NFL Wildcard Weekend Takeaways

The first round of the playoffs are now in the books and 6 teams’s seasons have now finished.

Plenty of talking points, highlights and takeaways from the Full10Yards crew…


Cheers to the play of Heinecke

Ok, so last weekend we had a matchup between a QB who had won more playoff games himself than the franchise he was playing against A QB who has six rings against one that had never taken a playoff snap.

Who came out on top?

If you look at the win loss column it’s the Buccaneers Tom Brady, if you look on the stats sheet it’s also Brady, but if you stayed up and watched the game live it was the other QB that left a lasting impression and saw his stock rise through the roof. Taylor Heineke has gone from street clothes to representing the NFC (L)East in the playoffs in an incredibly short period of time.

It will be forgotten shortly, but it was Heineke who had more rushing yards in Super Wild Card Weekend than Derek Henry, and he had more rushing TDs than King Henry too. Heineke’s third quarter ground score – a heroic full elevated body dive to the left pylon was arguably the best touchdown of the first round of the 2021 playoffs.

Watch: Taylor Heinicke's elusiveness leads to Washington points
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

To add over 300 yards passing and yet another frozen rope touchdown (in the 4th quarter) in front of a national audience has elevated Heineke to be on a lot of team’s list of possible backup QBs.

Heinecke says he loves Washington coach Ron Rivera and would like to stay in D.C. Washington would be wise to sign him up as he provide a spark in five overall quarters of play that Dwayne Haskins did not manage in two seasons of play. 

Colts don’t make the Reich calls

Super Wild Card Weekend kicked off on Saturday with a close and very watchable tussle in upstate New York, which saw the Buffalo Bills escape with a 27-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. They’d built up a 14-point lead but saw it fizzle to just three, as they hung on to clinch their first play-off win since 1995. Josh Allen went 26-of-35 for 324 passing yards and 2 TDs, with some dink-and-dunk play interspersed with big-arm action, not least a 35-yard TD toss to Stefon Diggs that gave Buffalo that two-score lead at the end of the third. Allen also led the team in rushing with 54 yards and another touchdown.

So, the Bills march on, riding a seven-game winning streak, yet it was a case of ‘ifs and buts’ for Indianapolis. The Colts outpassed and outrushed Buffalo, didn’t allow a sack, racked up 472 total yards of offence and had almost nine more minutes of possession, so the opportunities for the W were definitely there.

Their game plan – run the ball, run the clock and keep Buffalo’s offence (ranked second in yards and scoring in the regular season) off the field – worked to an extent. However, crucial errors on the Orchard Park field and on the sideline meant a lot of points, easily enough to win, went a-begging. Indy woulda, coulda and shoulda won it if it weren’t for self-inflicted wounds and while each error wasn’t in itself fatal, their cumulative effect was like death by a thousand paper cuts. Exemplifying the sort of night they had, their two drives either side of half time brought 115 yards and ate 12 minutes off the clock, yet neither troubled the scoreboard.

Offensively, too many seemingly straightforward catches seemed to elude their intended recipients. Among seven or so note-worthy drops, Michael Pittman (five receptions for 90 yards) couldn’t haul in a tipped pass while Jonathan Taylor (78 yards and 1 TD on 21 carries) botched one when he was wide open and had room to turn on the jets. TY Hilton, Zach Pascal and Nyheim Hines weren’t immune from the dropsies either.

Then there was the decision by HC Frank Reich, at the end of the first half, to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 4, having squandered three previous attempts to punch it home. Indy were 10-7 up at the time and Rivers’ pass just eluded a diving Pittman in the end zone. Maybe it was the wrong call, maybe Rivers just put a bit too much juice on it, maybe a bit of both. But crucial.

Rich Barnes – USA TODAY Sports

When quizzed about his decision later, Reich explained that the benefit of a 10-point lead made it worth the risk but when you eventually lose by three, that logic can bite you on the backside. And with the benefit of hindsight, we know that’s what happened: Buffalo replied with a 10-play, 91-yard drive – aided by an annoying offside penalty on a 4th-and-3 – that concluded with a Josh Allen rushing score and a lead they never relinquished. A critical 14-point swing.

That said, a kick might not have guaranteed anything anyway. In the third quarter, having opted for ‘easy’ points, Rodrigo Blankenship clanked a 33-yard chip shot against the right upright. Instead of conceding three, the Bills marched downfield and scored seven of their own with that bomb to Diggs. Another vital swing of the pendulum in Buffalo’s favour.  

