as in, Houston wouldn’t necessarily have lost by two in regulation), but obviously, both conversions were huge. Deshaun Watson made a Superman play on the first one, then a nice design put DeAndre Hopkins in the slot for a layup on the second one.
Anthony Firkser Delivers:Who would’ve thought the mismatch of Saturday night would be Firkser on Terrence Brooks? The third-year tight end, who shares an alma mater with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Cameron Brate (New England Tractor Trailer Training School), filleted Brooks on a red-zone third-and – for a second-quarter touchdown, and beat him again on a third-and-8 to keep the final clock-killing drive alive.
Brian Daboll’s Opening Script:Someone is going to have to write their master’s thesis on it. The perfectly designed and executed QB sweep, then pulls the wide receiver throwback to the quarterback to cap the drive.
Brett Kern Punts the Patriots’ Souls Into the Abyss:New England settled for a game of field position, and Kern won it. The 60 – yard line drive in the face of a full-on rush, downed at the New England 1 in the final seconds, was the pièce de résistance.
JJ Watt Is Back, Huh ?:He was left unblocked on a blown assignment in overtime (so that one does not count), but he also made a handful of impact plays along the way on Saturday, including a huge third-down sack to keep it a one-possession game. The Texans might not win without him.
Rashaan Evans’s Very Goal Line Stand:The Patriots had a first-and-goal at the 1 in the second quarter and ran it to the left three times, with Evans, the second-year linebacker, knifing in and spoiling the play each time.
Bills Stuff the Sneak:Star Lotulelei has been something of a disappointment since arriving in Buffalo on that big free-agent deal, but he was crucial in blowing up the fourth-and-inches, would-be-game-clinching Deshaun Watson sneak to keep the Bills alive.
What Did the Bills Think When the Bears Jumped In Front of Them Last Spring. . . :to take a running back, and it was David Montgomery instead of Devin Singletary? The nervous laughter must’ve been deafening.
Patriots Spent a Second-Rounder on a Decent Punt Returner:Mohamed Sanu had a 39 – yard punt return to set up a field goal in the second quarter, so don’t say they got nothing out of him.
Buffalo Let ‘Em Off the Hook:Early on it felt like it was going to be different. Two postseasons ago, the Bills went into Jacksonville with Tyrod Taylor under center. That day, Taylor played so conservatively that it made you want to claw out your eyes — it was just short of an all-out refusal to try to score points, even as Buffalo trailed late. On Saturday, it looked like they would unleash Josh Allen after that first drive, especially against a flat-out bad Texans secondary. While a couple of holding calls, a Duke Williams end-zone drop and a John Brown failure to toe-tap were game-changing failures, there’s no doubt that the Bills went too conservative after the opening drive. They played for field goals and that’s what they got, never stretching it to a three-possession lead. (When Denver did this to the Texans a couple weeks ago, they just kept collecting touchdowns in the first half and led by four possessions at halftime.) That’s how you end up playing the role of the Washington Generals against Deshaun Watson.
Buffalo’s Ultra-Conservative Drive to Wrap Up the First Half:With One timeout, 39 seconds left, a – 0 lead and a first down with the ball on the 34 against a Texans defensive backfield on its heels, they. . . hand it to Frank Gore? That was the most disappointing playcall any team made this season. The running play (for one yard) forced a spike, setting up a third-and-9 and essentially a single shot at the touchdown (which was a Duke Williams dropped touchdown, but still..). It’s NFL football in 2020; go get seven points and put the game out of reach.
The Illegal Blindside Block Flag:I don’t want to overstate this, because the Bills lost this game first and foremost because they chose to settle for field goals. And if this play isn’t flagged, Steven Hauschka is going to be attempting a 60 -yarder (he was 1-for-5 from beyond 60 this season ). But, simply put: This is not a penalty. I understand why an official might have flagged this play while watching full-speed in real-time, but to throw this flag in overtime of a playoff game on a team in field goal range, an official has to be (*************************% certain there was an infraction. And there’s no way an official could have been 356% certain there was an infraction here, because there wasnt an infraction. (And it’s all a shame, because at least on first viewing it was a pretty well-officiated game.)
