Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. Today I'm going to be analyzing the four games from this weekend in the NFL Playoffs, and giving what I think are the biggest takeaways. It was a crazy week of action, so there are a lot of things I want to go over. Also, just quickly before I start, I wanted to let everyone know I'll be posting more often and on my normal schedule from now on, and that I had to take an absence due to my holiday break, and then a very busy couple of weeks in school (exams are this week but I'll have time to write). Thanks for sticking with me, and make sure to share this article since it helps TTR grow.
Philadelphia Eagles (15) - Atlanta Falcons (10):
I feel like the story of this game was quite simple--the Falcons offense didn't show up. To be honest, I think that has been the story of their season. Ever since Kyle Shanahan left to become the 49ers head coach, this offense has fallen apart. Steve Sarkisian, the current coordinator, has relied on the run game all season, which I think is a smart move. They have two great backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. What I found to be ridiculous, though, is that heading into this game the Falcons knew they were facing the number five rushing defense in the NFL, but they made little to no adjustments. They came out running straight at Fletcher Cox, the second best defensive tackle in football this year, and the anchor of the Philly defense. Instead of attacking the flats in the passing game with wheel routes and screen plays, or running stretch and pitch plays to run away from Cox, they played right into his hands, as he ended with 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 7 total tackles. This inability to rush the football (Devonta Freeman, their number one back, had 10 carries for 7 yards) led to the Falcons ball control style (they ended the year with more time of possession then their opponents) to fail, and Philly's defense won this game.
On the Eagles side of things, this game was the defense proving to everybody that they can carry this team. Ever since Carson Wentz went down for the year with an ACL tear and Nick Foles replaced him, nobody believed the Eagles would win a Playoff game. This weekend their third ranked defense proved to everybody they can shut down some of the better offenses in the NFL. On the offensive side of things, there are some concerns though. Nick Foles looked shaky pretty much all game long, and he missed a sizable amount of open throws. Rushing the football, the team only averaged 3.0 yards per carry, although watching the game both Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount had punishing runs in which they picked up huge yards after contact. If the Eagles can rush the ball more effectively, and the defense continues to get to opposing quarterbacks (they had 3 sacks and 11 QB hits this week) they can continue their Playoff run.
New England Patriots (35) - Tennessee Titans (14):
I can't say that I'm surprised by the outcome of this game. I also can't say I'm surprised that the game would have been much closer if it weren't for bad officiating in favor of New England. The Titans had a 7-0 lead to end the first quarter, and they were pretty much executing how they had to in order to win--run the football, chew clock, don't let the Patriots get huge yards after the catch on their short throws. Then, after New England tied the ball game up, on a 3rd and 4 for the Titans, who were moving the ball with ease on the Pats defense, a pass to Eric Decker that picked up another first down was called back for offensive pass interference. Tony Romo, who was calling the game, spent the rest of the game highlighting how poor of a call it was, and the ramifications it had. Tennessee then had to punt the ball, giving New England great field position (they got the ball at the 47 yard line). New England went on to score, giving them a 14-7 lead. The next possession the Titans moved the ball well, but had to punt around mid field, pinning New England back at their own 9. The Pats then went on to go 3 and out, but when they punted the ball, the play was blown dead, due to a false start on the New England center. The refs then huddled, and changed the call to encroachment of Tennessee giving the Patriots an automatic first down. The replay showed that the Titans never crossed the line of scrimmage, and the Pats were guilty of a false start. New England went on to score a touchdown on that drive, pretty much ending the game for the Titans, as they were in a 21-7 hole. The refs basically spotted the Pats 14 points, and it completely changed the course of the game.
I'd like to say that I still expected the Patriots to win that game, because being down 7-0 isn't a death sentence. What I can say, though, is that the Eric Decker pass interference penalty was a death sentence to the Titans momentum, as they were poised to score at least 3 on that drive. Also, the encroachment penalty giving the Pats the ball back and another 7 points was a death sentence to the Titans entire game plan of playing ball control offense with a lead.
I hate the officials when the Patriots are playing.
