We already talked about the big upset in New England and how Tom Brady’s future will be the conversation that dominates the NFL offseason. Before that, the Bills blew a 16-0 third quarter lead to the Texans and eventually lost in overtime when two Buffalo defenders bounced off of Deshaun Watson like pinballs, allowing him to set up the game-winning field goal. Watson is an incredible athlete with loads of potential, but I’m not ready to call him one of the elite quarterbacks in the league just yet.
Watson did a great job to lead the comeback effort in Houston, but he was also sacked seven times and should have been sacked an eighth time. After all, that play was more representative of poor Buffalo tackling than Watson’s skill, even if he did display plenty of that during the game. Maybe Watson can change my mind about him by beating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs next week. Would love to see him put a little touch on the ball and make some plays in the first half.
Today we got one more overtime game and another that was pretty close for four quarters despite Josh McCown taking a whole bunch of snaps. In the early game, the Vikings upset the Saints with a lot of help from Adam Thielen, who was finally looking healthy and awesome after an injury-plagued regular season.
Thielen’s 129 yards on seven catches were key to Kirk Cousins getting over his big-game bugaboo and leading Minnesota into the Divisional Round. The Vikings also ran the ball consistently with Dalvin Cook and got great play from the secondary on defense. Even when the New Orleans receivers were catching the ball, there was never much room for yards after the catch. Michael Thomas was held to just 70 yards on seven receptions, and Drew Brees never got super comfortable. The strip sack by Danielle Hunter late in the fourth quarter was a huge play that allowed the Vikings to survive New Orleans’s rally. The Saints did overcome their 10-point deficit with a Wil Lutz field goal, but Minnesota got the ball first in overtime and did not give it back.
With the Saints failing to possess the ball in overtime, we’re probably going to hear more about overtime rules reform in the offseason. This is the second year in a row in which a playoff game has been decided on the extra period’s first drive, and some people would like to see both teams get a crack at offense no matter what. I wouldn’t mind a slight tweak, but I don’t think it would be right if the playoff and regular season rules are different. And if the regular season overtime rules change, we’re only going to see more ties in the future.
And then there was this play that ended the game:
Saints fans wanted an instant replay review for pass interference, but all I saw was more reasons why we shouldn’t be reviewing pass interference. Both guys are grabbing at each other and then Kyle Rudolph gets some separation at the end with a slight, one-handed push-off. There’s too much going on for a referee to make an objective, black-and-white judgement, which is why penalties weren’t subject to review until this season. It’s good for the game that plays like this are left alone.
That brings us to the Seahawks vs. Eagles game that saw Seattle prevail thanks to Russell Wilson’s connection with DK Metcalf and a great performance by the defense. It would have been more difficult for Seattle if Carson Wentz had played beyond the first quarter, but he sustained a head injury early on that forced McCown into action.
To be fair, I’m not sure anyone noticed the helmet-to-helmet contact when it happened. At first look, it seemed like Jadeveon Clowney hit Wentz in the back. We didn’t find out until a little later that Wentz was seriously hurt. This kind of play isn’t great, but the quarterback give up some of his safety when he takes off running like Wentz did on the fateful play. Plus, it’s hard to tell sometimes at full speed if a defender is leading with his head or his shoulder. Perhaps these are the plays that should be subject to review — like they are in college football — and not pass interference plays.
Big Ten Basketball
I didn’t catch any of the action tonight, but here is a quick rundown. Michigan State is back! The Spartans are now 4-0 in Big Ten play after a dominant home performance over rival Michigan today. MSU won 87-69 and got great games from its top two stars. Cassius Winston scored 32 points with nine assists and Xavier Tillman had 20 points, 11 rebounds, and six blocks.
Minnesota beat Northwestern 77-68 in The Barn. It was a nice bounce-back win for the Gophers after their tough, double-overtime defeat at Purdue earlier in the week. Daniel Oturu scored 19 points with 16 rebounds and five blocks. Northwestern is the only team in the conference yet to win a Big Ten game.
Finally, Illinois beat Purdue 63-37, and we might not see a more ghastly offensive performance all season. The Boilers shot 25 percent from the field and did not feature a double-digit scorer. Illinois was led by 16 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore Alan Griffin off the bench.