There were other errors too. Having cut the margin to eight points with a Pascal TD in the final quarter, a missed two-point conversion from the 1-yard line – when a Jonathan Taylor run got stuffed – added to the litany of points that got away. And defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad failed put the Colts in good field position with three minutes remaining when he couldn’t recover an Allen sack-fumble.

Rivers (27-of-46, 309 yards, 2 TDs) kept the Colts in the mix right up to the final possession, when they just needed to get within FG range to force overtime. However, Coach Reich’s flawed decision to challenge a flag for an earlier fumble by Zack Moss cost the Colts their final timeout ahead of the last, all-or-nothing drive. And it proved to be another game-defining call.

With 1:32 left, the Colts formed a huddle like they had all the time in the world and wasted nearly 30 of the 90 seconds they had at their disposal. Not cool. Then, three plays later, Pascal slid to make a catch on a 4th-and-10, then got up and fumbled it away to the Bills, icing the game. However, the officials (mistakenly) ruled him down – an error compounded by video review – and the fortunate Colts lived to fight on with 26 seconds left. Near the halfway line, they needed one final timeout to set up a play that would get them within kicking range but of course, they’d already squandered it. Forced to go for a 4th-and-11 Hail Mary before the clock hit 00:00, the throw fell anti-climatically short of the end zone. It was certainly not the last hurrah Rivers would have wanted if he does indeed retire after 17 seasons…

All told, it felt like Indy beat themselves in this one. I don’t want to play down Buffalo’s efforts in any way, as they were pretty impressive going forward, but I’m still not convinced they would’ve won had the Colts not given them a lot of help.

He was the Most Valuable Player for a reason 

Love it or hate him Lamar Jackson is still the reigning league MVP.

If we are to look at this moniker in it’s true light this definition is about how valuable someone is to their team as well as the league. The Baltimore Ravens have not played one playoff game this season, they have played six.

They needed to win every contest from Week 13 to 17 to even punch a ticket to the dance, and now the mutant gorilla that was on LJax’s back has been sent back with a smacked arse to Kong Island. Down 10-0 to the team that stabbed them in the heart last season, and having thrown an ugly interception, Lamar Jackson dug deep and scored another All-World rushing touchdown to bring the Ravens back from the pits of despair. With the game tied at the half, LJax managed a beautiful opening possession drive to begin the third quarter, and that was, it turned out, all the Ravens needed to get the win.

How did Lamar Jackson turn a third-and-9 into six points?
George Walker / The Tennessean

The Ravens defense held the league’s back-to-back leading rusher to his lowest total ground output in 15 months, but they needed another dynamic performance from LJax to get the W. Lamar is not going to go for 350 yards in the air, why bother when he led all players in rushing yards in Super Wild Card weekend. The Colts left 7 or more points on the field against the Ravens next opponents, the Buffalo Bills.

Baltimore cannot afford to leave a single point this Saturday, and whilst Lamar needs go generate more points, if the Ravens can run for fun they will be 60 minutes from an AFC Championship. 

Nickelode of this action!

For US fans, viewers of all ages were treated to something slightly different to encourage more people to watch and get into the sport.

It seems to have been received very well and I would be very surprised

Nate Burleson did a great job in commentary to provide more metaphors than you can shake a stick at. Young Sheldon was at hand to dumb down the penalties that were called and overall, it was a very well put together idea and executed how the NFL would have wanted.

The one slight blemish is that Cordarelle Patterson dropped an F bomb, which I am sure got all parents a bit hot under the collar.

Seahawks off the menu as kitchen closed for the season

Seattle lost their first home playoff game under the leadership of Pete Carroll when they were defeated 30-20 by the LA Rams.

John Wolford barely lasted a half as he was taken out of the game due to a neck injury. On came 1 thumb Jared Goff to manage the game as it was the Rams defence which shut down the Seahawks and helped them advance to the divisional round to face the Packers.

Russell Wilson was playing at an MVP level (a.k.a cooking) and was favourite for the award fairly deep into the season, but since then his performances have dropped off a cliff and the restaurant has been closed. He had another pick 6 in this game too, the pivotal moment in the game and the Seahawaks went out on a whimper.

Russell Wilson can't escape the Los Angeles Rams
Abbie Parr / Getty

Pete Carroll has since come out and said that they need to run more in 2021 and OC Schottenheimer is returning for next season.

Don’t expect the kitchen to be opened anytime soon after this announcement that it wont be refurbished anytime soon.

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