Jacksonville Jaguars (45) - Pittsburgh Steelers (42):
Wow. Just...wow. I want to start by talking about the Steelers quickly, and then I'll get into the Jaguars. First off, this team needs some credit for not quitting. They fell into a 21-0 hole, and kept clawing their way back into the game. Two insane fourth down touchdown plays (36 yard pass to Martavis Bryant and a 43 yard pass to Antonio Brown) highlight the high powered fight from the Steelers offense. What needs to be said about the offense, though, is that they didn't show up at the beginning of the game. Their first three drives were a 3 and out, 3 plays and an interception, and then a turnover on downs. That did not help their defense which struggled all day. Speaking of the defense, people need to understand the impact of Ryan Shazier. Everything that the Jaguars had success with--mostly short passes to the flats and running the ball--was what Ryan Shazier was great at taking away. Without him this defense was pathetic and unable to stop the Jags. Finally, I need to mention Mike Tomlin. His "players coach" style backfired this weekend. He clearly wasn't strict enough with his players, as Pittsburgh was clearly already looking ahead to New England and not focused on their match up with Jacksonville. Also, his play calling decisions on their two fourth down and inches plays were horrendous. The first they ran a pitch to the right side, basically trying to outrun the fastest defense in the NFL. It went for a loss of four yards. The next try they ran a play action pass play to hit Juju Smith-Schuster deep. The play was perfectly covered, and it was incomplete. When you have a 6' 5'' 241 pound quarterback I would suggest running a quarterback sneak. Tom Brady has a tenth of the toughness Big Ben does, and he runs a QB sneak every time the Pats only need a yard. Lastly for Tomlin, with over two minutes left in the game, down 7, he elected to go for an onside kick rather than kick off, use timeouts (they had all three left) and the two minute warning to stop the clock and try and force a punt. I understand that the defense had not been playing well, but they would have been putting the Jaguars in a must run situation, so the defense could have just stacked the box. The choice to go on sides gave the Jags the ball in great field position, and they kicked a field goal to ice the game. Tomlin is to blame for the awful late game management.
Now that I'm done bashing the Steelers, which is where most people have been ending their evaluations, I want to give the Jaguars credit. Their offense was spectacular. Leonard Fournette had 109 yards and 3 TDs, giving the team the lift they needed on the ground, and Blake Bortles made throws to win the game when he had to. At the end of the game he hit rookie receiver Keenan Cole with a strike 45 yards down the field to set them up at the Pittsburgh 3 yard line. He played well yesterday, and if he can keep that up, the Jaguars have a really good chance to win again. For the defense, I don't know what to say. They played incredibly well except for a couple huge plays made by some of the best talent in the NFL in Antonio Brown, Leveon Bell, and Ben Roethlisberger. Those plays are what made the score so high, but when you watch the tape the Steelers were uncomfortable all game long, and they were forced to turn the ball over. This team deserves a pat on the back.
Minnesota Vikings (29) - New Orleans Saints (24):
This was the best game of the entire postseason. I just don't see how anything can top the ending. It was the first ever walk off in NFL Playoff history. I'm just speechless. I'll ignore the ending for awhile though, and start by talking about the Saints. They looked average in the first half of this game, letting the Vikings defense shut out the offense. The Saints defense, due to the offensive struggles, was on the field too long and let up 17 points. That wasn't the interesting part of the game though. In the second half the Saints stormed back, scoring 14 straight points (both were touchdown passes to Michael Thomas). Then, the Vikings offense got back on track, putting up a field goal on the next possession, making it a 20-14 game. New Orleans would go on to score another touchdown, see Minnesota score a field goal, and then the Saints would kick a field goal of their own, making it 24-23. Then the last play happened. Ignoring the insanity that was a walk off touchdown to Stefon Diggs as time expired, I'd like to say that this Saints offense may have seemed like itself in the second half, but it wasn't. This team was built around the run all season, with two running backs in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara who had over 1500 yards from scrimmage each. It was not a team carried by Drew Brees. Yesterday (and in their previous Playoff game) Drew Brees carried them. The team only had 80 rushing yards on 3.3 yards per carry, which is almost awful. Brees on the other hand, threw for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns (he had two picks but one wasn't his fault). Brees single handedly brought this team back into the game after a horrendous first half, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. That style of play isn't how the Saints have found success this year though, and I think people are overlooking that aspect of the game.
On the Vikings end of things, they played a great game on both sides of the ball in the first half, and then sort of fell off in the third quarter. The defense was solid though, especially in stopping the run. They had the third ranked run defense in the league, and they showed it against the best running back tandem in the NFL. The pass defense was good as well, with 8 passes defensed and 2 interceptions. This defense has been and should be able to carry the Vikings further in the Playoffs. Offensively, Case Keenum played a solid game with 318 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. The biggest play of the game was obviously that final play, which I'll talk about briefly now. Keenum deserves a lot of credit for that throw although he hasn't been receiving much. He placed it perfectly along the sideline, allowing Stefon Diggs to make the catch and have the option to step out of bounds and set up a game winning field goal try. If it weren't for Marcus Williams missed tackle on Diggs which allowed him to walk untouched into the endzone to end the game, that is what would have happened--Kai Forbath would have had to try and win the game on a field goal attempt with about 4 seconds left.
I want to quickly say something about the notion that the Vikings got lucky and would have definitely lost the game. Like I said earlier, Keenum placed the ball perfectly so that even if a tackle had been made on Diggs, there's an 80% chance he would have gone out of bounds. That would have set up about a 50 yard field goal try, which is most definitely makeable. Either way, the game came down to the wire if the Saints had won they would have earned it just as much as the Vikings did.
High School Senior from Connecticut obsessed with sports stats, facts, and management.