Black Quarterback: 2019 NFL Wild Card Review
By Brandon Simmons
Colts had more Horses in the Stables
The Indianapolis Colts beat the Houston Texans 21-7 by showing off their extra horses in the stable. One of the big keys that people focused on coming into the game was Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton’s dominance over the Texans throughout his career. In 7 games before this weekend’s matchup, Hilton has amassed nearly 1,000 yards; but Saturday he didn’t even crack the century mark. Quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t even touch 200 yards. Instead, the Colts relied on two things that were usually their detriment in the past: running game and defense.
This Colts let the world know there is more horses in their stable to gallop to victories. Running back Marlon Mack ran through the Texans defense for 148 yards of his own. Indy’s offensive line dominated the line scrimmage and was able to create running lanes as well as provide protection, something else the Colts have struggled with. But it’s easy to not struggle with those things when the team you’re facing barely shows up. The Texans sported 3 pro bowl players on their front 7 – defensive end J.J. Watt, linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Bernardrick McKinney – but neither one of those guys made an impact in the game when it mattered. The Colts are looking like they have the hot hand and that can be dangerous for a lot of teams in the playoffs.
Cowboys “Ground” the Seahawks
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks 24-22 by pretty much beating the Seahawks at their own running game. It’ not that difficult to do when the Cowboys had the obvious better running back in Ezekiel Elliot, but it helps when you’re making plays down the stretch. One of those plays included a 44 yard scamper when Dallas was trailing the Seahawks 6-3; that run put them in Seattle territory and set up a touchdown throw to wide receiver Michael Gallup. In the 4th quarter, 14-10, the Cowboys were in the red zone when QB Dak Prescott scrambled for 10 yards to the one and set up a 1 yard rushing score by Elliot. It was a 16 yard scramble by Prescott, that gave him the chance to punch it in at the goal line and put the team up 24-14 right before the 2 minute warning.
Basically, the Cowboys won this game playing to their own offensive strengths in order of importance. They had a heavy dose of the running game with Elliot and his 137 yards, which was aided by Prescott’s 37 from his scrambling. The Seahawks put up a good fight and almost had a mini comeback going late in the 4th, but Dallas was too good on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys defense even held the Seahawks’ league-leading rushing attack to a mere 73 yards. Impressive win by a young team going up against a stout team with the late season hot hand.
Chargers Strike All Day
Despite the 4th quarter mishaps, the Los Angeles Chargers were dominant in their 23-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The Chargers survived the Ravens’ late game comeback, but that effort should not take away from the defense’s performance. Los Angeles had 7 sacks on Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, who also lost a fumble at the end of the game. The Chargers defense was relentless on Jackson which prevented Baltimore from getting any real shots at scoring. However, the Chargers themselves could not find the scoreboard the way they wanted to as they scored 5 field goals and only one touchdown in this game.
Ironically, the “defensive” Chargers worked out pretty well, despite it not being their main identity. The only thing that really helped them cruise to the win was the fact they were playing a rookie quarterback. Experience can play a huge factor in the playoffs, because players can shake the jitters of being in the postseason That is what was going on with Jackson in his first playoff game. He made mistakes throughout the game and it affected his team in a huge way. When he calmed down in the 4th quarter, things slowed a little more smoothly and he was able to put together a small comeback, but the Chargers were just too good and led by a veteran QB. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers made key throws on 3rd down to put his team in scoring positions.
The Philadelphia Eagles escapes with a last minute 16-15 victory over the Chicago Bears as the Eagles continue their 2nd annual Team of Destiny tour. However, they had a little help from Bears kicker Cody Parkey, who missed the potential game winning field goal. This was a game that largely looked like a scoring defensive effort until the 4th quarter when both teams started ramping up the big plays.
Trailing 10-9 in the 4th, Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky runs a fake screen and tosses a deep ball down the sideline to wide receiver Josh Bellamy for 34 yards. A few plays later Trubisky throws a touchdown to wide receiver Allen Robinson but failed the 2 point conversion, making the score 15-10 Bears. The Bears defense makes a stop on the Eagles but could not capitalize on offense. The Eagles take over and begin marching down the field. Foles hit Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert, who broke tackles for a 10 yard catch and run. Philly continued moving down the field, and into the red zone, all the way up until the 2 yard line, with less than a minute to go in the game. On 4th and goal, Foles hit wide receiver Golden Tate, for the touchdown but they failed on the 2 point conversion. Chicago comes back after a 35 yard kickoff return and takes over near midfield. Trubisky throws a 25 yard strike to Robinson to put the Bears in field goal range. A few plays later, Parkey is iced, comes back to attempt the kick and misses it.
This was a tough football game to win by both teams but only one rightfully emerged as the winner. The Eagles’ key to winning this was their ability to convert 3rd downs and score in the red zone. It goes without saying when looking at the latter; Philadelphia was 2/3 on red zone scoring while the Bears had no red zone touchdowns. But those stats were only key for keeping the Eagles in this game. Their special teams gave up a 35 yard return while their defense gave up a 25 yard reception. If the Bears make that kick, those would have been two plays that would attribute to their hypothetical loss. Instead, many people will be glowing about Nick Foles leading the Eagles to another playoff victory, once they get past the Cody Parkey jokes of course.
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