Newsletter

Super Wild Card Weekend Recap: Packers Stun Cowboys, Lions Secure First Playoff Win Since 1991

Packers stun Cowboys, Lions secure first playoff win since 1991

Sports Seriously’s Tony Anderson reacts to the biggest storylines from Super Wildcard Weekend.

Sports Seriously

Well, Sunday in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs gave us a pair of opposites.

In the first game, the young Green Bay Packers demolished the heavily favored Dallas Cowboys, renewing the narrative that “America’s Team” is nothing more than a group of pretenders who wilt in the postseason. Now, franchise owner Jerry Jones faces some interesting decisions, namely, what to do with head coach Mike McCarthy. For the Packers, meanwhile, a dream season marches on. And led by Jordan Love, Green Bay looks like it could be a force in the NFC for years to come. That, though, is still down the road.

That’s because the new power in the division, the Detroit Lions, won their first playoff game in more than 30 seasons, snapping what was the longest postseason victory drought in any of the four major four domestic sports leagues. By taking down former quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams, the city of Detroit can now savor this one and look forward to another home playoff game next week at Ford Field.

Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s wild card round games.

WINNERS

Jordan Love and the Packers youth movement

How’s this for a playoff debut for a player who made his first full season as a starter? A crisp 16-for-21 day for 272 yards, three touchdowns and a near-perfect 157.2 QB rating. Love, 25, has been one of the top quarterbacks in the entire NFL over the final month-and-a-half. He was measured and calm on the big stage, hitting his receivers in stride and firing passes into tight windows. But he was not alone in the youth movement. Receiver Romeo Doubs (23) caught all six of his targets for 151 yards and a score. Tight end Luke Musgrave (23) caught all three of his targets for 52 yards and a score. Receiver Dontayvion Wicks (22) also caught a touchdown. And on defense, first-round rookie linebacker Lukas Van Ness (22) picked up his fifth sack.

The long-suffering city of Detroit

It was their first playoff win since 1992. It was their second since 1957. In fact, the Lions are no longer the NFL franchise with the longest postseason drought, with Detroit handing that distinction over to the Miami Dolphins, who are now at 23 seasons.

The NBC broadcast cameras showed fans in tears as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Lions fans deserve this victory. And while the Lions may have wanted a rematch with Dallas after the controversial Week 17 loss, Detroit will actually get the chance to host another postseason game thanks to the second-seeded Cowboys losing to the Packers. So gear up, Detroit, you have another one coming up, against the victor of Monday night’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Joe Barry

His defense (rightfully so) has been criticized for much of the season, but Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry deserves a ton of credit for completely unsettling Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. Barry alternated and disguised zone and man coverages during the first half, often forcing Prescott into a misread. When that was combined with modest pressure that hurried Prescott’s timing, the Packers were able to intercept Prescott twice. Much of Dallas’ production came in the second half, when the blowout was already underway. But in the first, Barry’s coverages on Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb were superb; Lamb recorded just two catches on seven targets for 18 yards. One of the passes intended for Lamb, late in the second quarter, was intercepted by Darnell Savage Jr. and returned 64 yards for a touchdown.

Aidan Hutchinson

A solid second season continued for Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, a player who may be blossoming into a star before our eyes. After receiving a Pro Bowl nomination for an 11½ -sack season with three forced fumbles, Hutchinson was a force against the Rams, generating six tackles, two sacks and five quarterback hits.

And if his spin move wasn’t already on scouting reports, it should be now.

Jaire Alexander

He was dealing with an ankle injury, but you would’ve never guessed. Alexander was the primary defender tasked to rein in Lamb, the All-Pro pass catcher. He was up to the task. Alexander was physical, especially at the line of scrimmage, to throw off the timing of the routes. And then, at the top of routes, he deftly placed his hands on opposing receivers to gain positioning and leverage.

That was evident most clearly on his key first quarter interception that gave Green Bay excellent field position and helped set up an early 14-point lead.

LOSERS

Mike McCarthy

Another promising team, another inexplicable meltdown. And now, the Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones must seriously consider a coaching change. McCarthy’s postseason record dropped to 11-11 all-time, including a 1-3 mark with the Cowboys. It gets worse: two of those losses were first-round exits at home, both with Dallas favored by at least a field goal.

McCarthy is continually outclassed in big games. He took over play-calling duties in the offseason, and the Cowboys came out of the locker room flat and sluggish. It wasn’t until Dallas was in a 27-point hole with two minutes left in the first half that McCarthy began calling a no-huddle offense. McCarthy also has been incapable of adjusting at halftime. Per ESPN, he now dropped to 2-22 since 2020 when the Cowboys have been trailing by at least 14 points.

The Rams in the red zone

This was the difference in the game. The Rams moved the ball at will, churning out 425 yards of total offense and outgaining Detroit by 91 yards. Stafford, playing against his old team, threw for 367 yards. But, when the Rams marched into the red zone, they repeatedly left points on the field. Los Angeles failed to convert any of its three trips inside the 20 and, as a result, kicked three field goals that were each under 30 yards. The Lions, by comparison, turned all three of their red-zone attempts into touchdowns.

Dak Prescott

This is the occasional problem with the playoffs: A career season can disintegrate with just a single game. And for Prescott, the narrative that he underperforms in the playoffs will continue. The Cowboys dropped to 2-5 in postseason games Prescott has started. In those seven games, he has thrown seven interceptions. Thus, the offseason conversation will be on this failure and the looming contract talks rather than his second-team All-Pro selection.

And, if Jones does opt to fire McCarthy, that could only mean more problems for Prescott, at least in the short term. Since McCarthy took over for Kellen Moore last offseason, that would mean Prescott would be playing for his third different offensive coordinator in as many seasons.

Is the window closing for the Rams?

This, more than anything, should be considered a hold. Because the Rams do have an infusion of young talent that it can ride to success. But the team also must answer difficult questions on key veterans and succession plans. Stafford turns 36 next month and has taken significant punishment over the years. The Rams must protect him but also figure out his eventual replacement. All-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald recorded another first-team All-Pro season — his eighth — but he will be 33 in May. Even receiver Cooper Kupp, who is just two years removed from one of the most prolific seasons in NFL history, looked every bit of 30 and has seen his production decline steadily over the past couple of years.

2024-01-16 11:19:33
#Lions #party #Cowboys #collapse

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trending