The first slate of games in the NFL’s 2015 postseason could not have been more opposite if they tried. On the one hand you had the massacre of the Houston Texans (and Brian Hoyer’s career as a starting QB) at the hands of the Chiefs and, on the other, the gutter war that was the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh contest. If you watched any of the game last night or watch any sports coverage this morning you know what a circus that was.
Now, despite the fact that I called both outcomes, the results of both games and the way they went down have me questioning my outlook. I’ll stick to my guns though and hope that the injuries the Steelers suffered in their game are not as serious as they appear and that they can still challenge, and beat, Denver with Noodle-Arm McGee back starting. Before we get to the Steelers and yesterday’s game that everyone will be talking about let’s go over JJ Watt’s season ending first.
And just like that the Texans postseason was over. True, only 11 seconds had passed in the game but that was all she wrote for JJ Watt, Bill O’Brien, Brian Hoyer, and the Houston Texans. Patriots Light couldn’t muster a single point against Andy Reid’s Chiefs who dominated the game in every facet. Couple that with Brian Hoyer’s atrocious day that certainly ended his starting career and you have all the makings of a 30-0 shit-kicking. There was a moment when the game was still within reach for Houston down 13-0. In the Red Zone 1st and Goal from the 2 and you thought, “OK now we are going to get a game”. The sequence went as follows:
-Put JJ Watt in at QB in a wildcat formation with Vince Wilfork as the wingback/lead blocker on the right side. Run that way. Get stuffed and lose 2 yards. Grabassery and guffaws all around.
-Brian Hoyer throws unforgivable INT to a double covered RB on the goal line.
That pretty much summed up the Texans day. I’m not going to go into too much detail about Hoyer’s day because that would be like asking and getting the security camera footage behind the shed that Travis takes Old Yeller behind. All you have to do is look at his stat line and you can guess what kind of game he had. Now imagine it twice as worse and that’s about where his day went. O’Brien had to be beside himself but after benching Hoyer too quick earlier in the season I think he decided to let Brian redeem himself or have his career die trying. We watched the latter. I suppose he could have put in Weeden at the half but why add to the carnage? Besides, when your alternative looks like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit’s son made flesh do you really have an alternative?
The Chiefs on the other hand looked great. They look like a throwback Andy Reid playoff team circa the early 2000s Eagles. Great special teams play and an opportunistic defense anchored by a solid offense. Dangerous. The only drawback to this game is that Hoyer played so badly it almost makes you want to think the result is artificial. The truth is the Chiefs would’ve won this game easily if the Texans had played even decent. When the Texans played like they did its not surprising the Chiefs crushed them.
The Chiefs didn’t make it unscathed though. Maclin suffered a knee injury and judging by the play and his reaction I’d guess it was an ACL or an MCL at least aka done for the playoffs. That means the Chiefs lose their best WR heading into New England already down their best RB with Charles on IR. Heap all that weight onto the broad, iron shoulders of Alex Smith and let’s dance fat man!
My last takeaway from the game, and its an admittedly hot take, is that it seems like JJ Watt doesn’t show up in big games. I know he got hurt late in this game with a groin injury that is going to require surgery but he was a pretty quiet up until that point. Just feels like he disappears in the spotlight. Oh well. Now he’s got the offseason to heal, train flipping that big tire, and memorizing all of Fort Minor’s hit song.
The Chiefs vs Texans was technically a NFL playoff game. The Steelers vs Bengals was a GODDAMNED NFL playoff game. You don’t get it too often in the NFL nowadays. Those teams that legitimately hate each other and this game was all of that and more. That more happened to be way over the line of sportsmanship or human decency but I for one can’t tell you that I honestly didn’t love it. The cheap shots, the jawing, coaches getting involved, the physicality. Looking at a score like 18-16 makes you automatically think the game was a rock fight and that’s exactly what this game was. A rock fight in the gutter.
A lot is going to be made of the Burfict hit on Antonio Brown and rightly so. It was clearly a targeting hit. It was, in fact, the cleanest shoulder-to-headshot I’ve seen in the NFL in recent memory. It looked like an illegal check in the NHL and in that single blow Burfict took the Steelers best receiver out of the game and possibly the Divisional round and beyond. All of that can’t be ignored and Vontaze will pay but, in reality, he’s just the fall guy for a chippy, dirty game that the Steelers managed to emerge bloody but victorious.
I mean before the hit that knocked out Antonio Brown you had Ryan Shazier tucking Giovani Bernard into bed at the end third quarter. That play drew no flag which essentially put a one way ticket to crazy town in the Bengals hands at an emotional discount heading into what became the raucous fourth. Even before that hit, you had Mike Munchak grabbing Reggie Nelson and trying to ole him into the Steelers bench for a perceived late push. It was a bizarre, angry game that the more undisciplined team would lose and that is exactly what happened.
That is the reason why Marvin Lewis is and should get fired. Not so much for Burfict. That is who he is. He’s a great player and a horrible sportsman. Mike Brown knows that and doesn’t care. For every personal foul flag he’ll get there will always be a key INT or a key sack, like there was last night. I mean, was anyone surprised it was Vontaze with that shot? He was actually catching flak for the type of player he was before the hit on Brown ever happened. When he sacked and injured Roethlisberger on a clean play (he form tackled Big Ben) you would’ve thought Burfict hit him with a steel chair the way Nantz and Simms talked. Their words proved more prophetic than relevant though as Burfict’s dirty play validated their disdain earlier in the game.
No, the reason Marvin Lewis is going to/should get fired is because of the penalty Adam Jones got (he’s taking it well, right?). You can’t get that penalty. You can’t lose your mind because a former nemesis/opposing coach is on the field (for whatever reason. Steelers were doing some shady shit all game as noted) and swing at him. That comes from not caring. That comes from not being held responsible. That comes from shitty coaching and Marvin Lewis is now 0-7 in the playoffs. Its a combination of the Bengals personnel moves and complacency at head coach that we saw come home to roost in this game. Its something that is going to keep happening as long as Mike Brown makes the roster call and Marvin Lewis coaches them.
The Steelers survive and advance to play Denver in the Divisional round. This was the matchup I wanted but now, with Roethlisberger banged up and Antonio Brown’s mind in orbit it seems like the Steelers are a creaky ship heading into a buzzsaw. They are going to need a great game from their defense, who definitely showed ample fire and ability in this game, and win in the special team game to get to the AFC Championship. My only fear is that sometimes big, emotional games sap the energy from a team so its possible the Steelers could sleepwalk into Denver and get bludgeoned. I hope not but its starting to feel that way. We’ll have to wait and see that status of Ben and Brown (not to mention DeAngelo Williams) before I can give them any chance to get by the Broncos.