NFC Division Round Recap
Rams at Packers
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers displayed on Saturday why so many expect him to claim the NFL’s top award – sorry to the Walter Payton Award winner- in a clinical, vintage Rodgers performance.
In front of around 8,000+ die-hard Cheese Heads, their leader, Mr. Discount Doublecheck himself, Aaron Rodgers left little doubt about who would get the best of the Packers offense vs. Rams defense battle, that had been dominating conversations throughout the week.
Rodgers threw for two touchdowns and 296 yards and also ran one in himself. Packers RB Aaron Jones also had himself a day, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown of his own on just 14 attempts. Packers pass catchers had minimal issue with the highly touted LA secondary. as Devanate Adams laid out his case for top receiver in the league with his 9 catch performance while being mostly shadowed by All-Pro Jalen Ramsey. Adam Lazard also made significant contribution including reeling in a beautiful 58-yard TD grab to seal the game on his way to a 96-yard day himself.
On the opposite side, there were questions coming into Saturday’s match-up surrounding who would be the Rams starting quarterback come game-time, with the starter of the Rams previous two games, John Wolford, dealing with a neck injury that sidelined him after a big hit from Jamal Adams during last week’s Wild Card game against Seattle.
Before his benching, Goff had started in 73 of LA’s last 76 games since taking over the job his rookie season. It shoud also be noted that Sean McVay’s decision to start Wolford over Goff in Week 17, only came after Goff underwent surgery on his broken and dislocated right thumb on December 28.
With all that said, Goff played surprisingly well on Saturday, all thing considered, and was able to move the chains effectively and efficiently all night throwing for a seemingly underwhelming 179 yards in the air and connecting on 21/27 attempts and even having an oppertunity to tie the game at the beginning of the 4th quarter. He was aided by a steady run game from rookie Cam Akers who amassed 90 yards on 18 attempts, good for 5.0 a carry.
Ultimately, the dink-and-dunk system wasn’t enough for LA to keep up the high-powered offense of Green Bay, who scored on their first five drives of the game.
Final Score: GB 32 – 18 LA
Play of the Game:
Buccaneers at Saints
Who doesn’t love witnessing history? A matchup that features the two oldest QB’s to ever square off in a playoff game in NFL History – I didn’t even double check to make sure that’s a fact, it just has to be- with Tom Brady (43) and Drew Brees (42) set to duel it out for potentially the final game of each of these legend’s career.
Boy, oh, boy, did this game feel like it featured 42 and 43 year old quarterbacks. Both QB’s struggled to get any sort of rhythm in the pocket and though there was only 1 sack recorded on the day, constant pressure from both squads kept the aging QB’s from sitting back and getting comfortable.
Both Brady and Brees failed to connect with their primary targets all night. Usual top targets for Brady, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown combined for a total of 6 catches for 54 yards. Mike Evans took advantage of his only grab, scoring on a 3 yard TD catch following a Sean Murphy-Bunting interception that put Tampa Bay near the goal-line in the early second quarter.
In the most shocking development of the day however, All-Pro wideout for New Orleans Michael Thomas finished the day with the same amount of catches as you and I, 0….Unfathomable. We aren’t talking about your typical great receiver that had a rough game and the opposing throwing multiple defenders at him just to shut him down. We are talking about the man who just last season broke the NFL record for receptions in a season (149) previously held by Marvin Harrison (143 in 2002). For him to be shut down like that, in such an important game, after the tumultuous season he just went through with coming back from injuries and getting into an altercation with habitual line stepper and teammate, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, if this is perhaps we’ve seen Michael Thomas’ final game for New Orleans.
Anyway back to the game, if not for the 4-0 turnover disparity for New Orleans there is no question this scoreboard looks differently. Tampa Bay scored all three of their touchdowns on drives that began in New Orleans territory , two of which started inside the New Orleans 20 yard-line. You probably won’t win any game when that’s the case.
After allowing New Orleans to take a 20-13 lead with a 16-yard TD grab from Tre’Quon Smith on their first drive of the second half, Tampa Bay’s defense went on total lockdown mode. The Saints final four drives of the game went the following;
5 plays, 18 yards – Drive Result: Fumble
5 plays, 7 yards – Drive Result: Punt
5 plays, 13 yards – Drive Result: INT
4 plays, 10 yards – Drive Result: INT
Again, if you’re New Orleans, you probably won’t win any game when that’s the case.
Final Score: TB 30 – 20 NO
Play of the Game: