During the playoffs, we often hear the popular refrain from players and coaches, "It's hard to win on the road." But is that really the case after watching Wild Card Weekend?
Three of the four home teams lost. No one thought -- including me -- Seattle, the only team to protect its home turf, had a chance of advancing. In fact, going into the weekend, all the road teams appeared to be stronger on paper and, barring a complete meltdown, they should win.
So as Meat Loaf once said, three out of four ain't bad. Or was that two out of three? Either way, you get the point.
Let's take a closer look at how Seattle pulled off the shocker and where the other home teams went wrong.
Wild Card Weekend lives up to billing
Seahawks imitate Saints
We might have seen a run for the ages Saturday. Marshawn Lynch showed the world why he was originally a first-round pick and why Seattle was right in giving up a fourth-round selection to acquire him from Buffalo. Lynch was amazing, showing the power and the stiff arm that made him so effective at California. He always has run with a sense of urgency and he saved the best for last on his 67-yard yard touchdown, which put the Saints away and ended any talk of a repeat champion.
The defending champs had a banged-up backfield, yet more costly than losing players was the inability to slow down Seattle's offense. The Saints are a scheme defense and if the tactics work like they did in Atlanta a few weeks ago, the unit looks great. If the schemes are a little off, the Saints get into a dial a defense game, which is what happened against the Seahawks.
I love to watch the Saints, especially when coach Sean Payton is in his CFL mood, meaning calling plays to get first downs in just two downs. He is aggressive with each call, attacking the defense with every play. When this rhythm is flowing, the offensive tempo is fun to watch. However, on Saturday, the Seahawks adopted the same approach.
Seattle knows it is not a well-rounded offense -- nice way of saying the unit knows it stinks -- therefore the Seahawks must stay out of third and long. To meet this goal, the offense was aggressive with each first-down call, trying to get into a second-and-short situation. Instead of wasting a play on second and short, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates went into attack mode, hoping to get chunks of yards along with first downs.
Seattle only had 14 third downs in 13 possessions and this aggressive play-calling forced New Orleans to be on its heels all game and it could not gain control of the line of scrimmage.
Credit Seattle for playing at an up-tempo pace and beating New Orleans at its own game.
Colts lack line of defense
The Colts' biggest problem was the same issue that team president Bill Polian complained about after the Super Bowl XLIV loss -- the offensive line. The Colts failed to convert on third-and-1 four times in the game, which forced them to punt and kept the ball out of Manning's hands. Manning has consistently been forced to move around in the pocket, never getting comfortable or in a flow. Since the Colts lack speed at receiver, or the ability to separate against tight man coverage, Manning has had to hold the ball longer, which put pressure on the offensive line. Ultimately, the Colts' inability to control the line ended their season.
Chiefs not playoff ready
Baltimore gave Kansas City every chance to hang around, but the Chiefs just did not have enough talent or overall toughness to deal with the Ravens. Baltimore is mentally tough and might get knocked down a few times in the game -- Ray Lewis for sure -- but the Ravens always bounce back up and keep fighting, competing and playing hard. To beat the Ravens, a team must be mentally tough for 60 minutes.
Packers keep Eagles off guard
A big part of the victory can be attributed to a perfect day in the red zone. The Packers came away with three touchdowns in three trips inside the 20-yard line. They were also effective on third down, converting eight of 13 tries.
Green Bay started the game not blitzing, which caught Philadelphia off guard. When the Eagles are off guard, either offensively or defensively, they never seem to recover. Trailing 14-0, Philadelphia worked hard to get back in the game, but without being able to control the line of scrimmage or make a field goal, the Eagles failed to close the gap.
The two misses by David Akers go further. On the stat sheet, the Eagles appear to have won the turnover-takeaway column with a plus-one advantage. In reality, they were minus-one when you count the two missed field goals as turnovers. Those two misses were as costly as Vick's interception on the final drive.
Green Bay is an extremely dangerous team because it has a solid pass rush and a great quarterback. I wish they would not go into a four-corner offense in the fourth quarter and let Aaron Rodgers put the game away with his arm and accuracy. If the Packers stay aggressive and adopt the Saints' CFL approach, they might be in the Super Bowl.
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