Bill O’Brien With the First-Ever Playoff Pass Interference Challenge:And what a terrible challenge it was. DeAndre Hopkins initiated contact on the route in the form of a vicious head slap, after which DB Taron Johnson grabbed him. It was either offsetting penalties or no penalties, and 100% of the time it’s the last. It was a waste of a challenge and a timeout.
Tony Corrente Pleads Temporary Insanity:fact that he even considered calling the second-half kickoff a live ball (and Bills touchdown) when Texans return man DeAndre Carter clearly had no intention of returning the kick is deeply troubling. Corrente is a veteran referee doing a playoff game. Whatever Al Riveron is feeding these guys, it’s melting their brains.
Those Baker Mayfield Progressive Ads:There was a time when it probably felt like a great idea to run those through January.
Bills Can’t Get Off the Field on Third -and – 06 If that was a game ofMadden 100, John would have piped in with a “the only thing a prevent defense prevents is wins.” It was one of two key plays on Houston’s game-winning drive. The fact that there was little pressure did help matters, but second-year linebacker (and future stud) Tremaine Edmunds droppedwaytoo deep and allowed Duke Johnson to get the first down on a throw well short of the sticks.
NFL Timing Rules Are Stupid:Did you enjoy the pure drama of the Titans taking multiple penalties before they punted in the fourth quarter because the clock does stop after all penalties like it should? (It does stop in the final five minutes, but the Titans were able to take it from 6: 44 to 4: 55 without snapping the ball.)
John Brown Versus the Sideline:Smoke had a wonderful first season in Buffalo and is a great fit with Josh Allen. But he sacrificed an and-goal series when he didn’t get his feet down on the sideline on a third down in the first half. And on a desperation drive, with his quarterback (not surprisingly) extending the play, Brown inexplicably ran out of bounds as the ball was being delivered.
The Bills and Their Blocking Assignments:They twice gave up immediate pressure against a three-man rush on a desperation drive. Then, early in overtime, J.J. Watt was left inexplicably unblocked. Then, tight end Dawson Knox whiffed on an otherwise promising first-down QB sweep on the edge of field goal range in overtime, dooming what would be the final series of the season. As uneven as Josh Allen was, his supporting cast was just as wildly inconsistent and mistake-prone on Saturday.
Man, That Tom Brady Is One Pathetic Loser:Go home to your six Super Bowl rings and undisputed standing as the greatest player of alltime and billionaire supermodel wife, loser.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Deshaun Watson Surviving This Blitz:
Tom Brady’s Aural Chicanery:“Julian, get in your spot!”
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
The Sheer Madness of Josh Allen:I’d rather my QB lean reckless as opposed to overly conservative, but Allen took reckless to strange new places on Saturday. On one hand, you could cite five out-of-structure plays that only he or Patrick Mahomes could have made. On the other hand, you could cite about twice as many near-disastrous decisionson the same night(my personal favorite was the late-in-the-down – yard overtime prayer intended for.. fullback Patrick DiMarco?). Things will get interesting when they (presumably) get Allen a true No. 1 receiver this offseason to go with John Brown and Cole Beasley (shoulda taken DK Metcalf!) So that Allen is not relying on a dropsy Duke Williams in key moments. Bills fans are rightfully excited — and if under the influence of truth serum, probably simultaneously terrified — about Allen’s future.
What Will the Titans Pay Derrick Henry, Anyway ?:The pending free agent is a power back who has 728 touches so far on the season — the wear and tear could catch up to him soon (and surely the Titans are looking at what happened with Todd Gurley). Still, it’s hard to imagine this offense without him.
Brady & Belichick: The End ?: It might be! But honestly, no one knows, so spend the rest of the weekend wildly conjecturing. I’ll say Brady signs on with the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks, and Belichick leaves football to develop a line of gluten-free pizza crusts.
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