Black Quarterback: 2018 Divisional Round Review
By Brandon Simmons
The Eagles have Responded
The Philadelphia Eagles became the first team in NFL playoff history to be the underdogs to a 6th in the playoff game that they hosted. Well, they heard that and responded by beating the Atlanta Falcons and holding one of the best offenses in the league to only 10 points. But it was only right that the doubt would creep in on the oddsmakers. The Eagles lost their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, Week 14 of the season and was lead by Nick Foles the rest of the way. Ironically it was Foles that got this team the W today.
Foles played a solid game that complimented the Eagles’ defensive performance. He started off with 2 straight incompletions, fumbled the ball and got sacked. It seemed like everything was lost until they started getting the ground game going with running back Jay Ajayi. Once that started to meticulate, Foles was able to get comfortable in the pocket and make plenty of intermediate throws that pushed the ball and wore the down the Falcons defense. It was what pushed the first touchdown drive that transitioned between the f1st and 2nd quarter, as well the 2nd touchdown drive late in the 3rd. It kept the defense fresh as they got after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for 3 sacks and held the Falcons offense to 86 yards rushing.
It was really today’s offensive gameplan that kind of puts a little more confidence about Foles being the QB right now. He had some early miscues, but as the game went on, things just fell into place for him. It is hard to argue those scoring drives are possible without Ajayi running the ball – and sometimes receiving it – but Foles and the Eagles have something to draw on when he has to put together a series of passes tog et down field.
Patriots live for your disapproval.
The New England Patriots beat the Tennessee Titans as expected; but it should really serve as a lesson for any team thinking about riling up the Patriots: don’t. This team lives for your criticism and disapproval; just ask Titans safety Kevin Byard. Earlier this week, he told the Tennessean that he wanted to make Patriots QB look like Blake Bortles. Fast forward to Saturday and it’ safe to say that mission has failed. Ironically, it was probably welcomed by the team to distract them from the story that was floating around about a beef between Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. For some teams, that would crush their psyche; but for the Patriots, it’s just fuel to crush other teams’ psyche. Cedric The Entertainer said it best in the Kings of Comedy, that black people live by a “Wish” method; they wish somebody would do something. Patriots are the same way; they wish you would test their gangsta just so they could fail you.
Jaguars Feasting off Opportunity
The Jacksonville Jaguars went into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers with how they’ve been doing it all year: defense, running the ball and Blake Bortles being a competent quarterback. They showed up for Sunday’s 45-42 win from the very jump. The Jaguars scored on 3 of their first drives, primarily because of running back Leonard Fournette, who had 2 of those TD’s. Fournette was afforded those opportunities because of the Jaguars defense dominating the Steelers. Jacksonville shut them out in the first quarter forcing a 3 and out, interception and a failed 4th down conversion. When the Steelers scored in the 2nd quarter, they got the ball back, but only long enough for Steelers QB ben Roethlisberger to fumble the ball and have it recovered by Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith to put his team up 28-7. The 2nd half an be credited to the Jaguars offense, for closing out. When it seemed like the Steelers were coming back scoring touchdowns late in the 2nd quarter and early in the 3rd, Bortles seemed to be locked in with his arm. Yes, they continued running the ball with Fournette, who left the game briefly with a minor ankle injury, but the QB made exceptional throws to keep drives going. One drive the 4th quarter, he threw a 45 yard pass to wide receiver Keelan Cole that put the Jaguars at the 3 yard line and set up a Fournette touchdown. Their next drive, he threw a 14 yard touchdown play action pass to the fullback that put the team up 42-28.
The key to this was Jacksonville took advantage of opportunities. They knew they were the underdogs on the road and it would not be an easy task for them to win this game. However, when the ball was put in their hands, they made sure to get touchdowns; when their defense took the field, they made sure to give nothing. That’s really a hard task to get going when you face a team like the Steelers who are loaded with offensive weapons, but in the playoffs you can not pick and choose your opponent. You have to eat what’s on your plate and the Jaguars ate every crumb of that victory.
Keenum Killed Them
Before this season, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum was just a backup quarterback bouncing around a few teams. After tonight, he has become immortalized in Vikings and NFL playoff lore. Down by 2, with 0 timeouts left and 10 seconds on the clock, Keenum threw a walk off touchdown pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs beating the New Orleans Saints 29-24. It was a play that probably nobody could believe just happened, because it probably should not have gotten to this point.
The Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, which was lead by the defense. Minnesota’s defense got after Saints quarterback Drew Brees for 2 picks and 2 sacks, shutting out New Orleans in the first half. But the 2nd half told a slightly different story. The Saints defense forced a punt at the start of the 3rd then Brees drove the ball and delivered a touchdown to wide receiver Michael Thomas. When the Vikings took the field, Keenum threw a pick to Saintss cornerback Marcus Williams and New Orleans scored on another Thomas reception in the early parts of the 4th quarter, which made the score 17-14 in favor of the Vikings. But Minnesota kept attacking to put the game away. They scored a field goal on the ensuing drive to go up 20-14; but after a couple of punts from both teams, Brees threw a touchdown to put the Saints up 21-20 with 3:01 left. Vikings answered with a field goal to take the lead 23-21; then the Saints took the lead back with a field goal of their own to go 24-23 with under 30 seconds left. That’s when Keenum and the Vikings took over and made the spectacular play.
It wasn’t long before this turned into a Brees vs. Keenum showcase, which was on full display in the 4ht quarter. Depsite the New Orleans QB struggles in the first half, he put the team on his back in the 3rd quarter with that big scoring drive and once again going into the 4th. As the Vikings defense tried to find ways to slow down Brees, Keenum did the best he could to make plays with his own arm. There’s no way the Vikings get into field goal range without him connecting with Diggs or wide receivers Adam Thielen and Jerilous Wright. Neither team’s running game was that impressive so they had to compete in the air to determine the winner.
Keenum proves that it’s not about the name but all about the game. Before this game, you could argue that Brees was going to come in a take a W based off his own playoff experience while Keenum would just wilter under pressure. This simply turned out to be not true. Brees is one of the greatest under center but Keenum just stepped up in the moment and delivered for his team, no matter what you think of his skillset. He might have been around the league in the past few years but he definitely came to this opportunity at the right time.
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