A marvelous day of football. In the AFC, it seemed as if nobody wanted the final playoff spot. In actuality, all the contenders wanted it; they just aren’t very good, so it seemed as if they didn’t. The Chargers finally grabbed that elusive 6-seed, and spared themselves great humiliation by not losing to the NFL equivalent of a JV team, even though the odds were about 12-1 against them when Chief’s kicker Ryan Succop was lining up for a 41-yard field goal with eight seconds on the clock.
In the NFC, the big news (for us) is that the Seahawks clinched the top seed. But also the Eagles clinched the 3-seed, by beating the Cowboys (Tony Romo with another crunch-time failure!) And the Packers slipped into the 4-seed by beating the Bears. Packers coach Mike McCarthy made a curious (i.e., bad) decision in the fourth quarter to kick an extra point to be down one instead of trying to tie it with a two-point conversion. This put the Packers in a position later in the game where they had to go for it on 4th down three times. They converted on all three tries, including a touchdown on the final one, when the Bears D apparently didn’t realize that a team is allowed to throw the ball further than the first-down marker on 4th down; nobody covered Randall Cobb, and he was 30 yards down field.
In other action, the 49ers beat the Cardinals on a game-ending field goal, which is good. The win gives the Niners the 5-seed, instead of the 6-seed, making it significant less likely they will be the Seahawks’ first playoff opponent. (As the 1-seed, the ‘Hawks will play the lowest ranked winner in Wild Card Weekend.) I don’t want to see Seattle-San Francisco straightaway. As it is, the Seahawks’ most likely first opponent is the Saints, which would be a pretty tough first opponent as first opponents go. Because the two wild card teams are better than the two division winners they’re playing, it’s not unlikely that Carolina, as the 2-seed, actually ends up with the “easier” first game than Seattle. It’s not fair, but I wasn’t complaining when the out-of-whack playoff system lead to this, so I’m not going to be hypocritical and complain about it now. I will say, however, that it would be awesome if the 1-seed got to pick its opponent. Imagine the bulletin board material and the WWE-style interviews that would inspire.
Speaking of WWE, how about that Rams-Seahawks game? The Rams reminded me of the asshole weightlifter at the gym who tries to play pickup basketball every now and then. He doesn’t actually have the skills to compete, so he just hacks at you and grabs your shirt and throws elbows and stuff. Unfortunately, for the Rams, however, unlike pickup basketball there are actual referees at NFL games, and they will call penalties. By my count the Rams were flagged for 10 personal conduct fouls, and one of their players was ejected*. That’s absurd. Jeff Fisher has a rap as a dirty coach, and while I don’t know if that’s completely warranted or not, I do know that today’s game is a data point in its favor. If the NFL doesn’t come down with some heavy fines after this one, I’ll be surprised.
The Seahawks were able to leverage some of that penalty yardage and put some points up on the board. They weren’t great on offense, but they were good enough against a stout defense. It was nice to see Marshawn Lynch show flashes of Beast Mode for the first time in a month. Golden Tate had a terrific game. He was basically the entire passing offense catching 8 of Russell Wilson‘s 15 completions, including the 47-yard touchdown dagger (best receiver in the league at adjusting to a ball in flight). Wilson, for his part, was very Wilson-y. He was constantly under duress, and he missed a few throws, but over all he was pretty accurate given the circumstances.
But the defense once again was the story of the game. Outside of one garbage time drive the Rams did nothing with the football. Zac Stacy was held to 15 yards on 15 carries, a far cry from the 134 he rolled up the previous meeting. Kellen Clemens completed 21 of 30 passes, but it was all short shit. The only time he took a shot down field Byron Maxwell nabbed it for yet another interception. Toss in Malcolm Smith‘s pick-six, and this was a straight ass-whupping by the best D in the league.
There were, however, two bad things about this game. One, the ‘Hawks punt coverage unit gave up a 32-yard return thus eliminating any hope of breaking the single-season “fewest punt yards allowed” record. (But how about Ricardo Lockette with the huge hit jarring the ball loose at the end of that big return? Where do the Seahawks find these receivers who are so money on special teams?) And two, Luke Willson hurt his leg and had to be carted off in an air cast. The former is trivia; the latter could actually matter.
But we can worry about that later. For this coming weekend, there’s only one thing we should be concentrating on: rooting for the Packers.
*Two of the penalties didn’t count, because they offset with a Seahawks’ penalty. Also, the penalty for which Kendall Langford was ejected was pretty weak, but contrary to what the commentators were saying, I don’t think it was the initial accidental hat swipe that got him booted. After that, an official tried to constrain him / calm him down, and he swatted the ref’s hand away. I think that’s what did it, but I’m not sure. Either way he probably shouldn’t have been ejected. Then again, when a team commits 10 personal conduct penalties in a game (10!), it’s not exactly a travesty if one of their players gets ejected.