Turnovers and the inability to run the ball spelled doom for the losing teams this weekend.
The Arizona Cardinals; yes they had 101 yds rushing, but they ran the ball 15 times and Tim Hightower had 70 of those yards on the first play of the game, the remaining yards came on 14 carries for 31 yds (2 yds per run). The Cardinals compounded that dismal effort with 2 turnovers that were converted into 14 pts, and Kurt Warner was under pressure all day, the blue print for defeating him and making him look average .
The Baltimore Ravens sporting one of the most vaunted running attacks in the NFL ran into a rested Indianapolis Colts team, anxious to prove to everyone that Jim Caldwell made the right decision resting his starters at the end of the regular season, in favor of going for the perfect season. As all good playoff teams do, the Colts took away the running game early and force the Ravens Joe Flacco, to try to win the game with his arm, the end result, 4 turnovers, 2 int’s and 2 fumbles. After 55 rushing attempts last week, the Ravens ran the ball against the Colts just 19 times for 86 yds. In the end not enough running the ball for the Ravens, coupled with Peyton Manning being on his game as usual.
The Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo once again showed their inability to get it done when it really counts. Seen by many as the hottest team going into the playoffs, the clock struck 12 and they turned into playoff pumpkins. Under heavy pressure all day, Romo wilted. He also accounted for 3 of the 4 Dallas turnovers, once again proving that without a consistent running game to take the heat off of him, Romo can’t shoulder the offensive load. The defense, touting a very good D-Line with Ware, Spencer and Ratliff, got very little out of their Linebackers and Secondary. The Secondary, which garnered much praise lately, was victimized all day, with Brett Favre throwing 3 of his 4 TD passes to Sidney Rice for, 47 , 16 and 45 yds. Minnesota ran the ball 9 times more than they threw it, just enough balance to keep Dallas defensively off-balance and guessing all afternoon.
Perhaps the most unbelievable collapse and upset goes to the San Diego Chargers. Taken apart by a NY Jets team that continues to do it the old-fashioned way, by playing pressure defense and running the ball down your throat. Philip Rivers never experience such pressure as he was under yesterday, nor did their running game, and without a functional running game (18 attempts for 61 yds), the onus was upon Rivers to make all the plays today. All-Pro kicker Nate Kaeding didn’t help the situation by missing 3 field goals today, (36, 57 and 40 yards) after missing only 3 all year. What is it about the Chargers, it seems as though they aren’t closers. After running off 11 in a row, in the biggest game of the year they allow a rookie QB and RB to dash their playoff and Super Bowl hopes.