Welcome back everyone to the second edition of The Kickoff. Last week we saw the Titans pull off the upset over the Chiefs and the Falcons not blow any leads to defeat the Rams. Meanwhile, the Jaguars and Saints both advanced as well. As a result, if we were to be keeping tally of how correct these predictions are, we would be sitting at a record of 2-2. We could literally flip a coin and get the same results. This week we will have the Divisional round where the winners will move on to the AFC or NFC Championships. Let us begin, shall we?
- The Battle of the Birds.
Atlanta wins the toss and starts moving downfield slowly, but effectively on their opening drive. This slow, but effective, but yet boring drive burns through all but 21 seconds of the five-minute first quarter. It does lead to the Falcons getting on the board first with a 20-yard TD pass, but as they are kicking the PAT, the Eagles block the kick and are able to return it for 2. End of the first quarter, Atlanta leads 6-2. The Eagles’ first actual drive comes in the second quarter and a few 20-yard passes are negated by the fact no one wants to block rushers going after Carson Wentz. After a nice 63-yard punt by the Eagles, the Falcons take over around their 15. The defense of the Eagles holds up and forces Atlanta to punt, the return is good, getting to around midfield. After that Atlanta does a repeat of what the Eagles just did and forces the punt, the Falcons take over around their 10. As time winds down in the first half, Atlanta gets moving and makes to around the 33 where they successfully attempt a 50-yard field goal increasing their lead. At the half, the Falcons are up 9-2.
Halftime approaches…and it’s gone.
Eagles get a pretty decent 40-yard return on the kickoff for the second half. They get some decent plays going to move the ball downfield and into Falcons territory but eventually stall out around the 25-yard line and are forced to settle for the field goal. Atlanta still leads, 9-5…like a regularly scheduled job. As soon as the Falcons take over I witness them lose four yards on the first play by their running back tripping over an offensive lineman…ok then. This is immediately followed up by a wonderful 33-yard pass completion which is then followed by the Eagles challenging it. For what, I have no idea as the game doesn’t tell me and I didn’t see anything wrong with it. The play is reviewed and the call reversed…I guess the real-world NFL officiating is sneaking its way into the virtual world. Things change and the Falcons are stopped and attempt to go for it on fourth down, but fail. It doesn’t matter though as they intercept the Eagles on the following play. Atlanta moves the ball and manages to chew away at the clock in the fourth quarter but the Eagles defense holds them on third-down to force another field goal. Atlanta increases their lead, making it 12-5 with barely over a minute left in the game. Once the Eagles take over they barely get anything, except for a holding penalty on third-down to make it 4th and 20. On fourth down, we see the Eagles throw an 82-yard TD pass and tie the game up at 12. Looks like we’re headed to OT.
Philadelphia wins the coin toss in overtime and gets the chance to win the game first. A few plays later, the Eagles crack off a 57-yard run straight into the endzone for the game winning TD. Philadelphia wins, 18-12
Next up, we have the Tennessee Titans visiting the inflatable New England Patriots.
The Patriots win the toss and start things off with a quite dismal 10-yard return. Follow your blockers. After the lackluster kickoff we see Tom Brady get absolutely murdered by Tennessee’s linebackers as they get to him 3 out of 4 times for a sack. The punt is a pretty good one as it puts the Titans at around their 30 to start with. A few short slant passes towards the edge moves them across midfield but they immediately move backwards with a holding penalty. First quarter ends without a score. Tennessee is still driving at the start of the second until they stall at around the 30 and are forced to attempt a field goal. It goes through the uprights and the Titans are out in front 3-0 early in the second. The Patriots take over and start moving forward…now they are moving backwards with two holding penalties and a recovered fumble that loses them about 5 yards. Second and 28 and we see Brady almost sacked in the endzone for a safety…so close. Nothing happens and the Pats are forced to punt and give the Titans decent starting position just on their side of midfield. Unfortunately, Mariota and Co. cannot get anything going for them and are forced to punt after a quick three plays. The payoff though? A booming kick that places the ball pretty much on the goal line where New England takes over. After a short run by New England to get away from the goal line we see a pass attempt that is jostled and almost intercepted by Tennessee. The offense stalls there and after another dismal punt by New England the Titans have good field position to start with. They make use of this short field and eventually make a pass to the endzone for a touchdown. Titans now lead 10-0 as we near the half. Patriots try to get a score before halftime but we see a repeat of their first drive and Brady gets mauled by Titans.
At this point, I love skipping the halftime report just to hear what stupid stuff the commentators will say when they come back abruptly. You keep eating that apple…
Titans get the ball to start the second half because that’s how this works. Mariota keeps being Mariota and passing to wide open teammates and not himself for a couple of easy 30-yard gains. Murray keeps the momentum going as he cracks off a couple of ten-yard runs to get within the redzone. They get to the 15 and stall out, on comes the field goal unit to increase their lead by three. Titans now lead 13-0 midway through the third quarter. While we wait for the kickoff after the score, we see the video board in the stadium flash up the Patriots’ social media catch phrase “#DoYourJob” and I ponder if this is inadvertently mocking them. While I am pondering, New England answers and cracks off a 70-yard TD run, cutting the Titans’ lead to 6. As the third quarter ends Mariota is back at it again, moving the Titans downfield until they get called for holding. After the penalty, the Titans stall out around midfield and are forced to punt still leading 13-7 however. We see a 26-yard pass completion by New England challenged by Tennessee saying that the receiver did not have possession before falling out of bounds. Official Video Review says he did, now lose a timeout Tennessee. This gives the Patriots a shot of momentum and we see them make their way to the ten-yard line. On fourth down, we see a quick pass over the middle and the Patriots now lead 14-13 with just over a minute to go in the game. The Titans make a good drive to the opposite side of the field and get to the 15 but that play is called back after an illegal block call on Tennessee. 30 seconds left, there is still time. Getting back to the ten-yard line the Titans wait for the final few seconds before calling their last timeout and bring on the field goal unit to try and win the game. New England decides to use a timeout as well, but it is ineffective as the field goal is good. Tennessee now leads 16-14 with eight seconds left. One last play for New England and they get picked off.
