With a wild Wild Card weekend coming to a close, here's a look at the heroes and zeroes of the games...
Marshawn Lynch: The run of the weekend belonged to Lynch, who barreled though and bounced off of and threw down Saints defenders for 67 yards until he hit the end zone, stretching the Seattle lead to two possessions late in the fourth quarter. Now that’s how you close out a game!
Mark Sanchez: He was Peyton Manning-esque, picking apart a good Colts secondary and making some key throws in the second half of Saturday night’s win. It was far from a perfect game from Sanchez. But after a costly interception to finish the first half, he bounced back to engineer three second-half scoring drives and a key completion to Braylon Edwards to set up the game-winning field goal.
James Starks: The Eagles were ready for the Aaron Rodgers air show, but the Packers caught them off-guard by turning to the James Starks ground game. Starks had more rushing yards in Sunday’s playoff win (123 on 23 carries) than he had the entire season (101)! And now, the Falcons have something else to think about as they prepare for Saturday’s match-up with the Pack.
Matt Hasselbeck: He’s back. Playing in his first playoff game in three years, Hasselbeck looked great against an aggressive Saints defense. He attacked them downfield and finished with four TD passes as Seattle put 41 points up against the defending champs.
The Kansas City Chiefs: Coming into this weekend, I thought there were two teams who didn’t belong in the playoffs: the 7-9 Seahawks and the Chiefs. Turns out I was only half right. K.C. embarrassed themselves at home. They showed no playoff intensity and were dominated (a pathetic 161 yards of offense) by a Ravens defense that’s been shaky this season. QB Matt Cassel threw 3 INTs even though he only attempted 18 passes, finishing with a 20.4 rating! The Chiefs had the advantage of a very easy schedule in 2010. But next season, instead of playing the NFC West (Seahawks, Rams, 49ers, Cardinals) and some last-place AFC teams (Bills, Browns, Jaguars), they’ll play the NFC North (Bears, Packers, Lions, Vikings) and some first-place AFC teams (Patriots, Steelers, Colts). We might not seem them back in the playoffs any time soon.
Sean Payton: Weren’t you the guy who called that bold onsides kick in the Super Bowl? The guy who took chances other coaches wouldn’t take, building a creative offense and leading the Saints to the world championship? On Saturday, Payton’s play-calling resulted in 21 touches for… Julius Jones? The washed-up veteran back couldn’t deliver, particularly on a key 4th-and-1 in Saints territory in the third quarter. With so much talent on the offensive side of the ball, Payton made a huge mistake relying so heavily on Jones, and that’s why the defending champs are going home.
Colts special teams kick coverage: First a running into the punter penalty on Taj Smith nearly allowed the Jets to put away the game early. But the Colts D, Peyton Manning, and Adam Vinatieri combined to save the day… until the kickoff. After Vinatieri’s field goal put Indy up two, the Colts special teams allowed a 47-yard kickoff return to Antonio Cromartie, setting the Jets up with great field position at their own 46. Eight plays later, the Colts season was over.
Professor Ulane: On last week’s podcast, he predicted a blowout in Seattle… by the Saints. Professor Ulane loves to pick on me when I get a prediction slightly wrong. The Seahawks won 41-36 on Saturday. Seriously, has anyone ever been more wrong than the Professor?