UPSETS HIGHLIGHT WILD CARD ROUND, TEXANS SURVIVE IN OT
The Fanatic Football Fan was in Seventh Heaven last weekend as all four Wild
Card Playoff games went down to the final play of each game, with two of them needing
overtime to see what team advances to this week’s Division Playoffs.
The Houston Texans once again drew the first game of the playoffs because the
NFL Money Grubbers figured this 3:35 p.m. kickoff would probably be the least
interesting game of the four.
And they looked like geniuses after the first half in which the 2½-point underdog
Buffalo Bills were whipping the Texans in every phase of the game and led 16-0 at
halftime. Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson had only 49 yards passing and was
sacked four times in the first half.
Saturday’s nightcap in Foxborough produced the first upset as the gritty
Tennessee Titans used ball control and NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry to ambush
the New England Patriots 20-13 and ended the tenure of 40-year-old quarterback Tom
Brady, who became a free agent.
The Titans will have an even tougher chore Saturday when they travel to
Baltimore and take on the Ravens, the AFC’s top seed. Kickoff is at 7:15 p.m.
Sunday’s first game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans saw the
touchdown-favored Saints lose to Minnesota 26-20 in overtime on a touchdown pass
from Kirk Cousins to tight end Kyle Rudolph. It was Cousins’ first playoff victory. The
Vikings meet the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers Sunday at 3:35 p.m. in Santa Clara.
Seattle took advantage of Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz getting knocked
out of the game with a concussion and won 17-9 to advance to the Division round. The
Seahawks travel to Green Bay to meet the Packers Sunday at 5:40 p.m. One must
remember that Seattle has won eight-out-of-nine games on the road this year.
A third quarter sack by three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt, who
rehabbed a four-month pectoral injury in two, lit a fire under his teammates and cut the
16-point deficit in half when Watson weaved his way around and through the Bills’
defense and scored on a 20-yard run.
A fourth period field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn reduced the deficit to 16-11 and a
5-yard pass from Watson to Carlos Hyde put Houston ahead for the first time 19-16 with
Buffalo was not about to go down without a fight and marched downfield, setting
up Stephen Hauschka’s 47-yard field goal with five seconds left to send the game into
overtime, tied 19-19.
Late in the extra period Watson somehow escaped a sure sack a la Fran Tarkenton
and found veteran running back Taiwan Jones nearby, who electrified the sellout crowd
at NRG Stadium by gaining 34 yards and setting up Fairbairn’s game-winning 28-yard
field goal, sending the Texans to the division round at Kansas City at 2:05 p.m. Sunday.
Ironically, it was playoff payback time for Houston when the Oilers blew a 35-3
third period lead to Buffalo on Jan. 3, 1993 and ended up losing 41-38 in the biggest
comeback in NFL history. The Oilers were guilty of trying to protect their 32-point lead
much like the Bills sat on that 16-0 first-half lead Saturday.
Watt, who jumped up and down like a high school cheerleader as the Texans’
offense swung into gear during the second half, told the Houston Chronicle after the
game, “You’re never out of the game when you have Deshaun Watson.
“The guy is incredible. All we needed was a spark. You add Deshaun Watson to a
spark and you’re going to have one hell of a fire. The play he made at the end of the
game, no one makes that play. I’m very lucky and thankful to have him as my
quarterback, and that’s why you play the whole game,” Watt pointed out.
The Las Vegas boys have the Chiefs somehow favored by 9½ points, completely
disregarding the fact Houston beat the Chiefs 31-24 at Arrowhead on Oct. 13. And
Houston is a much better team than it was during their first meeting!!
KWICKIES…Last weekend Stanford got a commitment from an all-purpose
running back named E.J. Smith. That name probably doesn’t mean much unless you
realize his real name is Emmitt Smith IV and is built just like his dad—5-9, 210 pounds.
Young Smith played his high school football at Dallas Jesuit, rushed for more than 3,000
yards and 60 touchdowns and 1,618 passing yards with 114 receptions and an additional
19 TDs. Some of the schools trying to recruit him include his dad’s alma mater Florida,
Georgia, Texas A&M and Ohio State, just to name a few.
I’m saddened to learn of the death of my good friend Monsignor Jim Dempsey
who died last week in Beaumont at the age of 93. His church was in China right on
Highway 90 where he served for several decades. Jim played volleyball with our group in
Beaumont and Orange and even played in a couple of tournaments with us and was right
there participating in the post-tournament beer party.
Another big news item on Monday was a press conference at Alabama where
quarterback Tua Tagorailoa announced he was passing up his final year with the Crimson
Tide to declare for the 2020 NFL draft. He was evaluated as the No. 3 quarterback in the
JUST BETWEEN US…In typical Jerry Jones fashion, just when football fans
are focused on the current NFL playoffs, he makes his move to fire Jason Garrett and
hired Mike McCarthy Monday. Hopefully Jones won’t make a puppet out of him, too,
because I believe he is a good coach who should be accepted by the players. McCarthy
coached at Green Bay for 13 years posting a 127-77-2 record, making the playoffs in 9 of
the 13 seasons and winning 10 playoff games, including Super Bowl XLV. The only
problem I see is that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott doesn’t like to drop back in the
pocket like McCarthy prefers. That’s one of the problems he had with Aaron Rodgers at
Green Bay and probably cost him his job there.