Post game notes: Wild Card Saturday
Before we get into the Sunday wild card action, let’s take a look back at my game notes from yesterday’s matchups.
AFC Wild Card
Jets 24 Bengals 14
The Jets game plan
Look familiar? The game plan by Jets offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, was almost a replica of what we saw last Sunday night in the playoff clinching win for New York: the power running game and the 3-step passing game. However, what was installed this week and what made the Jets look like a big play team was the misdirection plays: the boots, the play action, and the counter-flip to RB Shonn Greene that went for a 39-yard TD. A perfect example of game study to take advantage of an overly aggressive defense in the Bengals.
When a RB has a performance on this big of a stage you continue to feature him for as long as you can stay alive in the post-season. Expect the Jets to cater more towards the rookie from Iowa next week because of the production he showed yesterday. No, I am not taking anything away from Thomas Jones, but Greene looks more explosive running downhill, he has a unique burst to the second level for a back his size, plays with a low pad level and can produce in the Jets core game plan on the ground: the Lead Open, the Power O and the Outside Zone. I still expect both of them to share carries next weekend, but if I am Rex Ryan, I go to Greene when I need a play in the running game. 21 carries for 135 yards in a playoff game is hard to argue.
The Jets had no problem pressuring Palmer and when they did play man coverage in the back end, they challenged receivers and drove hard downhill on the football. It is tough to get production from the QB position against the Jets when CB Darrelle Revis can take away the vertical game against the only deep threat the Bengals had in Chad Ochocinco. What does that leave? Nothing, except throwing a slant or eating the football in the pocket.
Sanchez gets it done
I have been pretty hard on the rookie from USC, but yesterday he did everything right within the game plan of the Jets. He threw the slant with accuracy and power, completed the passes that moved the chains and when he had a play to make a big play, he put the football where it was supposed to go. It sounds simple, but for a rookie to do that on the stage that is the NFL playoffs is impressive in my book. And, his teammates helped him out by making plays with the football. 12-15 for 182 yards and a TD will win in January.
Cedric goes off
Even in a losing effort we have to give some credit to Bengals running back Cedric Benson. To run the ball for 169 yards against the Jets front seven is impressive. His performance is a great example of a running back “seeing the field.” The cutback, the lateral change of direction and the ability to become a one-cut runner—planting his foot and getting up field. Expect the Jets future opponents to study this game tape and use Benson as an example of how to run the ball against what I think might be the best defense in the league. Not bad for a guy that the Bears put on the street.
Shayne Graham. There isn’t much we can really say about an NFL kicker blowing makeable opportunities in the post season. Those lose games at this level. If the Bengals were playing on the road, I don’t know if he would have been allowed on the plane ride home.
NFC Wild Card
Cowboys 34 Eagles 14
The Dallas Game Plan
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett did an excellent job of installing a game plan that was conducive to the weapons he has at his disposal. The opening drive of the game—although it didn’t produce points because of penalties—was the perfect blend of the best Dallas had to offer. They threw the wide receiver screen, the throw back screen to the running back, the wildcat with Tashard Choice, and their intermediate passing game. Multiple personnel groupings and multiple looks. They had the Philly defense on their heels the rest of the night.
Felix Jones/ Marion Barber
As we saw last night, Felix Jones is the feature back for the Cowboys playoff run. With Marion Barber standing on the sideline—healthy—Jones took advantage of the role he was given and proved that he should be the main focus of the Cowboys running game. He can get to the second level of the defense with speed and he is much more of a weapon on the screen game than Barber. I wouldn’t completely count out Barber if the Cowboys make a deep playoff run—as he will be needed—but it look as if Dallas has made a choice when it comes to the running back position.
What about McNabb?
I don’t want to pile on McNabb this Sunday morning, but wasn’t it obvious that he was off of his game last night for a variety of reasons? He is still one of the best when it comes to using his feet in the pocket to slide past the rush, but his throws were off and he never looked comfortable from my perspective. Yes, the Eagles cannot block the Cowboys, but sooner or later your veteran leader has to make a play at the quarterback position. Average night for McNabb: 19-37-230-1TD-1INT.
The Cowboys on defense
Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware are men when they come off the edge. The Eagles didn’t have an answer for them. And, when they tried to go down the field in their big play offense, the Cowboys played a Cover 4 look against WR DeSean Jackson on 1st and 2nd downs with the safety running underneath Jackson and the corner playing over the top with outside leverage. The deep route turns into a double coverage that way—with two players bracketing Jackson down the field. Plus, when they had the Eagles in third and long situations, they went to their 2-Man schemes, playing trail-man with two deep safeties putting a tent on the defense. A good way to take away the deep ball.
Romo was good last night throwing for 244 yards and two TDs, but more importantly, he isn’t turning the ball over. With the weapons he has to use on offense and a defense that can rush the passer versus any offensive line left in the playoff field, Romo needs to continue to play within the scheme of this offense if the Cowboys are going to make a run. Play consistent and come to the stadium knowing that he doesn’t have to force passes to win football games. Miles Austin, Jason Witten and the running game can move the ball for him.
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