Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness, Divisional Round: The Final Four Remain


Necessary Roughness / BTBAM's Paul WaggonerWhat a tremendous weekend of games!!

I don’t know if it’s just me being protective of my emotional fragility, but I’m really not all that bummed about the Panthers’ departure from the postseason. I was realistic about the unlikelihood of upsetting the Seahawks in Seattle and Carolina had a nice run to close out the season, but when it was all said and done, the best team won Saturday night. I thought the Panthers’ defense performed well for most of the game, but then as desperation started setting in after Seattle capitalized on some offensive miscues, it seemed like Carolina was trying to strip the ball, or gamble to make the big interception. These efforts backfired, and all of the sudden nobody could seem to make even a simple tackle. The defining theme of the game was Seattle’s ability to make teams pay big-time for mistakes: you absolutely cannot turn it over against that team as they will turn it into points just about every time. Cam Newton was competitive, and he put everything he had into that game, but his inaccuracy and poor decisions really put the Panthers behind the 8-ball in the second half.

All in all, I can’t complain about Carolina’s year. With the complete overhaul of the receiving personnel from last year, combined with all the off-field drama and adversity, the Panthers somehow managed to win the NFC South for the second straight year, and even got a playoff win under their belt in the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera era. So I feel good. We have some nice young talent to build from, and I don’t see how anyone could definitively argue against the Panthers winning the division again next year.

As for Seattle, that team is scary. It goes without saying that their defense, in particular the secondary, is the best in the league and easily the best of any team left in the playoffs. With Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas literally all over place, there is no safe throw for a quarterback. These guys are not only fast and physical, but they are also really smart. They read plays and jump gaps better than anybody I’ve seen. And on the other side of the ball, can we finally just admit that Russell Wilson is one of, if not the best QB in the league? That might be a controversial statement since his stats don’t exactly jump off the page when compared to some of the gunslingers out there. But Wilson can make every single play that a QB needs to make to win games. And he makes these plays with a calm consistency that I just don’t see from anyone else. He can extend plays with his mobility, and his arm is incredibly accurate. The touch he has on his throws is truly uncanny. And, most of all, the guy just wants to win. He doesn’t care about his individual output. That’s the sign of a true leader, and Russell Wilson is the big reason why this Seattle team is primed to win back-to-back championships.

The other NFC game, which took place yesterday, was one for the ages, mostly because of the controversial call that the sports pundits are going to beat to death for the better part of this week. First of all, let’s just get it out of the way and say that was a hell of a game. Green Bay and Dallas were evenly matched and both played like 12-win teams. Even on a gimp leg with extremely limited mobility, Aaron Rodgers still threw the ball a million times and put up big numbers. Tony Romo and the Cowboys put up a valiant effort and almost played well enough to win. Almost.

As for the call that everybody is talking about: put it to bed, people. By rule, it was the right call. A player must retain possession of the ball throughout the “process” of a catch. Because Dez Bryant attempted to reach the goal line during that process, and the ground ultimately jarred the ball enough to cause movement, it is by rule an incompletion. That being said, I think the rule sucks and Dallas got hosed. Let it be known that I hate the Cowboys and I’m glad they got hosed, but they did get hosed nonetheless. As a fan watching that game, that is a catch, plain and simple. He caught the ball and reached for the goal line with the ball clearly in his possession. I’m sorry, but that’s a catch. Reasonable minds can differ on opinion, and I get that, but I’m honestly a little frustrated by the hyper-analyzation of what constitutes “possession” and a “football move” after a catch. It’s just too goddamned complicated, and no matter how well the rules committee thinks they have it defined, there will always be grey area. Dez Bryant’s incompletion (completion) fell into that grey area and the Cowboys got the raw end of that deal. But hey, the NFL giveth and the NFL taketh away. Dallas was given a victory last week on a botched call, and this week they had victory taken away in similar fashion. I don’t feel bad for them. If you end up having to blame a loss on referees, chances are you didn’t play better than the other team anyway, and the refs just become a scapegoat. The Cowboys had other chances to win that game, and they just didn’t capitalize. But I’ll say this: I don’t give Green Bay a puncher’s chance in Seattle next week, especially if Aaron Rodgers is still hobbled. That Seattle defense is going to smell blood.

I was really hoping the Ravens would pull out a win in Foxborough on Saturday. And, honestly, they really should have. The Ravens were driving, and seemed like they were on their way to a game-winning score before Joe Flacco inexcusably threw that home run ball for an interception. I can’t believe he did that. There was plenty of time on the clock and New England showed no ability to stop Justin Forsett and the Baltimore running game. I can’t believe he threw that ball! But credit must be given to Tom Brady and company. Down 14 points two different times in that game, the Ravens had them by the throat. But Brady stayed the course, shook off a very uncharacteristic interception in the first half, and somehow salvaged a win. There is no better or more proven big-moment QB in the league right now — and perhaps in the history of the league — than Tom Brady. You can never count him out. I picked New England to win it all this year, primarily because of their vastly improved defense, but that defense didn’t look all that impressive Saturday. I thought the Ravens moved the ball at will, and that may not bode well next week for the Patriots.

The Colts were my dark horse pick to win it all this year, and I had a gut feeling they would snatch a win in Denver yesterday. The Broncos just tippy-toed into the playoffs and they struck me as a disinterested team in the last couple weeks of the season. As I’m writing this I’ve just gotten news that Peyton Manning played the game with a torn quad, which probably had a lot to do with his subpar performance. But he’s also just not good in big games. Aside from his one Super Bowl ring, Manning has struggled to get over the hump in the playoffs and he now has 9 one-and-done playoff exits in his career. People are speculating that yesterday may have been his last game, but I can’t imagine a scenario where he allows a loss to his old team and his QB successor to be the last taste in his mouth of his Hall of Fame career. I think he comes back to play another year. But Denver is going to be a much different team next year: John Fox will likely be gone, Jack Del Rio will likely take a head coaching job elsewhere, and they will likely lose at least a handful of key free agents including Julius and Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. As for Indy, I really thought they would win this game with their offense. The offense was by no means bad, but usually when you throw two interceptions and give a potent offense like Denver more opportunities to score, you are in trouble. So what I was really impressed with was Indy’s defense. They held the Broncos to 288 total yards and held Peyton Manning to a mere 200-yard passing game. In particular, I was impressed with the coverage by Vontae Davis. If this defense can play this well next week, and Andrew Luck has a turnover-free game, I think New England could be in trouble.

So we are down to the final four, folks. Who do y’all like to win it all? I truly believe thee remaining teams are the best four teams in the league, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of them get rings in a few weeks. I’m a bold guy and I like to make bold predictions, so here’s what I think happens this coming weekend: Indianapolis goes into Foxborough and pulls off the upset. Green Bay goes to Seattle and get thrashed by the Seahawks.


Show Comments
Metal Sucks Greatest Hits