|Posted by Radatz on January 14, 2018 at 8:45 PM|
Pair of stunners, for different reasons. The one thing they had in common was that it's not a great idea to fall behind by three scores early, no matter who you are. Even if magic is required to prove it. Both games featured calls quietly reversed and flags picked up (same thing) on orders from NY. Nobody complained. The Patriots weren't involved.
MIN 30 NO 24: Remember when the Vikings were an also-ran without a real QB? Or the Saints were aging into oblivion? Wasn't that long ago. How things change.
At halftime the best thing seen so far was the Skittlepox ad. Brees was tossing picks and Minnesota was cruising 17-0. Both teams missed FGs before the half. Yawn. Then the Saints woke up and scored twice. They'd dominate the 2nd half until the likely last play of the game. Needing yardage before a FG try and lacking time, the Vikings tried to use the 25 seconds they had to erase the 1-point deficit NO had put them in with a FG of their own. It wasn't going well, and it was obvious that only a sideline pass for good yardage with a move out of bounds would permit the try. Asked what they could do, I quipped "I dunno, maybe they'll throw for a miracle touchdown or something."
Which of course is what they did. The guy who made Teddy water under the bridge heaved yet another pickable-looking lob downfield, to the sideline of course. What did the Saints do? Why, they not only let Diggs catch it, but instead of tackling him inbounds and letting the clock likely expire before the FG team could possibly get set up, they dived at his legs, managing somehow to miss him entirely. "Thank you" sez Diggs as he bolts downfield unobstructed into the end zone. Digging a hole for yourself leaves you little margin for error, but what a way for the law of averages to assert itself.
Great game, great win. Brutal loss. Understand I wanted NO because I think it's wrong for a team to get a home Super Bowl. And it's why I'll root for Philadelphia, not my favorite city, next week. I think. Maybe. Tough one.
JAX 45 PIT 42: Whoda thunk in this defensive battle that both teams would outscore New England? Or that Jacksonville would pile up a 28-7 lead before Ben woke up just before halftime? Somewhere in the 3rd you were probably thinking what I was thinking, that Pitt was done playing games and was about to roll over the Jags. Ben was hitting miracle bombs with almost boring regularity. Fournette was hurt. He played after the rather phantom ankle injury, but he wasn't the same. He never ran outside or ran away from anybody and it's something of a mystery why they let him do what Yeldon could have done and hurt himself more.
But something funny happened. Jacksonville held on after Pitt cut it to a one-score lead and kept adding a score everytime Pitt closed. Bortles wasn't Ben (few are) but he looked anything but nervous and kept hitting just enough key first down passes and making enough first down runs to keep Pittsburgh at bay. The defense, reduced to Swiss cheese by Ben and his receivers (despite the vaunted Steeler running game going nowhere), rebounded just enough. At the end, playing catchup, Pitt showed remarkably poor coaching by (a) gambling on an onside kick with over 2 minutes left and all 3 TOs (resulting in a Jax FG) and (b) eating up the entire game clock on a final TD drive, leaving themselves exactly 1 second to onside kick, recover, have Jax cooperate with instant contact (which, truth be told, they probably would have) and kick a looong FG. You can't do that. They knew it and kicked an intermediate line drive for reasons only the Pittsburgh brain trust could possibly explain. Marrone is far from a great coach but the tactical errors of Tomlin & Co. made him look that way by contrast.
All week NE was supposed to be the distracted team (again). It's ironically funny that the Steelers' loose cannons may have managed to win the distraction contest. Predictive stat of the week: I noted some tv pundits showing a stat that had Pitt at 0-5 (this year? playoffs?) when Ben throws for OVER 275 yards. Today he threw for 469 yards. With 5 TDs. And they lost. Figure that one out.
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