So Saturday's NFL playoffs rained in two finalists for the conference championships and the home teams as expected won both. Some observations -
RENAISSANCE OF THE RUN
- With proliferation of nickel defenses, the run game has become markedly more frequent; the Patriots and Seahawks showcased this as Marshawn Lynch exploded to 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns while LeGarrette Blount did him better with over 160 yards and four scores. In all the Patriots scored six touchdowns on the ground - a supreme irony for the Colts is that the last team that had that many rushing scores was Kansas City(eight rushing scores against Atlanta in 2004).
SEATTLE'S VAUNTED PASS DEFENSE CAN BE PIERCED
- The Seahawks controlled the game for much of the day - but not necesarily all of it. Drew Brees erupted to 309 yards and led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
THE SEAHAWKS WERE BY FAR THE LESS DECISIVE OF THE SATURDAY WINNERS - The Seahawks were as good as advertised, yet the fact of two missed Saints FGAs and the fourth-quarter touchdowns by New Orleans put a scare into Seattle until Marquis Colston's preposterous forward throw with two seconds to go; one recalls Pittsburgh's indecisive win over the NY Jets in the 2004 divisional playoffs that wound up haunting the Steelers the next week. New England in contrast put the game against Indianapolis away, even with several special teams penalties and the injury that necessiated Stephen Gostkowski to punt and Tom Brady to be the PAT holder.
HISTORY AND MATCHUPS MATTER - New Orleans and Indianapolis lost for numerous reasons; among the most under-appreciated is that the history of their matchups was overwhelmingly against them. Pete Carroll overall owns the Saints and Bill Belichick owns the Colts.
ANDREW LUCK, PLAYOFF MIXED BAG
- Andrew Luck's NFL career is going to be enormous, but he has showcased that he is a radically mixed bag as a playoff quarterback - it comes back to history and matchups as he faced a Kansas City team whose matchup overwhelmingly favored him and then faced a New England team where the matchup is overwhelmingly in favor of the Patriots. He was that good against Kansas City and that bad against the Patriots.
THE NEW TENNESSEE TITANS - Several scraps ensued in the fourth quarter in Foxboro and Jerrell Freeman of the Colts threw several punches yet got away with it. This is what the Tennessee Titans used to do and apparently the Colts want that in their game.
COACHING DIFFERENCES - Down big in the fourth quarter the Colts faced a scenario where they threw two incompletions needing to gain one down and then punted - an indication the Colts were quitting on the game where it appeared they could have tried a run.
Thus was Divisional Saturday completed as the Patriots and Seahawks were singing in Gene Kelly's rain.