Now that’s what football is all about! Saturday’s tandem of Wildcard contests set the tempo for the 2011 version of the consistently turbulent NFL Playoffs. Each underdog won their respective game. The two-point underdog New York Jets beat the Indianapolis Colts as time expired, 17-16, on the strength of kicker Nick Folk’s right leg. In more shocking news, the 10-point underdog Seattle Seahawks stunned the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, closing them out in the fourth quarter, 41-36. Buffalo Bills’ castoff Marshawn Lynch rumbled and stumbled to the end zone on a game-clinching run so impressive that sportswriters are still struggling to find a cliché to name the highlight.
Vinatieri still clutch; Field goals still worth three points
The marquee matchup between the Colts and Jets lived up to its billing, but still took the backseat in the media coverage thanks to the irritating Seahawks. The Jets were able to squeeze out the thrilling last second victory to complete the “upset.” It’s somewhat of a fallacy to label the Jets an underdog. Remove Peyton Manning from the Colts lineup and insert a second-tier quarterback (Tony Romo, Eli Manning, etc.) and the Jets are favored by double digits. The Indianapolis Colts are a brand name, but were not an elite team in the 2010-2011 season.
The Colts were marred with injuries throughout the season, consequently failing to find any rhythm or chemistry on their offense. A slew of first-year and unknown players were forced to step into the limelight and anchor an offense headed by one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. The Colts obscure lineup might as well have included me at the mid-season point.
Notable injured and inactive Colts: S Bob Sanders, RB Donald Brown, WR Anthony Gonzalez, WR Austin Collie, TE Dallas Clark, OT Ryan Diem, OLB Clint Session, DB Melvin Bullett, and DB Kelvin Hayden.
The Jets certainly deserve credit for the performance on Saturday. Rex Ryan outcoached Jim Caldwell, forcing the Colts defensive line to swallow two large pills named LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene who combined for 152 yards and both Jets touchdowns. Next time, the Colts may opt for that far more delicious pink-liquid medicine aimed at kids in order to avoid choking.
I find it especially hard to root for the loudly voiced Jets. Personally, I think NFL teams need to collude in order to form an anti-reality show policy. Cincinatti Bengals Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco (I hate that I have to type that name) collaborated to form “The T.Ocho Show.” These two players are lucky that their only repercussion is negative critical reception and a 4-12, last-place finish. You can be caned for that sort of thing in Singapore. Is that so unreasonable? In regard to the Jets HBO show “Hard Knocks” – which consisted of coach Rex Ryan’s profanity laced tirades and cornerback Antonio Cromartie’s inability to name all of his children – also refer to Singapore law.
The Colts did have one positive. Adam Vinatieri remains the best post-season kicker of all-time, hitting all three of his field goals, the final kick coming from 50 yards out late in the fourth quarter to give the Colts a 14-13 lead. This speaks more to the Colts inability to penetrate the Jets defense in the red zone than Vinatieri’s competency as a kicker. Darrelle Revis held Reggie Wayne dormant on Revis Island (complete with smoke monster), especially in the red zone. The Colts anemic running game also struggled to put the ball in the end zone. Offensive struggles are not a characteristic of the Indianapolis Colts we’ve grown accustomed to over the last decade.
The Colts inability to capitalize allowed the Jets to remain in the game. This resulted in an alert Mark Sanchez in the second half, following his obligatory first half nap. I still don’t understand how that works. Every week it’s as if Sanchez drinks himself into a stupor several hours before the game, but returns to sobriety just in time for the fourth quarter. Sanchez was fantastic on the Jets final drive, engineering a comeback with 53 seconds to play. Braylon Edwards made an acrobatic catch to move the Jets downfield where Nick Folk would eventually connect on a game-winning 32-yard field goal as time expired.
Congratulations, New York. Enjoy the week; you’ve finally moved passed the Peyton Manning led Colts. Unfortunately for you, there is a good chance that next week, this is happening.
Story by Jesse Jacobs of The Ballston Journal
Jesse Jacobs’ NFL Playoff Round-up:
Seattle Seahawks 41, New Orleans Saints 36