|Posted by Radatz on January 14, 2018 at 12:10 AM|
We saw two top seeds win, one anticipated, the other perhaps not. One game was a blowout; the other was close, low-scoring and a shade controversial.
PHI 15 ATL 10: It was sort of heartwarming to see the maligned Nick Foles engineer a low-scoring win for the Eagles, but this somewhat poorly-officiated game had a climax nobody mentioned. When Clement got the first down at the end following Atlanta's ill-timed offside, I ran it back several times and each time it verified my initial observation that Clement's knee was down with the ball a foot or more short of the spot needed to ice the game. NBC never even showed a replay. The booth acted like nothing happened. Hmmmm sez I. Falcon fans probably also thought Jones, who "fell down" in the end zone on Atlanta's final offensive play, was helped fairly forcefully. Then again, the refs practically gifted Atlanta their first TD.
Having such a good game's key plays come down to officiating (or lack thereof) is a shame. Assuming these things had nothing to do with the outcome (which they may have), what was the key? There were several. Good as Ryan was, Foles actually outplayed him on paper after a hot 2nd half. Coleman was pretty good; Freeman was useless. Ajayi led Philly in rushing but was largely useless also. Clement ran once for the aforementioned 4 1/2 yards for which he was credited with the 5 which ended the game. Both teams clearly targeted the run, but you have to assume Atlanta sold out more with Foles in the game. Both coaches brainfarted timeouts away. But ultimately it probably really came down to 4th and goal from the 2. Despite falling or being knocked down, Jones had a shot at a good jump ball tossed by Ryan and couldn't get it. Perhaps the refs were wary about handing Atlanta a 1st-and-goal from the 1 for illegal contact, considering Atlanta's first scoring drive.
We also got Company Guy Collinsworth in all his glory. Everything he saw was subject to a shameless promo. Then again he's a product of his times. It's now entertainment first.
NE 35 TEN 14: Bye weeks have been a mixed blessing for NE lately. True to form, they came out stale, Tennessee scored and led after the 1st quarter, and Romo was rockin', analyzing how the Titans physically had what it took to derail the Patriots. Within minutes they tied the game. Not long after he was griping about every call that went against Tennessee or didn't go against New England. He steadied down after the half, possibly after a pep talk, and watched the physically overmatched Patriots stifle the Tennessee running game and sack Mariota 8 times while running up 35 straight points. His new analysis was that the Titans had lost RT Conklin. Actually, losing Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston and Forrest Gregg probably wouldn't have excused what happened. It was the one thing nobody seemed to have anticipated (except NE) and turned an early contest into a crushing rout as the Patriot offense similarly outplayed the vaunted Titan D. By late in the game, Romo was a fan-boy.
Theories of a fractured locker room and front office took a similar bath. Even with two games to go, it's a safe bet that NE will be seen as the team to beat at the end of the weekend. Ultimately, they looked that good after starting out that bad.
Statistically, it seemed surreal that Brady threw 53 times. The NE offense seemed rushing-dominated for large portions of the game and, in fact, they ran for 100 yards. But the fact was that NE just ran a lot of plays (80) using up-tempo on a number of drives in midgame, several of which were clock chompers. Neither team had a turnover.
But perhaps the most amazing stat of this game is historical. New England goes to its SEVENTH CONSECUTIVE AFC title game.
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