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Be Yourself!

Mill Woods

Posted on January 7, 2019 08:25

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Wild Card Weekend was punctuated by incredible plays and dramatic endings, but the teams who won were the ones who played their style of football for 60 minutes. The Colts and Chargers, for example, kept their foot on the accelerator offensively, while their aggressive defenses forced the opponents to punt a lot. The Colts and Chargers are moving on to the next round, while the Texans and Ravens debate what went wrong.

Early in the Texans' match against the Colts on Saturday, a troubling trend emerged: the Texans' offense appeared tentative. Meanwhile, the Colts had their foot on the gas pedal from the first snap. Texans QB Deshaun Watson spent the 2018 season baffling the opposition with daring scrambles and designed runs, setting up play-action passes and feeds to other playmakers via the run-pass option. But early in Saturday's showdown, it appeared that Watson had transformed into a pocket QB, reluctant to run. This muted the effectiveness of the RPO and the PAP.

The Colts' potent defense destroyed the Texans' running game, while their feisty offense put up 21 points - before the Texans finally got serious about at least keeping the football and not punting after every three plays. By then, however, it was too late. To be fair, Watson was not 100% healthy. But his mobility was the key to the Texans' offense - and the key to their playoff hopes - so, without that mobility, the Texans make their exit.

A similar drama played out Sunday night, when Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky dialed back his running noticeably. The Bears' head coach Matt Nagy had told the injured Trubisky that if he was able to play, "then go out and play". Trubisky tried to run early in the game, but pulled up limping. After that, Trubisky was a pocket QB. Although he performed fairly well in that role, it was not enough for the Bears' offense to pull away from the Eagles. The game came down to a field goal - and everyone in football land knows how that turned out. Long before that failed attempt, the Bears had given up the home field advantage by failing to score on one opportunity after another.

For the Ravens, the play of (and the plays called for) QB Lamar Jackson were the disappointing piece of the puzzle. Many will say that Jackson was faced with overwhelming pass pressure by the Chargers, but I think the Chargers' decision early in the game to limit his running set the team up for fierce pass pressure later in the game. The Ravens failed to move the ball in the first half, and that emboldened the Chargers, whose offense struggled to score TDs but kept adding field goals. By the time the Ravens decided that Jackson needed to get the offense moving, the game was almost out of reach.

The Cowboys and Seahawks were very evenly matched, and both teams played all-out from the first snap. The difference, in my view, was that the Cowboys had the better running game and the bigger, tougher QB. Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott made plays when it counted, and so the Cowboys were the one home team in the weekend that was able to advance.

In Wild Card Weekend, the teams that were able to continue doing what they did for 17 weeks in the regular season were the ones who prevailed.

Mill Woods

Posted on January 7, 2019 08:25

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