by Ryan Meehan
What do JJ Watt, Peyton Manning, Marshawn Lynch, and Aaron Rodgers have in common?
Other than being great football players, they will all be watching the Conference Championship games on television next Sunday. This is due to the fact that football is a team sport, and no where is that more apparent than the NFL playoffs. This weekend we saw it in almost every form.
In the first game, we saw how quickly shitty pass coverage can allow the Baltimore Ravens to score 38 points. After a whole game of watching Champ Bailey get eaten alive, Broncos fans stood in awe of how easily Joe Flacco was able to complete a 70 yard pass to Jacoby Jones at the expense of Tony Carter and Rahim Moore. In that moment between where Jones caught the ball and crossed the goal line, Peyton Manning could do absolutely nothing. His team needed to protect the lead he had worked so hard to get, and they let him down. That’s because it takes a whole team to win games like this, and the Broncos were overconfident about their ability to close the deal. That overconfidence eventually gave way to complete shock as the Broncos were so stunned that they didn’t even bother trying to attempt at taking a shot down the field with two minutes left and 41 seconds remaining.
Aaron Rodgers was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL over the second half of the season. When he’s dialed in, he can make any throw at any given time. He manages the game with a superb sense of control and that’s precisely why he’s a Super Bowl winning quarterback. What he can’t do is cover up the fact that the Green Bay Packers secondary and overall defensive lack of ability to stop the run cost them Saturday Night’s game against San Francisco. He could have scored 44 points in that game and they would have still lost. I believe that although Clay Matthews is a good linebacker, his presence is greatly over exaggerated amongst a defense that had a lot of problems and never really dominated anybody all year with the exception of the Titans who were already making vacation plans.
Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson are forces to be reckoned with on the ground. But in the first half of their game against the Falcons on Sunday, the offensive line wasn’t even in the building. To make matters worse, their defense couldn’t stop anybody. It ended up being that same defensive ineptitude that allowed the Falcons to march right down the field after Seattle came all the way back to take the lead 28-27 and score on a game winning field goal from Matt Bryant. It was the pinnacle of disappointment for a team that had played so well on the road wild card weekend against Washington, after people everywhere were questioning their ability to win games outside of their home stadium.
JJ Watt was one of the most dominant defensive players in the league all year for the Houston Texans. It appears for some time that the Texans were going to be unstoppable until they got clocked by the aforementioned Packers at Reliant Stadium week six. When he was doing his little “No, no, no” dance after he finally sacked Tom Brady on Sunday, apparently he had forgotten that his team was getting butthoused and having their quarterback exposed in the process. Unless he had planned on returning three interceptions of a first ballot Hall of Famer for touchdowns, I’d be willing to bet that the smart part of him had come to the realization that they weren’t going to pull that game off.
The point here is during the regular season, you can get away with winning games based on one person’s performance. Just because one guy can have an amazing day week eight against the Panthers and sneak out of there with a W doesn’t mean that same thing can happen in the playoffs. NFL playoff football is a man’s game, and the level of play increases significantly. In the postseason, players that aren’t known very well to the casual fan have to give it their all otherwise too much responsibility falls on the stars of the squad to give a nothing short of a heroic performance.
That’s why those players I just mentioned will be watching the game on TV this weekend.