Dallas In, Texans Out Of 2014 NFL Playoffs

It took 17 grueling weeks but the 2014 National Football League season is over with 12 of the league’s 32 teams extending their season in the NFL playoffs which begin Saturday and Sunday in the Wild Card Round.

The season ended on a high note for both Texas franchises, with the Dallas Cowboys flying through the month of December with a 4-0 mark while the Texans won three-of-four to be just one of seven teams to go from 2-14 to a winning record (9-7) in a season.

But that’s were the celebrating differs with the two Lone Star State franchises. The Cowboys fans will get to watch their heroes play at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Sunday at 3:45 p.m. while the Texans fans sadly will just have to wait until next year with much optimism.

The Cowboys finished the season with a bang as running back DeMarco Murray eclipsed the franchise’s single season record for yards gained (1,773) set by the great Emmitt Smith by gaining 1,845 in the 16-game season.

And not to be outdone, wide receiver Dez Bryant caught two touchdown passes Sunday in the Pokes’ 44-17 blowout of the rival Washington Redskins to bring his total for the season to 16, which is one better than the franchise record of 15 set by Terrell Owens in 2007.

Quarterback Tony Romo had his best season as the Cowboys’ quarterback, leading Dallas to the NFC East Division championship, a 4-0 record in December and an 8-0 mark on the road for the first time in franchise history. This season dispels the notion that Romo can’t lead the team to victories in December.

The Houston Texans stayed in the playoff hunt throughout the entire season and beat Jacksonville 23-17 Sunday at NRG Stadium, but had to depend on two other teams winning to make the post-season. 

Kansas City helped the Texans’ cause by defeating San Diego 19-7 but Cleveland lost their 10-6 lead over Baltimore by surrendering a pair of late touchdowns and were defeated 20-10 by the Ravens who garnered the final playoff spot.

The Texans have to be commended by fighting down to the wire with a quarterback who wasn’t even on the roster two weeks ago and the star running back who tried to play hurt but finally gave up the idea in the second period Sunday. 

But Case Keenum came off a hunting trip in Missouri, crammed as much of the playbook as was humanly possible in that short period of time and led the Houston Texans to two crucial victories that kept their faint hopes alive for an NFL playoff berth.

And running back Arian Foster started the game strongly but after a quarter, couldn’t go full speed and finally took himself out for the remainder of the game.

And defensive lineman J.J. Watt continued to amaze whoever saw him play, recording three sacks including one of Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles for a fourth-period safety to become the only player in NFL history to have 20 or more sacks in two seasons to strengthen his bid to be named the league’s Most Valuable Player.

The playoffs begin Saturday when the Arizona Cardinals (11-5) travel to meet the Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) for a 3:35 p.m. kickoff that will be televised on NBC. The Cardinals are not at full strength, having to use inexperienced quarterbacks for the last two months.

Carolina came up with a crucial December victories to make it to the playoffs despite having a losing record.

The second game Saturday features Baltimore at Pittsburgh in the AFC wild card matchup that begins at 7:15 p.m. also on NBC. 

Both teams had to earn this encounter with Sunday victories—Pittsburgh downing Cincinnati 27-17 while Baltimore rallied with two fourth-period touchdowns to defeat hapless Cleveland, 20-10.

Sunday’s doubleheader begins at 1:05 p.m. when Cincinnati visits Indianapolis in an AFC tilt on NBC while the Dallas Cowboys host the Detroit Lions at 3:40 p.m. on FOX.

Teams earning first-round byes include the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC and the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos in the AFC.

KWICKIES…It seems like too little, too late, but the Cleveland Browns’ front office FINALLY decided to clamp down on their Johnny Manziel-led rookie squad for missing or being late to team meetings and team practices. I think some of the veteran players complained that these guys were a disruptive force and needed to be disciplined.

And speaking of the Cleveland Browns, troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon finished Sunday’s final game of the season just like he began it by being suspended. Gordon was suspended Saturday for violating an unspecified team rule and missed the game against Baltimore. Perhaps if he played in that game, Cleveland would have won and the Houston Texans would be in the playoffs this weekend. Gordon, who led the NFL in yards receiving last season, served a 10-game suspension for repeated drug violations this year

Several NFL head coaches already have been relieved from their jobs and there could be a couple more casualties in the next few days. Jim Harbaugh already is parting ways with the San Francisco 49ers by mutual agreement and will become the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, his alma mater. Harbaugh reportedly has agreed to a six-year deal worth $48 million. Other coaching jobs that probably will be available should be at Oakland, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, and maybe even the New York Giants, Atlanta and Washington.

Because the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks games were not televised locally, tons of fans from Southeast Texas ventured to Buffalo Wild Wings in Beaumont and Mid-County to watch the games on their plethora of television sets and indulge in some pretty good food and drink, including our clan that was still here for Christmas. We focused on the Seattle-St. Louis Rams game and enjoyed watching Earl Thomas lead the Legion of Boom to another victory (20-6) that insured the Seahawks of a bye this weekend.

JUST BETWEEN US…After 49 years of categorizing Super Bowls with Roman numerals, that practice will be eliminated with Super Bowl 50, instead of it being Super Bowl L. The NFL said it was officially doing away with the Roman numerals beginning in 2016.