Black Quarterback: 2017 Wild Card Review
By Brandon Simmons
Chiefs got Beat by Themselves
The Kansas City Chiefs blew a lead to the Tennessee Titans but it might as well have been the Kansas City Chiefs blew a lead to themselves. He Chiefs had a 21-3 lead at halftime, including a late touchdown at the half.. But the 2nd half was a completely different story. That story may have started in the last 2 minutes of the first half, when Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce got a concussion and was ruled out for the game. It affected them more than what they would have liked to. The Chiefs could not get anything going on offense, even after having a chance to extend the lead in the 3rd quarter, after recovering a muffed punt. However, it was the Titans’ ability to use their running game and tight end to produce long drives an keep the Chiefs’ offense off the field.
Ironically, it was the same strategy that has awarded the Chiefs some wins throughout the season. As mentioned in the preview article, the Titans and Chiefs are kind of a similar in who they’re playmakers are: a mobile quarterback with a solid running back and explosive tight end. The opening drive of the 3rd quarter was key, as the Titans nearly took 9 minutes off the clock to get the Mariota touchdown pass to himself. After getting the ball back, the Chiefs got in a 3 and out; then they recovered a muff punt and got in another 3 and out as well as a missed field goal. The Titans got the ball back, which was at the end of the 3rd but scored near the beginning of the 4th quarter. Four plays later, they get the ball back and score on a 5 minute drive to put them up for good.
Dirty Bird Defense
In a game that analysts billed as an offensive showdown, only one offense seemed to show up. The Atlanta Falcons took the win over the St. Louis Rams but it was not because of their potent offense; rather, it was the defense that actually came through to seal the victory. The key to this defensive performance was how Atlanta was able to get after Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Goff was sacked 3 times but also plenty of other times as well. The Falcons defense was also able to do slow down some of the playmaking ability of Rams running back Todd Gurley. While Gurley did finish the game with 101 yards rushing, he only had 10 yards receiving.
The Rams’ problems seemed to come from not being able to keep long drives. In the 1st quarter it was a battle of 3 and outs but the Falcons found ways to keep the ball moving on early downs and end up in field goal range. Both teams had roughly the same conversion rate for 3rd downs in this game, but it was all about the position of those 3rd downs. The Falcons were able to get more field goal opportunities by getting to the Rams’ territory also had a higher conversion percentage in the red zone, while the Rams just could seem to get deep enough in Falcons’ territory or convert their own red zone opportunities.
Defense Wins Wild Cards
The game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars either had some bad quarterback play or some great defensive moments. The Jaguars won the game 10-3 off the strength of their defense, which was needed to hide the weakness of their offense. The Jaguars were more than shameful on offense, especially running the ball, which is a huge surprise. Jacksonville finished the game with 155 yards rushing, but 88 of those yards belonged to quarterback Blake Bortles, who was atrocious in throwing the ball by finishing with only 87 yards and a touchdown. But for all the mistakes that happened with the Jaguars on offense, the defense was there to clean things up.
Jacksonville’s defense was pretty much the main star of this show. It seems they allowed most of the Bills’ offense to go through Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy and not much outside of that. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor did not get a lot going through the air or with his feet. He finished the game with 134 yards and one interception. Once the Jaguars found a way to contain him, Taylor proved to be ineffective, especially going for plays downfield. The only thing that stood out about the Jacksonville offense today was the nearly 9 minute drive in the 3rd quarter that gave the game’s only touchdown and put the Jaguars up 10-3. It’s also possible it gave the defense an extra boost of energy needed to continue such a dominant performance.
Superman can’t Superman
As great as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is, he can’t be the only one to do it. This was evidenced by the Panthers’ 31-26 Wild Card loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The game really wasn’t one of those “Carolina lost this game” type of outcomes; but looking at some of the plays that happened it’s hard not to draw that conclusion. In the first quarter, wide receiver Kaellin Clay dropped a pass in the end zone, which could have put the Panthers up 7-0. Instead they left that drive without a point, because kicker Graham Gano missed a 25 yard field goal. On top of that, it seemed that for every touchdown the Saints put up, the Panthers responded with a field goal. Field goals mean nothing to an offense that has quarterback Drew Brees under center. The Saints quarterback can get 3 points stepping onto the field. The Panthers obviously didn’t understand that until the 4th quarter, but it was a little too late then.
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