Monday, January 17, 2011

Divisional Round Recap

Seattle Seahawks 24 @ Chicago Bears 35: It was inevitable really. Like I said yesterday, the Bears D is much more accomplished than the Saints. And don't let the scoreline disguise the reality of this game. It was 21-0 at half time. By the time the fourth quarter started it was 28-3. The Seahawks basically spent the first 3 quarters or so punting the ball. On both sides of the ball the Bears took control, but the offense was particularly impressive. Jay Cutler was 15/28 for 274 yards with 2 touchdowns. Tight End Greg Olsen only caught 3 passes, but he converted them into 113 yards and a TD. Matt Forte had 25 carries for 80 yards. Chester Taylor finally turned in a performance to start paying back his free agent fee, with 11 carries for 44 yards and a TD. But it was Cutler who stole the show on the ground as well. 8 carries, 43 yards and 2 TD's. It may not sound like the greatest haul in the world, but the 2 touchdowns are impressive and the other runs helped the Bears to keep drives alive. Cutler simply owned the field whenever he was on it. With that win the Bears progress to the NFC Championship game which will now be hosted at Soldier Field, with the Bears welcoming the Packers for what promises to be a superb showdown. New York Jets 28 @ New England Patriots 21: The Jets did it. They only bloody did it. All the trash talk, all the hype, all the back and forth. Sadly the game wasn't quite what was expected, but entertaining in its own way. For the Jets it was the affirmation of a week (or more) spent ripping on the Patriots. For the Patriots it was an embarrassing put down by the most divisive team in the NFL right now. Tom Brady had a so so game. 29/45 for 299 yards, 2 TD's and 1 INT is actually not bad. All the hype at the minute is that the Jets shut the Patriots offense down and confused Brady to point where he was largely ineffective. Well, call me a traditionalist and a cynic, but I hardly call 29 completed passes for 299 yards being "shutdown". That's not to take away from the fact that at times Brady looked uncharacteristically hesitant and at times a little lost, but he still put out a fair afternoons work. He also had a potential 3rd TD dropped in the end zone. But bizarrely the Jets offense topped the Patriots. I say bizarrely because while the numbers tell us that Mark Sanchez went 16/25 for 194 yards and 3 TD's, the tale of the TV is that the Jets offense spent a large amount of this game stinking it up and then only hitting good plays intermittently. RB Shonne Greene helped to stabilise the ship somewhat with 17 carries for 76 yards and a TD, but it was still probably the least impressive QB performance in a playoff win that I've seen for a while. I don't know. On paper it all looks pretty good. But I just get that sense that Sanchez is in way over his depth. Luckily (for him) the Patriots had practically zero pass rush. They mustered no sacks and not even a QB hit. 4 tackles for a loss was their lot. Do we really think it will be so easy next week against the Steelers? Be honest now? Do we think the Steelers (who were missing Troy Polamalu when the teams met in Week 15) will really be so toothless up front? Don't count on it. The positive of course was the Jets defense. 5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 7 QB hits, an interception and 2 forced fumbles. Sedrick Ellis alone accounted for 2 sacks, 2 TFL and 2 QB hits. They may have still given up quite a few yards, but their coverage at times held just enough. Again this is an area I would slightly dispute. The coverage was pretty tight, but the prevailing notion that the Jets "smothered" the Patriots receivers is, if I may become a pretentious Brit from the 1920's era, "Utter tosh and Poppycock". 299 yards in the air, and by NFL standards, some of those receivers were most definitely open. Normally Brady would have found them with ease but here he just looked lost and/or blind at times. Maybe I'm being a little too critical and nit picky of the Jets. The inescapable fact is they've just beaten the Colts and the Patriots in successive weeks. Normally, beating just one of those teams would be worthy of the praise. But both? In consecutive weeks? That means the Jets have now made it to the Championship game two seasons in a row. It's a hell of a statement and something that has to be respected. But if Rex Ryan is going to fulfill the hype that his team is a Super Bowl caliber side, then he still has to go to Heinz Field and do something that not many teams do; beat the Steelers at home. In the playoffs.

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