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.
TO: The Saints
RE: I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
“I can’t believe the Seahawks are hosting a playoff game with a 7-9 record.”
“The NFL really screwed that up. Oh well, the Saints are going to kill them. It’s like a by-week.”
“If the Seahawks win this game, I’m quitting my job and I want a divorce!”
Sure, I’ll admit that last quote never happened (that I know of). I did however endure the first two paraphrased conversations ad nauseam in the week leading up to the Saints-Seahawks unheralded playoff matchup. After an early New Orleans field goal to give the Saints a 3-0 lead, Matt Hasselback did what he does best, throwing an interception to Jabari Greer. Hasselback has found consistency late in his career, throwing 17 interceptions in each of the last two seasons. The interception actually bounced off the hands of Seattle tight end Ben Obomanu first (I’m just a jerk). Drew Brees would subsequently hit fullback Heath Evans on a one-yard touchdown pass to put the Saints on top, 10-0.
“Game over,” the country collectively thought (Even you, Seattle fans).
Matt Hasselback disrespectfully disagreed. Hasselback played out of his mind from that point on, anxious to step outside the shadow of his brother Tim. Hasselback threw four touchdown passes after his initial interception to complement his 272 passing yards. I reiterate: I’m not mad at the Saints, I’m just disappointed. The Saints have effectively validated a seemingly flawed playoff system in which a 7-9 team can host a 12-4 team in the first round of the playoffs while two 10-6 teams (New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) sit at home. New Orleans third-overall ranked defense was trampled by a Seattle team of players who in my condescending opinion are primarily castoffs and has-beens.
QB Matt Hasselback: “We want the ball and we’re going to score.” These were Hasselback’s famous last words after the Seahawks won the overtime coin toss in the 2003 playoffs. Hasselback took Seattle to the Super Bowl in 2005, but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hasselback never made his mark as an elite NFL quarterback.
RB Marshawn Lynch: As a Buffalo Bills fan, I’m all too familiar with Marshawn Lynch. The former first-round NFL draft pick and cousin of all-time bust Jamarcus Russell rarely displayed his immense talent while in Buffalo. Lynch had more arrests than Pro Bowl appearances during his time in Buffalo, preferring to hit-and-run off the field rather than on it. He also stole $20 from the wife of a police officer at a Buffalo TGI Fridays, causing the citizens of Buffalo to collectively shake their head.
WR Mike Williams: The Seahawks leading receiver is infamous for his decision to leave USC one year early in an attempt to defy the current NFL policy which prohibited players to enter the NFL draft less than three years removed from high school. Despite former Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen’s inexplicable selection of Williams with the 11th pick, Williams was invisible on the football field from 2005-2007. He was then literally invisible in 2008 and 2009, vacated from football after ballooning over 270 pounds.
These three players share one thing in common – talent. Past be damned, the trio of Hasselback, Lynch, and Williams are leading the only sub .500 playoff team in NFL history into the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. As much as the country hated the Seahawks a week ago, we’re all one win away from a ride on the bandwagon.
Story by Jesse Jacobs of The Ballston Journal. (Photo of Jesse by Andrzej Pilarczyk.)