Next up we shall be seeing the Jaguars of Jacksonville taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jacksonville wins the tossing of coinage and elects to receive. After the return, the Jags move the ball quickly into Steeler territory. They make a quick pass to the endzone and are called for offensive pass interference in the endzone. Doesn’t stop them as they continue to the attack with short passes to get within the 20-yard line. A pass to the endzone again, this time it is caught…kind of. An official decides that a review is needed and after the review it is determined that it was indeed caught, but out of bounds. That sets up a Jacksonville field goal however and they take the lead 3-0 midway through the second quarter. Pittsburgh responds by eating away the remainder of the first quarter and moving all the way down to the 10-yard line, but the Jaguar defense stays strong to force a field goal. We’re now tied at three early in the second quarter. Jacksonville starts their second drive of the game and they start it with a holding penalty. Bortles continues doing what Bortles does and making completed passes to move the Jaguars down the field within scoring dist-…wait, now it is going the other way as the Steelers intercept it. Not much happens for them after the INT as they throw a couple of incompletions and get sacked. Jacksonville takes over around midfield but this drive only consists of a couple of overthrown passes and one completion to move them just on the other side of midfield. They then attempt a 59-yard field goal and miss horribly.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled halftime report for the rest of this game.
Steelers get the ball to start and promptly score on a 75-yard run to break our 3-3 tie and take the lead 10-3 very early in the third quarter. As the Jags take over we hear the name “Bortles” mentioned a lot. A lot. They move to the Steelers 47 where they decide to kick a field goal again…and miss…again. Late in the third quarter, Steelers still lead 10-3. A 31-yard play later and the Steelers are within scoring distance again and the third quarter comes to an end. Fourth quarter begins with Pittsburgh being only three-yards away from tacking on another 6 and they manage to. After the PAT, the Steelers now lead 17-3 with the majority of the fourth quarter remaining. Jaguars take over and we hear that name again as Bortles moves Jacksonville down the field to around the 20-yard line. They move about eight yards before turning the ball over on fourth down and the Steelers take over with a minute and a half left in the game. Jacksonville is able to stop the Steelers and is able to take over again. They throw a couple of incomplete passes and wait…is that a forward pass penalty that just got called? It was indeed, but the Jags are able to keep moving forward after the penalty. Not much else happens, some more penalties for Jacksonville and eventually they turn it over and all Pittsburgh needs to do is take a knee.
Our final Divisional game sees the New Orleans Saints taking on the raiding and pillaging Vikings of Minnesota.
Vikings win the coin toss and choose to receive…or maybe they just take the ball, who really knows. Their first drive is quick and wasted as they lose yardage on the first run play, then throw two incompletions before punting. The Saints begin their drive at the 30 and already prove they can move the ball better than Minnesota on their initial drive by quickly getting to the opposite 20-yard line. Three plays later and the Saints march…er, pass into the endzone to take the lead 7-0. Both teams trade a couple of quick drives in the remainder of the first quarter. First quarter ends and the same continues for most of the second, until the Vikings tie the game up by getting into the endzone. The Saints respond by scoring their own touchdown in four quick plays, they now lead 14-7 with just under two minutes left in the first half. Minnesota tries to respond but eventually is stopped and is forced to punt. We see the Saints driving towards the endzone late in the second quarter but they get picked off on a wild throw towards the endzone. As the half ends, Minnesota tries to go all out and make one last attempt towards the endzone and it gets picked off by New Orleans.
What is halftime anymore?
New Orleans takes over after the interception that happened in the second quarter because that is how football works and not because they kicked it off to start the game. Their drive though is wasted by three quick runs that only net them a few yards. Minnesota’s drive is similar to the above and they are eventually forced to punt. This continues for the entire third quarter but near the end the Saints make a push to the endzone and eventually get the touchdown as the fourth quarter starts. New Orleans leads 21-7. Fourth quarter goes by fairly quietly but we do see Minnesota driving towards the end but as they near the goal line they fall apart and do not get any points. After this though, the Vikings defense comes through and gets the stop but they decide fumbling the ball is cool and New Orleans picks it up and scores. Increasing their lead and now winning 28-7. We’re not done yet as the Vikings decide they want another TD before the game is over and they return the kickoff for one. They still trail 28-14 however. That is where we end it though, with the Saints defeating the Vikings in a rather one-sided game.
Another set of games down. Will there be any wins added to the win column in the tally? Or will my super scientific method be comparable to a flip of a coin? I suppose we’ll find out next week.