The NFL’s wild-card weekend of playoff games had great story lines everywhere — rookie quarterbacks, great defenses, red hot teams.
It was a weekend to watch Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III shine; it was the arrival of the never-say-die heroics of Andrew Luck; it was supposed to be the growth of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati; and the farewell to legendary linebacker Ray Lewis.
So much for story lines and winning-losing streaks.
Seattle hadn’t won a road playoff game since the Chuck Knox era of 1983, but the Seahawks went in and bashed the Redskins. Cincinnati had won 7 of 8, while Houston had backed into the playoffs with three losses in four games, but the Bengals proved they were not ready for prime time.
Indianapolis had an amazing 11-5 season, but they were exposed on defense. Baltimore looked as if it was coming apart at the seams, losing three of four, but they will play next week. The Redskins had won seven in a row, but lost their quarterback and the game.
HOUSTON hammered Cincinnati
Arian Foster had 174 all-purpose yards, troubled quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 241 yards and Shayne Graham kicked four field goals in the Texans win. It was really a lopsided game, with Houston piling up a 420-198 yardage advantage. It was some night for pass rusher J.J. Watt, the NFL sack leader with a sack, two tackles for losses, two hits on the QB and two pass deflections. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton never found any momentum, never had much help.
GREEN BAY mauled Minnesota
It was over before it started when Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was ruled out with a bruised elbow suffered last week. Young backup quarterback Joe Webb was overwhelmed, going 11-30 for passing. The Packers defense had three takeaways, three sacks and four tackles for a loss. And then there was Aaron Rogers, completing passes to everyone for 274 yards and a touchdown. Legendary running back Adrian Peterson had 99 heroic yards, but the Vikings were never in the game.
BALTIMORE battered Indianapolis
The electricity in the stadium was awesome with Ray Lewis’ final home game ever and finishing his 17-year career at linebacker. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was jumpy early in the face of an enormous blitz, but made enough plays to survive the shaky 4-for-10 start. But it was old dog wide receiver Anquan Boldin who made the difference in the game, with catches of 21, 45, and 50 yards in the second half to key scoring drives. The Ravens survived two Ray Rice fumbles. The Colts could not survive the loss of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians who was hospitalized Sunday morning with an inner ear infection.
SEATTLE shocks Washington
The Seahawks survived the early game jitters, the pass rush, and Robert Griffin’s big plays, falling behind 14-0. But from that point on, it was all Seattle. Griffin banged his throwing hand on a helmet, twisted an ankle, and then re-injured his hyper-extended knee in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks scored 24 straight points and roared to victory. The Redskins had just 55 total yards in offense from the second quarter on, until Griffin was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter. It could have been worse, had Seattle not fumbled at the Skins’ two yard line and missed an open receiver in the end zone for another easy touchdown.
So, on we go to next weekend’s match-ups. Denver and Peyton Manning, who have been sitting at home resting, will host Houston. New England, coming off its bye week, is home with Baltimore. Top seed Atlanta will host Seattle. And Green Bay comes out here to meet the rested San Francisco 49ers.
The fairytale season of NFL story lines will continue. Does the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson have any more magic left? Will 49ers kid QB Colin Kaepernick handle postseason like he did regular season? Can Atlanta, which has never won a postseason game under Coach Mike Smith, change that run? How tired will Baltimore be facing a rested Tom Brady and the Patriots? And does the mystical crusade of Peyton Manning continue with the Broncos?
Other places were looking for new faces to lead their teams next season. The Chargers join six clubs looking for head coach. Five NFL teams, including the Bolts, are looking for general managers too. For eight hours on Sunday, we forgot about A.J. Smith and Norv Turner, or Andy Reid or Chip Kelly.
We watched wild-card weekend and the story lines were wild.
The NFL season is not over. In fact, next week might be the best week of the season.