We take a look beyond the scoreboard to see who performed the best, or benefited the most, from this weekend’s action.
From the very start of Saturday’s game in Houston, the Oakland Raiders looked rudderless on offense. 10 minutes into the game is was clear that they had no plan to help Connor Cook, no pick routes to beat man coverage, no bunch formations to force the Texans cornerbacks to come off the line. Jack Del Rio and his staff seemed to have spent the week with their fingers crossed that Latavius Murray would be able to run wild and that Cook would magically turn into Derek Carr. All of which only serves to enhance the performance of Derek Carr this season. While the coaches struggled to give Cook any schematic help and Michael Crabtree dropped almost everything thrown his way, all that was left during an ugly game was to wonder what kind of magic Derek Carr weaved this season that made a team go from Super Bowl contender with him to a Cleveland Browns-lite without him.
The Seahawks game against the Lions wasn’t particularly pleasing on the eye, except for the exploits of the wide receivers, who put on a show. First it was Paul Richardson, reaching around the interfering Tavon Wilson to make a spectacular left-handed catch while ever so slightly yanking on Wilson’s facemask with his right hand. Doug Baldwin got involved with a one-handed touchdown of his own, but before that he managed to catch the ball by pinning it to his backside and thigh as he rolled over. Even Marvin Jones got in on the act for the Lions with a pin-point sideline grab that defied logic. It helped light up an otherwise dull game.
Three B’s Are Brilliant
The Pittsburgh Steelers unleashed hell on the Miami Dolphins defense in the shape of their ‘Three B’s’ Ben, Bell, and Brown. Early on it was Antonio Brown, who took a screen 50 yards down the sideline for a score and then beat single coverage to take a catch 62 yards to house. After that it was a steady diet of Le’Veon Bell and his patience, infuriating, running style. Bell compiled a franchise high postseason rushing total with 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With Bell controlling proceedings Roethlisberger didn’t have to do much, but his use of the snap count kept Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Dolphins defense on their heels all day and made them one step slower than they needed to be. The Steelers will travel to Arrowhead with eight consecutive wins under their belt and more than a spring in their step.
It’s a nickname affectionately given to Aaron Rodgers by The Ringer writer Robert Mays, and on days like today it couldn’t be any more fitting. The Giants defense came in to today’s game at Lambeau Field as a conquering unit. They had stamped out the fires of Dallas and snuffed out the Washington passing game, but they couldn’t tame The Dragon. After a slow start, featuring a lot of terrific coverage, Rodgers came alive midway through the second quarter and never cooled off. After five punts to start the game Rodgers threw a laser down the sideline to Devante Adams for 31 yards. Two plays later he did his whole “move around for 12 seconds and wait for a receiver to open up” thing before hitting Adams again. Then after a getting the ball back with under two minutes and no timeouts he got the Packers to hail mary range and, much like last season, launched an arcing bomb into the endzone which came down perfectly to Randall Cobb. Rodgers finished with 62.5% completion rate, 362 yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers. It was a glorious game from #12 that sends the Packers on to the warmer climate of Dallas.
Who will wake up Monday unhappy with their performance, the result or the luck of the bounce?
Moore took a beating on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive front. Bud Dupree and James Harrison combined for two sacks, four hits and a forced fumble. Dupree seemingly knocked Moore out of the game with a vicious hit, but to his credit Moore dusted himself off and came back in a play later. Still, it was a rough day in the pocket for the Dolphins quarterback who was victimised by a Steelers defense with a point to prove as his season ended with more bruises than he would care to count.
From potential #1 seed to hapless failures. The Raiders season had so much promise, particularly as the potential for moving away from the Bay Area continues to grow. It could have been a wonderful fun that sparked greater interest and investment from the city of Oakland, instead it all finished with an embarrassing whimper.
Beckham On A Boat
Three drops. Just 28 yards while the game was winnable… Odell Beckham Jr was frequently double teamed, and everyone has a bad day here and there, but when you spend your off day before the playoffs travelling down to Miami to go on a boat with Justin Bieber the spotlight is going to shine unforgivingly on you. Beckham had a frustrating day that highlighted the fact that he still has a way to go before he can be considered an elite receiver in the NFL, especially after what Antonio Brown did against a similarly banged up and broken secondary on Sunday.
Who do you think were the true winners & losers of Wildcard Weekend? Let us know in the comments below!