Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened during the NFL divisional-round playoff games.
I’m sorry to report that I’ll be dutifully filling in for Chief Freak-Outer Gary Gramling during the divisional games of the NFL playoffs, though admittedly without the trademark Gramling Zest™. For inspiration, I asked my eight-month-old daughter for her thoughts on Kansas City’s long history of playoff woes and Dallas’ suddenly fearsome defense ahead of Saturday night’s game agaist the Rams. She typed:
1 21maAG N`QQ6 FGFGaAz VZZVFCX4BUB
Sounds like someone isn’t totally sold on Leighton Vander Esch in coverage. Anyway, let’s get to it:
Things that made me giddy
• Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will play in the first-ever AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. The 31–13 win against the Colts ended all kinds of negative postseason streaks for Kansas City, including an 0–4 playoff record against Indianapolis and a six-game home playoff losing streak. The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game at home was Jan. 8, 1994. It’s been a while.
• Throwing snowballs: I remember being at a college football game in South Bend, Indiana about eight years ago watching the student section hurl snowballs onto the field during a meaningless late-season game. It happened enough that an older voice on the emerged over the PA system and scolded the student section like, well, the kind of old person who gets angry about kids throwing snowballs. I remember him saying something like “Knock it off!” which elicited even more cheers and more snowballs. Because throwing snowballs is fun, and as long as you’re not chucking ice-ball heaters, you should be able to toss snowballs in a fun and friendly manner at football games. Case in point:
Majestic fun in the winter!
UPDATE: Snowballs have become a major storyline in this otherwise ho-hum contest
• Andy Reid intent on destroying the narrative surrounding his previous playoff performances like the copier in Office Space: The Chiefs went for it on fourth down twice in the first quarter and were up 17–0 early in the second. Anything to avoid HORSE(BLEEP) II.
• When the Colts finally got their first first down: 1:34 left in the second quarter.
• An ending that potentially dings Frank Reich’s coach-of-the-year candidacy: However, their end-of-season run shouldn’t be forgotten amid playoff fever. Given what we saw out of the coaching hiring cycle this time around, we should root for more teams to make their hires post Super Bowl (realize the Colts were forced to do this, but Reich’s availability speaks to the quality of candidate who is still around at that time). Patience and pragmatism should be rewarded, and could maybe, hopefully, finally lead to a smarter array of diverse candidates.
• An equally significant bummer: The silver fox, Adam Vinatieri, ends his season on a bit of a low mark. He missed his first-ever postseason extra point, and missed a 23-yard field goal, which is the shortest miss of his career. A bad day all around for men of the Colts over 40, who wave their salt-and-pepper facial hair like a symbol of unbreakable strength.
Moments we’ll tell our grandkids about
• The Colts quickly realizing this isn’t a turf field: I’ve never seen such obvious discomfort early in a playoff game like this.
• Poor Denico Autry: With 8:32 to go in the third, after sacking Patrick Mahomes on third down, Autry got hit with the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the McCringleberry. Honestly, if there’s any game of the season to pull this out on, it’s a playoff game. If your team wins, you’re going to be hyper-focused on the upcoming opponent. If your team loses by more than two touchdowns to the No. 1 seed, you’re probably not going to watch film of it anyway.
What we’ll be talking about this week
• Strength of schedule is an odd statistic in the NFL: It can be dependent on so many things, like unforeseen injuries or the mid-season pivot toward tanking. I wonder, though, how much it was ignored during the Colts’ delirious end-of-season run that bumped them into the playoffs and earned defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus a handful of head coaching looks. This, from Sharp Football Stats is kind of damning.
• How the narrative on the Chiefs changes with the very capable play of their defense and the efficiency of running back Damien Williams: In that environment, with an ability to gobble up time, they become every bit the formidable No. 1 seed we gushed over at the mid-season mark.
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