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Football Mon Jan 09 2012

What You Missed: NFL Wild Card Weekend

Chances are, your NFL team's season is over. After all, this is Gapers Block, so I would assume that since you are here you like the Bears. But you do not need a rooting interest to enjoy the NFL Playoffs. There was plenty of entertainment to go around.

During the Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs, it was fun to see...

... the Texans win their first ever postseason game. Even better, it was at home, with the crowd exploding after big plays.

... Arian Foster's touchdown run and J.J. Watt's interception return, two electrifying highlight reel plays. Foster's run was great - he was able to find just that little bit of space to the outside, and he was able to stiff-arm a tackler while somehow staying in bounds.

... the Matthew Stafford-Calvin Johnson hookup. As was expected, Megatron got the most receptions (12) and yards (211) in the Lions-Saints game. He also got the most targets, getting 15 balls thrown his way. Honestly, I felt he should have gotten more. During Stafford's first interception, the Saints called a blitz and Stafford threw it up Titus Young's way. Even though he was single-covered, Saints DB Jabari Greer positioned himself perfectly for the jump-ball pick. If Stafford was just going to wing one deep, I thought he should have thrown it up for Johnson. I don't care that he was double covered; let Johnson out-jump everyone for the ball.

... Drew Brees dice up the Lions defense. That was something to watch. Detroit was flustered later in the game when they were trailing; multiple times their coverage left Saints receivers WIDE open, including the touchdown passes to Jimmy Graham and Robert Meachem. Just look at the Meachem play. No stutter step, no head fake. Meachem runs a simple "go" route right past a Lions cornerback.

... a shootout when we were fully expecting a shootout. Everyone knew there wasn't going to be any defense in this game, and thankfully, there wasn't. The result was two quarterbacks having big days: 380 yards and three touchdowns for Stafford, and 466 yards and three touchdowns for Brees. Plus, New Orleans even had their running game going, getting 164 yards with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory. It was like an Arena League game, only people were watching and the outcome mattered.

... the Falcons finishing with 2 points, even though they were known as an offensive team.

... Hakeem Nicks doing a taunting Dirty Bird after catching a 72-yard touchdown pass to give the Giants a 15-point lead.

... teams going for it on fourth down. It worked best for New Orleans, converting three fourth-down plays. For Atlanta? Not so much. On two of the game's biggest plays, with the Falcons just outside the red zone and only needing a few feet for the first, Falcons coach Mike Smith called two QB sneaks. No gain for each. I'm all for going for it, but come on, mix it up! Run a misdirection run with Michael Turner, or even call a rollout passing play. But two quarterback sneaks? The Giants knew it was coming. And actually, on the second one, Turner was on the sidelines! Atlanta totally telegraphed their plays.

... Atlanta lose in the postseason again. I'm not a Falcons hater or anything, but something crossed my mind at the end of the game: the Falcons are the most underrated "bad" NFL team. When you think of the bad teams or the hard luck fanbases, you think of Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota, Buffalo, New York Jets... but never Atlanta. Even though franchise QB Matt Ryan is 0-3 in the postseason (yet receives 1/100 the heat Mark Sanchez does). Even though the club only reached one Super Bowl (and were throttled by Denver) and made the playoffs only eight times from 1966 to 2007. Even though the team recorded consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 2009. Weird that the Falcons fly under the radar (pun intended).

... Tim Tebow!

... Tebow actually playing well on Sunday against the Steelers. Who knew? He threw for 316 yards and two TDs, and rushed for 50 with one TD. Unlike in games past, his throws deep were accurate and effective.

... perhaps my favorite announcer moment ever. "Remember, for it to be a forward pass, it's gotta go forward!"

... probably the most exciting play of the year. First play of overtime, capping off a huge upset. No matter what your opinion of Tebow is, you have to admit that this was amazing, and that something weird is going on in Denver. Uh, at least until next week when they get rolled by New England.

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