With the first weekend of the post-season now consigned to memory it’s hard to think of a more action-packed weekend.
Green Bay, to their credit, were superb in defeat and considering their losses, defensively, making a game of it with the 49ers deserves a heap of credit. The Colts were so bad and then so good they completely outshone the Chiefs, the Chargers won in Cincinnati and New Orleans snuck out of Lincoln Field with a narrow win.
However, the Bengals probably don’t deserve a share of the plaudits. Andy Dalton struggled again, in somewhat of a repetitive theme, and with recent reports emerging that their owner, Mike Brown, wanted Colin Kaepernick and not Dalton in the 2011 draft, the Bengals signal caller’s week can’t get too much worse.
However, the main talking point must be Andrew Luck and his improbable comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs as he, and his teammates, pulled out the unlikeliest of victories that only serve to enhance Luck’s burgeoning reputation as something of a comeback master.
Down 28 points at the half, to a Chiefs team missing Jamaal Charles (whose unfortunate concussion on the games very first possession left Andy Smith’s men without their most dynamic player) the Colts tied a playoff record with their, at times, unfathomable comeback.
To put the scale of their comeback victory into perspective, the last time anyone had rallied from such a deficit was in 1993, when the Buffalo Bills trailed by 32 before beating Houston 41-38 in overtime.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though; Luck struggled initially, forcing the ball at times, before finding his rhythm in the second half on his way to over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Summed up as “One for the ages” by Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, the teams combined 1049 total yards to set an NFL post-season record.
Pagano, clearly relieved at the whistle, also made light of his side’s yo-yo performance as they secured their pass to New England. Somewhat significantly, the win also marked the franchise’s first post-season victory without Peyton Manning, a streak stretching back to January 7, 1996.
“I think somebody said that it was the second-largest comeback or whatever in the history of whatever.
“I guess 21 wasn’t large enough at the half, so we thought we’d give them another seven, you know, just to make it interesting.”
Elsewhere, and as we now know, Colin Kaepernick has morphed into a/the face of the 49ers franchise and, when he plays as electrically as he has been of late, there aren’t many teams that can contain him, as the Packers proved on Sunday.
The reigning NFC Champions escaped Lambeau Field’s wintery conditions (it was the fourth coldest post season game at the stadium) with a superb, and typical, playoff performance from their third-year man. Finishing with 16 completions from 30 attempts for 227 yards, as well as leading the Niners’ ground game with 98 yards on only seven carries, Kaepernick’s best play of the night came with the game on the line.
Escaping the blitz on third-and-eight, the leggy quarterback’s 11-yard dart to the 27 yard line left Phil Dawson with a 33 yard chip-shot to wrap up the win that propels them into a re-match with the Carolina Panthers in a weeks’ time.
It’s remarkable that New England have made it this far, it’s even more remarkable when you consider the injuries they’ve had.
Reading like a ‘who’s who’ of the Patriots best players, Bill Belichick has had to get by – for large chunks of the season - without Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer and Aquib Talib, although Talib has returned to lineup of late while also struggling with host of new players on offense.
Now, you can add Brandon Spikes to that list.
The inside linebacker, who has been playing on a dodgy knee for a few weeks now, was placed on Injured Reserve yesterday.
Spikes, a second-round pick out of Florida in the 2010 draft, is a big loss for a team already woeful against the run and, with the decision coming before the clash against Chuck Pagano’s Colts, many are wondering if the big-hitting Spikes, who hits free agency at the seasons’ end, has played his last game in Patriot colours.
Ranked as the games’ 6 highest inside linebacker, pass coverage has never been Spikes’ strongpoint and we should look for the Colts to test New England’s resolve early, and often, on Saturday – especially as Dane Fletcher and rookie linebacker, Jamie Collins figure to get the nod in his absence.
Foles the future in Philadelphia
In 1948 and 1949, the Eagles’ Tommy Thompson led the NFL in passer rating and, until now, no subsequent Eagle had achieved anything similar.
Then along came Nick Foles who, after replacing the oft-injure Michael Vick, not only finished this year as the League’s highest rated passer (with a rating of 125.2), but also set a new standard in touchdown-to –interception ratio with 27:2.
Unsurprisingly, Chip Kelly confirmed on Monday, following his sides’ narrow loss to the Saints, that next season, and the foreseeable future, is likely to be built around the Texas native.
“He’s the starting quarterback for the next 1000 years he’s here” Kelly said, according to NFL.com.
His tounge-in-cheek answer should, naturally, be taken with a pinch of salt, especially as quarterback performances can vary like the weather. (Think Josh Freeman in his time in Tampa)
“I’m a big supporter of him, I think he does fantastic job, but we also know that injuries occur in this game and that’s why I always qualify what I say.
“I love the kid and think he’s playing outstandingly” Kelly said, via CSN Philly.