Breaking down NFL Wild Card weekend

Tebow and the Broncos, plus the rest of my game notes. Matt Bowen

Print This January 08, 2012, 11:20 PM EST

Saints 45 Lions 28

Drew BreesICONBrees and the Saints put up over 600-plus yards of total offense.

1. Brees vs. the Lions’ secondary: As I talked about last night, this Detroit defense gave up two deep balls playing Cover 2 (a scheme designed to take away the vertical game), but there’s more to this. I saw a secondary that struggled to tackle in the open field, locate the ball in the air and come up with a big play vs. Brees (33-46-466-3 TDs). And don’t forget about the Saints’ O-Line. This unit shut down the Lions’ front four and gave the QB plenty of time to read coverages and deliver the ball. Some upgrades are needed in the Detroit secondary after the Saints put up over 600-plus yards of offense.

2. Still looking for a game plan limit Calvin Johnson: It might be time to stop talking Xs and Os with the Lions’ WR. Saints’ DC Gregg Williams used Cover 1 (man-free), Cover 2, 2-Man (2-deep, man-under), Cover 7 (combination man), etc. The results? Johnson finished with 211-yards and 2 TDs on 12 receptions. The Lions aligned him in multiple positions throughout the game, scripted a red zone game plan to get him the football and matched him up vs. a deep half safety down the field. We can go to the chalkboard and come up with defenses that are designed to take away a No.1 WR in the NFL. That’s easy. But after seeing Johnson on Saturday night I don’t have a legitimate answer to limiting his skill set.

3. Sproles’ impact: The Saints’ RB didn’t have the overall numbers that are going to jump out in the box score (85-total yards), but he accounted for 2 TDs on the ground and played an impact role in a key drive. Go back to the 4th down situation in the fourth quarter. The Saints use Sproles to run the outside toss to move the sticks. Later in the drive, an option route vs. a LB to convert and then the 17-yard TD run to give New Orleans a 10-point lead. From my perspective, that drive showed Sproles’ true value in Sean Payton’s playbook. A “matchup player” that gives the Saints’ an advantage in their game plan.

Texans 31 Bengals 10

Arian FosterICON153-yards and 2 TDs for the Pro Bowl talent in Houston's win over the Bengals.

1. Arian Foster: The Texans’ RB produced 153-yards and 2 TDs on 23 carries. Big numbers, but I was more impressed with his ability to press the edge of the Bengals’ defensive front. Foster showed speed, vision and power once he got to the second level of the defense in the Texans’ zone blocking scheme. He ran through tackles, moved the sticks and gave his rookie QB good field position to work with. Exactly what you want from a Pro Bowl talent in the playoffs.

2. Yates vs. Dalton: The turnovers and the running game were the difference. I thought both rookie QBs looked nervous to start this game and we should have expected that. However, Dalton (27-42-257) threw 3 INTS (one coming on a highlight play from DE J.J. Watt) and didn’t have the security of consistent production from Cedric Benson and the run game. Yates will have to make some plays if the Texans are going to get by the Ravens next week, but for a first start in the playoffs, we have to look at this as a positive. He protected the ball, found Andre Johnson on the double-move and didn’t put his defense in adverse field position.

3. The Bengals’ secondary: A tough day when looking at the tackling vs. Foster (especially on the 42-yard TD) and the deep ball vs. Adam (Pacman) Jones that I that I broke down after the game. The Cincy secondary took poor angles in run support, didn’t wrap up on Foster and gave up a double-move with lazy technique at both the CB and FS position. But I still go back to the run support, because if you want to win in the playoffs, your secondary has to fill the hole and get the RB on the ground. I wasn't impressed.

Follow me on Twitter: @MattBowen41

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