Sunday, January 05, 2014

Wildcard Sunday: Time For Change In Cincinnati

The Chargers pulled off the win three decades after the famous 1981 AFC Championship "Freezer Bowl" between Dan Fouts and Ken Anderson.   Meanwhile the 49ers won in another Ice Bowl in Green Bay.

What to make of all this?  Some takeaways starting with San Diego at Cincy -

- Though I'm not yet ready to declare Andy Dalton another playoff bust, it is obvious that not only is there something wrong with him as a quarterback to gag in another playoff game as he did, there is a serious character flaw in him as a quarterback.   There is also the reality about coach Marvin Lewis - 0-5 in the playoffs with nothing he's done in them showing he has any clue or courage to win such games (we kept hearing the Bengals would target A.J Green more, and they didn't).   It illustrates what is holding back the Bengals, a manifestly talented team that can go far - by all accounts I can find, team owner Mike Brown is little more than a crook who has refused to invest in scouting and overall football operations.   He has held onto Marvin Lewis and there had been valid reason to do so, but the continuing playoff failures indicate Lewis' run is ending.   With coordinator Jay Gruden a candidate for at least one NFL head coaching job, it may be time to pull the trigger on Lewis and promote Gruden, a fresh NFL face whose Arena League experience has proven valuable.  

PHILIP RIVERS DIDN'T PUT UP NUMBERS, BUT HE PUT UP EFFECTIVE PLAY - Too many people still look too much at volume stats to determine a quarterback's effectiveness.   Certainly they matter, but the plays made that move the ball also matter.   Philip Rivers had only 128 passing yards but his game management was superior to Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis' - in the battle of wits those two came unarmed.  

- Though Ronnie Brown put up over 70 rushing yards, 58 of them came on one play; it was Danny Woodhead who made the offense for San Diego move.  

- The Bengals had won a lot of battles at the line of scrimmage all season; this time the Chargers won at the line.


It was the first game of the Sunday doubleheader and in the NFC nightcap the 49ers did what they've done the last few years.   Takeways from this game -

THE PACKERS AGAIN CANNOT SEAL THE DEAL WHERE THEY DON'T PUT A TEAM AWAY  - The Packers have long been accused of being front-running frauds and against the 49ers they merely proved it yet again. Aaron Rodgers struggled in the passing game (held to just 177 yards) and has now lost four straight to a 49ers team that in the halcyon days of the 1990s Packers was utterly owned by them.    His comeback against the Bears last week was a game where the Packers didn't trail in the second half beyond eight points - and was only the third game where he erased a gap higher than four points to win.   While he played respectably overall, the fact of not being able to front-run has again cost the Packers.

  - He didn't put up monster numbers (just 3,200 passing yards) but twelve of his 21 touchdowns entering the playoffs came after the loss to the Panthers, and in this game he racked up 325 all-purpose yards, including outrushing the Niners offensive backfield.  

OFFENSE PLAYED CONSERVATIVELY OVERALL - In both Sunday games there seemed far greater emphasis on running the ball instead of attacking through the air (in both games the two opponents combined for some 300 rushing yards; the two games combined flirted with 600 all told).   Though the defenses played well, there could have been more scoring with more aggressive offense.

THE SOUTH AND WEST ARE THE STRONGEST DIVISIONS IN THE NFC - Seattle and Carolina await each other's division foes while the Rams and Cardinals showcased real growth in 2013 for possible playoff spots in 2014.   Atlanta's collapse may not be replicated given how much talent is there, while the Bucs are starting anew, this time with a coach in Lovie Smith from Tampa Bay's former NFC Central home.  

And so it goes, as they might say, with Divisional Saturday around the corner.

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