It's a frigid Monday in most of the country today esepcieally in the upper Midwest. What an amazing week of wild card football this weekend. Three games went right down to the wire. Three road teams pulling out victories. Amazing. The Stack is here with reaction to it all plus a preview of tonight's final BCS National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn. There will be plenty of time to talk about Charlie Strong bolting Louisville for Texas and the Titans firing head coach Mike Munchak tomorrow. Now though, let's get right to some reaction from wild card weekend in "the stack" for today, Monday, January 6:
Indianapolis 45 Kansas City 44
If I had told you before the weekend began that the Chiefs-Colts game would have been the highest scoring game of wild card weekend, most of you would have probably laughed and made a bet. Had I told you that Jamaal Charles wouldn't be a part of it, you might have put me in an insane asylum. Had I told you Alex Smith would have thrown four touchdowns and zero interceptions...well you get the picture. The best game of the weekend was the first game. Kansas City lost Charles six plays into the game yet found themselves with a 38-10 lead a couple of minutes into the third quarter after Andrew Luck threw an interception. It looked for all the world like Kansas City would win this game. Sure the Colts scored a touchdown on their next series, but the Chiefs still had a three touchdown lead. Then Smith got sacked by (guess who?) Robert Mathis, fumbling the ball. Colts recovered. Colts scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession.
And talk about luck (maybe pun intended). With the Chiefs up 41-31 in the fourth quarter, Donald Brown, who hasn't lost a fumble in his entire career (thanks Dan Hicks and NBC Sports for that statistic) almost put the broadcaster jynx on him when he fumbled it near the endzone only to have it pop right back to Luck who ran it in for the touchdown. You couldn't draw that one up. If you're a Chiefs fan at that point, that's when you know your team isn't going to win.
Had the Chiefs not dropped like flies, they would have probably hung on to win this game. Concussions killed them. How many guys left? Charles, wide receiver Donnie Avery, cornerback Brandon Flowers, safety Quintin Demps. Think they all left with concussions. Justin Houstin left. That didn't help the defense. Of course, maybe the Chiefs could have just stopped T.Y. Hilton who had a ridiculous 224 receiving yards in this game. He was amazing. The go-to guy for the Colts all game long. Alex Smith made a bad choice late with the Chiefs closing in on field goal range when he got an intentional grounding penalty. Then Dwayne Bowe couldn't keep his feet inbounds on a fourth down play and that was it. The Colts with an improbable come-from-behind victory, second biggest comeback in NFL and postseason history. What a game. Doubt we'll see a game like this the remainder of the playoffs. Fantastic. Are the Colts the team of destiny? Maybe they just have Luck on their side.
Saints 26 Eagles 24
So the New Orleans Saints can't win on the road in the playoffs huh? That argument/fact can be put to rest now. The Saints heard it all week long. They're just not the same team away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Maybe the Philadelphia Eagles just assumed the Saints wouldn't be prepared or great. They certainly weren't sharp themselves. Yes Drew Brees threw two first half interceptions, but when you go in trailing only 7-6, I think any team would take that. The Eagles offense couldn't do anything in the first half and only got things going in the second half after Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis got injured. He had shut down DeSean Jackson all game long, one of the main reasons why the Eagles offense never got going.
The Saints beat the Eagles at what the Eagles do best and that is running the football. They had 185 yards on the ground, 100 more than the Eagles. Mark Ingram was a major catalyst, rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown. After the Eagles took the lead in the fourth quarter 24-23, the Saints took over at midfield thanks to a good return and a 15-yard penalty. They used the ground game to milk the clock and set themselves up for a chip-shot field goal in the middle of the field which Shayne Graham buried to give the Saints, the six seed in the NFC the 26-24 upset win. Now they get to go back to Seattle, site of their 34-7 butt-whooping a month ago. This isn't the same Saints team though. The Seahawks better be prepared.
Chargers 27 Bengals 10
Once again, the Bengals fell flat on their face in the playoffs. Unlike the last two years in which the team lost down in Houston, this time the Bengals got to do it at home in front of their fans. Andy Dalton did not have a good game (two interceptions and one lost fumble), but the game turned in the second quarter when rookie running back sensation Giovanni Bernard fumbled at the two-yard line with the Chargers recovering. Had he hung on to the football, the Bengals would have had it first and goal at the 2-yard line and would have most likely scored a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead. Momentum would have clearly been on their side. Didn't happen and although the Bengals had a 10-7 halftime lead, but you didn't feel good for the Bengals.
The Chargers have been in playoff mode for the last month, having won the final four games of the regular season. They managed to squeek by the Chiefs "B-team" last week, but were completely focused and ready this week. They were great rushing the football and got after Dalton in the second half. Defense was a huge reason why they won this game. A rematch with Denver awaits. They've won once in Denver already. No reason why they can't do it again. Could there be changes on the way in Cincinnati? Wouldn't be shocking if they go away from Dalton who is now 0-3 in the playoffs and consider making a move with head coach Marvin Lewis who is now 0-5 in his playoff career with the Bengals and has not had his team look good in any of the last three years in the playoffs. Cincinnati still has not won a playoff game since 1990.
And with the Chargers winning, this is the first time since 2010 that both six seeds (Chargers and Saints) won on wild card weekend.
49ers 23 Packers 20
Near record-setting cold approached Lambeau Field, but the team that should be used to the weather didn't have enough to stop the visiting team from California. Yes Aaron Rodgers was back for the Packers, but with defense missing Clay Mathews and losing several other starters during the game, it was going to be difficult. Still, didn't it feel like the Packers were on a run with destiny after getting Rodgers back for the final game of the regular season and then beating the Chicago Bears in the winner-take-all NFC North race? Certainly seemed like that to me, yet the 49ers defense smothered the Packers in the first quarter while the 49ers offense gained yards in bunches. Somehow though, they only had a 6-0 lead when Colin Kaepernick threw an interception to Tramon Williams. The Packers scored a touchdown on that possession and some of us had to be thinking "here's destiny coming to save the Packers."
Yet the 49ers answered evertime the Packers scored. They held Green Bay to a field goal late in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 20-20. Had the Packers scored a touchdown on that possession, I thought they would win 24-20. But with five minutes left, it was too much time for San Francisco. By the way, that play where Rodgers escaped and found Randall Cobb was outstanding. The 49ers marched down the field thanks to Kaeprnick's arms and legs and got into position for a game-winning field goal with no time remaining. It was almost blocked, but there would have been an offsides penalty against Green Bay. In cold temperatures, the 49ers went into Green Bay and took care of the Packers. They were 12-4 in the regular season for a reason. Now a rematch with Carolina awaits. Won't that be something. Don't worry Packers fans. The Pack will be back next year.
The NFL playoffs are pretty sweet. No doubt the NFL is the best sport in the world.
#2 Auburn vs. #1 Florida State BCS National Championship Game (Pasadena, CA) 8:30 PM ET ESPN
The final championship game of the BCS era. Next year a playoff system moves into place. Fantastic way to figure things out. Tonight though, we have one game left to decide who is the best team in college football. The team of destiny (seems like the word of the day doesn't it?), the Auburn Tigers and the number one team in the country led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles. Auburn perhaps shouldn't even be here. There's the TD catch on the Hail Mary against Georgia. Of course who can forget the 109-yard missed field goal returned for a touchdown to beat Alabama? Maybe this call is better. Either way, Auburn has certainly caught a few breaks this year.
Perhaps Florida State has too though with the Winston saga and the star being cleared of any sexual assault charges from an incident last year. If they didn't have him, who knows if they would be able to beat this Auburn team. They may have gotten by Duke in the ACC Championship, but that is no guarantee either.
Florida State's defense is tremendous, no denying it. They give up very few points, first in the nation I believe at 10.7 points allowed. They also are the best in scoring at 53.0 points per game. Not bad, not bad. Of course, it's highly unlikely they'll keep Auburn's offense from scoring fewer than ten points. Auburn's got a pretty dynamic offense, especially runninig the football led by Tre Mason, a contender for the Heisman Trophy. Florida State won't stop them, but they will slow them down a little.
In the end, I look at it like this. Auburn's offense may be a little better than Florida State, but Florida State's defense is much better than Auburn's offense. Therefore the arrow swings towards Florida State. Hope it's a good, entertaining football game and as we see the BCS off into the sunset, the Seminoles will be crowned champions.
Prediction: Florida State 38 Auburn 27
Coming up Tuesday: National Championship reaction, Charlie Strong going to Texas plus other top stories from Monday.